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I want to be cremated and my ashes spread at Achimota forest – Rawlings’ dying wish

The mortal remains of the former President, Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, who shockingly died last Thursday at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, is likely to be cremated as that appears to be one of his last wishes.

The 73-year old, who is credited with Ghana’s current democratic dispensation, having returned the country back to constitutional rule in 1992, before his demise, had indicated that he wants to be cremated for a very interesting reason.

Mr Rawlings, sometimes affectionately called Chairman Rawlings, who attended the popular Achimota School in Accra with his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, in one of his many interviews, said he wants to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Achimota Forest, where his former Alma Mata is sited.

JJ, in a tribute he wrote for his mother; Victoria Agbotui, revealed he spent more time in the Achimota Forest interacting with nature more than he did on campus.

He disclosed how many occasions his mother will visit him on campus to meet his absence because he had gone into the forest.

According to him, on one occasion, while returning from the forest, he chanced upon his mother angrily leaving a warning with a student for him.

The former Charismatic leader and founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), made the declaration during an interview with the Editorial Board of Achimota School’s magazine in 2016.

The long interview, published in April 2016 edition entitled “Walking down memory lane with his Excellency Ft. Lt Jerry John Rawlings” had the ex-Military leader, saying he wanted his remains back in the Achimota Forest to enable plants to grow.

Speaking on a number of issues covering his days at the popular school, the former President said because he loved the Achimota Forest, and he wished that when he dies, his body will be cremated and the ashes spread inside of the thick forest.

“Since I love the Achimota forest, I am looking forward to being cremated and my ashes brought to the forest and used to plant a few trees”, he said when asked what he missed most about the school.

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His wish, which shocked the Editorial Board made of young Achimita students, was followed with a question by the late former President retorting “How else can we protect the forest for you?

He asked, “Are you afraid my ghost will be appearing?

But in his usual jovial self, Mr Rawlings laughed at what he had said explaining, his request is to get the forest which is one of the few historical sites left on the national capital preserved.

He laughed “Hahahahaha. So, let people believe it; that way, it will help preserve the forest”, The NDC founder went on by imploring others to emulate his wish, but was quick to add that in the event that others do not tow his line, he will be glad to be kept all alone.

“Some others should also do the same, if they don’t, the fewer the merrier. I don’t mind having that whole place to myself”.

Mr Rawlings died on Thursday November 12, 2020 after a yet to be disclosed illness. He left behind a wife, four children and three grandchildren. He was the first democratic President of the fourth Republican Constitution.

The Herald, has meanwhile gotten reports that the Anlo chiefs and elders are feeling disrespected and getting angry at the government and Mrs. Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings’ attitudes, following the ex-President’s passing.

The Anlo chiefs and elders feel Konadu and President Akufo-Addo, want to bury Rawlings like an Akan, and they are not enthused about it.

Rawlings belongs to the Anlo family and they will bury him according to Anlo customs and tradition.

Per many Ghanaian cultures, the death of a beloved person, is a moment of pain, grief and sorrow.

As a result of Mr Rawlings’ status, a statement should have been issued by his family or his office, which had a director of Communications.

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After this, his family; both nuclear and extended, will meet to plan when it is appropriate to bury and perform the final funeral rites.

These arrangements are communicated to the community, especially the chiefs and elders to ascertain whether they are comfortable with the date and also get their blessings.

However, hours after the death of ex-President Rawlings, saw the summoning of his uncle, Col Joshua Agbotui, Michael Agbotui Soussoudis, Johnny Blagodzi and Rawlings’ three grieving daughters namely; Zanetor, Yaa Asantewaa and Amina Rawlings matched to the Presidency to shockingly break the news to the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, who had earlier announced the death five hours earlier.

These arrangements are communicated to the State Protocol Department.

It is not clear if the elders and Chiefs of Rawlings’ maternal home in Dzelukofe in the Keta Municipality of the Volta Region, have been informed of his death, as tradition demands.

The same chiefs and elders had, three weeks ago, helped Mr. Rawlings to bury his beloved mother Victoria Agbotui.

The Chiefs include; Togbi Agbesi Awusi II- Awudada of Anlo, Togbi Gbordzor- Dusifiaga of Anlo, Togbi Nyaho Tamakloe- Mafiaga of Anlo, Togbi Addo IV- Paramount Chief of Klikor Traditional Area, Togbi Afede XIV- President of the Ghana House of Chiefs, Togbi Nukpornuka II, Togbi James Ocloo V, Togbi Amegashie Apeku, Togbi Joachim Acolatse V, Mamaga Bianah of Srogboe, Mama Ewie of Keta Keleta Family of Nkomikajaji- Nkomi Traditional Area, The Agbotsui, Adorkor, Ashiagbor Families, Tsikata Agbodzi, and Allied Families.

At the party level, the General Secretary of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Asiedu Nketiah on events relating to Mr. Rawlings’ passing so far, said: “We were sorely disappointed that the President of the Republic, even in issuing a statement of condolence, refused or failed to recognize the fact that President Rawlings was the founder of the NDC”.

“It is against all the different practices we have been engaged in, in the past, as far as the death of prominent members of the two political parties is concerned,” he said.

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“The President has refused to recognize that the man belongs to NDC, and he is the founder of NDC”, he argued, adding: “Everything about this funeral, so far, depicts an attempt by an opponent to hijack the funeral of the founding father of our political party, and we don’t think the funeral of our party founder ought to be organized somewhere, and we get invited.

He said: “We have called on the immediate family to share condolences, and we are beginning to discuss the way forward. We have directed all branches of our party countrywide to organize events countrywide that will give a fitting celebration of the life of our founder… We will participate [in the national funeral] but that will not stop us from organizing our own thing.”

Interestingly, a book of condolence opened for Mr. Rawlings at the International Conference center was taken away by the government a few minutes before ex-President John Mahama and a team of NDC bigwigs, could arrive and sign the book.

Deputy General Secretary of the NDC, Peter Boamah Otukunor, has also said, President Akufo-Addo, erred by announcing the death of former President Rawlings.

According to Otokunor, customarily, the family has the authority to announce the death of their Kinsmen and not the presidency.

Reacting to many issues, including the release of a statement announcing the death even before his family issued a statement on Atinka FM with sit-in host, Kaakyire Ofori Ayim, Peter Boamah Otukunor, said it is traditionally incorrect for a non-family member to announce the death of a deceased.

“We were surprised that President Akufo-Addo who isn’t a family member and is not related in any way announced the death, but in spite of everything I will plead with him to caution his followers who are trying to play politics with the death,” he said.

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