1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)
Till the first call came that fateful Tuesday enroute to Accra from the field, I had no inkling what denial of heartbreaking news looked like!
“What is happening in Accra? We hear President Mills is dead!” the caller exclaimed!
I flipped spontaneously!
“What at all is the meaning of this? Don’t you people get tired of saying these things? I haven’t heard anything…” Shortly thereafter, a second call came through from the Missus.
“I’m sure you’ve heard,” were her first words. Instinctively knowing and dreading the message she bore, I parried, desperately hoping I could somehow alter the cruelty of her message.
“Heard what?” I asked. As she started to explain the breaking news on radio, I asked her to hold off awhile. I wanted to talk to Joy FM’s Dzifa Bampoe first. After mumbling through my question, Dzifa very calmly told me, “Sodzi, it is true!”
How could it be?
Everything else became a blur thereafter, culminating in a fitful restless night. By morning, the pain hit anew. This was no sleep-concealed nightmare to be liberated by morning sunshine. While the pain in the night had been tempered by soothing radio music, my morning grief was salved somewhat by comforting words from a very states manly President Kufuor. Somehow, listening to the former President on multiple radio stations rallying the grieving nation with wise healing words really helped me.
Of all the random thoughts that took over –the man who reportedly crashed his car on hearing the news or the colleague doctor who nearly did same – it was on the former first lady, Naadu Mills that I lingered most. We must bear her up in prayer for God’s grace to continue to be sufficient for her. How does one follow the bible’s admonition to be thankful, even in situations such as this?
Given the life President Mills lived for God and country, there is a lot to be thankful for.
It may take a while but I am convinced that in the fullness of time, many will come to treasure, rather than trivialize what it means to have a totally selfless leader who neither threatens nor intimidates us with raw show of his power. Never in our fourth republican history have I seen anyone with a more acute awareness that the power he held was simply in trust for other people. I believe it was this trait that some called humility and modesty. Never full of himself, he always sought to be fair and just to all manner of persons at all times. Indeed, completely shorn of any vile pretentions and not suffused with a sense of entitlement, he demonstrated a deep, admirable, and fundamental commitment to use national might and resources to intervene on the behalf of the ordinary man.
When he pondered about exploiting Ghana’s oil wealth, he stressed repeatedly the need to do so to benefit the people, when he effected an increase in commissions paid by mining companies to the state, he talked about improving the lives of the people, when he swore in Ministers, he talked about measuring impact of work done through tangible improvement in people’s lives.
Way before Obama’s “Africa needs systems and not strong men” statement , President Mills had shown himself to be a man who was keener to see state institutions assert themselves in fulfillment of their statutory mandates rather any misguided indecent haste to demonstrate who was in charge as President. Of course, in a system very used to the big-man syndrome, where this approach appeared totally alien, President Mills often took a lot of flak for the seeming semblance of lack of central control. When violence broke out amidst biometric voter registration, people expected high Presidential visibility directing affairs. The President simply said he had mandated the Police to take any and every action necessary and within their power to control the situation. How can the President say he is not a Policeman, his critics charged! At a meeting with leaders of the Medical Association last year, his most fervent plea was for the unions to allow the relevant institutions to resolve the labour dispute. It has been interesting observing how over time, various processes have appeared as critical to him as the desired final outcomes.
Many people, unable to appreciate this, have cried that no one appears to be in charge!
The phrase –to do politics of conviction— is a favored one that some politicians use to describe themselves. President Mills never used it though he was more deserving of it than many others. When the possibility and/or threat of a one term Presidency was thrown at him in one press interaction, he gave the sort of answer that portrayed his resolute principled position clearly. What does it mean if I don’t get a second term? If one were to acquit himself in a manner that was in keeping with one’s values and principles and bearing true faith and allegiance to one’s God, then one could always walk away with a free conscience!
President Mills was never a slave of political power!
Such was his sincerity, integrity, total lack of a vindictive approach to governance and single minded focus on a development agenda .
I remain thankful that President Mills demonstrated so well the lesson that life is more than academic laurels. With his death today, the sports fraternity speaks as though he was only a sportsman/sports administrator, the business community speaks as though he was only a tax expert, academia claims him as if he was only a law professor and politics claims him as if he was only a President.
No doubt, to quote President Kufuor, “this was a full life well lived” with full expression of his talents and abilities.
Now must we also be thankful for a man who confessed his faith so easily and so readily. In a world where it is more politically correct to talk about logic than faith, better to blend than to stand out, better to retaliate than to offer the other cheek, Mills’s approach confounded many and I believe that the nation would yet have opportunity to truly miss specific character traits of the departed President with the passage of time.
Time will be the best judge on whether his legacy – be it in eliminating schools under trees, creating a legal and regulatory framework for the oil and gas industry, establishing two new public Universities or rolling out a new pay policy etc— will endure. For now, we mourn a beloved President.