President Akufo-Addo has said that the late former president John Evans Atta Mills, whom he describes as his contemporary, friend and “the man from Ekumfi Otuam”, will not be forgotten by the government and people of Ghana, having died in 2012 while serving in office as president of Ghana.
Addressing guests at the tenth-anniversary memorial thanksgiving service for the late former president, as well as the unveiling of Mills’s tombstone and recommissioning of Asomdwee Park, where his mortal remains are buried, President Akufo-Addo said Professor Atta Mills deserves every honour that the nation can possibly bestow on him.
“We were contemporaries in the University of Ghana; members of the same hall, the premier hall of the university – the hall of gentlemen, Legon Hall,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“We played in the same university football team and, as fate would have it, we ended up belonging to and leading different political organisations.
“We contested the presidency in 2008 and even though some will say it does not count, I won the first round and he won the second round, the round that really mattered.
“I was looking forward to the third round in 2012 when the Almighty called him home on 24 July 2012,” Akufo-Addo said.
Deterioration and rehabilitation
Concerning Asomdwee Park, President Akufo-Addo noted that some time after becoming president, he became aware of “the sad state of Asomdwee Park and in 2020”, he “received a request from the late president’s energetic communications director, Koku Anyidoho, who runs the institute named after the president, for the assistance of government for the rehabilitation of the facility”.
“I agreed and subsequently, I instructed the Coastal Development Authority to undertake a thorough rehabilitation of the park with close collaboration of the institute. It was not right that the park had been allowed to deteriorate considerably over the years since his burial in 2012,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“I am happy that it was under the presidency of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, allegedly his fiercest critic, that Asomdwee Park has been elevated to a status befitting the final resting place of a president of the Republic of Ghana,” he added.
On divisions in the National Democratic Congress concerning the construction of a befitting resting place for the former head of state, President Akufo-Addo said he rehabilitated Asomdwee Park with the sole intention of honouring the memory of Atta Mills and nothing else.
“I did so with that objective solely in mind, and not to exploit or take advantage of any so-called division in the political party to which he belonged.
“Those alleged divisions are not of my making and do not in any way inure to my benefit,” President Akufo-Addo said.
Allegations of desecration
President Akufo-Addo remarked that there have “been unfortunate allegations levelled against the government about the supposed desecration of the tomb of the late president in the process of rehabilitating the park”.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is good to note that these false, malicious statements have been firmly dispelled and debunked by the Coastal Development Authority through the agency of its chief executive officer, Jerry Ahmed Shaib, in a public statement under his hand,” Akufo-Addo declared.
In his sermon, on the scriptural foundation of Revelation 7:9-17 (KJV), the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, the Most Reverend Dr Paul Kwabena Boafo, urged Ghanaians to emulate the life example and virtues of the late president, such as his incorruptibility, love of God and pursuit of peace.
Most Reverend Boafo said that every Ghanaian, no matter where he or she finds himself or herself on the social scale, must endeavour to live a life keeping in mind what will be said about them after their death.
The founder and chief executive of the Atta Mills Institute (AMI), Samuel Koku Anyidoho, recalled his relationship with the late former president in a solemn speech.
Anyidoho said that he made a personal pledge to the late president never to forget him in life and in death, and it is that pledge which motivates him in his quest to establish a lasting legacy in memory of John Evans Atta Mills.
“The God I serve hates ingratitude, so God forbid that I show ingratitude. Your Excellency, Mr President of the Republic, I, Samuel Koku Anyidoho, say thank you for making Ghana proud via the construction of Asomdwee Park.
“The credit goes to you and nobody shall share nor take that glory from you,” Anyidoho said.
CODA mission accomplished
The chief executive officer of the Coastal Development Authority (CODA), Jerry Ahmed Shaib, told guests that two years ago President Akufo-Addo tasked CODA to carry out, on behalf of the people of Ghana, a fitting renovation of Asomdwee Park, where the mortal remains of the late John Evans Atta Mills lie.
He said that, following the president’s directive, work started in July 2020.
“I am pleased to report that work has been completed as we hand over the project today,” Shaib said.
“The completion of Project 446 (Asomdwee Park) [marks] approximately 60% of the 741 projects being executed by the Coastal Development Authority since 2020, with the remaining 40% at various stages of completion,” Shaib announced.
John Evans Atta Mills studied law at the University of Ghana (LLB 1967), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LLM 1968) and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), completing his PhD dissertation on taxation and economic development in 1971.
While studying for his PhD at SOAS, he was also a Fulbright Scholar at the prestigious Stanford University in the United States of America. On his return to Ghana, he taught law at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, where he remained for 25 years.
It is on the record that he was the person who introduced the study of tax law at the Faculty of Law. He also taught commercial law at the School of Administration of the University of Ghana.
He served further as a lecturer at the Ghana School of Law (Makola) and Ghana Institute of Taxation, as well as other institutions of higher learning. Professor Atta Mills also sat on a number of boards and committees, occasionally acted as a visiting professor in the United States, Netherlands, Canada and other countries, and published extensively on law and taxation.
He eventually left full-time academia (but retained a number of teaching engagements) to begin a distinguished public service career when he was appointed as acting commissioner of Ghana’s Internal Revenue Service in 1988, eventually becoming the substantive commissioner in 1993.
Still in the arena of public service, Professor Atta Mills, consummate sportsman and sports administrator that he was, held sports-related positions at various points, such as acting director of the National Sports Council, vice-chairman of the Ghana Olympic Committee, acting chairman of the board of directors of Accra Hearts of Oak, vice-chairman of the Ghana Hockey Association, and chairman of the Black Stars management committee.
In 1996 John Evans Atta Mills was chosen by President Jerry John Rawlings to be his running mate on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Victory by the NDC in that year’s election allowed Professor Mills to take office on Tuesday 7 January 1997 as the second vice-president of the Fourth Republic of Ghana.
In the build-up to the 2000 general election, Vice-President Mills emerged as the flagbearer for the NDC but the scales tipped in favour of the New Patriotic Party’s John Agyekum Kufuor, who became the second president of the Fourth Republic on 7 January 2001.
After a second try in 2004, he contested again in the December 2008 election and this time victory smiled on him. John Evans Atta Mills was duly sworn in as the third president of the Fourth Republic of Ghana on Wednesday 7 January 2009. He was also the first ever former vice-president to have moved up to the highest office in the land, president of the Republic of Ghana.
On, Saturday 7 July 2011 the NDC re-elected President Atta Mills to be the party’s candidate in the 2012 presidential election. However, as fate would have it, he passed on to glory on Tuesday 24 July 2012, a little less than five months before the elections were held.
Professor Atta Mills loved God and manifested this love in many ways. Most memorably, as president of the Republic of Ghana, he launched a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving which took place at the Independence Square in Accra each year between 2009 and 2012.
For the record, during his time in office, he was the only Fulbright Scholar anywhere in the world to have been elected president of any country. The Fulbright Association duly decorated him at a ceremony in New York, USA.
President John Evans Atta Mills was married to Ernestina Naadu Mills and left behind a son, Kofi Atta Mills.