Rawlings Breaks Loose
8/11/2012 11:45:34 AM -
Former president and founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Jerry John Rawlings, yesterday carved a role for himself at the interment of the late President John Evans Atta Mills even though he was ignored in the scheme of things, as regards the programme.
For those who were privileged to be close to the graveside rituals, they could not avoid the subtle show of defiance put up by former President Rawlings when he proceeded to pay his last respects to the man who served as vice president under him and eventually became president, ignoring protocol as it were.
At the end of the graveside rituals when the body had been lowered into the grave and the departure procedure announced, Mr Rawlings broke protocol, ignoring everybody to pay his last respects to the departing president.
In his tribute in which he recalled his early engagement with the man he fondly called Prof, former President Rawlings had this to say: ' My earliest memory of John Evans Atta Mills was as a sportsman at Achimota School.
Though Prof, as I preferred to call him, served in several institutional capacities during my tenure as Head of State, close contact was renewed when he was nominated and subsequently confirmed as Vice-President when the NDC won the December 1996 Presidential elections.'
Perhaps, it was this relationship with the man he was perceived to be unduly querying over his governance style which prompted him to ignore those who did not deem it necessary to include him in the programme to carve a role for himself.
When the casket was brought in by the pall bearers, the dignitaries including President John Mahama and his spouse, the widow Ernestina Naadu Mills and Service Commanders had taken their positions awaiting the last segment of burial proceedings to commence. Former President Rawlings was not present at the time.
He appeared unexpectedly with his spokesperson Kofi Adam and with a gesticulation, he appeared to be beckoning somebody to come over in a gesture of defiance as if saying, 'Let us go and pay our last respects whether they include me in the programme or not'.
He then proceeded to take a position behind other personalities until the end of the proceedings when the MC announced that all had come to an end.
The MC proceeded to detail the order of departure, pointing out that all should remain still as the president and his spouse took leave, followed by the vice president and his spouse, former first lady Naadu Mills and lastly former President Rawlings.
At this stage, former President Rawlings stepped out with his bodyguard- that was the moment he had waited for.
He walked towards President John Mahama, ignoring E.T. Mensah and Madam Naadu Mills as the dignitaries and others held their breaths and wondered what was up to.
He extended a hand to President John Mahama, shook hands with him and proceeded with the next stage of his enactments.
He turned and headed for the grave, halted and bowed in a gesture of respect and departed almost immediately after that enactment.
The departure arrangement could not go on at this time, as all stood and watched former President Rawlings execute his own programme.
When he took leave of the place, President John Mahama, the former first lady and President Mills' son Samuel Kofi Mills moved to the graveside where the widow dropped a flower into the grave, by which time former President Rawlings had left the scene.
People who wondered why former President Rawlings did not shake hands with the late President Mills' wife were reminded that it was a breach of tradition to shake the hands of a widow. Many have taken note of a number of traditional breaches in funerals as in the case of Madam Naadu appearing at the graveside and even adorning herself with earrings.
Another segment of former President Rawlings' tribute which underscores his oft-made remarks about those who stood against him runs thus: ' Against strong opposition from some within the party, I stood by the Prof and gave him full support after the electoral misfortunes of 2000 and 2004.
'A lot has passed under the bridge since the hard fought electoral victory of 2008. While many may perceive my criticism of the Prof as ill conceived, I was not going to look away while a man with such great potential was led astray from the ideals that we fought for; from the ideals that the NDC stood for.
We waged a stout political campaign in 2008 and those who really cared for the Prof deserved to speak the truth to help him succeed as President. My final meeting with Prof before he passed away was on Thursday 5th July at the Castle.
'During our meeting we expressed our mutual respect for each other as was always the case and news of his departure on July 24 came with cold pain'.
By A.R. Gomda