Fare Thee Well, My Friend and Kinsman
Ebo Quansah in Accra
When I got the news, it was from a very unusual source. It was Mr. Thomas V. Musah, one-time General Secretary of Accra Hearts of Oak, who had worked with deceased Prof. John Evans Atta Mills at the time the fallen Head of State was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Accra Hearts of Oak, who relayed the message.
“Prof is gone finally,” he said on the cellular phone, when I picked up the ringing set. For a while, I did not know what to make of the statement. I had caught a number of radio stations in the morning talking of a letter written from the Castle to the Speaker of Parliament informing the august House that the President of the Republic was leaving for Nigeria for bilateral talks with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“TV, Prof. is in Nigeria,” I responded. I went on to talk about what I had heard on radio in the morning. But Musah, a staunch supporter of the National Democratic Congress would not listen to me.
“Ebo, I’m serious,” Musah stated, his voice trembling on the line. “The President is dead. I have just got the confirmation from one of his security details. I’m not joking. He was rushed to the 37 Military Hospital this afternoon and died barely one hour ago.”
I stated earlier that the source of the news was unusual because Musah and I had argued barely a day earlier on the state of the President’s health. The two of us have been close to the President in some way.
TV was secretary of Accra Hearts of Oak at a point in time when the good old Professor was Chairman of Board of Directors, and an operative of the National Democratic Congress.
I have known the good old Professor for at least three decades. He called me a brother and a friend when he was alive. Of late, I have been singled out within the ruling NDC as a very bad boy, who had the effrontery of discussing the President’s Health in the media. But I did that as a concerned friend and kinsman.
For this reason, I thought I would be the last person a true NDC activist would want to talk to me about the demise of the President of the Republic. Apparently, our relationship transcends the tunnel vision with which some members of the NDC would want to view issues of importance in society.
Like my relationship with the late Head of State, I have known Mr. Musah since 1970s. The two of us have been very good friends in the past. For a while, of late, our paths did not cross. It was the health of the good old Prof. that brought us together again. That, perhaps, is why Musah felt obliged to share the information of the unfortunate departure of the President with me.
Momentarily, I was dazed. When I recovered, I put a call through to a medical officer friend of mine at the 37 Military Hospital. The answer was coded. But I understood every word to mean that the President of the Republic had joined his ancestors. For me, it was a black Tuesday.
I was annoyed and sad at the same time. I was sad because a gem is gone. I was annoyed because of the way the good old Prof. has been handled by his party and Government officials, who used him for their electoral gains and served him to the wolves when the chips were down.
I am sorry that I have broached this topic. I promised myself, when I heard of Prof’s departure to glory not to rock the boat until the good old Professor and kinsman has been put to rest. I suppose I would go back to my vow until mother earth has received one of the most illustrious sons of this nation.
At the moment, it is only appropriate to remind readers about the qualities of the man who would no more be with us as Ghanaians to chart a new course towards economic revival. One thing the Professor used to tell me anytime I questioned him on why he was keeping faith with the NDC and its kind of politics was: “I will make a difference in the life of the ordinary Ghanaian.”
The jury is still out on whether or not Prof. Mills made the changes he envisaged within the three and a half years he took charge of this nation as leader and political head. If one talks to anybody in the NDC family, to tell you about the qualities that would be missing with Prof. Mills’ departure, be prepared for a lecture on single digit inflation, free school uniforms and generally an economy that is booming beyond recognition.
Even his detractors, and they are many, would tell you about the gentleman the whole nation has missed.
I got to know Prof. Mills since 1982, when I served as a Member of the Dua- Adonteng Committee set up by the Provisional National Defence Council Secretary in Charge of Sports, Mr. Zaya Yeebo.
Initially, I refused the invitation. But on the prompting of Mr. Kofi Dua-Adonteng, whom I had campaigned for when he stood for election as President of the National Union of Ghana Students during our student days at Legon, I accepted to serve.
My good friend and classmate, Mr. Kwesi Pratt was also a member of the committee. It was during the sitting of the committee, when one fine afternoon, Mr. Zaya Yeebo arrived and asked our opinion on someone who could effectively become Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Sports Council.
The universal declaration from committee members was for Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, who was then Chairman of the Amalgamated Sports Club at the University of Ghana. The long and short of it was that Prof. came to the Sports Council as Board Chairman. He was later appointed Vice-President of the Ghana Olympic Committee.
When Prof. Miils arrived and learned that I was a native of Ekumfi Ekrawfo, he told me that he had his ancestral home at Ekumfi Otuam. I left for Britain shortly after submitting our report.
When I returned from Britain in 1997 and became editor of The Chronicle, Prof. Mills was at the Castle as the sitting Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana. In those days, when The Chronicle was a very hot commodity and causing a lot of problems for the ruling NDC, the then Vice-President use to invite me regularly to update him on events in the media landscape.
At a point in time, when Ekumfi had no electricity, we put up a reminder about the problem in The Chronicle. A notice went up at the ear space of the newspaper for a considerable period of time.
Under the heading: ‘Ekumfi Sleeps In Darkness’, the paper gave the description of Ekumfi in simple terms. We said Ekumfi was the stretch of land where there was darkness when a traveler was travelling from Accra-Takoradi and vice versa in the night.
Prof. Mills never took kindly to that description and summoned me to his office at the Castle. There, I told him that it was not the very best thing to happen that we slept in darkness, when Ekumfi had a son at the Castle performing the duties of a Vice-President. To Prof Mills’ eternal glory, Ekumfi now has light.
Our relationship grew even stronger when he lost the 2000 and 2004 elections. When the NDC was re-organizing after the 2004 defeat, I was one of the test cases the NDC used to re-strategize. I was the editor of the Public Agenda at the time.
One afternoon, I got an urgent call from Prof. Mills to report immediately to his office at Kuku Hill. I went with Mr. Ken Bediako, veteran sports journalist and Special Adviser to the President of the Sports Writers Association, which was my humble self.
When we arrived, then leader of the NDC in opposition, offered a bottle of beer and asked me to tell the large assembly of NDC operatives gathered there what my problem with the NDC was as a political party.
I summed up my reservation with the party briefly. I talked about the state of militarism that the party had taken the country through while in government and related it to the very foundation of the party from the military mis-adventure of the founder and people who claimed at the time, to believe in him.
The fact that state resources might have been applied in establishing the party as a private concern was one of the problems I related. I told the gathering that I was not at all comfortable with the exploitation of the whole governing process to establish the NDC. I do not believe that I have varied any of these beliefs since then.
The long and short of it all, is that the good old Prof. struck an acquaintance with my humble self while alive. He used to call me on the phone regularly. In the run-up to the 2008 elections, I went to Prof. Mills’ Presidential website and realized that quite a bit of information out there was not right. I called him immediately and drew his attention to it.
Prof. got all the wrong information to be changed and called me later. I met him several times to discuss Ekumfi and his own political direction. As I have stated earlier, I have never been an admirer of the NDC. Yet Prof. Mills never shied away from consulting me on many issues.
It is a shame that when he became President of the Republic, I never had the privilege of meeting my good friend. By strange circumstances, I was never invited to any media event featuring the fallen President. I have a fair idea why. Once Koku Anyidoho was the conductor of Presidential event, I was never going to be invited. I have no ill-feeling about this development though.
I have lost a friend and counselor. As a citizen of the Ekumfi District, the loss is even heavier. Fare thee well, my good friend and kinsman. Asomdweehen Da Yie.!
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