A Tribute to John Atta Mills
This past week President John Atta Mills of Ghana died unexpectedly after a short bout of illness, his passing has shocked Ghana and his compatriots across the continent. Prof. Mills as he was affectionately known by both his supporters and detractors while widely viewed as an honest and decent politician. While he was limited by the structures of party politics and the state machinery was able to conduct the affairs in Ghana with class and dignity. Ghana has developed a strong democratic culture since its democratisation in the 1990s and in a sense the election of Prof. Mills confirmed Ghana as stable democracy. In addition Ghana has now discovered oil and the development of the oil and gas industry will help to revive the economic hopes of the nation.
The result was an official visit by President Obama to Ghana in 2009 early in his presidency hailed the role of Ghana in promoting democratic freedom in West Africa. Yvonne Mhango from Renaissance details the significant economic progress that occurred during Prof. Mills tenure:
During his term, President Mills adopted tight fiscal and monetary policies to reverse the large twin deficits his government had inherited from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government in 2009, and oversaw the country’s 60% upward revision of GDP to $31bn, signalling its transition into a middle-income economy in 2009, and the debut of oil production in late 2010. (24/7/12)
The economic progress that occurred during the tenure of Mills is a factor smooth democratic transition from one party to next and general policy continuity. While Atta’s commitment to economic reforms have been widely hailed one of the chief attributes of his leadership as far as this writer is concerned has been his ability to limit the power of the Jerry Rawlings in the National Democratic Party (NDC). It is well known that Mills was an appointee of Rawlings during his time as President of Ghana leading many to think that his rise to power would lead to the reintroduction of the Rawlings family in front bench national politics in Ghana.
While the Rawlings family continues to have respect on the continent and in Ghana, it would be counterproductive to Ghana for one family to take a leading role in the affairs of the country. Prof. Mills is similar to former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J Patterson who provided a similar function in limiting the power of the Manley family in frontbench Jamaican national politics. Mills represented a new front within the NDC and his role in fostering a new politics in the party as well as across Ghana will have to be investigated fully by researchers and his biographers in the years to come.
RIP Prof. Mills and thanks for your contribution to Ghana and the African continent.