It has taken me a fortnight pondering on the death and final exit of a towering figure like the late Flt. Lt. J. J. Rawlings, the first President of Ghana’s Fourth Republic.

I have been watching the best and the worse moments of the late president on television and on YouTube.  I have been in denial of the news of his death despite seeing his close family in mourning clothes and receiving mourners in their home.    I have seen mourners signing a condolence book in his honour. Yet, I have been asking myself, “is it true or false?  Is it fake or real news”.

Similar feeling

I remember a similar feeling hitting me when the nation lost former Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama , former President Professor John Atta Mills, my friend and former 1969 Year Group mate, former Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, andthe distinguished diplomat par excellence, former UN Secretary General, Busumbru Kofi Annan and Professor Atukwei Okai among others.

With all of them, I had had some personal or face to face interaction in my previous job as head of the Corporate Relations outfit.  In the case of Vice President Amissah-Arthur and Professor Atukwei Okai, the interactions I had with them were more on personal and friendly basis.

For each of them, I had the opportunity to eulogise them in my writings as and when they passed on.  I have come to terms with their passing because time heals even though sometimes it feels like they are still around somewhere minding their own business.

Regrettable loss

In the last two weeks however, I have been pondering over the regrettable loss of one of Ghana’s towering and illustriousleaders in the Fourth Republic.  I had cause to meet him face to face at the then seat of government, the Castle whenever I accompanied a new leadership of Unilever PLC to announce a new business intervention by Unilever in Ghana.  I also met him and even had an interaction when in the 1990s he visited Unilever Plantations, Benso Oil Palm Plantation.

His charisma endeared him to the masses who would shout and scream “Papa J” to him when out there.  They saw him as the “Papa” who made all things possible, in and out of government.

Family man

My admiration for him is more as a family man.  I had always admired the togetherness of him and his adorable wife, former First Lady, Mrs. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings.  They looked supportive of each other and presented a good model of family stability, love, friendship and ideal marriage relationship.  He never felt shy to talk about his beautiful wife in public.

In public, that stable union and solid support as couples was there to see.  I saw them as an encouragement to many families.  It is a shame they never set up a marriage counseling unit.  In my estimation, it would have been a huge success with much patronage. The humbling effect of death has not made anything of the sort possible.

I felt numb with the news of his death a couple of weeks ago.Late President Rawling’s presence in our national life, 20 years after leaving office, never gave anyone an inkling that he would ebb away anytime soon.  No one saw it coming having seen him looking fit for his mother’s funeral just three weeks before his demise.That is why to me, I see death as a humbling part of life.

No matter his faults, and regrettably, he had many that tipped the scale having led a historic bloody revolution in Ghana’s history.  In his almost 20 years as leader, he stepped too hard on some toes to the extent of them becoming sore.  To date, these sores have not been healed and he as the seeming cause, never sought to help treat them.

Now, death, the humbling occurrence in man’s life has silenced even that tumultuous voice of Papa J.  That roaring but encouraging voice that usually called people to action has been silenced forever.


Unfortunately, the reality of his death will dawn on people in the coming weeks or months when his lifeless body is laid in state and the nation is given the opportunity to pay its last respects.  Death’s humbling encounter will meet many who have been in denial of the passing away of such a towering figure.

For anyone who has lost a close family member or friend, death is the most crippling blow ever.  But gratefully, though painful, there is healing in all that once a closure takes place.  We pray that it would be so for the family of the late former President.

It is only a matter of weeks or months and the reality of the passing of the charismatic, fearless, towering personality dawns.  The effect of the icy blow that hit the nation and the world on 12 November, 2020 will manifest in endless tears when the humbling blow of death is revealed in his state burial.

May the wife, children and extended family be comforted and may his soul find eternal peace.


Vicky Wireko