Written by Dr. Clement Apaak
On Feb. 19, 2009, President John Evans Atta Mills delivered his maiden State of the Nation address to the Parliament of Ghana, emphasizing teamwork and consensus building in the process of rebuilding the nation. He said consensus building was very vital and time was very precious in the pursuit of true collaboration in the House. “We must work together to fashion out the requisite legislation that will help this country face and overcome her many challenges in this time of domestic and global uncertainty,” President Mills said in the address delivered to Parliament.
For those who do not follow Ghanaian or African politics, it is important to introduce to you the new President of the most stable democracy in Africa, Ghana. The intent of this article, a two part article) is also to give you a background to how Professor Mills (“The Prof”, as he is affectionately called) become the President, highlight his connection to Canada as well as what his vision for Ghana means for the future of Ghana and Africa. In the interest of honesty, I must state that I am, and have always been a supporter of the Professor President, after all, I am also a social democrat, with a strong pan-Africanist background. To be clear, I had a chance to meet and talk to Professor Mills when he was here in Vancouver, Canada as did many other in our communities.
President Mills studied a law degree at the University of Ghana, and pursued a Doctorate in taxation and economic development in the United Kingdom. He is part of a long tradition of Ph.D. holders to lead Ghana starting with the first President, Dr. Nkrumah, then Dr. Busia, followed by Dr Liman, and now Dr Liman, “The Prof”, as he is known, has pursued a long academic career and is also a member of several organizations such as the Tax Review Commission.
As vice-president under then President J.J. Rawlings, he was also the head of the government’s Economic Management Team responsible for overseeing the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Ghana Education Trust Fund. This makes him best suited to help Ghana survive the economic slow down and to put in the right policies regarding the oil resources of Ghana. The President is married with one child; he is a keen hockey player, at one time a member of the national team, and likes swimming. He served as chairman of the Ghana Hockey Association, National Sports Council of Ghana and Black Stars Management Committee.
His journey to the presidency was bumpy to say the least, but his patience, claim nature, love of peace and county ensured that he got the small edge over his opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Not only did he have to run three times in a row, a rear opportunity in politics, and giving real meaning to the saying “the third time is the charm,” but he had to run in a run-off, and then compete in a constituency that could not vote during the run-off before becoming president.
Ghanaians went to the polls on December 28th to cast their votes in the run-off election. This time Mills won eight out of ten regions but had a small lead over Nana Akufo-Addo who won in two regions after the Electoral Commission certified results in 229 constituencies. Mills was sworn in as Ghana’s third President under the Fourth Republican Constitution on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at the Independence Square in Accra, Ghana. Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood presided over the swearing in of President Professor John Evans Atta Mills and Vice-President John Dramani Mahama.
With his social-democratic political philosophy, Mills is now seen as a President who can develop Ghana by implementing progressive policies in general. Most Ghanaians believe that he will be fair handed in his management of the recently discovered oil resources of Ghana.
For a deeper sense of the vision of Professor President Mills, we can look at his maiden State of the Nation address to the Parliament of Ghana. President Mills paid tribute to the speaker of Parliament, stating that as the first Lady Speaker of Parliament, she occupied a unique position in Ghana’s history. According to the President, it was a position of which all women of Ghana should be justifiably proud. As he put it, “you exemplify the fulfillment of my wish to see Ghanaian women rise to assume even more prominent positions in our land. I wish you well Madam”. President Mills told members of the House that Ghana expected them to work in the national interest. He cautioned his NDC majority in Parliament not to forget the men and women they were elected to serve, and offered a hand of friendship to the opposition NPP.
Most of the world and Africans in particular were happy to see Ghana selected its leaders for the 5th time since 1992 by the ballot box, in peace, and with no bloodshed. Most were of the view that the democratic process had moved forward one-step in Ghana, and in Africa. It is no secret that Africans will like to see more of this trend in other parts of continent.