Africa has not always been blessed with principled democratic leaders. In the person of Professor John Atta Mills, the President of Ghana since 2009 who died yesterday, it was.
This Kenya Forum correspondent who met ‘the Prof’ on several occasions and knows Ghana well, believes that there is much that Kenya, Kenyans and its leaders can learn from the man and the country.
A QUIET, CHARMING AND LEARNED MAN
Professor Mills was an undemonstrative and learned man not given to macho ‘big man’ political strutting. A quiet and charming man, John Atta Mills had graduated from the London School of Economics and gained a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies. He was in demeanour, nature and training an academic rather than a politician.
Sitting in his Accra home one evening having a dinner with Prof. Mills (then leader of Ghana’s NDC opposition party) and his wife, just the three of us, it was noticeable that the meal was served to their lowly guest by the lady of the house and her husband, not by members of the household staff. Neither of them was given to pretension or arrogance.
GHANA’S 2009 ELECTION
In 2009 Prof. Mills won the presidential election by the narrowest of margins. Mills won the presidency by a margin of 40,586 out of over nine million votes cast, beating his rival Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party by50.23 per cent to 48.77 per cent, the vote being decided by the very last returns. There was no violence on the streets and the result was accepted by the people of Ghana and their politicians.
Much of the credit for Ghana’s stability should go to Professor Mills’s predecessor as President, John Kufuor. The constitution limited a president to terms in office. Despite some urgings to change it, Kufuor said no, respected the constitution and stood down at the allotted time.
SEAMLESS CHANGE OF LEADER
Now there has been another seamless handover of power from President Mills, who hailed from Ghana’s Western Region, to John Mahama, until yesterday Ghana’s Vice-President, who hails from the Northern Region. Ghana’s 1992 constitution was clear in how the transition should take place and it duly did so last night.
GHANA AND KENYA
Ghana is now a stable democracy and growing economic power. Like Kenya it is a country blessed by many talented and able people both within its borders and its substantial world-wide Diaspora.
It is surely to be hoped that Kenya, like Ghana, produces a mature democratic leader of the nature of John Atta Mills; that our leaders will respect the constitution; and that in the event of a close election, peace will reign and the result will be accepted.