Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings (rtd) has been laid to rest on Wednesday after a state funeral at Black Star Square in Accra.
He was given full military honours – a guard of honour and 21-gun salute – after the three-hour ceremony attended by people from all walks of life including representatives of world leaders.
Rawlings died on 12 November 2020 at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital at the age of 73.
Papa J, as he was fondly called, was buried in a coffin draped in the national colours of red, yellow, green and black, with an officer’s cap placed at the head of the closed coffin, on which lay a glittering, gold-plated sword, at the Burma Camp Military Cemetery in Accra.
Among the dignitaries who attended the funeral were the Liberian president, George Oppong Weah, and the president of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio.
Ghanaians from all walks of life paid their final respects as the coffin lay in state, under strict COVID-19 protocols, during two days of national mourning.
“You took pride in your fatherly duties … you’re passionate and open-hearted. Your gift of sharing knew no bounds,” his widow Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, the former first lady, said in a tribute.
“You never hesitated to help in the passing of laws to protect the vulnerable in society. Jerry, I know that God created us for each other. You did your best and I played my part.”
His daughter Dr Zanetor Agyemang-Rawlings said her father was “larger than life” and lived his life for the less privileged in society.
“Courageous and daring everywhere, you stayed true to what you are. You were always a man of the people; your people. Whatever your fault, whatever your shortcomings you always thought about the health and well-being of others before yourself,” Zanetor Rawlings said.
“And it’s such a shame that not every individual got to see or experience that. However, we take solace in the fact that enough hearts stood by you … Thank you for sharing your life with us. Your work is done and you’re free now … you’ll always be a warrior guardian.”
Ghana’s current president, Nana Akufo-Addo, described Rawlings as a “charismatic and fearless leader”.
“It was no secret that the relationship that existed between the two of us … was one of open animosity. We did not see eye to eye. However, with time, things changed. We came to see value in each other, and understood, to a very large degree, our respective perspectives,” Akufo-Addo said in his tribute.
“My visit to his Ridge residence in 2012 signified the easing of tensions between us, leading to a friendship that lasted for the better part of some eight years. Indeed, when the Ghanaian people, in 2016, reposed, for the first time, their confidence in me in the elections of that year, one of the first persons on whom I paid a courtesy call was His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings.”
Rawlings was the longest-serving leader of Ghana – with 11 years as a military ruler from 1981 and metamorphosing into a democratically elected president in 1992. He handed over power peacefully in 2001 after two terms in office as a civilian head of state.
Rawlings is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, who took part in the December election as the leader of her own National Democratic Party. Together they have four children, the eldest of whom, Zanetor Rawlings, stepped into her father’s political boots as an MP for the opposition National Democratic Congress in Accra.