Feature Article of Saturday, 28 July 2012
Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi
Appiah Kusi Adomako, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, USA
“This man is worth your tears and grief”-Wilfred Owen
In 1945 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away in office, an article appeared in the New York Times that it would take one hundred years for Americans to appreciate the fact that Roosevelt was in the White House. In our case, it would not take many months for Ghanaians to appreciate the fact that President John Evans Atta Mills was the President of Ghana. The record of his leadership is public knowledge to us all. He set out to help build a better Ghana, a Ghana that would become a city on a hill. He set out to build a nation better than he came to find.
Unfortunately, the irreducible final common denominator of man called death has robbed Ghana of the vibrant presence of His Excellency, President John Evans Atta Mills. A nation is in mourning and a family is in grief. The world is in shock. The pain and hurt from the loss of the life of Ghana’s first citizen is hard to bear. Our tear glands do not have enough glands to disburse the volume of tears that must gush forth from our eyes. But as the Greek poet Aeschylus wrote “in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
There can be no gainsaying that Prof. Mills has not served his country. From his days at the then Internal Revenue Service as the commissioner to a law professor at the University of Ghana through to his years as Vice President and finally as a President of the Republic of Ghana, he has distinguished himself. He was a man whom the angels above, demons below and Pharisees around would find one common sentence to describe him as: “He was a good man”. He left behind a committed life. He was someone whose depth and height of his integrity and humility could not be questioned. His character and commitment to the cause of Ghana was doubtless. His passion for Ghana was like a fire in his bones that even in his ill health he carried on the duty that he had sworn to Ghanaians.
He has set a new standard for future presidents. He has raised the marking scheme high. He was a true democrat not because his party name has the word “democratic” in it.
The death of President Mills, like his achievement, is unprecedented in our life as a nation. The death of President Mills reminds us that we are all mortal. Back in Prempeh College many years ago, our then headmaster R.T Sackey used to remind us in Latin that memento mori meaning remember that you are mortal. He did not die because he was sick. He died because he was a man, crafted from soil and to the same soil he has returned. Again, it firms fact that death is democracy for everyone including those who do not believe in democracy.
We cannot weep forever. We need not to mourn him but celebrate him and what he stood for. As Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote “death is not evil; what is evil is to be outside God’s purpose and plan for your life.” Certainly, Professor Mills found his bearing and followed the True North of peace, justice, sound leadership, humility, God fearing and tolerance. What characterized his life is a rare trait in our present world.
President Mills died whilst serving his country and there can be no tribute that we can give to him than to let the virtues that he espoused for continue to live and dwell in us as a nation. He promised Ghanaians peaceful elections and never to scuttle the economic gains achieved over the years on the altars of short term electoral expediency. I am very sure that in his grave he would be looking at us to see whether we will follow his will.
The politics of NDC, NPP, CPP, PNC and PPP divides us as people but there is one common bond of humanity that unites us all. Many years ago, the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah wrote that “lions and lambs will lie down together, none will be afraid, and there will be peace in the valley.” To many of us, this may sound utopian. Lions feed on lambs. Lambs by their natural wiring flee from lions. Rev Jesse Jackson put it this way: “Yet even lions and lambs find common ground. Why? Because neither lions nor lambs want the forest to catch on fire; neither lions nor lambs want acid rain to fall; neither lions nor lambs can survive drought. If lions and lambs can find common ground, surely as a nation we can as well – as civilized people.”
President Mills is gone but his spirit and works live with us. He has paid his dues to mother Ghana. His pages of life are now closed. As sad and difficult to bear this pain, I am refreshed by the paraphrased words of Dr King that death is not a full stop that ends the great sentence of life but a comma that leads it into a lofty significance.
And in the grave he is not alone because God has promised that He would be with us till the end of the age. And I know that God would guide him as he pilgrim through next stage of life. The words of the hymnist say it all:
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more;
feed me till I want no more.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.
Fiifi, may your soul rest in perfect peace.
See you in eternity.
Ghana loves you.
Ghanaians would miss you.
Editor’s note: The writer is a public policy and management consultant. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)