The greatest tremor to have hit Ghana in recent times is the demise of His Excellency Prof. Evans Atta-Mills, the immediate past President of the Republic. As a sitting President his death left the country in a state of shock and bewilderment.
In that state, it was most heartening however, to observe the entire nation take time off to mourn the departure of this one- of–a-kind leader and to extend our deepest condolences to the widow, the former first lady; Dr. Naadu Mills and the son.
Prudent tributes have poured from far and near; from across the nation and the world, in honour of this illustrious son of our country. One more tribute may just seem preposterous, especially coming from an odd corner; from someone who may not necessarily be counted among his cycle of friends.
However, it stands to reason, that if there is one more lesson that the nation has to learn, to cap our gratitude for his service and consequently, the honour we extended to his former Excellency, we may as well, accept this too.
The fact that he spent his whole working life in public service; - in the service of this nation and its citizens, urges us not only to show gratitude and to recognise the massive contribution he made towards the development of this nation; we may have to assess what lasting legacy he might have bestowed on this nation. Culturally speaking, that begins the process of venerating our elders who pass.
What Death Means
Philosophically speaking, death is an invitation to a destination. However, and unlike death, life or being alive gives expression to that impression held inwardly; how we live out our lives expresses the consequences of this inner nature or realization.
In other words, to be alive is to have the opportunity to establish proof that you ever existed: what the poets depict in the beautiful language as; “leaving your footprints in the sands of time”.
It is indeed heart-warming to come across a set of them when on a solitary walk along the beach; especially when they have only been marginally touched by the waves that break at the shore.
The presence of such prints are real and so powerful they immediately summon our attention only to remind us, first and foremost, that we are not alone and also that, we are not the first to go the way. By that, we become conscious to the fact that as we walk along, we are also in the process of leaving behind footprints for others to take cognisance of.
Another thing that can be said of the presence and power of the footprints we usually encounter on the beaches is their ability to easily disarm every effort to contest the fact that someone has gone ahead of us.
Like those foot prints on the beach, every human life leaves in its wake tangible verification of its existence, to remind survivors that someone just passed. It is what we assess when we think of venerating the elderly, on the occasion of their passing.
It is in this sense that I consider the passing of His Excellency, Professor Evans Atta Mills, as an opportunity offered the whole nation to reflect on the essence of life; and to consider what footprints we might, as leaders and individuals will be leaving in the sands for the attention of others.
HOW DO YOU WISH TO BE REMEMBERED?
It is on this note that I wish to ask; “How do you wish to be remembered”; as a member of the clergy; a chief; a journalist; or a politician? What message would your solitary footprints in the sands of time announce to the person coming after you?
We cannot only be concerned about publicizing what is good about whoever passes without pausing to consider what is truly commendable and worthy of emulation about ourselves, too.
The Biblical story of an elderly woman named Dorcas who died at the time of the Apostles in Acts 9:38,39, lays the premise for this kind of practice to be respected in our culture; for people to publicize what is truly commendable and worthy of emulation about those who die serving the nation in truth.
ATTA MILLS’ LEGACY
In life, the former President would have been the first to admit that he was not perfect; and with that he might even try to explain off by citing numerous “errors”, and several short-comings. For many, he had a simple life.
Yet, even though his life looked simple; he was enigmatic to a very large extent.
His lifestyle presented challenges to even his most ardent critics and the powerful in society; and even in death his life continues to remain perplexing. The former President’s political experiences including the circumstances surrounding his death, defies what friends and adversaries alike, would have wished for him.
On one hand, those who wished he would over-extend himself, beyond his ‘grace’ to misapply, misuse or mishandle his position or a situation, just so he could become one of the many, who “prostitute” themselves, were disappointed.
He resolutely, remained true to himself, avoiding all temptations to corrupt or to put to unworthy use or purpose, the clout of the High office or any privileges he might have had.
There are also those who thought they had him within their range of influence and wished to see him motivated by selfish expectations; drive to showmanship and pride; or worst of all greed; he never sold out or compromised the integrity of his leadership.
There is talk about, what was he about? Who was he really? What he was trying to achieve? Etc. Already, much has been said about him in his honour. But, what his life placards as a legacy to the nation as a whole, is on this one very important score; his refusal to preside over a vindictive government.
To recognize how much grace one has been offered by God in life and in reaction, to that demonstrate so candidly a commitment to restore, bind up, mend, and heal through leadership is exemplary and remarkable.
His ability to eschew vindictiveness together with the stalwart manner he was able to restrain himself from reacting to all the acrimony that was heaped on him reflects an exceptional leadership trait. This makes him a hero! We need to see more of such heroes.
This kind of character to me is what distinguishes him from most of the previous leaders this country has had since gaining political independence.
Right up until his election and assumption of office, this had been the plague of the politics of the nation. Regimes have campaigned on the premise of recriminations and vendetta.
Significant segments of the national population have howling stories to share about what vindictiveness have done to them. Unfortunately for most of these people, they are never going to be able to recover from the effects of what they suffered in the hands of vindictive regime officials.
