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Opinions of Sunday, 15 November 2020

Columnist: Kofi B. Kukubor

A voice from behind the dark curtains: What Rawlings would have wished for

Let decency, cool heads, and maturity prevail. Jerry John Rawlings is larger than family, political party, and a geographical country.

As much as H. E. Jerry John Rawlings deserves a befitting state burial (by convention and constitution) not only honour him, but which must also reflect his ordinary and magnanimous lifestyle, the early signs of perceived partisan colouring and self-seeking advantages by the two major political parties just two days after his demise, does not bode well for Ghana's international reputation, unity, and peace.

It is imperative that the NPP government hands over the planning of Jerry John Rawlings's funeral to State Protocol Department. The Protocol Department is mandated to deal with the planning of the former President, and it is well-versed in handling this issue.

State Protocol Department (SPD) will therefore meet with all the stakeholders (i.e. the head of the Rawlings' family, appointed government officials, traditional authorities, especially Anlo and Volta traditional rulers, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, the clergy, leadership of National Democratic Congress, NDC, which he founded, other political parties, the arts and culture family, media representatives, and other relevant stakeholders) to plan the funeral devoid of pettiness, and vindictiveness. This will demonstrate the unity that Rawlings stood for, and a true reflection of camaraderie among the average Ghanaian on the streets.

He was a man who was sustained by the energy of the masses, who survived on the vibrations of the crowd, and who drew strength and energy from the commonality of the common people. He lived for the people, the people lived for him, and defended him.

The book of condolences

By general convention, after the death of a leading personality (i.e. J. J. Rawlings) book of condolences are placed in public places for members of the public to express and sign their personal encounters and thoughts. At the close of the funeral activities, the books are given to the relatives of the deceased to help them come to terms with the loss, or in some cases archived for reference. It, therefore, came as a surprise, an embarrassment, and petty for the highest office of the land, the presidency, and the office of a former President to be engaged in a fight over signing, and over a time to sign a book of condolences.

It must be suggested that, with this notable death of Jerry John Rawlings, official records of the condolences may be compiled and reprinted as souvenir collections for individuals and libraries.

At all times, a book of condolences must be and should be kept at the residency of the bereaved family for regulated visitors and dignitaries who call upon the bereaved family to sign. The presidency which may act a chief mourner by virtue of the fact that, J. J. Rawlings was a former President, may also keep a book of condolences on those that may call on him. The political party, NDC that he founded can not be left out of these arrangements as they must also have copies of the book of condolences in their party offices.

It is, therefore, necessary for government of Ghana to open book of condolences in all the sixteen regional capitals for the ordinary person his Excellency Jerry John Rawlings stood for and identified with all his life, to participate in the celebration of a life well and fully lived. He would love the street hawker at Kawukudi traffic lights, the illiterate fisherman at Anloga beach, the unknown farmer at Kintampo, the little cattle herds boy at Bimbila, the cocoa farmer in the forests of Enchi, the non-commercial police officer at Tsopoli, the other ranks in the military, the village political activist fighting for equality, equity, and justice, and the fatherless child in Somalia hoping for a peaceful country to participate in the celebration of his life.

It would therefore be most absurd, unconscionable, and a total disregard for common sense, sensitivity, and relevance to exclude the National Democratic Congress NDC, from actively contributing to planning the funeral of the founder of the party. Irrespective of the conduct of some national executives past and present, the NDC should never be denied the opportunity and responsibility to honour its founder. The NDC is bigger and larger than the elected officers who represent a collective mandate and authority.

Mutual respect among stakeholders and eschewing of excessive partisan score in planning the funeral of Jerry John Rawlings will yield honour to him, and attract much reverence and pride to the government and the people of Ghana, and Africa.

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