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Opinions of Monday, 6 August 2012

Columnist: Amadu, Umaru Sanda

Prof. J.E.A Mills - An unprecedented president he was

By Umaru Sanda Amadu


When the late President John Evans Atta Mills announced to the nation that his government’s achievements were unprecedented, little did he and the millions of Ghanaians he addressed imagine that word would define his reign.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 24, 2012 when I had a phone call telling me the President was no more, I was surprised by the shock that travelled down my spine. Having “died” on several occasions before and after he ascended the presidency of this country, I had become immune to any news of his death. I therefore brushed it aside and treated it as one of the usual rumour I had come to know.

Currently, I am shocked just like every other Ghanaian. Perhaps, because this time, everybody knew very well the motionless body of the “Asomdwehene” will not spring up and proclaim, “my brothers and sisters, Atta Mills is not dead” like he has done on previous occasions. Some still had their doubts though. A friend told me he seriously expected to see the president show up in the Chamber of Parliament during the swearing-in ceremony of his vice and now, successor.

As many people pay tributes to Ghana’s undoubtedly, most humble president ever, I wish to also join by reminding us about what made him unique and to use his own word, “unprecedented”.

To begin with, this was the president who defied the norm and won the mandate of Ghanaians through three significant elections within a month instead of one (and sometimes, a run-off). He was not only remarkable in his determination to become president by running on three successive occasions for the nation’s first job but also, the first ever vice president to have graduated to the presidency.

One of his early decisions as president cannot be forgotten. His name goes down in history as the man who gave Ghana her first female Speaker of Parliament as well as a female Attorney General.

One other unprecedented move by the “asomdwehene” (king of peace) was to have subjected himself to a thorough search at the Kotoka International Airport. Some critics described it as unpresidential but that was one of his attributes of transparency.

Key among the physical achievements trumpeted by his officials is the establishment of two universities within three years of his government.

NDC flagbearership race It is worthy of note that as unprecedented as everything surrounding him has being, President Mills attained the “enviable” record of being the first sitting president to be contested for the flagbearership slot of his party by no less a person than the wife of his political god-father and founder of his party.

Aides have suggested that he was the most criticized president in Ghana’s history. I do not contest this assertion since the man’s critics, some of whom were vile, were both from within and outside his party. Isn’t it paradoxical that the man widely acclaimed as a man of peace never had true peace from his political adversaries in his short life as president?

Season of judgment debts Oh, need I say that under his presidency, the gargantuan issue of unprecedented judgment debt scandals came to the fore? A season of judgment debts, I call it. A few of those had seriously threatened his government’s second term bid as people busy themselves at social gatherings dancing to songs composed in “honour” of the unprecedented judgment debts.

Another characteristic of his government which for me was really unprecedented was the surprise visits he paid to some institutions to ascertain how work was on in those areas.

Talking about surprises and visits, I wonder if any president in Ghana’s history has ever walked to the marketplace just to buy kenkey in order to ascertain the real price of goods? That’s unprecedented as his slogan goes - I care for you.

The president’s last public appearances included his visit to the site of the Allied Air cargo plane that had crashed near the El-Wak Sports Stadium in Accra. Again, that accident in itself was unprecedented in the history of Ghana.

As Ghanaians mourn his demise and ponder over this terrible news, many will forget, as the years pass by, who this leader was. But one thing that I’m certain about is that our history books will always have his name in indelible golden ink as that “unprecedented president”.

Without intending to belittle or make mockery of the issue, it is important to point out that Prof. Mills has suffered the unprecedented fate of being the only president in the history of Ghana to have died on the job.

May his soul rest with an unprecedented peace.