Guest Columnist By Goodluck Jonathan
Late President John Evans Atta Mills was a true leader of his people and a most worthy son of Africa. The people of Nigeria and I received the news of his death with shock and sadness.
He was my very good friend and colleague. He was also a friend to many Nigerians who knew him personally and enjoyed the privilege of interacting with him.
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.
Late President Mills was a great friend of our country and a firm believer in the shared heritage and common destiny of all Africans. President Mills and I shared a vision of peace and political stability as well as regional and continental economic integration in pursuit of progress and development, in our individual countries, within the sub-region and in Africa as a whole.
He was a dependable leader, an affable gentleman, soft-spoken but firm, a self-assured man of honour, and of intellect, who loved his country, his continent, his race, and who served humanity with all his heart.
John was the definition of tenacity and charity. He displayed tenacity by running for the Presidency of Ghana on three occasions and even when he was defeated in 2000 and 2004, he was not broken and tried again. The virtue of charity was evident in his life in that despite his defeat at the polls he never harboured bitterness against his victorious opponents. Instead of getting bitter, he got better and this led to his victory at the polls in 2008. Yet he was magnanimous in victory and resisted the temptation to settle scores and had a big enough heart to accommodate everyone in his administration. There is a lesson here for all politicians.
His death touched me, but I am aware that the Nigerian people especially those domiciled in Ghana and their relations here in Nigeria remember the late president fondly for his positive intervention in the case of Nigerian investors in Ghana whose interests were accommodated after policies on expatriate investments proved challenging for many of our countrymen. This intervention saved the businesses and livelihood of many Nigerians domiciled in Ghana and strengthened the bonds of brotherhood between our two nations.
It was for me, a great pleasure, privilege and honour to have had the opportunity of working and collaborating with this good man at bilateral, regional and continental levels in furtherance of the positive aspirations of our governments and people.
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. Let me paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright by saying that Ghana and Nigeria are two countries divided by a common language. When you mourn in Ghana, we mourn with you in Nigeria. It is not just Ghana that has lost something with the passing of President Atta Mills. Indeed all of West Africa has lost a voice of reason.
During the 2008 presidential election in Ghana, Atta Mills ran under the slogan "A Better Man for a Better Ghana". Though he did not live to see the end of his tenure, the late Atta Mills lived up to those words and bequeathed to Ghana a growing economy which looks set to grow even further and faster as a result of the increase in oil production activities which began under his tenure and is one of his legacies to Ghana.
As we mourn and pay our last respects to him, we all can take solace in the knowledge that he served his country well with his God-given abilities, and in passing on, he leaves behind a worthy legacy for his family, and his compatriots.
One visible and significant legacy of late President Atta Mills and other leaders of the current political dispensation in Ghana is the stable and enduring democratic institutions of governance which have been established and nurtured since 1992.
The stability and strength of these institutions were unmistakably apparent in the smooth and prompt transfer of presidential power to President John Dramani Mahama, following the death of President Atta-Mills. We applaud and recommend the exemplary efforts of President Atta Mills and his worthy predecessors, in promoting the essence of democratic leadership, to other emerging democracies on our continent.
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. Coming from that, Nigeria can empathise with what Ghana is going through and the issues that must be going through President Mahama's mind. I say to Ghana and to President Mahama that this too will pass and Ghana will emerge stronger.
Atta Mills did his very best as a leader and servant of his people. He was committed to community development, national progress, and stability. We honour him today as a great teacher, administrator and political leader who dedicated his entire life to the service of his country, Africa and humanity.
The people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria join you in praying that God Almighty will grant him eternal rest from his earthly labours. We pray also that God should comfort his family and all the people of Ghana, and grant his successor, President Mahama, the wisdom and courage to continue in the footsteps of his worthy predecessor and ensure that Ghana remains an exemplary beacon of good governance, sustained development and progress in Africa.
I want to assure President Mahama and the people of Ghana of Nigeria’s continued brotherly solidarity and friendship. Our two countries are linked not just by blood or region, but by culture, heritage, and traditions. We must continue to work together in the best interest of our people.
May late President Atta Mills’ honourable and gentle soul rest in peace. The Asomdwehene is gone, but Ghana lives! Long live the Republic of Ghana. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Long live Africa.
*Dr. Jonathan is President of Nigeria