Second Annual John Evans Atta Mills Memorial Lecture
College Of Physicians And Surgeons
Accra, Ghana, 24 July 2014
His Excellency Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator
African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operations in Darfur (UNAMID)
Madam Ernestina Naadu Mills and the Noble Family of the Departed John Evans Atta Mills
Excellencies Members of the Government of Ghana Present
Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Members of Political Parties, National and International Organizations
Distinguished Members of the Organizing Committee
Sympathizers and Students of the late Professor Evans Atta Mills
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I view this occasion, the Second John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills Memorial Lecture, as a celebration of the life, deeds and legacy of one of the most illustrious sons of Ghana and Africa. It was John F Kennedy who once said:
“ A Nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors”.
We are gathered here today to honor a great son of Ghana because we have not forgotten, nor shall we forget, how the late President Atta Mills made us feel proud of being Ghanaian and African.
I am, therefore, deeply humbled and privileged by the honor bestowed on me by the Atta-Mills family and the organizers to deliver the keynote address at this lecture in honor of The Prof – the ultimate teacher, mentor, model public servant, peace-maker, statesman and, above all, a decent leader and human being.
When in 2000 I was approached by the Kufuor Government to be presented as Ghanaian candidate for the position of Secretary-General of ECOWAS, I decided to consult the leadership of the NDC before giving my response.
And I did consult widely, seeing Prof, late Justice Annan, Alhaji Mahama Iddisu, Captain Kojo Tsikata, Mr. Issifu Ali, late Oldman Munufie, Dr. Obed Asamoah, Alhaji Huudu Yahaya, among others.
All of them without exception asked me to accept to be put up as Ghana’s candidate. But it was Prof whose words lingered in my memory the longest when he told me: “Chambo, look, you must accept it…all you have done over the years, going back to when I have known you at Legon, has prepared you for such a job. You will do very well there, and you will make Ghana proud”.
The rest of the story of my sojourne at ECOWAS is well known. On yet another occasion, it was when after nearly 10 years at ECOWAS, I decided to move on to new challenges at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (The ACP) in Brussels.
I discussed this with Prof and he told me he was due to visit Nigeria and would take it up with the late President Yar’Adua to seek Nigeria’s support. As he told me later, when he met Yar’Adua and was going through issues he had on his agenda he got to my candidature for the ACP.
As soon as he said, “I also want to discuss with you candidacy for the Secretary-General of the ACP”, President Yar’Adua interrupted him and said, “Mr. President, Nigeria already has a candidate for that position in the person of Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas”. At that point Prof said he responded to late Yar’Adua, “Mr. President I agree with you on all things but here we have to disagree. I cannot comprise on Dr. Chambas being a Ghanaian. Thank you for supporting my candidate for the Secretary-General of the ACP”.
Prof. was an extraordinary person. His humility, simplicity, generosity of heart and loyalty to friends stood him out as an exceptional person. To me personally, he always showed me kindness and consideration and was a deep source of inspiration and a role model. I am so very glad for this opportunity to deliver today’s lecture. I must admit though that last year’s Guest Lecturer, Prof Kwamena Ahwoi raised the bar so high, I feel a little bit of trepidation, indeed, timid as I stand here.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
To put the achievements of the late President Atta Mills in context, it is pertinent to recall the regional and global environments within which he served as Vice-President (1996-2000) and as President (2009-2012).
It was a world in mutation. It may be recalled that the end of the Cold War in the mid-80s was accompanied by chaotic global strategic repositioning, and a dramatic spike in violent internal power struggles that threatened state implosion across Africa.
Weak and incapable governance institutions, endemic poverty, marginalization and institutional corruption had festered under decades of bad and unaccountable governance amidst popular pressures from below for change; these had provoked internal struggles for power and control over resources across the West African sub-region. A security meltdown and civil wars with serious regional implications, both in their causes and effects, had engulfed Liberia (1989-2002) and Sierra Leone (1991-98).
