Sitting in traffic heading home like any other work evening in Accra, Ghana. Only it’s not an ordinary evening.There’s a gaping hole in Ghana’s population, the shoes once filled by our now deceased President Atta Mills. Criticize him all we want, he represented Ghana’s stability. The late Mills celebrated his 68th birthday just this past Saturday, July 21. Even the trotro is a bit more silent than usual, as are the hawkers on the street.
When I saw the first tweet announcing his demise, I thought to myself, this better not be another tasteless rumor. Then the implications of it NOT being a rumor hit me. I clicked the link, the URL opened up a JoyFMOnline page, it was true. Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills had succumbed to the demands of his body and given up the ghost. What exactly does one do when they find out their president just died? Especially considering he was slated to run for the upcoming Presidential election on Dec 7, 2012?
Political analysts are already commenting on what this and that party should be doing now that President Mills is gone. The ardent commentators on the privacy/public domain of his health have found new oil to grease their engines. Some disrespectful tweeps are making jokes and tasteless comments on his persona, while others wish his loved ones condolences and share their memories of Ghana’s “Professor”. I just found out he was an avid sportsman, and already calls are being made for a national holiday. NPP flagbearer Nana Akuffo has apparently suspended his presidential campaign out of respect for Ghana’s late leader. Is anyone ever prepared for death, much more a nation?
Amidst the drifting sounds of the local atentenbe (flute) on the radio waves, there’s a heart ache I didn’t expect or indeed, ever imagine I’d feel. After all, he’s only just the President of our motherland, right? Wrong. He was probably a lot more as well to many different people. What stands out to me about him is his humility, his ‘common sense’ approach to things, and how easily he interacted with the average Ghanaian. No pomp and pageantry necessary, only the respect due a man who despite his health issues – and perhaps against the better judgment of some – went above and beyond to continue his service to his country Ghana.
What happens next? According to our national constitution, the Vice-President John Dramami Mahama will take over as Head of State for the remainder of Mills’ term. His swearing in was just postponedfrom 6pm to 8pm tonight since he is also expected to appoint someone as his replacement for the Vice-President post. Then, it goes to Mills’ party level to decide on his replacement as flagbearer. Some are saying thr NDC constitution grants his spot to the runner up in that race, meaning Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings. This is a first for Ghana, and by all means, the world is watching.
It’s a cool July 24 evening unlike any other in Accra, Ghana and the rain drops have just started falling. Nothing’s certain, but maybe it doesn’t matter. For now, let’s just come together as one country, all political, ideological, ethnic differences aside, and pay tribute to our late President. Beyond that let’s keep the peace and follow our country’s constitution, not for his sake, but for the sake of Ghana and every single one of us. Rest in Peace President John Evans Atta Mills. God bless our homeland Ghana. We shall overcome, inshAllah.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.