Former President Jerry John Rawlings’s solemn procession around the body of the late President John Evans Atta Mills on Wednesday was perhaps the most elaborate among all the dignitaries that filed past the corpse.
President Rawlings entered the State Banquet Hall dressed in a rare black suit with a red muffler around his neck, and in an extremely pensive mood, he and his wife Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and a few dignitaries filed past the body of the late President.
After the brief walk around the mortal remains of the late President, ex-President Rawlings paused at the foot of the catafalque bearing the casket containing the body of the late President Mills and took a long gaze at the body for almost 30 seconds before bowing and leaving the hall.
Other dignitaries, including President John Mahama, former President John Kufuor and other dignitaries did the usual honours by filing past and pausing for a few seconds before bowing and departing.
However, former President Rawlings’s display of grief was curiously longer than the usual.
It is unclear what he was thinking of at that moment of introspection as he looked at the mortal remains of his political protégé.
Mr Rawlings, a strong critic of the late president’s administration, was visibly shaken by the death of his former vice. He was in Congo Brazzaville at the invitation of President Denis Sassou N’Guesso when Prof Mills died.
When interviewed on July 25, 2012, by the BBC following the news of President Mills’s death, Jerry Rawlings responded, “It was quite a shock to both my wife and me but it was not unexpected because he’s been battling the cancer for quite a while.”
Afterwards, he blamed handlers of the late President for not giving him proper counseling that could have possibly prevented the sudden demise.
An aggrieved Jerry Rawlings complained that the late president’s death could have been avoided if officials of the administration were more open about his health condition.
“Quite frankly, I think had he been advised and done something wiser earlier on, he could probably have survived for…I don’t know, another six-seven months, I guess. This is certainly the wrong time for him to go considering that election is around the corner in December.”
He said he was privy to information that the late President was suffering from a cancer that restrained him from working long hours.
DAILY GUIDE could not ascertain the mood of ex-President Rawlings after he emerged out of the State Banquet Hall because his security detail would not allow the press to go near him.
He wrote: “Fare thee well Prof. Let’s hope we will do better at keeping those with destructive tendencies away and out of the national endeavours. Help to provide JM (John Mahama) with whatever guidance you can offer from where you are since you are now free.”
The message was received with extreme resentment by some members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) who felt it was targeted at them.