In Benin, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, and elsewhere, similar fates were narrowly averted by enforced transitions from military rule, to multi-party constitutional order. The animosities of the transitions were still lingering when Professor Atta Mills took the hot seat of Vice-President in the charged political atmosphere of Ghana.
Coming on the heels of the tempestuous relationship between the then President, Jerry Rawlings, and his predecessor, the late Vice-President Kow Nkensen Arkaah, many might have feared for the fate of
The Prof. However, best armed with bountiful patience, supreme self-confidence and meticulous attention to detail, combined with a self-effacing and peaceful disposition that belied his steely determination, Professor Atta Mills was soon to prove to be the ideal foil for the President, winning the latter’s trust and respect and leading to the famous Swedru Declaration in which then President Rawlings revealed his intention to put his weight behind the Prof as his successor.
Shunning the limelight and studiously operating under the radar, he became the ultimate fixer of Government business and the economy, and the trouble-shooter within the country.
I should share with you an interesting anecdote as sequel to the Swedru Declaration. As we entered 2000, the election year, some of us felt that Prof was unduly delaying declaration of his intention to contest the Presidency on the ticket of the NDC.
It was evident to us that it was urgent that he did so to pre-empt others who were displeased with the Swedru Declaration and who wished the contest to be opened up. One fine evening we met at Kwamena Ahwoi’s residence at Ridge (Kwamena, Ato, Totobi, Paa-Kwesi, Baba Kamara and I) to discuss the best timing for Prof to publicly declare his candidacy. We managed to convince Prof to do so at an NDC outreach meeting in Tamale, at the Teachers Hall, much to the chagrin of certain leaders of the Party. The rest is better told on another occasion.
It has been said that “coming events cast their shadows before they are due.” President Atta Mills’ style of governance revealed itself long before he ascended to the highest throne of Ghana. His peaceful and inclusive disposition, his academic background and deep faith had irreversibly shaped his outlook on politics.
Almost a year to the day before the fateful Presidential election of 28 December 2008 Prof. Atta Mills, the third-time Presidential candidate of the Opposition NDC, along with millions of Ghanaians and Africans, had witnessed the tragic events unfolding in Kenya, triggered by an electoral process gone wrong and culminating in ethnic-based massacres. Indeed, the world had to call on Kofi Annan, another illustrious son of Ghana and former UN Secretary General, to play the role of peacemaker.
Professor Atta Mills was determined not to take Ghana down that path. During and after the Ghana general elections of 2008, those events were no doubt playing on his mind. The Presidential poll of 28 December was on a knife edge. Nerves were frayed as tensions ran high, with less than a paper-thin margin of a few thousand votes separating Atta Mills and Nana Akufo Addo.
Ghana was on the brink! That night my phone in Abuja rang endlessly as I got calls from Ghana and many capitals in the Sub-region and the international media alerting me about an imminent implosion in Ghana. Late that night I was compelled to call Late President Yar’Adua, then Chairman of ECOWAS to brief him about the alarming information I was getting from Ghana and the need to dispatch a high level mission to Accra the following day. I suggested that I go with his then National Security Adviser, and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs as the Minister was travelling outside the country.
The next day I, as then President of the ECOWAS Commission, arrived in Accra in the company of the Nigerian National Security Adviser and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on a preventive diplomacy mission.
We engaged in shuttle diplomacy calling on President Agyekum Kufuor, former President Jerry John Rawlings, and the two candidates in the second round, John Atta Mills and Nana Akufu-Addo. On arrival at the home of Capt Kojo Tsikata where Candidate Atta Mills chose to meet us, I was taken aback by the atmosphere.
Surrounded by Captain Kojo Tsikata, late P.V. Obeng, Commander Assasie-Gyimah, Kwamena Awhoi, and a few other advisers, the Prof was the epitomy of calm and serenity, seemingly unaffected by the chaos in the city. Welcoming our delegation, he had a few but profound words to tell us:
“ I know I have won the elections, God willing. My victory, however, is not worth a drop of blood from any Ghanaian, no matter his or her affiliations. If the price for peace is my victory, I am prepared to forego it”.
