Jerry John Rawlings, a man of many names and misnames

Former President Jerry John Rawlings

Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, born and baptised Jeremiah Rawlings John as a Catholic, rose to fame, through the power of coups and left many legacies that spans across history of the Republic of Ghana, Africa and the world.

He was a charismatic leader and his ideologies, beliefs, sense of humour and love for his nation, which remained unmatched, gained him many names from the traditional, political, social and religious arena.

What is therefore in his name? He would hear people describe him with the many nicknames and was not bothered but would repeat some of this terms to reinforce the need for patriotism from citizens towards their nation.

Jeremiah Rawlings John later turned to Jerry Rawlings John and later metamorphosed into Jerry John Rawlings and short formed J.J. Rawlings.

History and words of the late President revealed that his middle name RAWLINGS in what is now known was mistakenly swapped with his actual surname JOHN, when he joined the Ghana Air Force and giving him that unique identity. Sometimes major mistakes reshape the future, how would it stand if his wife is referred to as Nana Konadu Agyeman “John,” or Dr Ezanetor “John.” I’m sure Nana Konadu and Ezanetor would not have kept the “John” name.

He was quoted to have said that although he noticed the interchanges resulting from clerical mistakes that occurred at the time, he never objected since he thought there would be a problem to do so.

After his unsuccessful coup d’état in 1979 coup, Rawlings gained the misnames, nicknames; such as Junior Jesus, Small Jesus, Control, Messiah among many others because at the time it alleged he “saved” humanity just as the biblical story of Jesus Christ and also ensured equity.

Others also read meaning into the abbreviated Jerry John (JJ) to mean Junior Jesus alongside his perceived saviour roles.

The late President is known for sweltering criticism and speeches against the political administration of former President John Agyekum Kufuor after the 2000 elections and afterwards earned the late Rawlings, the title ‘Jerry Boom,’ ‘Mr Boom’ or Dr Boom.

Rawlings was referred to as ‘Dzelukofe mafia’ because of his links to the area and having some key architects of his government hailing from Dzelukope. This phenomenon however started during the era of Dr Kwame Nkrumah with a misname as ‘Nkrumah Show Boy.’ Other instances of misnames along tribal lines include the Akyem/Kyebi Mafia, Ashanti cabal and Fanti cabal.

Madam Francisca Kraka, a retired teacher, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA), she remembered the aftermath of the 1979 coup carried out by Mr Rawlings against some mismanagement of the country’s resources.

She said Rawlings ensured that commodities such as sugar, cloths, soaps, foodstuffs, were available to citizens to ensure that their lives were better and to citizens, only a Small Jesus could do this.

“He was known as Control at the time because he monitored and control how commodities were sold and distributed to citizens and as a trader, you dare not sell the goods above the stated price nor hoard the goods. He was the Control.”

Findings revealed that “Rawlings’ nickname since 2001 is Dr Boom, following a speech he delivered warning Kufuor’s government that there could be an explosion (boom) if it dropped its guard.

“At a press conference held on July 1, 2008, Mr Rawlings lashed out at President Kufuor and his New Patriotic Party, accusing them of using class war, divide and rule, fraud, violence and intimidation to keep themselves in office.”

Shasha Marley, reggae artiste who composed the “Maata Fish, Maata Tish and Maata Poo” track, could not have best described the antagonism between Rawlings and Kufuor than to compose his “buum buum waa waa” track which also talked about exploitation by politicians while citizens wallow in poverty.

Surprisingly, these criticisms were not limited to opposition parties but to the very own he founded and party members, from flagbearers to national executives and to some extent, Members of Parliament (MPs) on the ticket of the Party.

One of the platforms of his Party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Rawlings generated the political term “Babies with sharp teeth” to express his displeasure on how some young politicians were disrespectful to ‘authority’ and how it was not the right thing to do.

Among the names Rawlings was called was Junior Judas, just as he saved citizens to become Junior Jesus, he ‘betrayed’ some citizens in his coup d’états and ‘executed’ some as well. Whether Junior Jesus or Junior Judas, ‘it depended on your political persuasion.’

Traditionally, Rawlings was accorded many accolades or nicknames for his roles in championing peace and development.

Rawlings was enstooled in December 2018, as Togbuiga Nutifafa I (Chief of Peace) of Anlo, a development chief in the Ghanaian chieftaincy system, a warrior chief by the Chiefs and elders of Winneba in the Effutu Constituency of the Central Region, in 2019.

The complexion and paternity root of the late leader also found its way into the misnames of Mr Rawlings as many referred to him as Yevuvia (Whiteman).

Jerry John Rawlings was born on June 22, 1947, in Accra, Ghana, to Victoria Agbotui, an Anlo Ewe from Dzelukofe, Keta, and James Ramsey John, a chemist from Castle Douglas in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.

Mr Paul Addo, an educationist, told the GNA that among the nicknames that stood the test of time for the late political leaders were JJ, Saviour, Chairman and Junior Jesus, adding that, the rest were either by a group of people or emerged from events.

He noted that Mr Rawlings was “precious to Ghanaians and was seen as a saviour and Junior Jesus” changed the socio-economic situation of the nation.

Mr Rawlings is not the only man of many names; his successors are no different from him. Mr Kufuor known as ‘Gentle Giant,’ ‘Waa Waa,’ and ‘sexy eyes,’ with the late President Atta-Mills carrying some of the shots and referred to as Asomdwehene (King of Peace), Prof, “Ecomini, Do little.”

Mr Mahama on the other hand is not left out as he was referred to as the “Commissioner General,” “Dead Goat” with the current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, with misnames; “’Fellow Ghanaians,’ ‘King Promise,’ ‘Nana show boy,’ ‘Addo Dee,’ ‘Clearing Agent.’”

Every nickname of these political leaders stemmed from an action or statement just as we used to have nicknames back in schools, Churches and even homes. Some could just be a slip of the tongue as long as ‘General Secretary remained Mosquito.’

Posterity would come to give Rawlings a balanced view. I hope. And may it come to the conclusion that J.J. was the Friedrich Nietzschean, a German philosopher of Ghana, who may have stared too long into the abyss at certain times.

He booms without minding whose ox has been gored by defending the vulnerable in society through wide-ranging public commentary on social and political issues.

Globally admired for his charisma, sincerity, drive, patriotism, and participatory leadership approaches and unwavering advocacy for social justice and economic empowerment.

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