…A Political and Legal Tribute to Professor John Evans Fiifi Atta-Mills
The OmanbaPa Research Group
As governmental institutions, agencies, embassies and consulates- both at home and abroad, swiftly-and-solemnly pull or lower down his presidential portraits off the walls of their offices with hesitations, disbelieve, fingers-pointing and his families feud over his final passage, stood those who still ponder over what Law Professor President J.E.A. Mills, known otherwise as Asomdweehen, would have wished to be remembered for when Parliament moved, to ordain John Dramani Mahama, as his next-of-kin. President Mahama describes Prof Mills’ passing, as a “Godly intervention and a leadership opportunity” for us- those born in post-colonial Gold-Coast Ghana.
“The Man Atta Mills”; as the Ghanaian Mirror captioned him on Saturday; 30th October 2004, at page 9, describes him as follows: “Principled & Honest; Dedicated & Hardworking; An Effective & Reliable Leader; A Ghanaian for All Ghanaians; and A Man of Achievement.” We at JusticeGhana would like to remember Prof Atta-Mills, a royal of Odowna family of Ekumfi Otuam, who has passed away aged 68, as a warm, passionate and unpredictable man with a fine sense of humour.
Mills strove to be focused even in the face of political boos and jeers, ovations and uncertainties. His inability to translate billions or trillions of Ghanaian local currency- the Cedis [ope-pe-pee-pee]; from English into Fante-Twi, which attracted cross-political laughter, excitements and ordered polity in a hitherto, a tensed up parliamentary sitting, might have been recorded in the Ghanaian Parliamentary Hansard. His measured composure to overcome the overflow of his adrenal glands during his presidential inauguration of 7th of January 2009 revealed the fragility and unreliability of the human faculties. But Mills’ seemingly political indifference or sarcasms in the face of glaring frustrations and anger- here: “Atta Mills is not a law enforcement officer…,” is worth preserving.
Yet “Great Men”- it is said; have controversial personalities- so uncertain that even long after their deaths or passing away; both historians and biographers will continue to be poled apart or divided over their true beliefs or what they really stood for while on this planet earth. And since history is said to be indeed written from class or ideological perspectives- their triumphs and tribulations or should we honestly say, obvious human failures or meekness, are either dramatized or traumatized.
John Fitzgerald [“Jack”] Kennedy (29 May 1917 to 22 November 1963)] – the 35th President of the United States, was for example, a great leader and a devout Catholic. So we might rightly remember him as a president who openly, abhorred abortion in his time. Yet the story of JFK’s relationship with Mimi Alford- the 19-year-old White House intern, which surfaced in the public domain after his death, cast crowd over his anti-abortion motivations and preoccupations, under his presidency.
Mimi Alford, who zipped her mouth and the amorous relationship with one of America’s Greatest Presidents secret until it was eventually exposed in 2003, has this to say to the world: “Since the fourth day of my internship in the White House press office, when the president had tipped me on to his wife’s bed and taken my virginity, our relationship had been sexual, intimate and passionate…. I knew my role and played it well. It was to be young, full of energy and willing to play along with whatever he wanted. So we’d joke about members of the press office staff and who was saying what about whom in the press corps.” Mimi was flown in for secret sex dates with the President JFK.
I dare not remember the humiliating congressional debate to impeach President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinski affair. What might be of importance or newsworthy is how President J.F. Kennedy, who used pseudonym “Michael Carter” in his relationship with Mimi- could have been so dishonest to himself and the Oath of the American Presidency. Listen to what Mimi had said about this impersonation to the Daily Mail UK: “His survival instincts must have told him that no young woman would ever suspect that a man named Michael Carter on a dormitory phone could possibly be the President of the United States.” But what are the correlations to a tribute to Prof JEA Mills?
I attempt not to frustrate the glowing tributes being showered on the immediate-past president- John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, both from home and abroad. This includes the honouring tribute skifully sketched in outline by Prof Ahwoi. That would be academically, a farce enterprise. What I do, though, seek to document is that yes, the subject greatness or honesty in leadership- is scintillating and of elementary importance to multi-party democracy. But do higher positions such as presidency, not come with loads of challenging temptations? The year 2012 brought to Ghana mixed-feelings. Citifmonline.com, reports in April that “Just when almost all Ghanaians have come to accept that Ghana’s first President- Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, has four children, a fifth child [Dr. Onsy Anwar Nathan Kwame Nkrumah] also surfaced and claims he is a true son of the Osagyefo.”
At the heart of this family re-unification of the hitherto unknown child of one of the Africa’s “all-time greatest leaders”- Dr Kwame Nkrumah, comes the sudden passing of yet another Great Man- President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, on 24 July 2012, after a short illness. This comes at the heels of his triumphal return home from the United States, on routine medical check-up. On his arrival at the Kotoka International Airport, on 26 June 2012, President J.E.A. Mills voluntarily and humbly, subjected himself to rigorous “quick-march” or doubled-steps”. The seemingly political venture appeared to some observers as a deal to prove his detractors wrong about his alleged failing health.
Many are those who were tempted to suggest that judging from Mills’ age and the huge political crowd that welcomed him at the airport with some supporters and well wishers rolling on the undulating grounds, wailing and cheering, Professor Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, might probably remain not only as the first-ever president to have honestly submitted himself to immigration control but also, as the first Ghanaian civilian leader to have wished to run a marathon race in a political suit and shoes. The political popularity of Professor Mills- off University of Ghana’s campus, began when Vice-President Ekow Nkesah Arkaah of the National Convention Party (NCP)- which formed an alliance with the National Democratic Congress (NDC), broke tracks with President Jerry John Rawlings. In an ongoing anniversary in memory of the late president, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi, laid an unquestionable claim to how the astute law professor hesitantly, entered Ghanaian politics.
