“Thou Shalt Not Speak or Write Ill of the Dead.” Certainly, not a parting dictum Jesus gave to his disciples, nor a beatitude from any of the Apostles to the Faithful. But, arguably, a Social Convention that has endured and been followed, throughout the ages, by many, if not all in human society. Therefore, as another human in a human society, a Ghanaian, I come to bear witness as my country mourns a President, my President.
He was not the flame-throwing politician that both his critics and admirers wanted him to be—one bursting with bombast and dripping with the most incendiary of rhetoric. No, he wasn’t. He embodied the calmness of the undisturbed, even as some of his admirers wished him to be loud and vitriolic in his linguistic habit , and even interventionist in his diplomacy. Such was the wish of some in his government, broad segments of the chattering class in the Ghanaian Press, and certainly beyond Ghana itself, as nearby Ivory Coast roiled in post-election crisis. But, in Shakespearean phrase, his Constancy never left him unattended. John Evans Atta-Mills was unapologetic in his view of himself as a man of peace. He cast himself as the “Asomdwoe (Peace) President”, very much to the discomfort of those who wanted him to flex a muscle.
Whether that was his disposition, by nature, “a peaceful person,” or the result of some undisclosed medical indisposition, J.E. Atta Mills was a walking script. His critics and admirers could read him any way they desired. In fact, his quiet manner, a demeanor uncharacteristic of most heads of state, caused some of his spokespeople to sometimes act and speak in the name of the President before they received the president’s instructions to do so. In many cases, those who felt eager to speak for him before he spoke for himself were forced to retract what they had uttered in the name of a President who spoke less in public and softly in tone when he did.
I was in town when Ghana played Lesotho, in a World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Kumasi Sports Stadium. To the embarrassment of a proud nation, one in which soccer has become very much a religion, the floodlights at the Stadium did not come on when night was falling. The match had to be suspended for nearly an hour. Sports journalists went linguistically beserk. Opposition DJ’s on FM stations made political hay out of this. They blamed Atta-Mills and his NDC government for shaming a nation. It was a national embarrassment with negative political implications. One of the President’s flame-throwing spokesperson announced on radio, in the midst of the stadium blackout, that the President has authorized the immediate dismissal of the Director of the Electricity Corporation in Kumasi, and some officials of that corporation, for a negligent and diabolical conduct. It turned out that the President had not given that authorization. His critics, and even admirers, wondered why the President had allowed his silent persona to breed inclinations to speak for the president before he spoke for himself. But such was President J.E. Atta Mills.
As a human being, he had a heart for the distressed. When a Nigerian cargo-plane crashed in Accra, one rainy night (the first such experience in Ghana), and killed many innocent passengers in a mini-bus, a mournful President Mills showed up the following morning at the crashed site. His subdued demeanor spoke loudly, and comfortably, for the dead and the bereaved.
As a politician, he was not the type given to fury over freedom of speech. He never banned, as other heads of state would have done, songs that some musicians dissatisfied with him composed to mock his policies and style of government. Some in his Party, impatient with his patience, tried, but failed to challenge his leadership of the ruling political party and, therefore, his incumbent status as head of his Party’s ticket in the upcoming presidential elections. But such was J.E. Atta Mills..
That he led his country with his own style of leadership, and never gave in to the temptation to shift to suit what others wanted him to be, is a profile in courage. That amid his obvious public appearance of ill-health, he gave his lot to his country, and reinforced the hardening foundations of Ghana’s democracy, is a testament to a President who put his country first and stood up for something larger than himself. It is, therefore, not surprising that every radio station and television channel in Ghana, every marketplace and office space, is steeped in praise and admiration of Atta-Mills and his presidency.
We commiserate with the people of Ghana for the untimely death of her President, Prof. Attah Mills. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
We also congratulate Ghana for the simple, constitutionally orderly and exemplary transfer of power to the Vice-President, John Dramani Mahama. Ghana makes Africa proud – and may Mahama’s tenure be successful.
And there you have it. Can this happen in Uganda if M7 dies of anything today?????
MAY HE REST IN PERFECT PEACE!!!