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Okudzeto Ablakwa writes: John Atta Mills a true father for all

Atta Mills234 Late Professor John Evans Atta Mills

Tue, 24 Jul 2018 Source: Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

Mr. Speaker,

I am thankful to you for the opportunity granted to make this important statement in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the dreadful and tragic loss of our departed beloved former President His Excellency Professor John Evans Atta Mills.

Today marks exactly six years when this nation was drowned in tears and grief at the news of the sudden passing of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills that wet and cold Tuesday the 24th of July, 2012. It is the first and only time in Ghana’s history that a sitting president has died in office.

Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills was born on 21 July 1944 at Tarkwa in the Western Region of Ghana and hailed from Ekumfi Otuam in the Mfantsiman East Constituency of the Central Region.

He began his impressive academic journey by attending the Huni Valley Methodist Primary School and Komenda Methodist Middle School respectively. He subsequently attended Achimota School, where he obtained his General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level in 1963. He then attended the University of Ghana, Legon, where he received a bachelor's degree and professional certificate in Law (1967).

A world class scholar; Prof. Mills studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science where he obtained an LLM in 1968. While earning a PhD in Law from the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London, he was selected as a Fulbright scholar at the equally prestigious Stanford Law School in the United States of America. At age 27, he was awarded his PhD after successfully defending his doctoral thesis in the area of taxation and economic development.

His contribution to the advancement of knowledge is remarkable having lectured at the Faculty of Law and the Business School both of the University of Ghana for over two decades. He is the author of numerous publications including:

Taxation of Periodical or Deferred Payments arising from the Sale of Fixed Capital (1974)

Exemption of Dividends from Income Taxation: A Critical Appraisal (1977)

Report of the Tax Review Commission, Ghana, parts 1 - 3 (1977)

Ghana’s Income Tax Laws and the Investor (1978)

Ghana's New Investment Code: An Appraisal (1993)

Prof. Mills was also a visiting professor at Temple Law School (Philadelphia, USA), Leiden University in the Netherlands and at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Prof. Mills’ excelled beyond the lecture room:

He was a member of the Ghana Stock Exchange Council.

In 1988, he became the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service of Ghana and was named national tax commissioner in September 1993.

He also held examiner positions with finance-related institutions in Ghana, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Bankers, and Ghana Tax Review Commission.

He served on the Board of Trustees of the Mines Trust.

He was a member of the Management Committee of the Commonwealth Administration of Tax Experts, United Nations Ad Hoc Group of Experts in International Cooperation in Tax Matters and United Nations Law and Population Project

He led a study on Equipment Leasing in Ghana.

He chaired the casebook preparation on Ghana's Income Tax.

He oversaw the Review of Ghana's Double Tax Agreement with the UK.

Prof. was also a distinguished sportsman and sports administrator. He played Hockey and was a member of Ghana’s National Team and later the Veterans Hockey Team. He was a reputable Footballer and a notable swimmer as well. The Ghana Hockey Association, the National Sports Council of Ghana, and the famous Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club remember him as an administrator par excellence.

On the political scene; Prof. Mills first emerged when he was chosen as running mate by President Jerry John Rawlings who was seeking re-election for a second term in office. They convincingly won the 1996 election and Prof. Mills became Vice-President of Ghana from January 7, 1997 to January 6, 2001.

Between 2001 and 2008, Prof. Mills became the defacto opposition leader and earned an enviable reputation for decent politicking and gracefully accepting election results without fomenting trouble. He soon became affectionately known as the Asomdwehene, to wit, King of Peace.

On January 7th 2009, Prof. Mills was sworn in as Ghana’s third President of the fourth Republic.

He was until his untimely death the presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress for the 2012 presidential election setting a new record in challenged presidential primaries winning by a remarkable 96.7%.

Mr. Speaker, we must take pride in ourselves as a nation for the non-partisan manner in which we collectively and soberly paid our last respect to President John Evans Atta Mills, as well as giving him a befitting and dignified State burial in 2012.

This Parliament and indeed all Ghanaians ought to be commended for the smooth transition which has been hailed globally especially as we were then in uncharted waters.

As he rests peacefully in the bosom of the Almighty, I have no doubt that he would be thankful to us under the leadership of his successor President John Mahama for the maturity, dignity and peaceful manner by which we managed affairs.

Mr. Speaker, Prof. Mills’ reverence for Parliament was exceedingly significant. He attended to his constitutional obligations to this august house with deep commitment and great pleasure. It is to his legacy that the Job 600 project meant to house MPs was restarted. He also mooted the idea of constituency offices which was piloted in a few constituencies before his untimely departure. He also goes down in history as the only President so far to nominate a female Speaker for consideration in the person of the distinguished Right Honourable Joyce Bamford Addo who acquitted herself to the admiration of all.

Mr. Speaker, Indeed the governance record of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills is unprecedented as he himself once famously remarked.

During his relatively short 3 and half year tenure: Ghana’s economy grew by an unprecedented 14.4% in 2011. Cocoa Production hit an unprecedented 1 million metric tonnes, inflation remained at an unprecedented single digit for the longest period ever under the fourth republic, and he extended national electricity coverage from 54% to 72% - touching the lives of Ghanaians in 1,700 communities.

