He was a childhood fascination for myself; and some of my age mates. We always told ourselves “you may not like Rawlings but whenever he is in the neighbourhood, you would definitely want to see him.”
He is, or more fittingly, he was a charismatic figure. He knew how to work the crowds. He knew what to say and how to say it. He had some passion in his belly which was a sign of authenticity. He was serious. But he was also funny.
The mention of the name Rawlings evokes three responses. There are those who love him to bits. In the eyes of these people, the country would have been in a terrible state but for him. And they always take the opportunity, when it presents itself, to sing praise songs in his honour.
Then there are those who hate him to the core. In their view, he is the worst thing to have happened to Ghana.
His critics start by pointing out to the numerous human rights abuses that took place under his regime, the so called “culture of silence” and the fact that he presided over an organisation which was supposed to be provisional but ended up lasting for 11 years.
And there are those who simply do not necessarily share any of these extreme emotions. I consider myself to be in that bracket.
I grew up being completely insulated from his politics. He was on the political scene long before I was born. And even when I was born, I might have been too young to comprehend the complexities of the politics of those times.
My earliest personal recollection of the man Rawlings was some few years before the 2000 elections. I admired him.
My respect for him went a notch higher after the elections when he bowed out gracefully (as there were seething fears that he may cling on to power).
Ever since then he has been in and out of the public space often making very controversial and not so presidential statements. And he needs to be reminded of that.
The more I think of his role in our politics, the more I think that he has failed to live up to the times. In other words, he has failed to reinvent himself as a politician and more importantly a statesman.
His story is very similar to that of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart”. Just like Okonkwo, he was a hero for a period. And then the times changed and he is struggling to assert his relevance.
Ever since leaving office, he has been on the moral high horse (which is not necessarily a bad thing). He has never taken responsibility for anything that happened under his reign. The problems and troubles of this country are attributable to everyone else but him.
In the eyes of Rawlings, He is the best thing that ever happened to this country. But after years of being called Junior Jesus, it should not come as so much of a surprise.
In the course of the week, there was a news item in which it was reported that Rawlings had said that the ex-presidents -John Agyekum Kufuor, John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama were corrupt leaders. Of course, this is not new. What he failed to mention is that he also presided over a corrupt regime.
No one can say that he should not talk about corruption. He is entitled to. It is his constitutional right to do so. How he goes about it is however important.
To be frank, the self-righteousness being displayed by Jerry Rawlings is something many don’t buy into.
He did not understand for instance that the successor that he handpicked should at some point be independent of him. It was only when Mills proved to be more than just a piece of paper that can be pushed around that the rift between him and Rawlings became public.
He called him names that were unprintable. Then his battles with Kufuor. Once again, we see him riding high and far on his high horse. Then his battles with the current former President Mahama.
Rawlings must understand this. He can’t always be in the public space. He can’t always have things going his way. And the mere fact that things are not going his way does not in any way mean that the executor is wrong.
Leaders exist to support; promote, engage, share and not pontificate. I think it should be apparent to him by now that his antagonistic approach to genuine national issues and concerns is not helpful.
Frankly, he should focus on engaging more. His claim to fame should be concrete solutions and not “booms” as we are accustomed to.