President Atta Mills of Ghana dies aged 68
On Tuesday last week, President John Atta Mills of Ghana passed away and this sad development has elicited a global outpouring of grief. He was a man who drew from the knowledge he assimilated as an academic to burnish his political journey. He was also a true democrat and statesman who selflessly devoted his life to serving the people of Ghana. Little wonder then that he was fondly addressed as “Asomdwehene”, meaning ‘King of Peace’.
The late Mills was a long time academic whose first exposure in politics was in 1993 when he left the University of Ghana where he was associate Professor of Law to become a substantive Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service from 1993 till 1996.
Henceforth, his rise in the political sphere of the country was meteoric, leading to his becoming the Vice President under former President Jerry Rawlings from 1997 to 2001. From there, he startedn eyeing the presidency. He tried unsuccessfully in 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and lost on both occasions.
It is recalled that before Ghana’s first Presidential Elections in 1992, the country’s National Convention Party (NCP) had formed an alliance with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Rawlings chose the NCP leader, Kow Nkensen Arkaah, as his running-mate. After elections, Arkaah served between 1992 and1996. However, on January 29, 1996, the NCP broke its alliance with the NDC, merging with the People’s Convention Party(PCP) to form a rebirth of the Convention People’s Party (the formerly outlawed political party of Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah). Arkaah
decided to stand as candidate for the new CPP in the 1996 presidential elections against Rawlings who then selected Atta Mills as his running mate. He was successful and Atta Mills became his Vice President.
At the expiration of Rawlings’ tenure in 2000, Atta Mills became the NDC’s presidential candidate but was defeated by the veteran politician of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), John Kufuor. In December 2002, Atta Mills was elected by his party to be its flag bearer for 2004 elections but was defeated again by Kufour.
He tried again in the 2008 elections and wasthird term lucky to emerge the president of Ghana’sThird Republic. Atta Mills, who hailed from Ekumfi Otuam in the Mfantsiman East Constituency of the Ghana’s Central Region, was born on July 21, 1944, at Tarkwa in the Western Region of the country.
He did his secondary education at Achimota Secondary School, where he obtained his General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level in 1963. From there, he attended the University of Ghana, Legon, where he received a bachelor’s degree and professional certificate in Law in 1967. He later proceeded to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London for his PhD, where was selected as a Fulbright scholar at the equally prestigious Stanford Law School in the United States of America. He earned his PhD at the age of 27 after which he taught at the University of Ghana’s Faculty of Law.
Instructively, while his sudden death is painful, it may not be a game changer in Ghana where two decades of progress since the 1992 constitutional referendum drew a line under 26 years of military rule and ushered in an era of democracy. Nonetheless, we commiserate with our Ghanaian neighbours on the loss of this illustrious son whose exit equally affects the entire West African sub-region since his push for regional integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been described as highly remarkable.