Late President J.J. Rawlings of Ghana died on 12th November 2020 at the age of 73 after battling with a Coronavirus related illness.
In his lifetime Flight Lt. John Jerry Rawlings was quite popular. He left deep impressions on the Political Landscape of Ghana.
One person who had a close relationship with him was Ovation Publisher, Bashorun Dele Momodu.
In this Instagram Live Chat with City People last week, Bob Dee revealed what many do not know about J.J. Rawlings and how close they were.
How did you take the passing of J.J. Rawlings?
I took it very personally, because, apart from being a great African leader, he was a big brother to us at Ovation International. He was a great mentor and a personal friend. We had loads of interactions with him. I believe he granted his longest interview to Ovation in 2004, 16 years ago. We spent 5-days interviewing him and we recorded 18 hours of the interview.
In my entire Journalism career, we have never done that, having an 18-hours interview with anybody, and that was how great the man was. He was ready to pour our his heart to us. He didn’t mind the fact that we were Nigerians. He was a global citizen.
It was like he was offloading a load off his chest because there were so many questions about the revolution that took place in Ghana. Where he couldn’t talk for security reasons, he told us off record and we kept it off record.
You can imagine a man who was forced by circumstances to actually take the lives of some people as sacrifices for the betterment of their nation, that must have been a very difficult moment for him. And when I watched the video again this morning, I could imagine the pressure they were under. He admitted there were mistakes here and there, but the mistakes were not as weighty as the suffering that Ghanaians were going through at that time; and as you know Ghanians were scattered all over the world, they were everywhere, in search of jobs.
They had to take up menial jobs, they didn’t have essential commodities. But Rawlings came and he spent in total, about 19 years to straighten things out. He would forever be remembered by those who benefitted from that. He was a very interesting man. He was the first African leader we inducted into the Ovation International Hall of Fame. He was just a great friend and an incredible leader.
What are the lessons for Nigerians, looking at the life and times of J.J. Rawlings?
For me, the biggest lesson I saw in him was that, there was a military leader, who had his master plan. He had his master plan and he did what he needed to do. He did the needful, unlike Nigeria where we had military who were worse than the politicians. They came and they spoilt everything they met, and we were yet to recover from that mess. Rawlings came and it was straight to the point. Though there were errors which come normal for fight for revolution, and he apologised. They did what they have to do and Ghana is better till date. Today, the first Republic of Ghana has been the longest democratic period in the history of Ghana since they gained independence since 1957, so, you must credit Rawlings for that. He ensured he brought back democracy unlike our own soldiers who couldn’t make up their minds.
Even now in Nigeria as we speak, the military is still very much in charge, because in 1999 when we thought we were returning to cilvilian rule, the first beneficiary was a retired Military General, in person of General Olusegun Obasanjo, after that was President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was a brother of a retired Major General, after that, just by chance, President Jonathan came but soon after a Military General also took over. So, in Ghana, they have some of the most fantastic leaders after Rawlings, he was followed by President John Kufor who had worked in United Nations, a very civilised gentleman. When you have such calibre of men at the helm of affairs in a country you can be sure that the citizen can go to sleep. Despite that, they keep their leaders on their toes. If you listen to radio and television in Ghana you will know that democracy has taken root in the country. So, after President Kufor, we had President John Evans Attah Mills who was also a Professor of Law. He was a Taxation expert and a perfect gentle man. Unfortunately, he died before he could complete his first tenure. And then John Mahama took over from him, he was his Vice President, just like Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria, who became President after the demise of his boss. Then President Mahama had his own election which he won. But in 2016, he lost that election. Then President Nana took over and he is the current President in Ghana. There would be another election in December 7, and the former President, John Mahama is back now as leader of opposition, as the NDC flag bearer and both of them are going to lock horns come December 7th and we pray that the better leader should win.
What’s your analysis from what you have seen so far?
It’s going to be very difficult for me to give my analysis because No 1, people are very sensitive here, to a Nigerian coming to analyse their election. But everybody knows that Pres. John Mahama is my brother and my good friend. We have had long standing relationship even before he became Vice President.
And also President Nana Akufor Ado’s first wife was Femi-Fani Kayode’s sister. They both have strong links to Nigeria. So it is going to be interesting on December 7th. We are all watching and waiting. And we pray for peace in Ghana, regardless of who wins.
Ghana today is enjoying peace. Ghana is one of the most peaceful countries on the continent of Africa. So, we pray Ghana will not loose that stability they currently enjoy. Ghana is a very good country, they have done very well and they should not allow politics and politicians to cause troubles for them like it is elsewhere.
So, if I get you correctly, it is basically between the former President and the incumbent?
Yes sir. In Ghana, they have 2 mainstream parties, and the interesting thing about Ghana is that unlike Nigeria when you can wake up as APC and go to bed as PDP, you can’t do that in Ghana. It’s like religion, from the moment you are born, you are either a Christian or a Muslim, that is the way it is in Ghana. You are either NDC or NPP.
How do you also explain the little, little problems we have been having between Nigerians and Ghanaians in the last few months?
It is very unfortunate, but a lot of people see it as being political. There are some Ghanaian traders who feel intimidated by Nigerian traders and don’t forget that Nigerian traders have been in business for a very long time. Wherever Nigerians go in the world, we are like the Americans of Africa. We tend to dominate our environment, and so Ghanaians especially the traders feel that, no, we are not going to allow foreigners to come into our country and destabilise our market. They claim that Nigerians sell cheaper and so on. They have had those issues but it’s always amplified when election is coming. Some politicians will use that to fire up Nationalistic instinct in the people. But after elections everything will calm down again. A few of us who have little influence in Ghana have been trying our best, at least to bring the situation under control. I was able to assemble a list of over 130+ shops that were shut down and we organised some palliatives for them through support from our friends. We were able to give them little money, at least for them to feed.
But we hope that after the elections, whoever emerges would be able to rectify the challenges. I know that President Buhari also tried to intervene, the foreign Ministry in Nigeria sent a message to Ghana.
I hope everything will settle after elections.
If you are to advise the Nigeria Government, what would be your advice, in terms of how to handle what is going on now in Ghana. What should be their position?
Their position is to be neutral and just watch and see what happens. So, whoever emerges as the leader will be sworn-in in January. So the Nigerian Government should engage more in dialogue with them and they should operate the principle of reciprocity; that’s the language people understand globally. You see, the problem of Nigeria is that, people see Nigerians as orphans everywhere, that no matter what they do, Nigeria government will not support its people. And people will always mess you up once they know that you are on orphan, that you don’t have parents to protect you. Nigerian leaders should begin to protect their citizen wherever they are in the world.
The British for example will never condone that. Look at America like 2/3 weeks ago, they flew to Nigeria to rescue an American who was held hostage. Nigeria is too big and too important in the comity of nation for Nigerians to be treated like pigs everywhere.