The complete version of the Latin aphorism quoted above says: “De mortuis, nihil nisi bonum”. [Of the dead, say nothing ill.]

This is difficult for honest people to obey, because each human being is a complex amalgam of good and evil.

We all reflect the natural laws that govern all creation: – there is darkness and then there is light; there is pain and there is joy: the opposites mount until they reach the fantastical absurdity that is taught by quantum physics. These laws of physics teach that for every 1 billion [1,000,000,000] particles of matter created, there are 1,000,000,000 particles of  anti-matter also created.

When the particles of matter come into contact with anti-matter, they annihilate each other. But on every billionth occasion or so, one particle of matter escapes annihilation! And that’s why we are here!

Yeah – you need to scratch your head after reading that. I had to, when I first heard of the “absurd” conclusions which physicists claim they have reached on the nature of the universe. For instance, what is the  dark energy that apparently controls about 95% of all movements in the universe? Why are there so many galaxies and numberless stars and an infinitesimal amount of planets orbiting the stars? Where is the universe expanding to?

Whew! Life and death? Apparently simple occurrences, compared to where we are going! 

Complexity is not easy to grasp, is it? Well, I tell you the late Jerry Rawlings was a very complex character. 

ITEM: I am sitting with Rawlings in a commanding officer’s office at Burma Camp, during the days of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in mid-1979. 

Suddenly, I see, through a window, an acquaintance of mine, looking distressed.

I excuse myself and walk over to intercept him.

“What’s the matter?” I ask him.

He tells me that soldiers have arrested his brother’s wife. She sells ladies’ stuff. Some soldier had tried to buy something for his girl friend and when he heard the price, stated that it was above “control price!” How do you control the price of fashion goods? 

I went back to Jerry. “Do you know so-and-so?” I ask him. 

“Yes”, he says. 

“His wife has been arrested.” I pause, then add: “She is pregnant!”

Immediately he hears this, Jerry stops what he’s doing and calls one of his soldiers: “Go round the guardrooms and see whether you can find a lady who has been arrested for selling above the control price.”

The man salutes and leaves. We hear later that fortunately, the lady had been found with no harm done to her.

It can be seen from that incident that Rawlings was an empathetic character. The soldier Rawlings had sent to go and look for the lady could become the butt of the anger of the soldier who had originally arrested her. And the anger would be transferred to Rawlings. Yet Rawlings had not cared about the consequences of ordering the lady’s immediate release.

ITEM: It’s “the second coming” of Rawlings (31st December 1981). According to an official report, “some soldiers” of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) – the Government set up with Rawlings as Chairman) – “…..harassed and seized goods of civilians, not only at the markets and shops but also at arbitrarily set-up road barriers, at the airport, harbours and other points of entry. Some of them, on their own initiative, seized private cars, ostensibly for “operations”, and crashed them or returned them in a state only fit to be disposed of as scrap. 

“Some individuals who resisted such seizure of private cars were shot dead, and those who survived, were seriously maimed. All these and other acts of human rights violations and abuses were carried out in the name of the revolution.” (NRC Report

Could Rawlings have stopped these brutalities? The fact is that these acts occurred under the reign of a person who sometimes exhibited empathy. And he did not condemn them. 

ITEM: The Daily Graphic, under Acting Editor Elizabeth Ohene, published a front-page story, after the AFRC had handed over power to the Hilla Limann Government in September 1979, in which the paper detailed the blatant manner in which the Limann administration’s security goons – especially his Military Intelligence squads – were inflicting open surveillance upon Rawlings and some of his former AFRC colleagues. Indeed, the Military Intelligence had erected a tent opposite the residence of Rawlings and were taking down the names of all those who visited the family. 

Yet, when the Limann Government was overthrown and some journalists began to write articles critical of some of the actions of the PNDC, political organs sympathetic to the PNDC descended on 

their newspapers as being “anti-revolutionary”. 

Rawlings did not say a word in defence of the journalists. Yet. from 1979 onwards, Rawlings had never tire of berating the media as

having been “emasculated”. 

Sadly, , during the PNDC era, some journalists lost their lives, usually after they had been incarcerated by the PNDC. They included Tommy Thompson, and John Kugblenu of the weekly, Free Press.


A new term of oppression of journalists was coined in Ghana, namely, the s***-bombing [expletive deleted] of the offices of newspapers that were considered “anti-revolutionary”. Some editors were also jailed on criminal libel grounds. The “emasculated” journalists of Ghana had found back their “virility” but were not defended, in the face of such a barbarous onslaught, by the man who had often chided them for not daring to speak truth to power. 

Indeed, the contradictions in the personality of JJ Rawlings are, too

numerous to explore. 

ITEM: Rawlings exhibited personal probity when it came to public finances: when he led a Ghana delegation to the summit conference of the Non-Aligned Nations in Havana, Cuba, in September 1979, he returned to chest, unused, the imprest approved for him. This was on the grounds that the Cuban Government had hosted him.

Yet he accepted $2 million US from General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, the man who stole between $2-3 billion US from his country’s coffers. At the time Abacha gave the money to Rawlings, Abacha was attempting to win allies, after he had been declared a pariah by the world media for murdering the Ogoni environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others, for launching a protest movement against the pollution of their state by Shell Petroleum Company, an entity co-owned by Shell and the Nigerian Government.

A Nigerian newspaper has retold, in an obituary of Rawlings, the story of Rawlings and Abacha:

But Rawlings does deserve great credit for allowing the late Professor Albert Adu Boahen to stand against him (albeit in the clearly rigged election of 3 November 1992) and thus ushering Ghana into the democracy under which we live today.

I hereby express my sincere condolences to the Rawlings family. 

Mema mo dammirifa due!

[My condolences]


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