These profound words summed up Professor Atta Mills the Statesman. In power, he demonstrated his steely determination to succeed, his unwavering conviction in the goodness of man, his love for the youth and continuity, and a new way of doing politics to achieve prosperity and dignity for the people
These were tumulus times globally and in the sub-region. After two losses as Presidential candidate of the NDC and eight years in opposition, John Atta Mills was eventually and deservedly elevated to the highest office in the land, following a cliff-hanger Presidential election in December 2008.
His presidency coincided with the worst global financial crisis since World War II, with the major markets in the industrialized North crashing under the weight of excessive deregulation and threatening to swamp the economies of the developing world. Closer at home Cote d’Ivoire, long considered a bastion of stability and prosperity in a turbulent sub-region, had descended into total anarchy and fratricidal war, caused by power struggle and fuelled by ethnic animosity and extremism.
In Guinea, the demise of long reining dictator, Gen Conteh saw the military immediately step in to seize power in an unconstitutional ascension to power. And in Niger, then President Tandja who was about to end his second term in office started moves to elongate his mandate through unconstitutional maintenance of power.
Even though short, Atta Mills’ presidency provided the world with a unique insight into the sterling qualities of a modest and exemplary leader and statesman. At home, President Atta Mills preached and acted peace, laid a clear vision for Ghana’s political and economic trajectory, and galvanized the population to scale the commanding heights of prosperity and dignity.
In Africa, he advocated for Nkrumah’s vision of a united, competitive, people-oriented and self-confident continent capable of holding its own in the modern setting of a global market characterized by trading blocs and regional security frameworks. Internationally, he attracted deserved admiration from nations great and small, and made the world take a different view of a resurgent and renascent Africa.
President Atta Mills was a refreshing sight at ECOWAS and AU Summits, and his peers listened to his simple but incisive interventions with attention. He spared no time selling the Ghana governance model as a viable path to democracy, development and regional integration. Behind the scenes, he brokered peace in conflict zones and maintained Ghana’s proud record of peacekeeping abroad. With rumors of Ivorian claims to part of Ghana’s oil-rich maritime zone, Atta Mills, true to his predisposition to peace and good neighborliness, he was instrumental in setting up a committee of both nations to seek a peaceful solution to any maritime border disputes.
His mantra was, “Dze wo fie asem” which literally is “get your home in order”, in other words charity begins at home. Prof Mills recognized the linkage between peace, security and development. He was very much disappointed about the extent to which conflicts had prevented much developments that would have made life better for people. Prof therefore had a particular focus on ensuring peace and unity as the foundation for the pursuit of sustainable economic growth, building domestic infrastructure, attracting investments and achieving inclusive development that impacted on the lives of ordinary people.
Under the careful and wise stewardship of President Mills, macroeconomic fundamentals, including inflation and the exchange rate were stabilised for the first time since the early nineties. Inflation came down to 8.4 % in 2010, from a high of 18.1% in December 2008. This is indicative of prudent fiscal, monetary and other austerity policy measures that characterized his presidency to put the economy in healthy shape. In 2011, Ghana set yet another record being the fastest growing economy in the world at 20.14% for the first half of the year and 14.4% at the end of the financial year according, to the International Monetary Fund. Moreover, Ghana’s budget deficit was reduced to 2% of the Gross Domestic Product during his tenure compared to 14.5% of GDP in 2008, just before he was elected as the President of Ghana. During Mill’s time in office, Ghana was adjudged the best place for doing business in West Africa and best West African performer in access to credit in 2011, according to the World Bank.
“Dze wo fie asem” also meant leadership by example.
