Speaking at the state funeral of the former military ruler, Akufo-Addo revealed Rawlings later became a confidant as he tapped into his experience.
“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 (8) 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.”
According to him, history will be kind to Rawlings for the political role he played in Ghana’s democracy.
“I believe that history, on balance, will be kind to him, and will render a positive verdict on his contribution to the evolution of our nation, and the entrenchment of its democratic institutions and culture. It is entirely appropriate and fitting that he should receive a State Funeral with full honours to express the gratitude of the nation for that contribution,” the president stressed.
Rawlings was given full military honours at his funeral on Wednesday at Independence (Black Star) Square in Accra.
Rawlings died on 12 November 2020 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital at the age of 73.
Born on 22 June 1947, Rawlings attended Achimota Secondary School, where he acquired an O’ level certificate in education in 1966. In August 1967 he enlisted as a flight cadet in the Ghana Air Force, earning selection for training at the Ghana Military Academy in Teshie, Accra.
He moved in March 1968 to Takoradi in the Western Region, where he continued pursuing his course. In January 1969 he passed out as a commissioned pilot.
His dedication and hard work earned him the rank of flight lieutenant in 1978. He had a good rapport with his colleagues and showed the highest efficiency in his line of work.
In the air force
During his time in the Ghana Air Force, he became increasingly angered by what he saw as the general moral decay and decline of discipline in Ghana.
Like many junior officers in the armed forces, he blamed the national decline on the corruption in the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC). The SMC, they reasoned, was the body in charge of ensuring that Ghana succeeded in its efforts to promote development.
His diligence as a junior officer earned him promotion, giving him the opportunity to associate with the more privileged echelons of society.
He became ever more indignant about the social injustices that were the commonly accepted way of life in Ghana and began to mobilize among his fellow officers. He was regarded with great unease by the SMC, which began to hound him.
First and second comings
Rawlings began to hatch a political and social scheme with a growing circle of colleagues and friends who were in agreement with his plans, and at the same time read widely. This awareness-raising culminated in his first coup attempt of May 1979, followed by a successful coup d’état on 4 June 1979 in which friends and supporters freed him from jail.
Among the early actions of the new Armed Forces Revolutionary Council government were the executions of eight senior military officers, including three former heads of state.
He stood down after democratic elections that year which were won by Hilla Limann’s People’s National Party (PNP). He staged a second coup on 31 December 1981, however, ousting Limann and launching the self-styled revolution out of which his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) was born.
The 31 December Revolution was followed by in-camera military tribunals and a slew of extrajudicial killings, notably the murders in 1982 of three senior judges and a retired military officer.
In 1992, under some pressure from within and outside Ghana, including international financial institutions, he returned Ghana to civilian rule, introducing the Fourth Republican constitution and standing as the presidential candidate of the new party that he founded, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
He served two terms as a civilian president, handing over on 7 January 2001 to John Agyekum Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who defeated John Evans Atta Mills, Rawlings’s chosen successor as leader of the NDC.
Rawlings continued to play the role of senior statesman and both guiding light and critic of the NDC.
He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, the leader of the National Democratic Party, three daughters and one son. His eldest child, Zanetor Rawlings, is the NDC MP for Klottey Korle in Accra.