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Opinions of Saturday, 1 April 2017

Columnist: Appiah, Papa

President Atta Mills’ death - A final answer to the mystery

By: Appiah, Papa

When John Evans Atta Mills was first appointed the vice president of Ghana, he was a handsome bright–eyed, fit, burly man who looked like he could do twelve rounds in the ring with anybody. Over the years, Ghanaians looked on as he slowly deteriorated, and along with it, came the sometimes embarrassing errors he made in public, that have become synonymous with his presidency.

He later died under what many considered mysterious circumstances at the seat of government. Many, including some failed politicians and shady pastors have tried to make political capital of the death of a noble man, not to mention a group of people from Otuam who created a whole family home and managed to convince authority they were the family of Atta Mills. Actually, their only link to the man is that a brother of the president married from the town. Atta Mills is actually from Cape Coast.

Since OJ Simpson was cleared of murder, enough evidence has come to the fore to have had others tried and convicted. The reason no one has been keen to pursue this is, that OJ’s case has become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Books have been written, documentaries have been made, and interviews are still on-going. Anyone even remotely associated with the case, from prison officers to court clerks, has written a book. It benefitted no one to suddenly change the narrative. And so it is with the Atta Mills story. People stand to benefit politically or economically, pushing the “murder in the castle” agenda.

This is the truth of the matter. Sometime in 2005, President Atta Mills, following a long history of blockage of one of his nostrils, associated with a blood-stained nasal discharge which was initially blamed on a bout of catarrh that was never resolving, was found on investigation, to have a large growth in the nasal sinus. A biopsy of the growth and subsequent histology showed that this mass was cancerous.

He travelled to South Africa where he resided with his nephew, a CEO of a large multinational company, to undergo surgery to remove the tumour. Following the surgery, and when it was noticed there were remnants of the cancer still remaining, he underwent radiotherapy, with devastating long-term consequences. In South Africa, he was visited by Mr Tsatsu Tsikata and his brother Cadman Atta Mills. They both advised him to put his health first and settle down to a peaceful retirement, to continue his convalescence. It was when he refused, that Cadman resigned from his post at the World Bank to be with him in Accra.

Radiotherapy anywhere in the body can have serious side-effects. When it is applied to the nose, it directly affects the eyes, the ears and in rare cases the big artery in the neck called the carotid artery that takes blood to the brain and the face. For a long time after the procedure, President Mills could not see or hear properly. It recovered a bit after sometime but he never really recovered his full sight and hearing. Every now and again, he would have to go back to South Africa for further tests and review to ensure the cancer had not recurred.

Anybody who has seen a patient recover from cancer knows how depressing and lonely that can be. Unfortunately for President Mills, he was trapped in a mouldy apartment with leaky roofs in the castle, surrounded by people who were more concerned about their political futures than the ill president. It must have been a most depressing time for the late president.

Damage to the carotid arteries by the radiotherapy was such that over time, the artery narrowed, reducing blood flow to his brain. As a result he had these recurring episodes when he could not walk or talk properly. Doctors call it Transient Ischaemic Attacks. His handlers, and God knows who they were, kept quiet about this and when the president’s brother questioned them, they had the temerity to suggest, any public knowledge might jeopardise the chances of the NDC in the coming elections of 2012.

Eventually, they agreed to fly him to America for treatment under the guise of a routine medical check-up. In America, the problem was diagnosed. A simple operation, involving placing a support (stent) in the damaged portion of the artery suddenly increased blood flow to his brain, dramatically relieving his symptoms. He arrived back home amidst pomp and pageantry and jogged on the tarmac to prove his fitness. That famous jog was not a deliberate act of deception. It was simply because he felt much better than he had been for a long time. It was that excitement and the new energy he felt, that made him do that.

But the joy was short-lived. Not long after, the stent in the artery failed and the damaged, weakened artery started to split open from the inside, a condition called carotid artery dissection, which is treatable when diagnosed early, but which has the potential to cause stroke and death. The election 2012 was a few months away, and the “handlers” could not conjure another trip abroad for a “routine medical check-up”

So they watched him. They watched as the poor man suffered severe neck pain, consistent with a dissection. They watched as in frustration, the president threw his hands up and committed his soul to God. They watched as he finally collapsed and died, and then threw him into a car and dumped him in the mortuary.

President John Evans Atta Mills may yet have died, but with optimum care devoid of political machinations, he could have died a more dignified death, completely free of pain, with his loved ones by his side, and a people on their knees……..

Papa Appiah

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