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THE BARRACKS LIFE NEVER LEFT HIM: Lessons from the Life of a True Soldier and Statesman, J. J. Rawlings!

On Thursday, the 12th of November 2020, at around 10 a.m., Ghana and the entire International Community was thrown into a state of utter shock, disbelief and disarray on the news of the sudden and untimely demise of one of Ghana’s former presidents, the courageous and outstanding Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, a man touted for his discipline, boldness, hatred for bribery and corruption, truthfulness, probity and accountability, among other virtues. From that fated day till today, numberless tributes have been pouring in from all angles and sectors, with many praising the 73-year-old stalwart’s sterling leadership qualities and eventful, monumental life.

Even as his mortal remains are being committed to the cozy bosom of the earth, our mother, today, we pray the Good Lord to look favourably on him and receive him into his heavenly abode, where the biblical Lazarus is no longer a poor man. And just as the outspoken Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Coast, Most Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, said in a homily at his Requiem Mass, may we all who felt offended by any actions and inactions of this giant statesman, forgive him “for the excesses”. For, to err is human; to forgive, divine!

One of the many lessons we can draw from the life of this tall personage was his downright humility and simplicity. He was a soldier. Yes. He left the Air Force. Yes. And became a military ruler, a political figure and a democratically elected president. But all in all, the barracks life never left him. He still remained simple and humble of heart and mind. This was a man who, despite his high social status and standing, could descend into gutters and distill them, direct vehicular and human traffic, sleep at boys’ quarters, and do other simply unimaginable things.

We too, often, life raises us to certain pedestals. When our levels change, do we act as ingrates, looking down on our humble beginnings? Do we remember and appreciate the ghetto that raised us? Or we allow pride and arrogance to blind us to our past? Certain promotions may come at our workplaces or schools. Do we remember those who lent us their shoulders to weep on in our hay days? Do we readily identify with our former works, neighbourhoods, associates, peers, and acquaintances when we leave to undertake bigger and better jobs? Or we feign ignorance of these hard day memories?

Rawlings never did that. He never forgot where he came from. He was a man of the local people. He identified with the ordinary people. He himself often recounted his humble beginnings with much pride and nostalgia. His style of dressing, way of conducting himself and all such attitudes go to emphasize his meekness and modesty. If we would be successful in life, we must learn never to throw away everything our former miserable life offered us. We must learn to revisit and exhibit, time and again, those godly virtues that society and family imbibed in us when we were growing up. We must learn never to let the “ghetto life”, the “barracks life”, leave us. In the words of the saintly Apostle Paul, let us become all things to all men in order that by all means we may gain some (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23).


James Dunyo

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