The damage caused by vindictiveness within our body politic is gargantuan. This venomous canker of vindictiveness which threatened the political cohesiveness of the nation was neutralized by Atta Mills’ natural disposition towards peace and harmony.
No single politician or group- not even his own political party- could do what the former President single-handedly did to stem the tide of vindictiveness in our body politic and in the country at large.
This brave position naturally, did cost him. It is an open secret that, that became the nuisance that soiled some of the very important friendships he had nurtured during his political carrier.
The late President was ridiculed pretty much for assuming that position. To this, it is important to place on record, in reaction to that foray from a section of his political opponents, over the initial consideration to bury the president at the flagstaff house,-and not to allow it wane without publicly condemning it as a nuisance to the best interest of the nation- that considering what the late President did to hold the nation together at this crucial moment in the nation’s history, he deserves to be buried whereever the nation deems fit.
Burial grounds are not desecrated grounds. There are many homes, palaces, and cathedrals in Ghana and all over the world housing the dead, some with libraries attached where people go to study.
How does the exhumation of the presidents remains for reburial elsewhere if he was buried at the Flagstaff House serve the interest of the nation? Need we remind ourselves that the facility belongs to the State and was developed with the nations’ resources and not a party donation?
In life, many play to the gallery when they are in positions of authority or trust. It does not matter whether the position is by election, appointment, inheritance or by virtue of professional progression; once there they forget that people have gone ahead and others are in line, for that same position.
When you pass, how do you wish to be remembered?
The journalist who is tearing down someone for the sake of political expediency or running down the business of people by peddling lies in the media, the clergy who is skewing the truth and breaking families apart through false prophecies, the chief who is subjugating his subjects and selling off the communal estate; and the politician who is “spinning” the facts to destroy the business of his political opponent, how would you react when you are confronted with your actions or statements, twenty or fifty years from now when you’re are out of office? Would you also say: “its fools who die?”
Let me reiterate the question; “How would you be remembered when you die or retire from whatever you are doing now? Would you be proud of your role as a journalist, teacher, politician, chief or service personnel? Venture to answer the question.
Part of what the late President bequeathed and left behind for the nation and Christians in particular is the proof that gentlemen; I mean men of decency and integrity could dabble in politics and succeed. That politics is not the preserve of radicals and the cunning.
Prof. John Evan Atta Mills has inspired hope for our teeming youth who care about their faith and their reputation and wish to preserve their integrity at all cost, but are the same time, wishing to put honestly, their visionary leadership qualities at the disposal of the service of our nation.
In spite of the adoption of parliamentary democracy system of governance, back in 1992, there still remains a large segment of our national population who are sceptical about the “so-called” civility and the smear that takes place in politics in Ghana.
As a Man of Peace
When a section of the population decided to confer the accolade “ASOMDWEHENE”, on the late President, a few took offense. Even members of the clergy, supported by a section of the media, steep in quagmire of political hatred, breached theology and castigated him for not repudiating the accolade.
He never uttered a word. We can recall the insults and the innuendos poured on him to which he did not strike back.
Today, those politicians who framed the insults and the media who peddled the insults must imagine for themselves what kind of memorial they are hoping to leave behind when they also pass on. Or was it done for political expediency sake?
What is in you that is truly commendable, and worthy of imitation?
Like Dorcas in the Bible passage; Prof. Atta Mills was eager to do good, seeking the interest and bringing those that are without, as well as, by building those that are within.
Even in death, some people are still finding it difficult to remove the prejudices they have given themselves about Atta Mills to admit that he was eminent above most politicians in the way he carried himself.
In Politics, as in many other human endeavours, we find that many are full of good words; but empty and barren in good works. There are many good talkers but not so many good doers.
As leaders we should let our claims of modesty and sobriety go before us and announce us. The late President did precisely that and he will be remembered for that as well.
Serving with modesty and sobriety, without flattery of survivors or any sinister intentions, but purely for the glory of his God, and the excitement of others, the commendations of Atta Mills no matter how praise worthy they are, were not words but in deeds.
His adversaries may be orators and poets who can easily inscribe or speak stuff into the memory of many: - they did call him all sorts of names with stinking epithets- but with great mystery of modesty and sobriety, the description of his virtues which comes with depth and scope will at all cost, out live and out shine whatever negatives those adversaries would wish to do.
As a nation we don’t expect our political leadership to be all about bringing us manna from heaven. We seek for model trailblazers in attributes which are profound; enlighteners who open new vistas to inspire and to motivate the citizenry.
There is an immortal honour the former President has earned. Shall this motivate our politicians, clergy; chiefs, journalists and service personnel to think about what and how we hope to be remembered?
How much space did His Excellency, Atta Mills occupy in Ghana’s political landscape? Was he ever a hindrance to anybody? The space he covered is now empty but let’s honour his memory by upholding the values that he stood for, for the sake of mother Ghana.
The speculations about him are over. He is now dead indeed! He took his bow off the political stage in dignity. Like his saviour on the cross we can now say “Asa”, to wit... It is finished. Prof, ‘da yei! ‘yaawo djogban ! ‘ejo huruduu’. Prof, ‘he de nyuie! Fare thee well!!!
Your Excellency, Fiifi Atta Mills, it’s time to Rest.