The BBC described his presidency as that of “a peacemaker who was never one to make disparaging comments in public”. Despite intense criticisms and vilification from his political supporters and opponents alike, John Atta Mills was forever a man of decorum who never deployed the sharp tongue against critics. Indeed, his political supporters often referred to him as Asomdweehene, meaning ‘King of Peace’ in Akan language.
Prof was a leader who abhorred trivialities and used his peculiar strength of character to rally people for great national/continental causes. Undergirding the capacities to contextualise, envision, mentor and mobilize followers to transform reality are the attributes of character, courage, selflessness and public-spiritness. These attributes are conditioned in turn by the adherence to virtue , ethics, honesty, humility, self-sacrifice, respect, kindness, empathy, faith and or spirituality. All these positive attributes were manifest in Prof.
The late African-American literary icon, Maya Angelou, who passed some of her most formative years here in Accra noted, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you have made them feel”.
Ghana’s reputation in West Africa, on the continent and beyond, as a country of tolerance, peace and best practices in democracy, good governance and economic development reached its zenith under President Atta Mills’ s rule. Among his legacy the following stand out:
Despite the vilification and persecution of his party and personalities while in opposition, President Atta Mills steadfastly resisted the temptation to subject the now defeated NPP stalwarts to the same dose of revenge, much to the irritation and anger of powerful forces within the NDC. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he believed that ‘an eye for an eye would only end up making the whole world blind’.
He was, perhaps, one of the most vilified leaders in Ghana’s history for his apparent ‘go-slow’ approach to governance, self-effacing personality and lack of ‘radicalism’, but he widened the spheres of due process, rule of law and free speech more than any other leader.
He believed in the dynamism and potential of the youth and entrusted a record number of young technocrats with positions of responsibility in his Government. He did not believe in the over flogged clichés that had become the favorites of the typical African politician, always talking about the ‘future’ belonging to the youth, and urging the youth to wait for their turn…He believed in the ‘now’ and felt ‘if you were good enough, you were old enough’. He trusted the enthusiasm and dynamism of the youth but mentored and monitored and urged them to be humble and accountable.
Now, if I may turn to President Atta Mills in the context of regional peace and security. Here, his nuanced position during the post elections crisis in Cote d’Ivoire is worth reviewing.
Regional Peace and Security
Some three-four decades before Atta Mills came into political office, West Africa was faced with countless attempted and successful coup d’états as well as civil wars not to mention violent anti-military student demonstrations. As we all know, the attempt to realize an economic integration was immediately broadened to incorporate a security dimension meant to help handle the coups and upheavals that were being faced to such an extent that the Economic Community of West African States started to be seen as the Peace and Security Community
of West African States.
The Houphouet-Boigny versus Nkrumah wager was put in place by the former in April 1960. He had set a time limit of 10 years to assess who had chosen the better option for its people between himself and Nkrumah. Indeed, the political kingdom that Nkrumah had sought was disrupted. Before the ten years ran out, he found himself in exile in Guinea in spite of the foundations of a Better Ghana, and Africa that he had planned. Unfortunately, the open society that was very welcoming to immigrants with higher GDP growth that was seen as a “miracle” with in-built economic inequities that Houphouet-Boigny had bequeath did not outlast him for long.
Who won the Nkrumah versus Houphouet-Boigny wager? History and historians will tell. However, the state of affairs in our neighbouring sisterly country was not good by the end of the twentieth century. La Cote d’Ivoire had gone through coups, economic travails with the downward spiral of the economy. Then a first round of civil war had also taken place and a sit tight President was postponing elections. Ghana was now hosting several thousand Ivorian refugees.
After several delaying tactics resulting in five years in office beyond his initial mandate, President Gbagbo agreed to an election that was held in 2010 under accords that had been reached in Pretoria and Ouagadougou.
