Anuanom, meda hom nyinaa ase: wcn a wcbcc mpae (Brothers and Sisters, I thank all of you for your prayers) God is in control. –
President John Evans Atta Mills
JOHN EVANS ATTA-MILLS, President of Ghana from January 2009 to July 2012, was a respectful, humble, religious personality. His wife, Naadu, calls the qualities – simplicity, honesty and abiding respect for all.
For his 25 years’ teaching at the University of Ghana, we encountered him in the late 1970’s as the President of the Amalgamated Clubs, we, being members of the Legon Debating Club. He was a hockey player and enthusiast himself, with a smile for every student who chanced upon him. He was the toast when we travelled to Ibadan for the Legon-Ibadan University Games in 1976 especially, during a rest stop in Benin.
Then, he became the Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and brought his wide knowledge and experience in taxation to bear on the IRS. When he became the Vice-President to Rawlings, in place of Arkaah, we were wondering how the chemistry of the two personalities would work. Aggressiveness versus non-belligerence; assertiveness versus docility; brashness versus modesty.
But it did – because of the “personality” of Fiifi. He became President of Ghana in January, 2009. His humble approach to governance must have guided him. Not long after, there was a popular perception that all was not well for Fiifi – his speech (nasal intonation) betrayed his health. He kept trudging on, and in July, 2012, he went to the U.S. for a “routine medical check-up”. Rumours were rife that Fiifi had died. He arrived back in a Delta Airlines plane. He arrived back in a Delta Airlines plane to a rousing welcome, some over-joyed enthusiasts rolling on the ground in ecstatic jubilation, with Fiifi jogging at the Kotoka International Airport.
And the man died – on 24th July, 2012. “Se asa”. It was an appropriate decision to bury Fiifi in Asomdwee Park, since he had been the first President to die in office.
The Asomdwee Park appeared neglected, so in 2020, Koku Anyidoho, Fiifi’s Communication Director, approached President Nana Addo for the rehabilitation of the facility. The project was undertaken by the Coastal Development Authority (CODA) with the close cooperation of the Atta Mills Institute, headed by Koku Anyidoho.
On the 10th anniversary of Fiifi’s death, the bust, which looked more handsome than the first one, was unveiled by his Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, and assisted by Samuel Koku Anyidoho, founder and CEO of Atta Mills Institute. “Sunday, July 24, 2022. To God be the Glory.” Perhaps this is an aspect that grates on Honourable Samuel Atta Mills, MP for KEEA, who burst out “Now, you allowed somebody like Koku Anyidoho, that buffoon, working with Atta Mills to go and touch this grave without informing our family head … This is an insult to the family and the nation.” Alex Segbefia, the board chairman of the JEA Mills Memorial Heritage, thinks Koku is “too emotional” and that he should have consulted the family of Professor Mills but Koku Anyidoho, a deep believer in thaumaturgy (or is it necromancy?) argues that the late President shows himself at night “begs me and says Koku, if anybody and everybody turns their back on me, I beg you, please whatever it will take to give me a befitting resting place, please do it and God will bless you.”
Professor Gyampo suggests a correction: “This statue of Prof. J.E.A. Mills, 3rd President of the 4th Republic (Jan 2009-July 2012) was unveiled by H. E. Nana Akufo Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana”. (Nana Kwame Ampong adds: “Date of birth and date of death must be included”). The memorial service was conducted by Most Reverend Dr. Paul Kwabena Boafo, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church. And on the commemoration, the President, Nana Addo, noted: “… I am happy that it was under the Presidency of the allegedly ‘fiercest critic’ that Asomdwee Park has been elevated to a status befitting the final resting place of a President of the Republic of Ghana. I did so with that objective solely in mind and not to exploit or take advantage of any so-called divisions in the political party to which he belonged… the man from Ekumfi Otuam will not be forgotten.
Emotional (?) Koku (who shed tears of sadness for Fiifi’s death and of joy for having his tomb rehabilitated) was grateful to the President Nana Addo, “Thank you … the credit goes to you and nobody shares that glory…”
Hours after the renovated Asomdwee Park had been opened, the NDC came. Hon. Haruna Iddrisu wondered why the bust was brown in colour, even though Fiifi never wore brown suits. Samuel Ofosu Ampofo urged Ghanaians to “emulate the positive qualities of former President, Atta Mills.” Hon. Okudzeto Ablakwa was prayerful, this time: “Rest in dignity and tranquility … We shall always emulate your leadership blueprint for the total liberation and transformation of our nation … Millsism will eternally triumph”. Former President John Dramani Mahama said: “It is, however, unthinkable for this renovation to be done without recourse to his family while involving individuals whose actions and conducts have only served to drag the signifying professor’s name and memory into needless and unnecessary public controversy.”
Sheik Aremeyaw Shaibu, the spokesperson for the Chief Imam, remarked that President Mills was respectful and humble, adding his humility was spectacular. “Politicians should exhibit humility and avoid the arrogance of power. Today in our politics, if you are not ferocious, if you don’t sound toxic, if you cannot run down a personality, if you cannot attack, you will not catch the attention of even the potential president.”
The prayerfulness of Prof. Atta Mills cannot be discounted. In March 2009, when he was accused of turning the castle, the seat of government into a prayer camp, he answered back: “I have no apologies and regrets to offer” and wished the whole of Ghana was turned into a prayer camp in July, 2011 during a tour of the flooded areas of the Eastern Region, he prayed like Elijah and the “rains stopped”.
Tsikata said Prof Mills was an advocate of political unity and one who put the interest of the country first. Tsatsu noted: “He valued the peace and unit of the country so much so that he would not be goaded into seeking political vengeance by making people in the previous administration targets of persecution during his presidency… I will be a President for all Ghanaians not the NDC, not my family, not my friends …” said Mills.
Nana Otuo Siriboe, Chairman of the Council of State, who chaired the function, noted that Prof. Mills left behind “a triple legacy as a sportsman, a politician and an academician – affable and approachable”
Nana Otuo Siribuo added: “(Prof. Mills) was often bruised on the field of politics but he held firm to his political values of truth, simplicity and respect for all. Those were the qualities I loved about him.”
“In peace and honour, rest you here…” say Shakespeare in Titus Adronicus.
Africanus Owusu Ansah