In other departments, President Atta Mills initiated the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta Region, and the University of Energy and Natural Resources in the Brong Ahafo Region. He believed every region of Ghana deserved a public university. The elimination of thousands of schools under trees, the construction of new classroom facilities at various levels of the educational stratum, the distribution of over 100,000 laptop computers, the introduction of the Mathematics Science and Technology Scholarship Scheme; are all lasting testimonies to his great efforts at giving more meaning to education.

President Atta Mills re-equipped and re-tooled the Security Agencies; making it possible for especially The Ghana Armed Forces, Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Fire Service to have a new lease of life.

In the health sector, the upgrading, and virtual reconstruction of the Tamale Teaching hospital and the establishment of numerous health facilities cannot be forgotten.

His positive impact on entrenching our democracy by commissioning a review of the 1992 Constitution and submitting himself periodically to unfettered questions from journalists in the Castle – the seat of Government at the time is worth noting.

Mr. Speaker, Prof. Mills had an unshakable belief in the Ghanaian youth. Having been a lecturer most of his life, and i know many of us here were his students and are his products; Pof. was obviously not in doubt of the capacity and promise of the Ghanaian youth. He went beyond tokenism and proved that if the Ghanaian youth is given the right support and guidance, we can excel. At the risk of sounding self-serving, Prof. deserves all the credit he has been accorded for composing a government made of a useful blend of old and youth. Ghana’s democratic future is all the richer for this.

Mr. Speaker, on the international stage, Prof made all Africans proud. The international community couldn’t resist his rare personal democratic credentials and his extraordinary tact and courage on vexed issues in international politics. Prof.’s famous retort to UK Prime Minister David Cameron on gay rights remains a global reference point and an inspiration to many contemporary African leaders to this day.

His stature in global diplomacy was to be seen by his ability to rally his peers in ECOWAS and the African Union to pursue common objectives including convincing them to support Ghanaian candidates for various international assignments. A more permanent evidence of this humble Pan-Africanist’s clout amongst his peers is that well-deserved giant golden statue of his mentor and idol - Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah which now stands at the forecourt of the new African Union Building in Addis Ababa bearing the inscription “Donated by the Government of Ghana and unveiled by H.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union, H.E. John Evans Atta Mills, President of the Republic of Ghana and H.E. Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Addis Ababa, January 28, 2012.”

Mr. Speaker, I take cognisance of the fact that time and our conventions will not permit me to list all the achievements of the late President Mills, even so, I need not labour, for history has already been kind to this selfless African icon who dedicated his entire life to bettering the lot of his people.

Mr. Speaker, The International Institute of Education (IIE) in New York has posthumously bestowed on Prof. Mills its highest award - The Fritz Redlich Alumni Award in recognition of his distinguished career and exemplary leadership that increased cooperation and understanding between Ghana and the world, and his resolute support for advancing education to prepare an entire generation in Ghana for today's competitive, globalized economy and to honour him as the first ever Fulbright Scholar to become the Head of State of an African nation by becoming the President of Ghana.

Prof. Mills has also been posthumously awarded the highest prize as the 2012 Lifetime Africa Achievement Prize Laureate on Democratic Governance and Development in Africa. According to the Prize Committee, the award was in recognition of his genteel disposition, virtues, devotion and commitment to the enhancement of Good Democratic Governance and Development in Ghana and Africa at large.

Mr. Speaker, as I have had occasion to say in this Parliament; beyond the physical structures that Prof. left behind and will be remembered for, It is my considered view that perhaps his most enduring legacy would be his exceptional style of tolerance, modesty, sincerity, humility, integrity, decency, sacrifice and non-vindictiveness by which he plied his trade of politics. He was a true statesman and a man who had deep respect for the people he served no matter their background, age or ideological disposition.

He loved his country greatly – that was never in doubt.

He may go down in history as the most vilified President both from within and without his own political party and yet he was the one to smile to all, to embrace all, to love all and to bear grudge towards none.

He was a true father for all who imbibed in us a true sense of patriotism. We remember him for his incredible punctuality and sense of urgency. We will forever miss his values; his candour; his compassion; and his great sense of humour.

Mr. Speaker, may I take this opportunity to respectfully invite Honourable Members to the Sixth John Evans Atta Mills Commemorative Lecture which will take place on Monday 30th July, 2018 at the Main Auditorium of the University of Cape Coast from 2:30pm. This year’s Special Guest Speaker is the illustrious Prof. Kwesi Botchwey who speaks on the topic: “Ethicality, Democracy and National Development: The Legacy of President Atta Mills.”

And at this point, Mr. Speaker, it is only fair and appropriate as Prof. Mills taught me to do, that I place on record for commendation, the generous financial support from President Akufo-Addo and the State as extended towards the organization of this year’s lecture.

May the Good Lord continue to grant the soul of our dearly beloved President Mills eternal rest, and may the comforting peace of the Almighty be with his family especially his widow Dr. Ernestina Naadu Mills, his son Sam Kofi Mills, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the entire nation.

I also pray that the good Lord will strengthen us this week, being the week that we undertake a State burial of our eminent former Vice President, H.E. Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur and observe the formal one week of the late venerable J.H. Mensah.

God bless our homeland Ghana and continue to endow us with such great men.

I thank you Mr. Speaker.

Columnist: Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
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