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General News of Friday, 22 February 2008

Source: Daily Gude

JJ Meets JAK: Eyeball to Eyeball

FORMER PRESIDENT Jerry John Rawlings on Wednesday night broke his own record by attending for the first time since he left office, a national programme organised by government. Mr. Rawlings who had for sometime now been rejecting state invitations to national programmes, including the Ghana@50 and Ghana 2008 soccer fiesta, showed up at a state banquet held in honour of the United States President, George Walker Bush and his wife, Laura.

The programme provided the platform for the former president to meet his successor, President John Agyekum Kufuor eyeball-to-eyeball, with the two political giants shaking hands in the process.

The two had not shared the same platform in a very long time, as Mr Rawlings always avoided the President.

At the Ghana 2008 football fiesta, the former president turned down official invitation to the VIP section of the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra and rather chose to sit at the popular stand.

The former president’s acceptance of the invitation prompted many at the function to describe the visit of the US president as indeed historic.

Mr. Rawlings was accompanied by his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings; the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Prof. Evans John Atta Mills; the NDC National Chairman, Kwabena Adjei and the Minority Leader and his deputy, Hon. Alban Bagbin and Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho respectively.

The former first couple who arrived on time for the dinner was seen interacting with some dignitaries with smiles on their faces.

With penchant for turning down official invitations, they could not escape the gaze of dignitaries at the function, with some expressing amusement.

President Bush and his wife, Laura arrived 10 minutes after their host President John Agyekum Kufuor, and his wife Theresa had arrived.

Soon after, the Director of State Protocol, Ambassador Wudu started calling out the names of certain personalities already seated in the hall.

While guests were wondering what was going on, a roll call of 25 eminent Ghanaians was made and they were invited to come up to the lobby.

The names included Hajia Ramatu Mahama, whose husband the Vice President was in far away Cuba; Speaker of Parliament Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi-Hughes; Chief Justice Georgina Wood; Council of State Chairman Professor Daniel Adzei-Bekoe; Ft Lt JJ Rawlings, former President; First Deputy Speaker, Freddie Blay; Majority Leader, Abraham Ossei-Aidoo; Minority Leader, Alban Sumana Bagbin; Dr Date-Baah, a Supreme Court judge; and Madam Ama Busia, Council of State member.

Others were New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; National Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer, Prof Atta Mills; Convention People’s Party (CPP) flagbearer, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom and National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu.

The rest were Prof Naa Nabila, paramount chief of Mamprugu; Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, President of the National House of Chiefs; Nana Otuo Siriboe, member of the Council of State; and Daasebre Oti Boateng, Omanhen of New Juaben.

Apparently they were being invited to welcome President Bush to the banquet and to be formally introduced to him.

After a slight hesitation and consultation amongst themselves, the NDC delegation which included party chairman, Kwabena Adjei went to join the invited few at the lobby.

Whiles there, the NDC founder, Jerry Rawlings and other stalwarts were left with no option but to shake hands with President Kufuor and exchange pleasantries while waiting for the arrival of the leader of the most powerful and richest country in the world, USA.

Earlier speculations indicated that the NDC stalwarts might not attend the banquet at the State House citing the late arrival of invitations.

Victor Smith, special aide to Rawlings told a section of the media that the invitation had come late and was not sure if his boss would be attending.

He however explained yesterday on Peace Fm that Rawlings attended the banquet in order to pass on certain concerns to the US president. It was not clear if he succeeded in reaching President Bush.

In the case of Prof. Mills, his spokesperson, Koku Anyidoho, claimed that his invitation had been sent to the party’s office instead of his campaign office at Kuku Hill and had also been delivered late, by which time they had already put together other plans for the evening.

The state dinner, meanwhile, attracted the crème-de-la-crème of Ghana and the American community in Ghana.

A cross section of VIPs comprising members of the diplomatic corps, Ministers, MPs, chiefs, artistes and captains of industry were in attendance.

Music giant, Bob Geldof of ‘Band Aid’ fame and winner of the 2007 ‘American Idol’, 18-year-old Jordan Sparks, who were in the entourage of George Bush, were also at the ball.

Before the exciting evening ended, President Bush took to the floor with Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater where he danced the American version of the ‘Kangaroo’ to the delight of the guests.

They were supported on the floor by President Kufuor and Laura, while others partnered Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, who showed her African traits through a more rhythmic highlife dance, and Mrs. Theresa Kufuor.

The Winneba and Tema Youth choirs also filled the atmosphere with Ghanaian patriotic songs after singing the anthems of both countries at the inception of the programme, with the Dukes International band filling the air with highlife tunes.

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