Saturday, June 8, 2024

When Atta Mills died – Former Director of State Protocol recounts in upcoming book

Former President Atta Mills died on Tuesday, July 24, 2012.

There is controversy surrounding the death of former President Prof John Evans Atta Mills yet again.

Four NPP MPs led by Majority Chief Whip Frank Annoh-Dompreh have filed a motion calling for investigations into the death of the former President.

They want Parliament to constitute a committee “to unravel the unending mystery surrounding the death of late President Mills which sad event occurred on July 24, 2012.”

JoyNews has sighted an article authored by former Director of State Protocol Kwame Tenkorang.

Titled “The President’s men and when Atta Mills died”, the article is one of many published in the Journal of the Council of Foreign Relations-Ghana, “The Baobab.”

Below is an excerpt on the subject;

“24th July 2012 was a day of doom for Ghana. On that day, the ‘Odum’ tree was uprooted and dark clouds of gloom descended on the people, including those who always wished him dead. I had not been so affected by a death in a long while, not after the passing away of my dear mother, Mame Korkor who I believe is resting in the bosom of the Lord at her beachfront ‘home’ at Teshie. 24th July 2012 carried bad news for the people of Ghana and the overcast weather of that day was indicative of the massive blow that hit Ghana that day.

Indeed, a mighty ‘Odum’ tree had fallen. I started the day in my office at the State Protocol Department, as usual, waiting for the appropriate time to go to the Castle to see my boss. At about 10 am. I called Uncle Bebs who informed me the President had not come to the office yet. He promised to call me as soon as the President got to the office. Then at about noon, I thought that maybe Uncle Bebs had forgotten to call, so I called him back.

This time he told me he did not think the President would be coming to the office since the signal he was getting was that the Boss was not very well. Since I had an appointment to fulfil with the Boss who was not very well, according to the Secretary to the President, I decided to work at my desk and clean up files. Around 1 p.m., a friend, Roy, an Israeli walked into the office to greet. This was a friend I had met in Tokyo who was on a visit to explore business opportunities in Ghana, having been encouraged by another Israeli friend who was already in Ghana. Not having met since my departure from Japan, we had a lot to talk about.

We were in the midst of our long conversation when my phone rang around two o’clock. The call was from Our Brother, who was not in the habit of calling me. ‘The Oldman is gone’, he blurted out without ceremony. I naively asked, gone where? He just quickly told me, ‘we are all at 37 right now.’ That was when I understood his message and the earlier one of Uncle Bebs, and the shockwaves that it sent to my face must have been so visible that Roy, my visitor, asked me if everything was alright.

Somehow, I managed to inform him that everything was alright, but I needed to step out immediately. He knew something was amiss since he had never seen that face before in that shocked mood. All the same, we rushed out and Steven my driver drove me straight to the 37 Military Hospital. When I got to the VIP Ward, I saw all the bodyguards and Medical Orderlies gathered there.

There were also Mr Koku Anyidoho, the Communications Director, Our Brother, Auntie Maud, Angola, Akakpo and others I cannot recall, all gathered and wailing.

I was going to join them where they were gathered but Koku approached me and pointed me to the ward. There lay the lifeless body of the mighty President of the Republic of Ghana. The doctor present confirmed the news that was already going viral that our dear President had joined the angels above on his journey home. When the doctor left me alone in the room, my first instinct was to take a picture of my lifeless body. However, my better judgement decided otherwise when I questioned why I should do that. For how long would I be able to look at the picture? And to what end? Wouldn’t it be better to keep the image of the smiling, gentle President John Evans Atta Mills as I knew him than to have on me the image of his gloomy hour of death?

All this while my phone had not ceased ringing from all corners of the world – from Ghana, from diplomats resident here who wanted to show their home governments how efficient they were at sniffing the most confidential information by reporting before the news networks started, Ghanaian diplomats abroad who were being pestered for confirmation of the news of the alleged passing away of the President, and many others. In all this time of extreme sorrow for some of us, it became a source of great pain that some people, for political reasons, started a very callous campaign, alleging that it was a pick-up that carried the President from the Castle to 37 and landed him in the Maternity Ward. How could that be, when the medical team in charge of the President were drafted from the 37 Military Hospital, led by Dr. Clifford Lamptey and included Dr Kpornyoh and several Orderlies from 37, some of whom were on duty and accompanied the dying President to the hospital? Could the staff of 37 miss their way and end up at the maternity ward? How?

In the midst of the incoming phone calls, the BBC, (British Broadcasting Corporation) announced the news to its global audience which in a way put a stop to the phone calls. I thought I should join my work colleagues who were gathered and were wailing in mourning for our departed ‘father’ but the next phone call would not permit that.

It came from Mr Martey Newman, the Chief of Staff. His message was stern but simple: There could be no vacuum created at the Presidency so the Vice President had to be sworn in that evening. That meant that I had to rush to Parliament and make the necessary arrangements for the swearing-in ceremony that evening. So, before I could sit and mourn my Boss, I was on my way to see the Clerk of Parliament. I called my team to meet me at Parliament House as we went into full gear to make the ceremony succeed. I also called my son Kwaku to bring me a dark suit, shirt and dark tie from home for the occasion. The Chief of Staff was dealing with the bigger people, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament, Mrs Bamford-Addo and the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood. My protocol team and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the chamber of Parliament, together with the staff of Parliament, making sure that everything was in place for the swearing-in ceremony.

At about 6 p.m., I left for my office to prepare for the event, with instructions to one official to stay back until my return. I donned the dark suit that Kwaku had brought to the office in my absence to await the commencement of the event. While waiting for the ceremony, I got in touch with my deputy at the SPD, Mr Damptey Asare who was assigned to the Vice President, soon to be sworn in as President, in order for us to synchronise our movements and timings. I also learned that the Vice President was distraught, hardly able to contain his sorrow. All the same, the event was arranged for execution soon and nothing was going to hold it back.

I recalled that I had left my colleagues at the hospital, wailing and mourning, and here was I in the decorated environment of Parliament on another assignment which was occasioned by the monumental, destiny changing event at the hospital. In the state in which I was, occupied with preparations for the Vice President to be sworn in, all my tears dried up for the time, unable to mourn my Boss. By the appointed time of the event, the chamber was very full to the brim, with anxious parliamentarians, the general public, diplomats and the media, both local and foreign eager to catch a glimpse of the event as it unfolded live before them.

When all seemed set to start, I signalled Mr Asare to inform the VEEP that all was set and they should set off for the venue. It was going to be the last time John Dramani Mahama was leaving home in that capacity. Soon, he would return to the same home in a new capacity as President of the Republic. In normal times, there is the luxury of time to convene Parliament at the Black Star Square in improvised structures erected for the sole purpose of swearing in a president.

But this was not one of those ‘normal’ times and the Parliamentary chamber proved adequate for the emergency at hand. Madam Speaker met the entourage of the Vice President and escorted us into the chamber.
I had the singular honour of mounting the Speaker’s dais with the VEEP and the ADC, Razak Osman. In no time the swearing-in was over, now President John Dramani Mahama lifted high the State Sword of office after he signed the relevant portions of the Oath book under the supervision of the Chief Justice. All this while we could not exchange words beyond the briefing I gave on the order of proceedings. He appeared like a man in a trance, in disbelief and completely shocked by the events taking place around him. Fortunately, everything went according to plan and he was finally liberated to return home in his new cloak of office.

[Excerpt from a forthcoming book, Kaya Diplomat to be published in 2022].”

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