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Ghana: What next for Former president Jerry Rawlings, still ‘booming’ at 70?

Source: JoyOnline- Like a river which starts in its youthful stage, flowing slowly from its source then at its middle stage is full of force and works ferociously towards its old age before ebbing slowly into the sea, what are you going to do at age 70 and thereafter?

Former President J.J. Rawlings tells me in an interview I had with him early this year that he was going to write his memoirs and from all indications, it will be a must-keep and must-read.

The former President marks his 70th milestone on Thursday and as part of activities to mark the birthday celebration, a public symposium on environment will take place at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences Auditorium tomorrow.

At age 70, Flt Lt Rawlings is yet to embrace the traditional retirement and continues to ‘boom’ without minding whose ox is gored in defending the vulnerable in society through wide-ranging public commentary on social and political issues.

He still remains politically active, loves to watch news and documentary channels on television and with passion, has happily embraced chat application, WhatsApp

Love or hate him

Love or hate him, Ghana’s history cannot be written without the name of Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings who turns 70 on Thursday, June 22, 2017.

Globally admired for his charisma, sincerity, drive, patriotism and participatory leadership approach, Rawlings is also known for his anti-corruption credentials and for his unwavering advocacy of social justice, political and socio-economic empowerment of Ghana’s people. But his political opponents have also insisted that he preaches virtues but practises vice.

Journey to heroism

Such is the man who burst onto the country’s political scene to become a national hero of our time.

His journey to heroism began with a failed coup attempt on May 15, 1979, when his insurrection was botched by Major Sulemana. All he needed to do on that troubling Monday was to stand by his conviction and tell the court martial that was trying him for mutiny to “leave my men alone” and took full responsibility for the events on that ill-fated day.

The heart-thumping speech he gave during his trial resonated with a large section of the public that rose up in his defence. While awaiting his execution, Rawlings was sprung from the Special Branch (SB), now Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), cell on June 4, 1979 by a group of soldiers who were sympathetic to his motivations.

He led the insurgency that ousted the Supreme Military Council II from office and installed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). He thus burst onto the political scene as the youngest head of state at age 32 and thereafter supervised a transition to civilian rule.

Head of State at 32

At 32, Flt Lt Rawlings was the youngest head of state the country had ever had and for a brief period between June 4 and September 24, 1979 he brought a potentially chaotic popular uprising under control and handed over to an elected government.

The AFRC conducted what he termed "a house-cleaning exercise" whose aim was to purge the Ghanaian society of all the corruption and social injustices that members of the junta perceived to be at the root of their coup d'état.

After initially handing power to a civilian government in September, 1979, he took back control of the country on December 31, 1981 as the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).

In 1992, Rawlings resigned from the Armed Forces, founded the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a political party established on the ethos of social democracy, and contested in an election which he won to become the first President of the Fourth Republic. He was re-elected in 1996 for a further four years.