On 2 December 2010, the Head of the Commission Electorale Independante (CEI) of Ivory Coast, Youssouf Bakayoko, announced that Alassane Ouattara had provisionally won the second round of the elections and defeated incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. However, Paul Yao N’Dre, the Head of the Constitutional Council challenged the authority of the CEI to announce the results since the deadline to do so, had been missed.
Under Article 94 of the Ivorian Constitution, the Constitutional Council was imbued with the authority to consider presidential electoral disputes and announce the definitive result of the presidential election. Mr N’Dre announced that President Gbagbo had narrowly defeated Alassane Ouattara. Further to the complication, the parties had agreed at the Ouagadougou accord that the UN as represented on the ground by ONUCI would accompany them on the process towards and certify the result of the elections. The SRSG for ONUCI, Choi Young-jin concurred with the result announced by the CEI.
So, two claimants to the presidency of the Ivory Coast got sworn in on 3 December 2010.
Supported by the Ivorian military, it is interesting that only Angola and Lebanon attended the swearing-in ceremony of Laurent Gbagbo who was not accepted as the legitimate winner of the election by ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations. All these organizations accepted Alassane Ouattara as the legitimately elected President of Ivory Coast. They were joined in this position by France, United States among many others. The United States went further by imposing travel sanction on Gbagbo and 30 allies on 21 December insisting that he must leave power.
With high rhetoric on both sides and exchanges of fire resulting in deaths, it was clear that Ivory Coast was heading towards a second civil war if care was not taken. The African Union had initially entrusted the problem in Cote d’Ivoire to a panel of five Presidents Chaired by President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz of Mauritania, working with Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Idriss Déby of Chad, Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania. This was followed by Former President Thabo Mbeki and again 20 Experts led by Ramtane Lamamra, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security. The AU subsequently deployed Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya to persuade Gbagbo to peacefully leave office. Raila Odinga on the last of his two visits joined an ECOWAS delegation all to no avail.
ECOWAS in turn got three erstwhile peers of Gbagbo to approach him and seek his peaceful departure from office. But the mission of President Yayi Boni of Benin, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde failed to make any impact as Gbagbo rejected going into a safe and comfortable exile. He insisted that he would uphold the sovereignty of Ivory Coast that had been entrusted on him by the overwhelming majority of voters.
One would have expected an activist role from a neighbor like Ghana. But President Mills was not the activist type on the international scene. However, my private contacts with President Atta Mills were reassuring to the effect that he preferred private diplomacy in persuading Gbagbo to leave office. He left me in no doubt that as a democrat, he would not support a sit-tight President to remain in office.
I was probably the first to give President Mills the news that President Gbagbo was about to lose the second round elections. I had been invited to lunch with him and his delegation attending the EU-Africa Summit at the residence of the Ambassador of Ghana to Libya. On my way there, I had run into the EU Commission Director for West Africa. I enquired about news from Abidjan and he informed me that Alasame Quattara was heading for victory because most of the votes from the South, including Gbagbo’s strong holds and major cities had been counted and Quattarra was leading. The votes from Quattara’s strong hold in the North were mostly outstanding, therefore, the trend was clear in favour of Quattara.
At lunch President Mills asked me if I had any information from Cote d’Ivoire. I relayed to him what my EU colleague had told me. The response of President Mills was, “then President Gbagbo must accept the results and step down. We cannot support him, if he loses and refuses to step down and wants to hang on to power, we cannot support him”. This remained his position throughout the post elections crisis.
As it became clear that Gbagbo would not leave office peacefully, two Summits of ECOWAS were held in Abuja on 7 and 24 December 2010 respectively.
The first Summit suspended Cote d’Ivoire from participation and the second, issued a communiqué that clearly stated that the victory of Alassane Ouattara at the polls was “non-negotiable” and backed the imposition of travel, financial assets sanctions on Gbagbo and associates by others in the international community but went further to suggest the use of force to get Gbagbo out of office if he refuses to leave.