But it would be recalled that in the 1992 Elections, Flight-Lieutenant J. J. Rawlings- the then Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and the nominated flag-bearer for newly-formed pro PNDC- the National Democratic Congress (NDC), chose the NCP leader as his running-mate for Vice-President. Following their successful elections bid, Arkaah- also a Fante, as Professor Atta-Mills, became the vice-president for our republic, and served between 1993 to1996.
The alleged uncomfortable marriage and its associated scuffles and separation; received its decree absolute, on 29 January 1996, where the NCP merged with the People’s Convention Party (PCP) to form reincarnated Convention People’s Party (CPP) which the former Vice-President Arkaah became its presidential candidate in 1996. This contentious and indeed bitter political divorce, notwithstanding family disapprovals and contestations; marked the heroic remarry of the then incumbent President Rawlings, who found deafening favour and love for Professor Mills. The Law Professor, who was obscurely, working with the Inland Revenue Services, became vice-president of Ghana between 1996 and 2000 and with some attempts, eventually emerged as president in 2009.
Atta-Mills was brought to world on 21 July 1944, at Tarkwa, in the Western Region of Ghana. But so far, and here, from all the tributes, including that of his family, dedicated to the passing of the great law professor and president- little is known or had been documented about the family tree or the life of little Fiifi John Evans- growing up as a ?first born son of Mr Atta Mills- a Gold Coast teacher and his wife- Mrs Mercy Dorson-Mills (née Esi Amoanuwah), who according to a family member who spoke to JusticeGhana, was a petty trader. Mills’ academic foundation is rooted in Achimota School, where he obtained his GCE A-Level Certificate in 1963. He proceeded to University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, where he is said to have received “Black Man of the month” several times and eventually graduated in 1967. John Evans Atta Mills was admitted to LLM Master of Laws degree at the London School of Economics in 1968, and thereafter, progressed to the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, where he obtained his Ph.D. in Law and Taxation in 1971. Prof John Evans Atta Mills is a Stanford Law School Fulbright Scholar (1971).
Following the successful completion of his academic pursuits, John Evans Atta took up the challenges in teaching and for over two decades, lectured law at the University of Ghana, from 1971-1991. He was tax commissioner from 1986 to 1996). Besides teaching, Mills loved sports, and his enthusiasm for hockey and football have been well-exhibited at Achimota School, Accra Hearts of Oak and Ghana’s Hockey Galleries. The National Hockey Pitch has been named after him. He is credited with several books on economics and law on taxation which can be traced in most academic books, journals and might have written short memos on politics, marriage and family, too.
Some of his published works and editions included Ghana’s New Investment Code: An Appraisal (1993) and Exemption of Dividends from Income taxation: A critical Appraisal (1977). Atta Mills is a known face in Ghana Tax Review Commissioners, Chartered Accountants, Bankers as well as Insurance Brokers. On Tuesday, 23 July 2013, a tribute was given by Professor Kwamena Ahwoi in relation to Professor Mills’ relentless and but constructive contributions to the Ghanaian Tax law, encompassing scholarly criticisms through publications, on judicial and political decisions that fell under the scope of his scholarship. The Value Added Tax (VAT), Reforms/reintroduction or clarification of Capital Gains Tax and the introduction of Commercial Courts are some of the measured and monumental achievements cited by Professor Ahwoi in his tribute to Professor Mills.
But besides these lie Professor Mills’ unpredictability, disappointments and glaring weaknesses. On the national economy, to some, if Mills-led NDC achieved anything it was mainly because of the oil boom which unlike his predecessors, he inherited- and which emboldened his desire to pay any amount of judgement debt even where there seemed to be a contested legal base for it. This together with his drive to borrow without regards to the ability of the future generations to pay, undermined his “Principled & Honest; Dedicated & Hardworking; An Effective & Reliable Leader; A Ghanaian for All Ghanaians; and A Man of Achievement” brand that he yes, politically, coined for himself.
His bid to introduce social democracy without regard for true cost to some of his brutal capitalist-minded, in the areas of appointments, create-loot-and-share and his failure to throw the stone, fatawa or overturn the defiled church tables, on insulting appointees, brought his father-for-all and honest crusade to many contestations. Neither himself, admirers and critics, could hide the fact that much of it was rotting away under his political stewardship. Thus, his father-for-all could not counter the chaos, the grim fiasco of the grandiose ideological empty shelves and fierce stampedes- in which foot-soldiers and babies with sharp teeth trampled to death- for both basic and ostentatious goods when they did arrive on kenkey market. Honesty and truth remain a mystery to his passing.
On international relations, critics cite Pan-Africanist Mills’ double-stand on Ivorian Crisis and the planned military action should diplomatic persuasions on Gbagbo failed, which he was a consented party but shrouded it later in the infamous dzi wofie as3m (mind your own domestic problem), as one of his foibles. But Prof Mills might be understood. Mr Sampson Yeboah- a primary school mate who shared the same desk with Prof had told GNA in his tribute: “Mills Was Never Punished In School”. Mills’ students and working colleagues describe him as a peaceful, humble, helpful and modest God-fearing person, highly unlikely to offend. So we say, he was great but just a human.