Thousands of people from across Ghana, Africa, Europe and the United States of America yesterday converged on the forecourt of the State House to mourn the late Rebecca Hawa Yakubu.
Until her death, she was the First National Vice-Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Her heroic contribution to national and international politics, women's rights and development, until her unexpected call-up on March 25, this year, ran through the many tributes, including those of Presidents J. A. Kufuor and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia.
In his tribute, President Kufuor said with her demise, the nation had lost a fearless gender advocate and voice of the vulnerable group.
Also present at the funeral service were the First Lady, Madam Theresa, the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament (MPs), members of the Council of State, members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives from Canada, Nigeria, the UK, the USA, Liberia and other parts of the world.
The presence of key political leaders, such as the Patron of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), Dr Obed Asamoah, Leader of the People's National Convention, Dr Edward Mahama, and the Chairman and the General Secretary of the NPP, Mr Peter Mac Manu and Nana Ohene Ntow, respectively, the clergy, military and police officers, indicated that she was a heroine in many respects.
Born in 1947 in Tarkwa but a native of Pusiga in the Upper East Region, Hawa was, in 1979, elected unopposed to her local council and was the youngest member of the Constituent Assembly which wrote the constitution of Ghana's Third Republic.
She fled to London and then to Nigeria when a military coup occurred in 1981 and lived there until 1991.
The following year, she contested the Bawku Central parliamentary seat which she won, despite being an independent candidate. She lost the seat in controversial circumstances in 1996 and moved to Cotonou, Benin, until 2000 when she returned to Ghana and won back her seat.
In 2001 and 2002, she was appointed the Minister of Tourism under President Kufuor. She also served as a Ghanaian representative to the ECOWAS Parliament.
Hawa lost her parliamentary seat in 2004. At the time of her death, it was reported that she had been suffering from cancer for quite some time and had sought treatment in London and South Africa.
President Kufuor said Hawa, in her parliamentary and ministerial duties, represented more than her constituency.
He recalled the independent mindedness of his former minister, popularly referred to as the “Iron Lady”.
He said Hawa was an inspiration to women, the youth and Ghanaians as a whole.
The Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, the Most Rev Charles Palmer-Buckle, in a sermon, urged Ghanaians to comfort one another.
He took a swipe at the organisation of ostentatious and extravagant funerals in the country and said the practice was destroying the wholesome and healthy culture of the people and the sensitivity of bereaved families.
He said people who claimed to be mourners and sympathisers drank, ate, quarrelled and left huge debts for the bereaved families.
“Bereaved families borrow millions of cedis to organise funerals, buy coffins which they destroy just before burial and spend years paying these debts. Something is wrong with us and against traditional and religious beliefs,” he said.
The Most Rev Palmer-Buckle suggested that funds for such expensive funerals should be channelled into the establishment of endowment funds to support the education of the needy as a better way of honouring the death.
The Chairman of the NPP, Mr Peter Mac Manu, in his tribute, said Madam Yakubu lived by two distinct traits — generosity and selflessness.
He said her death was a real blow to the NPP but gave the assurance that the party would honour her name with victory in the 2008 elections.
A son of the late Hawa, Derek Ayebo, described his mother as very forgiving.
“She opened up her heart and mind to many around the world and drove her ambition to champion numerous causes for underprivileged women and children, not just in Ghana but all over the world,” he added.
Story by E. Kojo Kwarteng
& Donald Ato Dapatem