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Opinions of Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Columnist: Courage Abiwu

Tempus fugit

The late president, John Evans Atta Mills The late president, John Evans Atta Mills

9 Years Gone!!

24th July, 2012, was the day the Law Professor and President John Evans Atta Mills drew his last breath on earth here in Ghana. The story as told just like yesterday, indeed a historic day it was.

A day  Law, Constitution, Politics, Medicine, National security, Parliamentary practices clashed. Out of this crucible, the nation Ghana was strengthened and re-born. Precedents, new practices, experiences, and conventions emerged as the hourglass run out for the day.

•What happens when a sitting President dies on the job? 

We suddenly had to dive for our 1992 Constitution to fish out for the following;

•First is there a certified medical confirmation of death?

•What's the procedure for succession? 


Indeed!! The first of its kind in our political or constitutional history. Immediately, we activated instant consultations among powerful political power brokers with guidance from credible independent constitutional experts.

The Consultations had ONE issue to find an answer to (.i.e An Instant Successor to Be Identified).

Luckily for us, we noted vividly that the 1992 Constitution makes provision for the temporary assumption of power by the incumbent Vice - President pending election.

By mid-morning of the same day, Vice President John Dramani Mahama stood in for the President to inaugurate the Brand Ghana Board on which I served,  at the  Accra International Conference Centre. 

We disengaged heartily between 12 pm and 1:30 pm or soon thereafter. Minutes later, back in his Osu Castle Office, Vice President John Dramani Mahama was hit by a thunderous news blitz "The President is dead."

The shock threw the "young vice president” into inconsolable misery and confusion. The thought of stepping into a gigantic foot, accompanying higher responsibility and greater public exposure must have been daunting and confusing to anyone. In any case, the story must be probably untrue.

The Chief Justice was dazed and speechless. On the other side in Parliament, the Speaker (N0. 3) was said to have fainted or collapsed. Party in government, NDC was confused and in disarray. Everybody asking everybody else what are we going to do now? As for the phones, they didn’t stop ringing for a moment. 

Luckily the party NDC had some strong men including Captain Kojo Tsikata, Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, Mr. Paul. Victor (a.k.a P.V). Obeng and many great stalwarts including the "palanquin bearers" who kept their heads clear at all times.

We rallied some key founders/leaders of the party and went into a solemn and deep conclave in an undisclosed location. Maximum leader and Founder, JJ Rawlings, and his spouse were out of the jurisdiction. 

After 6 hours and over, battling legal and constitutional, procedural and political horse-trading, a new Vice-President was identified to step into the shoes of the now constitutionally elevated Ex-Vice President John Dramani Mahama. This was indeed a tricky one.

A Vice-President is not searched, scanned, and nominated within hours. Not in a mass party with several potential and some naturally ambitious political operatives. Credit to team spirit, camaraderie ship, and tolerance, all sailed fairly well.

Parliament which had broken off for the day had to be re-convened (within hours through emergency repeated radio and TV public announcements) to satisfy constitutional conditionality wherein a  President swears the Presidential Oath of Office, Official Oath, Oath of Secrecy before Parliament as duly assembled.

At this point may I say, congratulations to Members of Parliament on both sides of the then Parliament for their unity of purpose and love for the country.

They drove long distances back to Parliament, Accra from their constituencies, and in forlorn sadness, love, and unity did their duty to their nation late into the night of 24th of July, 2012. Within 6 hours, Ghana surprised the world with a peaceful presidential transition. 

A new President of the Republic of Ghana and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, John Dramani Mahama who was Vice-President some few hours before, was sworn into office. No violence, no coup, no violent internecine party wrangling. Yes Indeed! Ghana 1st. And the military high command remained professional and on high alert.

A forlorn and overwhelmed new President of the Republic of Ghana John Dramani Mahama was sworn in by or around 8 pm on the 24th July 2012. He received overwhelming national and international sympathy. For us backroom boys, we, as usual, dropped back to our homes dog- tired but satisfied that we were part of the history of keeping the country still peacefully afloat. 

Worthy of Note!! .. Six 6 hours earlier Mr. Kan Dapaah who was chairing the Public Accounts Committee with Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, now Minister for Health, and others were grilling Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu ex-Attorney General on her role in the Woyome scandal and the purported violation of Article 181 of the 1992 Constitution involving the need and mandatory Constitutional requirement for Parliamentary approval of international business agreements involving the State.

I was lead counsel for the Ex-Attorney General before the Public Account Committee on that day 24/7/2012. Hon Kan Dapaah called me to the lobby and whispered “Egya Atta Kor”. “Who is Egya Atta?” I inquired. "The President is dead." He intoned softly.

I was confused and went into a state of denial. Betty my client, dashed in to inquire what was going on. I barely conveyed the news of the demise of our genial, Asomdweehene President to her, and she dropped full length to the floor of the Parliament Committee Offices. That was the mood of the whole nation that fateful day. A nation in total mourning. 

Nine (9) years on and we still remember the affable sportsman, law professor, legal practitioner, national hockey star, Tax Boss, God-fearing, Asomdweehene; anti-corruption zealot, distinguished public service officer, and one of Africa's greatest democrat and President, John Evans Fifi Atta Mills ESQ. 

Third 3rd President of the 4th Republic of Ghana.

Indeed!!! He lives.