Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, yesterday, paid tribute to the late Ghanaian leader, Jerry Rawlings, describing him as a courageous and great African.
In an interview with The Guardian, he urged African leaders to emulate the exemplary leadership Rawlings displayed while in office.
His words: “I think Africa has lost a man who is not afraid to speak his mind in defence of African values and African dreams. He cleansed Ghana and Ghana has remained cleansed up till now. He was incorruptible. He was a revolutionary figure and not just ahead of the state in uniform.
“The very first time I met him after IBB appointed me as foreign minister, he started by saying you Nigerians expelled Ghanaians and you expect us to have a good relationship. I allowed him to complete his statement and said, ‘Your Excellency sir, you expelled Nigerians first and I quoted the year and who was president of Ghana. I said I’m not defending what president Shagari did. I don’t believe in the expulsion of fellow Africans but you started it.’ He was sitting back on the couch before, then he moved to the edge of the couch and said, ‘man I like your style’. That was the end of the hostility.”
Akinyemi added: “Some people have criticised the execution of those generals, including heads of state and a woman judge of the Supreme Court of Ghana. But do you realise that since he did that, the Ghanaian political system has been cleansed of corruption. Ghana again never resorted to a system where public office holders line their pockets with commonwealth resources.
It was after him that Ghana discovered gas and oil but they did not resort to private individuals lining their pockets with the resources they accumulated from gas and oil.
“Other leaders I had a relationship with were Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso and Samora Machel of Mozambique. What attracted me to them was the fact that they were strong Pan-Africanists. They had a vision for Africa.
“Rawlings regretted so much the assassination of Thomas Sankara. He was an activist pan-Africanist by character. He really had a vision for Nigeria to be a leading light not just in terms of words but action. Even Mandela said that the status of the Black race in the world was tied to the status of Nigeria as Black power. The Black race will overcome that chain of slavery when Nigeria emerges as a Black power and this also reflected the views of J.J. Rawlings and Thomas Sankara.
“To immortalise him, we could have a hero’s day but we will have a problem of who are the heroes because nationalism will come into it. We know what J.J. Rawlings, Nelson Mandela, Murtala Muhammed, Thomas Sankara stood for. These were all strong pan-Africanists. So, we all should subscribe to this dream of the evolution of an Africa that will be for Africans by Africans; an Africa that will overcome the vestiges of colonialism and neo-colonialism. The evolution of an Africa that will make the Black race proud, an Africa that will not be referred to as shithole.”
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