Death in any society or family leaves a void that cannot be filled. But when we look sorrowfully into our hearts, it is obvious that death ends a life, but not our relationship with the soul gone home. So death is nothing else but going home to God, where the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity. When the news of the death of His Excellency, Professor John Fifii Atta Mills, President of Ghana and the leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was announced on 24 July 2012 at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra, all Ghanaians in the diaspora were overtaken by shock. Each Ghanaian, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity or political affiliation stopped short and shed a tear. The entire Ghanaian nation, the young and the old, boys and girls, men and women were all thrown into awe and surprise. This confirms to us “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” It is with such feeling that we say Damirifa due, damirifa due.
In fact, that we shall die we all know; but it is the time and the days that we all stand upon. The late John Evans Fifii Atta Mills was born on the 21st July 1944 at Tarkwa in the Western Region. He was the third President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. He was inaugurated on 7 January 2009, having defeated the ruling party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2008 election.
Before becoming the President in the 2008, he served as the Vice-President from 1997 to 2001 under former President Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, and stood for elections as President in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). He was however not successful until his third attempt in 2008 which he won with the slogan: “I believe in Ghana.” This exemplifies his true character that Ghanaians are one people, one nation, one culture and one destiny.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if I can see tears in your eyes then I share with you my pain of loss. He was my personal friend, a person I knew very well before his political career started. I remember when in 1996, I invited him to an NDC Youth rally on the University of Ghana, Legon campus. He spoke eloquently about the role of youths in national reconstruction, and how crucial it is that the nation of Ghana engages the young decision makers of tomorrow in the development decisions of today.
One day, when the history of Ghana is written, the name of John Atta Mills will feature prominently as one of the greatest leaders in our contemporary Ghanaian politics. The irony of the situation is that we always do not know the value of water until our well runs dry. A large population of Ghanaians especially those who do not know much about him did not realize his exemplary leadership qualities due to persistent negative attacks from within and without his own party. Many were blindfolded by undue criticisms albeit for political expediency despite his efforts at piloting the wheel of national development towards Ghana’s economic buoyancy. Those who knew President Atta Mills very well will tell you much about his prayerful life and insistence on accountability of those entrusted with responsibility. He is one leader who demystifies government and all its mundane associations. He tried to show leadership by example and gave us what is tolerance in a stiff democratic environment. To many in Ghana and the world at large, he is a unifier, a loving leader, a man we can call a workaholic, God fearing and among others, an individual who is not vindictive to the liking of fellow politicians. By his humility, he came to win the hearts of many who now voice out the attributes which make him a great leader and a true democrat. Indeed, the deep pain that we feel at the death of Professor Atta Mills arises from the feeling that there is in him something which is inexpressible, it is peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost to us in his death.
Prof. John Atta Mill during his lifetime has served Ghana in many capacities. Outside of his academic pursuits, Professor Mills was the Acting Commissioner of Ghana’s Internal Revenue Service from 1986 to 1993, then the substantive Commissioner from 1993 to 1996. He also served as a Member of the Ghana Stock Exchange Council, a member of Board of Trustees of Mines Trust, Management Committee Member of Commonwealth Administration of Tax Experts, the United Nations Ad Hoc Group of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, United Nations Law, and Population Project. He also published extensively on taxation not only in Ghana but the world at large.
The cuts and bruises of Professor John Atta Mills’ death may go away, but the scars left by his sudden death will always stay. As we all join hands in mourning the father and leader of our nation, here in the United States, particularly in Columbus, Ohio, we are also encouraged by the level of solidarity that has been exhibited by the leadership of the other political parties in Ghana in joining hands with the NDC in the loss of their leader. We hope such a solidarity, oneness and support would continue and show the world that Ghanaian democracy transcends ethnicity, religion, race, sex and gender.
The death of President John Atta Mills leaves a heartache no one can heal, but our love for him leaves a memory no one can steal. As we live, we need to understand that what is born will die, what has been gathered will be dispersed, what has been accumulated will be exhausted. Similarly, what has been built up will collapse and what has been high will be brought low in our social, economic and political lives. When we consider how President Atta Mills passed away we will ascertain the fact that, death the leveler, is no enemy to man but a friend who when man’s work on earth is ended just cuts off the cord that binds the soul to the human boat to allow it to sail to its Maker. By his death Ghana has lost a noble statesman, an illustrious son, and as for the NDC, it has lost an irreplaceable, compassionate, and remarkable leader, a president whose qualities there is none to recall.
To all of us gathered here, President John Atta Mills was a great man; few other men of the 21st century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise. In life, he pondered over his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was a man who thought deeply, read understandingly and listened to wisdom, no matter whence it came. His reward comes out today as the common man stands in solemn acclamation to shed a tear for his loss irrespective of his or her religion, race, creed, race, gender, sex or political orientation. Here is a short poem that Prof. Atta Mills asked me to write for you; it is his last testament dictated before he joined the Bus that takes his soul to his Maker. It is titled, “Choices:
You can shed tears that he’s gone
or you can smile because he has lived nobly
You can close your eyes and pray that we meet him again
or you can open your eyes and see all he has left behind
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him again
or you can be full of the love he shared
You can chose to remember him now that he is gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind to who he is
or you can do what he would want you to do:
to smile, open your eyes, love and go on
the choice is yours
May his soul Rest in Perfect Peace. Thank you.