By Nana Akua Tweneboah-Koduah
He was described in various ways at a poignant commemorative lecture marking the first anniversary of his passing at the Accra International Conference Centre on Monday July 22. Professor Kwamena Ahwoi of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration who delivered the first memorial lecture did not disappoint the huge crowd who turned out to hear the innumerable roles that the late President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills had played in Ghana and beyond.
We heard about President Mills as a sports administrator, an internationalist, educationist, a President we could trust, the politician, the tax administrator, the intellectual, the lawyer, the sportsman, the family man, the religious man, the oil and gas man, his role in agriculture, infrastructure development, the promises he kept and finally how he earned the Asomdweehen accolade.
Professor Ahwoi touched the hearts of many when he stated that, “Let Ghana use the death of President Mills to unite. Let his death remind us of the reason why we named him “Asomdweehen”.
Professor Ahwoi added, “Wherever Prof is on the anniversary of his death I am sure he is talking to us addressing us with his famous salutation ‘my dear Brothers and Sisters’, and imploring us to live by the words in the epistle of Paul to the Philippians 4:8 -Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are if good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
“And verily, verily Prof says to us, as you meditate on these things, be sure of one thing – Ghana shall not die. Ghana shall live to give glory to God”, Professor Ahwoi thundered as he got a standing ovation.
Professor Ahwoi stated that the evidence that President Mills was someone you could trust was simply too abundant to be missed. “That is why many believe that even in death his promises will continue to be kept. That is why many interpreted the date of his death, 24/7/12, to mean that he would keep watch over us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 12 months a year – in other words, forever.”
In describing President Mills as a gas an oil man, Professor Ahwoi told the gathering that large scale petroleum production started during his time and Ghana became a petroleum producing and exporting country in his usual modesty.
“President Mills would not take the credit alone in his 2010 State of the Nation Address, as stated as follows: Kwame Nkrumah laid the foundation for oil and gas exploitation in Ghana; Jerry John Rawlings created the institutional framework for its exploitation; The oil and gas was struck in commercial quantities in the period of John Agyekum Kufuor; Actual commercial exploitation is beginning in the period of John Evans Atta Mills. In between, others have played their part. My vision is to use the oil and gas discovery to transform the Ghanaian economy from its over-dependence on primary raw materials to a diversified, prosperous 21st century industrial nation”, Prof Ahwoi stressed.
Touching on President Mills as a Family Man, Prof Ahwoi noted that he believed so much in the innate goodness of all human beings. “When people were plotting against him, he preferred to leave it to God because as he put it, “God is in control”, he added.
“Perhaps it was this humanism that led people to criticise him that as a politician, ‘he did not have fire in his belly”. I can imagine Prof retorting to such critics as follows, “Fire burns, I don’t want to burn anybody”, Prof Ahwoi said amidst laughter from the audience.