The ECOWAS leadership used the opportunity of the Communique to instruct the President of the ECOWAS Commission to convene a meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff to provide a plan for the next line of action, including providing security for the Liberia-Cote d’Ivoire border in case Gbabgo did not heed their advice.
Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Senegal appeared to be supporting a hawkish position of military intervention as Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia were reticent. The ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff did meet from 28-29 December 2010 in Abuja and on 18-20 January 2011 in Bamako with the aim of providing the requested battle plan. At the end of the Abuja meeting, the Director of Information at Nigeria’s Defence HQ Col. Muhammed Yerima had announced to the press that the decision had been reached to remove Gbagbo from office by force.
However, there was no consensus to embark on a military option at the end of the Bamako meeting. As a result, the response of the chairman of the ECOWAS Committee of Chief of Defence Staff, Nigerian Air Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin was more subdued. He stated that ECOWAS military “has the responsibility to ensure that normalcy is restored and sustained… as soon as practicable.”
President Atta Mills objected to any military intervention in Cote D’Ivoire. Breaking ranks, Ghana came out clearly that it would not allow its territory as a staging post for any ECOWAS planned attack on Cote D’Ivoire and would also deny over flight rights to a military operation.
At the time, however, the nuanced position of President Atta Mills on Cote d’Ivoire was easily misconstrued by many, including those who served him while in office.
For the Asomdwehene, as he made clear to me, Gbagbo must accept he lost the election and peacefully hand over to Alasanne Ouattara. He argued that a military option led by the sub-regional organization would destabilize the entire sub-region and especially Ghana. Why he was not doing more than providing logistics support to the attempts to dialogue I sought to know. He assured me he had been putting a lot of behind the scene pressures on Gbagbo and was regularly in touch in that respect.
It seems clear that President Atta Mills did not have the necessary clout to change Gbagbo from the destructive path he had chosen. Gbagbo denied our Asomdwehene the opportunity of being cast in the public image of the apostles of constructive change through non-violent action.
President Mills’ position during this crisis was explained by:
Geography – as an immediate neigbour sharing many affinities with Cote d’ Ivoire he feared the worst case scenario of a an open protracted violent civil war which would have spilled over effects on Ghana.
It was Napoleon who once said that Geography explains best the Foreign Policy of a country.
“Dze wo fie asem” had led to impressive improvements in Ghana’s political, social and economic circumstances as the country was recording remarkable growth and improvements in all spheres. He was not about to jeopardize all that progress to an ill planned military adventure in Cote d’Ivoire.
Another interpretation of “Dze wo fie asem” could also argue that President Mills probably doubted the democratic credentials of those leading the charge against President Gbagbo. As it were, he was challenging the moral and democratic bona fides of some of his peers whose electoral systems or processes may not have been better than that of Code d’Ivoire. In other words he may have been saying, “who are we to cast the first stone?”
Throughout the crisis, President Mills maintained contact with President Quattara assuring him of his principled position in support of him as a winner of the elections. From my new station in Brussels, I had facilitated the establishment of a confidential contact between President Mills and Candidate Quattara in the run up to the second round elections.
During and after the crisis this contact was actively used and proved useful in assuring President Quattara about the sincerity of President Mill’s support. Today the two countries continue to enjoy excellent good neighborly relations.
What are the key lessons we take from the life and deeds of Atta Mills the, Person, the Teacher, and the Leader?
First, it is significant to note that in the period of increased public scrutiny of their leaders and the obsession with corruption, no one in Ghana or abroad has been able to point accusing fingers at two Leaders – Kwame Nkrumah and John Evans Atta Mills – for corruption or accumulating wealth at the expense of the country or the tax-payer.
Between 2015 and 2016, West Africa will conduct not less than eight Presidential elections. Already, accusations are rife about alleged attempts by incumbents to fiddle with their countries’ constitutions and electoral codes to illegally maintain themselves in power beyond their mandates. Elsewhere, fears of coups d’état abound. It is to the credit of the Ghanaian institutions and their leaders, in particular President Atta Mills, that the question of coups or unconstitutional power elongation is not even on the agenda of public discourse. This is yet another demonstration of the maturing democracy in the country.
