“As a people, our greatest achievements have come when we have lived up to the ideals that unite rather than divide us and have attached ourselves to a common sense purpose.” Ever the insightful leader, these very words from late President Prof John Atta Mills is testament to the Ghanaian spirit at this sombre time. As we mourn the sudden death of our President, these words play resonance as political tensions are put aside and our humanity and compassion as citizens unites us. Full of academic prowess, Prof Atta Mills studied at the London School of Economics and earned a PhD in Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, after completing his doctoral thesis in the field of taxation and economic development. Rightfully referred to as the ‘Prof’, he was selected for the Fulbright Scholar programme at Stanford Law School in the United States in 1971. He later returned to Ghana after receiving his PhD to work at his alma mater, the University of Ghana for 25 years. His persistent hard work paid off as he was selected in 1992 to be the Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ghana.
Prof Mills has always had a profound interest in Politics and the wellbeing of Ghana and became proactive as the NDCs running candidate in the 2000 Presidential election. Following the loss of the elections to the opposition party, Prof Mills contested in the 2004 Presidential elections. He lost marginally to John Agyekum Kufuor of the opposing (NPP) Party. Undeterred Prof Mills run again for the 2008 elections under the slogan “A Better Man for a Better Ghana”, he won the hearts of Ghanaians and was elected as the third President of the Republic Of Ghana.
Prof Mills has always described himself as a social democrat who leaned broadly on independence leader Kwame Nkrumah’s idea of social welfare. This principle led him to govern with integrity and tenacity. He started an austerity programme and presided over the country’s first commercial oil production, with the promise that his government would spend the newfound oil revenue responsibly.
Amongst his many accomplishments, a highlight in his reign was meeting the President of the United States, President Barack Obama, who chose Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as in 2009. Prof Mills managed the visit with grace, ease and humour and proved the eligibility of Ghana to the world. He was praised in a statement by President Obama: “President Mills tirelessly worked to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people. He helped promote economic growth in Ghana in the midst of challenging global circumstances and strengthened Ghana’s strong tradition of democracy.” His revolutionary stance on Taxation in the Ghanaian economy has been pivotal in Ghana’s development. Prof Atta Mills had a lot of power and responsibility placed upon him but amidst it all, he governed with such humility, which showed the world how great a leader he was. Despite political pressures and tensions regarding his style of leadership, Prof Atta Mills ruled with diplomacy and stood above it all. Equally known for his peaceful nature is his fantastic sense of humour. He was famously and amusingly recorded saying that “On a lighter note, before I came here, I knew I would be heckled because it is the routine, but I didn’t expect the heckling to be this gargantuan”
As the saying goes ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’ and Prof John Atta Mills was truly an embodiment of this. He set the bar of democracy very high for his protégés to follow. He was a great President and a beacon of hope for other African nations. The Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) Awards, on behalf of the people of Ghana would like to say how privileged and happy we are to have had the pleasure to witness such great leadership and governance. We would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of our late President and also to the people of Ghana. In this mournful time, we are similarly grateful and proud to have had such a superlative leader and a humble citizen.
May You Rest in Peace.
Written by Claudia Andrews.