By Rachel Kakraba.
Traders at the Rawlings Park in the Central Business call for rehabilitation of the park as a befitting monument in honour of late Former President Jerry John Rawlings.
He had this long-standing principle, not to have any national monument named after him. That was the proposition of late former President Jerry John Rawlings. Before he died he was said to have declined an offer for the University of Development Studies, UDS in Tamale to be named after him, in as much as he was instrumental in its establishment. In an interesting twist traders in the Central Business District, of Accra are clamouring for the rehabilitation of the Rawlings Park to be a befitting monument in honour of the late President.
This came up when GBC News interacted with traders on how the Park can be exploited to immortalize Former President Jerry John Rawlings. The Park has since time immemorial been associated with the late Former President.
However, since its construction, Rawlings Park has not seen any major renovation.
The sudden death of Ghana’s Former President Jerry John Rawlings on the 12 November 2020, brought to the fore an appropriate memorial to his name. Although naming a national monument after him would have been ideal, the late Former President disapproved of such moves. This is what President Akufo Addo said when naming the University of Development Studies, UDS after Jerry John Rawlings.
“In 2017 I indicated to him through the Minister of Education under the knowledge of the University’s Board Chairman to name this University after him, in recognition of his personal contribution and that of his government towards the setting up of the UDS. He respectfully declined the honour and offer because of his principle not to have national monuments and facilities named after him”.
Just before you think it is a political gimmick General Secretary of the NDC Johnson Asiedu Nketia, makes an affirmation. He said “We all know that President Rawlings was a great man, a great Statesman, how best can we honour his memory, it is to continue doing what he would have done if he were to be alive. President Rawlings when he was alive did not take pleasure in monuments being named after him. Infact there were several occasions where he resisted the attempt to name monuments after him”.
Ironically while he was alive, the Rawlings Park located in the Central Business District of Accra already had his name on it. There is also the Rawlings Circle at Madina. But, for all these one will say are shadow names because no major announcement or occasion preceded the naming.
On a visit to the Rawlings Park in the Central Business district one would notice the buzzing of lots of activities there. The Park shelters traders who deal in second hand clothes, fabrics, footwear, groceries, hair products cosmetics among others. It also serves as a car park. When traders were asked about the park,
Esther said “John Jerry’s Park others call it Rawlings Park that’s what I know about it”.
Another trader said “I have in the last ten years been selling at this park, I don’t know any history behind the name, all that I know is it is Rawlings Park”.
On whether the death of Papa J, in any way led to an increase in business due to the publicity around the death at the time, some of the traders said, “when he was alive people were buying things from us at Rawlings Park, but right now things are not going well. They are not buying things like first”.
“His death has in no way increased my profit margins. I believe business has generally been bad everywhere”.
“Business at the Park while he was alive was good but that has changed over the time”.
Forced by constant harassment by City Authorities not to operate transport services on the shoulders of the road, the Rawlings Park Cooperative Transport Society was relocated to the Park by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, AMA. Being one of the earliest occupants of the Park, President of the Driver Association, Kwaofio Eric had a different perspective to the subject.
Mr. Kwaofio said “It is not an official name given that I will say the City Authorities, the Assembly named after our former President. Formerly, this place was called Makola number one, when it was demolished during the revolution. It is a vast place of land and boys used to play football in the Park. So they would say “o! let’s go to the Rawlings Park where Rawlings demolished, that’s how it got the name Rawlings Park”.
The Rawlings Park is managed by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, AAA. A retired Development Consultant, with the Assembly Nii Teiko Tagoe, said the Park was established following the demolition of the Makola number one market.
“During the Acheampong regime, there were economic sanctions against Ghana, so there was economic decline in Ghana, leading to shortages of almost every item you can imagine of. Since Makola market was the nerve centre for trading and commerce in Accra, people thought it was the Makola women who were rather increasing the prices of goods and creating shortages, forgetting it was a question of supply and demand. As part of the punishment by the military junta that took over on June 4th, they decided to clear the Makola market. Because it was left lying fallow for a long time and trotro drivers were packing there, people referred to it as Rawlings Park”.
Traders at the Park and some other Ghanaians have suggestions on how to immortalize the name of JJ Rawlings.
Nana said, “we normally get visitors here and when they come, they ask us is this Rawlings Park? So we will need either a statue or a writing that will show this is Rawlings Park”.
Esther said, “people are saying this place will sell it to someone so they will make it new but we don’t know what is going on right now, we are just looking up to them”.
“There is no way the name will change even when the place is renovated. I will call for the mounting of a huge statue of him and his name boldly engraved on it. I believe this will go a long way to honour his memory, said another trader.
Isaac Eyison deals in footwear at the Rawlings Park, he said although the former President did not name the Park after him, any move at such will be a step in the right direction.
A shopper said “there are a lot of trade activities going on here, I think it is one of the best things we can honour him with, and a lot more should be done in his name”.
Auntie Naa operates an eatery at the Park. For her “JJ was a great man and a park which bears his name must befit his stature but that is not the case”.
She lamented the Park easily gets flooded after least rains, and suggested it should be converted into a tourist destination that could fetch the country revenue. Madam Naa, who was unhappy about political divisiveness in the country said great Statesmen of the country must be honoured.
Is their call farfetched? Here are the thoughts of a Development Consultant at the AMA, Nii Teiko Tagoe.
“A decision would have to be firmly taken on that, even though Makola was broken down for the Rawlings Park, it is now serving a useful purpose because that is the city centre. Without that Park you can imagine how chaotic it will be to park or even move around that part of the CBD, so it’s quite significant and we need to modernise it”.
The contribution of JJ Rawlings to the socio, political and economic development of Ghana is immense. Practicing the cherished principles of Jerry John Rawlings may have been ideal, but, certainly having a physical monument or facility to his memory is not out of place. May this call to action encourage the government and Local Authorities to act swiftly and give the Rawlings Park the requisite facelift.