The sudden demise of President John Evans Attah Mills of the Republic of Ghana on 24th July, 2012 came as a rude shock to many observers of the country’s politics.
The president had returned from an oversea medical trip a few weeks earlier and in demonstration of his “clean bill of health” jogged mildly in front of cameras and to the applause of the hundreds of National Democratic Congress (NDC) cadres who thronged the Kotoka International Airport to welcome him back home.
The party leaders and foot soldiers were already gearing up for imminent launch of the President’s reelection campaign
scheduled for December, 2012.
However, the ways of men are quite different from the designs of the Almighty God.
My first visit to Ghana was in 1998 on an exploratory business tour during the reign of the charismatic but bombastic President Jerry John Rawlings (John the 1st) who had difficulty managing his previous vice president, Kow Nkensen Arkaah.
In his search for a possible successor upon retirement, he picked the late President John Mills (John the 3rd) as his running mate for the 1996 presidential election.
The choice of Mills was based on his sincerity and incorruptibility as exemplified by his legacy as head of Internal Revenue Services (IRS).
Political observers then concluded that this decision was hinged on his disappointment with the top hierarchy of the revolutionary era many Ghanaians adjudged corrupt.
Jerry Rawlings’ open support for candidate Mills disguised in the form the famous “Swedru Declaration” at the expense of known cadres and long-time allies rocked the party to its foundations.
Party members fearful of the Rawlings phenomenon shied away from contesting Mills in primaries, hence his endorsement by acclamation at the Ho convention in 2000.
A group led by a young cadre, Goosie Tanoh broke away from the party and formed the “Reform Party” and contested the December, 2000 presidential elections.
Candidate Mills was tagged a lackey of Rawlings and incapable of being his own man despite the public relations effort by the then Minister of Education, Ekow Spio-Gabrah and Communication Minister, the young and charismatic John Dramani Mahama (John the 4th).
He lost the election that year to President John Agyekum Kufuor, a onetime Minister of Local Government during Chairman Rawlings’ revolutionary days (John the 2nd) after a second round runoff.
He was thoroughly defeated in his home region and managed to win his Mfantsiman East constituency by the whiskers.
With the solid support of Rawlings, Tony Aidoo, Ekow Spio-Garbrah, John Dramani Mahama, Josiah Aryeh, Victor Smith, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, Alban Bagbin and a few others, the NDC party was able to withstand the early media onslaught unleashed by the government formed by the victorious New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Irrespective of the perceived internal betrayal by a section of the national executive of the party, candidate Mills pulled a respectable 44% of the votes and ensured about 45% of parliamentary seats for NDC during 2004 presidential poll.
The fallout of the 2004 defeat in the hands of President Kufuor triggered another call for the replacement of Mills as flag bearer for the 2008 election.
This in fact led to the acrimonious national executive election in Koforidua that manifested in the resignation of party heavyweights such as Obed Asamoah, Bede Zeideng, Nii Okaija Adamafio and Wayo Seni.
They formed the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) and cited Rawlings’ support for Prof. Mills as their reason.
With Asamoah and co out of the way, Spio-Garbrah and three others challenged Mills for the Party’s ticket but the humble Professor cruised to victory. Though Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings pushed for Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu as Mills’ partner, unconfirmed sources indicated that President Rawlings support for the third candidacy of Mills was conditioned on his selection of John Dramani Mahama as his running mate.
It is widely believed that the perceived wrangling on the running mate issue helped in strengthening candidate Mills and presented Ghanaians a new face of the man.
The trinity of Johns ensured an unlikely victory in December, 2008.
John the 1st took care of the party’s “World Bank” region of Volta, the Sefwi Wiawso corridor, the Bonos of Brong Ahafo region, the Zongo communities and the three northern regions of Ghana.
John the 4th worked hard in the northern regions as well but his amiable nature was deployed to woo floating voters which ensured the party won the swing regions of Greater Accra, Brong Ahafo, Central and Western regions.
John the 3rd, the presidential candidate ensured that Central region and other Akan regions were brought on board.
President John Atta Mills was humane, tolerant, a cerebral individual and in my estimation approached politics from the stand point of a father who saw the entire political terrain as one unit.
His inability to stamp his authority in pursuance of those agenda that brought him to power ensured the strengthening of the major opposition elements and positioned them in pole to snatch the 2012 presidential election from the ruling party.
The inability to identify and prosecute the killers of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani, the murdered paramount ruler of Dagbon Kingdom, the non-prosecution of perceived corrupt actors of the Kufuor administration, the wishy-washy probe of the Ghana @ 50 celebration and the recall of old guards who apparently abandoned the party in opposition drew venomous attacks from Jerry Rawlings and series of undiplomatic public comments on the sitting president.
While it could be argued that Rawlings showed limited respect to President Mills, it is also a fact that the latter’s failure to face political reality contributed to the cold relationship between the two men.
The death of Mills has thrown up John Dramani Mahama as the new president of the republic.
John, as affectionately called by his numerous admirers is charismatic, strong willed, amiable and a politician respected by all sides of the divide in Ghana.
He is arguably the third charismatic leader to oversee the affairs of Ghana after Nkrumah and Rawlings.
His selection of the next vice president and running mate of the party will demonstrate in clear terms his drive towards winning the December 2012 election.
With Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, an astute politician of supreme pedigreevlurking behind to snatch the diadem, President Mahama has his work cut out for him.
He might start by letting stable and tested hands like Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communication and Hannah Tetteh of Trade and Industry Ministry deploy their calmness in building solid bridges to ensure victory.
Whatever happens in the next five months will not obliterate the success of Ghana in ensuring a smooth transition of its presidential powers.
It is indeed a lesson for other African countries to emulate.
The Black Star is still flying high. Adieu President John Evans Attah Mills.
Source: Kelechi Jeff Eme/myjoyonline