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Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Black Star shines even in her Darkest Hour: Adieu Mr. President

The news came as a shock and then again it was not, as rumors of the president’s ill health had recently reached a disturbing crescendo. No one though expected such a sudden departure.

The nation was thrown into deep disbelief as the news spread via Email, Twitter, Facebook, talking drums and all other means across the globe.
Ghanaians of all political persuasions were suddenly united in sorrow. 
All those harsh political disagreements were now dwarfed by the weight of this dark news.

With the proverbial battle lines drawn for the upcoming elections between the contesting parties, even the color of water had become politicized in Ghana but the President constantly reminded the nation on the need for civility in our national deliberations. We were already losing our perspective on what was important.

A Better Ghana was what it was all about. The man gave his very life for this agenda against distractions from those who should have known better.

His is an unfinished legacy but it was characterized by humility, intellect, personal integrity, decency, peacemaking and an enviable work ethic against what were obviously great personal obstacles.

As we mourn, we should reflect on what the President’s demise means for the nation going forward. One’s health is a personal issue but when a person occupies the position of President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ghana, should at least a few selected medical experts act in an advisory capacity on behalf of the state? Do we know whether he got the best medical advice available or the best treatment for that matter?The manner in which the President’s health issues were handled leaves cause for concern since the well-being of 24 million people is at stake.

Every culture has its blind spots. Such issues are traditionally cloaked in silence in every society. In America, gun control is an obvious example. Even after a gunman, armed to the teeth gunned down 12 people in a movie theater, neither Obama nor Romney is addressing the issue. Somehow the “right to bear arms” cannot be discussed even as innocents die.

For us in Ghana, the political elephant in the room is corruption, which costs us an estimated $5bn annually in unrealized government revenues. The late President like his predecessors was unable to systematically address this problem. He however publicly confronted workers at the Tema harbor on one occasion, highlighting the cost of corruption to our society and how it is undermining our development. He spoke out in a very open and practical way, unlike any other Presidents before him. It takes courage to break the silence on this kind of commonly internalized vice in Ghana. This was met with derision by his political opponents because we were not ready to hear the message:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed57WhR5ouQ

The message that President Mills carried on that the at Tema Port is the same one our founding President shared with the nation as the Black Star rose past the falling Union Jack on 6th March 1957. He said:
“And as I pointed out… I made it quite clear that from now on – today – we must change our attitudes, our minds, we must realise that from now on, we are no more a colonial but a free and independent people. But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work.”
Even with the best leadership, attitudinal change is extremely difficult to achieve.
Eventually, when all the dust has settled, the tears have dried and crowds have gone home, we will appreciate not so much his accomplishments during his brief tenure, but the principles for which he stood and the vision for the nation, which guided his actions as President.

Out of this national crisis came a smooth constitutional transition of leadership only rivaled by that Kennedy - Johnson transition in 1962.
In death Prof Mills has caused the light of Ghana's democracy to shine across the globe, with international commentators wondering if this smooth transition following such a national a crisis and tragedy was indeed happening in Africa.

We have learnt a lot as a nation from being the first sub- Saharan colony to attain independence. After the 1966 coup we were able to fashion an orderly return to civilian rule in a manner that then, surprised the world. In 2009, with a margin of victory slimmer than that which sent Bush and Gore to court in 2004, President Mills came into office. We did all this as a peaceful nation. Now, we have a sad transition to make after our first death of a sitting president but we know that the Black Star will still shine bright in the darkest night.

Let us remain united in the service of our homeland Ghana because Mills’ legacy was just that, one of service.

Let us all pray for President Mahama and for our nation and its institutions as we approach the 2012 elections.

Let us keep the late president's family in our prayers and give them all the support they need in this their darkest hour.

Let us play by the rules we have set for ourselves as a nation and rise above our divisions, always placing Ghana first as Prof. Mills did in all his years of service to Mother Ghana.

Prof. T.P. Manus Ulzen

July 25, 2012

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