Not very long ago, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo invited all his three presidential predecessors, namely, Messrs. Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum-Kufuor, and John Dramani Mahama to his private Nima, Accra, residence and publicly informed them that the task of meaningful nation-building was a herculean one that demanded the input of all and sundry, the experience of his predecessors. Well, I don’t recall seeing the spouses of the three former presidents mentioned above in the photographs that were widely published about this event by the national media.
For those of us who are used to our kind of patriarchal democratic culture, the photographs were perfectly normal, if only because they pointedly captured the reality of our political system and history. But for those of us who have been trained both politically and culturally to respect and promote gender complementarity and equity, there was something gapingly wrong with this picture. Yes, it is true that our former presidents had not contested for the highest and most powerful job in the land with their spouses (they had, with their wives prominently featured in the background).
But it was obvious from the beginning that once these most prominent and, some would even say, distinguished statesmen and politicians, assumed the glorious reins and trappings of governance, it was in the inescapable form of a conjugal package. Which is why we call the wife of our current president and those of his predecessors our First Lady and Former First Ladies. Anyway, I write this column to heartily congratulate President Akufo-Addo for naming Mrs. Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, the country’s longest-reigning First Lady, as Head of Ghana’s Official Delegation to the Funeral of Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the storied former wife of the late President Rolihlahla Mandela, the legendary first President of Post-Apartheid South Africa (from 1994 to 1999). We must also heartily congratulate Mrs. Rawlings for accepting to deputize for Nana Akufo-Addo and the rest of the Ghanaian citizenry at the funeral of Winnie Mandela.
Those who have been sedulously following and/or meticulously consuming my media fare over the past three decades, and still counting, may be fully aware of the fact that I am neither fond of Mrs. Rawlings nor her husband, the most wicked and longest-reigning Ghanaian strongman and democratically elected leader, Chairman Rawlings. But, of course, as is the nature of all civilized humans, I have always wished the Satanic Couple the very best. For at the end of the day, like the proverbial uneasy relationship between the liver and the bile, whether we, bona fide citizens and residents of Ghana, like it or not, the Rawlingses have indelibly etched themselves solidly into the historical and cultural memory of our country. We may only ignore the Bloody Pair at the risk or cost of our own credibility as historians, scholars and journalists.
Whatever they were or might have become, positively or negatively, has not been achieved without our fullest complicity as acquiescent citizens of Ghana. The preceding having been observed and said, the overriding objective here is to gladly acknowledge the fact that in President Akufo-Addo, contemporary Ghanaian politics clearly appears to have come full-circle or into its own, as it were. The unmistakable diversity in the composition of the Madikizela-Mandela delegation from Ghana to Soweto (the South-West Township of Johannesburg), South Africa, exemplifies the diplomatic deft, heft and remarkable skills of the man whose most inveterate detractors swore would never ascend to the highest office of the land in a million lifetimes. But, of course, those of us who diligently and undauntingly scaled to the metaphorical top of the mountain, knew far in advance and well beforehand that, despite all the naysayers and the withering torments that Sisyphus had to ceaselessly endure by rolling the legendary stone up the hill, there was always a silver lining somewhere near the bottom of the clouds.
Once again, we equally congratulate Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings for promptly acceding to President Akufo-Addo’s request to represent the Sovereign Democratic Republic of Ghana at the transitional rites for unarguably Africa’s most famous and, perhaps, even the greatest female political icon and personality of the second-half of the twentieth century. In a quite remarkable way, that is when all the chaff of her foibles and humanity has been aptly put into perspective, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela unquestionably came very close in stature and courage to Obaahemaapanyin Yaa Asantewaa, the legendary Warrior-Queenmother of the Great Asante Empire, who also, by the way, happened to have been the ancestral kinswoman of both yours truly and President Akufo-Addo. And so, in a quite significant sense, I guess it is a classic case of the proverbial dictum of the apple not falling far from the tree that is being so fantastically reprised here.
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