Speaking to various audiences after the Football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, President Atta Mills the sports enthusiast that he was, did not tire of his pride in the Black Stars and the African solidarity exhibited at the tournament. He would, no doubt, have been turning in his resting place at the Asomdwee Park, in the aftermath of the dismal and scandalous showing of Ghana at the just ended Mundial in Brazil. It is hoped that the Presidential Commission set up by President John Dramani Mahama would lead to a complete rehabilitation of the nation in future sporting events and return the smile to the lips of The Prof.
The alleged request by some 200 Ghanaian fans for asylum in Brazil, while unfounded and regrettable, draws attention once more to the precarious state of the national economy at the moment. It is important that the Government of JDM revisits the tested blueprint of success employed by Atta Mills, in particular the need for a leaner and performing government and prudent fiscal policies.
Ghana bears a proportionately greater responsibility for signing the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, the first such agreement on the continent, under her presidency of ECOWAS. In particular the concerns over market access and the impacts on local industry must be taken up seriously. Supply side constrains and competitivity of West African producers must be addressed to enable them take advantage of the huge EU market. The Ghanaian administration has a responsibility to ensure that the nascent West African businesses do not crumble under the weight of an unequal and lopsided partnership as is the worry of opponents of the EPA.
Perhaps, the greatest legacy of the Atta Mills administration is the relentless search for and implementation of policies aimed at ensuring inclusiveness, social justice, peace and social harmony. Today, West Africa’s security landscape is characterized by mounting violent extremism from northern Mali to northern Nigeria. Ghana is not immune from this new threat. Indeed, ISIS in Iraq has released a virtual map of the so-called Islamic Caliphate that stretches from the Middle East to much of sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana.
The threat to Ghana can only be averted by adopting the Atta Mills formula – building national cohesion, promoting inclusiveness in governance and opportunities, reducing regional and individual inequalities, growing the economy, improving economic opportunities for all, particularly the youth and deprived regions, and taking resort to legal and peaceful means to the resolution of any disputes.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing, I would like to thank the organizers, for this noble opportunity for serious and sober reflections on the life and tenure of our departed great Leader. President Mills’ modesty, visionary leadership, and commitment to democracy, human rights, and abhorrence of violence are hallmarks of great leadership in our age.
He has left us a heritage of accomplishment and pedigree. He provides a standard against which we must measure anyone who aspires to high political office in our country. It is my ardent conviction that it is only by imposing these standards that we can make our democracy work in generating “the greatest good for the greatest number” in our beloved Ghana.
The Caribbean educator and philosopher, Edward Wilmot Blyden considered as one of the fathers of Pan-Africanism, lived in Liberia and Sierra Leone visited the Gold Coast, as our country was known at the time. He once gave a famous public lecture titled, “The Elements of a Permanent Influence”. In that memorable oration, he reflected on the brief and transient nature of life and on the need to forsake those things that are perishable in place of those that are eternal and imperishable. Blyden believed that to live in the hearts of those we have loved and served is not to die at all.
His words merit being quoted at length: “There is no way of winning an enduring kingdom over men’s heart, but the way which is built within us by righteousness… (It) is the ground of all honor and greatness in the sight of God and man. No kingdom, not founded on this, whatever its glare and glitter, and however protracted its influence, can be permanent…the greatest men have not been the rapacious conquerors or the kings or political leaders, but the martyrs for truth and righteousness – those who set free the bodies and souls of men.
John Atta Mills lived a life of righteousness and service. He has left a permanent legacy that all of us Ghanaians can truly be proud of. He may not be with us in the physical right now, but he is with us in spirit as we struggle to build a prosperous and happy Ghana for our children and our children’s children. Let me end with the wisdom of Madiba who said about death: “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace”