Late President John Atta Mills
I ’m not too sure if President Jonathan’s tribute to late Ghanaian President John Atta Mills was delivered at his burial in Accra, Ghana’s capital on Friday, August 10, though I recall that the President was among the heads of state, mainly from West Africa, who graced that ceremony. No doubt, the President’s eulogy, published by THISDAY on Tuesday, August 14, was a fitting tribute to a leader who did so much for his country within such a short time. Mills was president of Ghana for barely three years. He was elected in 2008. He had previously lost his bid for the presidency on two occasions, 2000 and 2004. It must be a mark of his tenacity that he had the courage to contest a third time. Mills was due to stand for re-election in December this year when he suddenly died on July 24. His death immediately threw the people of Ghana into mourning.
Some of us in neighbouring Nigeria who either heard stories of Mills’ outstanding leadership or experienced the changing situation of Ghana, how Mills was gradually transforming Ghana, also shared in their loss and grief. President Jonathan captured all that brilliantly well in his tribute. “His death is a huge loss to the good people of Ghana whom he served diligently and wholeheartedly and to whose good causes he was faithfully devoted in every situation in which he found himself. Nigerians and all Africans share your feeling of immense loss,” he had said. The President said all that needed to be said and even more in that moving speech which I guess would have been eloquently delivered were it rendered at the burial. There is no point regurgitating all the President had said, but the aspect of that tribute that caught my fancy is where he attempted to draw a parallel between him and the late Mills, and perhaps between Ghana under Mills and Nigeria under him (Jonathan). President Jonathan was nail on its head drawing comparison between him and the late Mills. He said: “John and I had many things in common. He was for 25 years a teacher, as I had been, before my foray into politics. He had also been a vice-president before his ascension to the presidency as was I. But perhaps the most important thing we had in common was a strong belief in God and in the great potential of our nations”.
The President was correct on all that. But he needs to be reminded of other similarities and differences. Yes, President Jonathan also talked about similar demise of a president while in office in Nigeria (President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) in May 2010 but refrained from saying it all, I mean saying all about the bitter succession battle that followed. He had said: “In Nigeria, we have also experienced the pain of losing a great leader while he was in office. Many of you may recall that my friend and leader, my partner in nation-building, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office and I had to step up to steer the ship of state. It was a difficult period for Nigeria but with God’s help and the help of people like the late President Atta Mills, Nigeria navigated the storms that arose from that loss.” Truth is the ascendancy of a new president after the demise of Mills was swift and smooth, that after the death of Yar’’Adua was cruel and vicious. There was a fierce succession battle before then Vice-President Jonathan helped by a “doctrine of necessity” resolution passed by the National Assembly and agitation by democracy activists could eventually succeed the late President Yar’Adua. Fast-forward to July 24 in Ghana, shortly after the death of President Mills was announced, his deputy, Vice-President John Mahama, was inaugurated president, effortlessly. That could only be a demonstration of the level of political maturity in Ghana and part of the enduring legacies of late Atta Mills and others before him since 1992. It’s in those legacies left behind by late President Mills that the divergence between Nigeria and Ghana under both leaders is brought into sharp focus. Under Mills, there was a transparent democratic process in Ghana, good governance was living out its real name and that country was also experiencing a thriving economy. Ghana was gradually becoming a major economic hub in the West African region. The country is not in any way under debilitating terrorist attacks that have defied solution in our clime. So much about Mills’ Ghana. May the soul of President Mills rest in peace.