In spite of the distasteful, uncustomary and unGhanaian remarks made by ex-President JJ Rawlings in reaction to the death of President JEA Mills, the widow, Mrs. Ernestina Naadu Mills is prepared to grant him Rawlings and his wife a reception, should he inform her of his decision to visit the deceased president’s home at Regimanuel Gray Estate, off the Spintex Road in Accra.
Mr. Rawlings, one of the few persons apart from his biological brothers and sisters the late President had called to his official residence at the Castle days before his death, told the BBC that President Mills’ death could have been avoided if he had been advised and had he done “something wiser”, he would have lived for about six to seven months more.
A close confidante of Mrs. Mills told The Herald that the grieving widow, whom family members are having a hell of time trying to console her to stop her tears, has heard about the ex-president’s unkind and unconsoling remarks, but was prepared to accord him the custom of granting him audience to do what is customarily required of him.
“We are having hell of time trying to stop her from shedding tears at the least reminder of the shocking event,” the family source told this paper, “And we are surprised at the forgiving heart she has by saying Mr. Rawlings is welcome to the house if only he intends to come and accordingly informs her.”
Mr. Rawlings, said although President Mills had been battling with cancer for quite some time, his death came at the wrong time because “we have elections in December”.
He described the man he once worked with as his vice-president as one of the finest but Mr. Rawlings was disappointed the late President Mills could not re-open the cases of “some of the cold blooded killings that took place before we came into office”.
Reports reaching The Herald say that a couple of weeks ago, the late President Mills invited his predecessor to the Castle in a bid to dissolve any differences that existed between them, as if he knew he was soon going to pass on.
It is for this reason that many think that Mr. Rawlings’ remarks would have been done in a tone that is sympathetic and respectful of his departed successor, and consoling to the widow.
But grating on the sensibilities, traditions and culture of Ghanaians, Mr. Rawlings told BBC in reaction to the news of the departure of his successor that “It was quite a shock to both my wife and I because he’s been battling the cancer for quite a while but this is certainly the wrong time for him to go because we have elections around the corner in December.”
President Mills is said to have premonitively said goodbye to some few close friends and family people a few days to his demise by calling them and giving them words of guidance and advice.
One of the late president’s sisters in Cape Coast in the Central Region has confirmed that she had been with her late brother at the Castle together with Dr. Cadman Atta Mills hours before his death.
Insiders also say, President Mills made lots of calls to some friends and his only son, Samuel Kofi Atta Mills, and given instructions and advice prior to his demise.
Outgoing National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Mfantsiman East Constituency, George Kuntu Blankson, a distant family member has also admitted the late President Mills called him a few days to his departure from earth saying God had plans for his (Kuntu Blankson’s) life.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rawlings remarks have been met with condemnation from many Ghanaians.
In a rather swift and angry reaction, an aide to President Mills, Nii Lante Vanderpuije said ex-president Rawlings for his remarks should not be entertained in President Mills’ home.
During a Current Affairs programe “Morning Ghana” on “Metro TV” Good yesterday, Nii Lante the late President’s Director of Operations, burst out with uncontrollable anger, saying: Mr. Rawlings’ comments were irresponsible, absurd, unacceptable and uncalled for.
He further stated that the former President could not, under any circumstance, draw such a ‘hasty’ conclusion since he was not in Ghana when the unfortunate incident occurred.
Nii Lantey said: “I felt so so ashamed when I heard that (Rawlings’ statements). I couldn’t believe it…”
He said ex-president Rawlings was motivated by haboured hatred for Mills that even at his death he (Rawlings) could not hold back from making ‘irresponsible’ remarks about Mills.
“If I were Mills’ biological son”, Nii Lantey continued, I would have sacked the Rawlingses if ever they came to my father’s house to offer their condolence.
He insisted that it was about time the former first couple were told in plain language that they were becoming deviants in society.
Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the Communications Minister condemned Mr. Rawlings for his remarks which are unbecoming of a statesman of his stature. He said the comments were “unkind and uncustomary”.
Reports have it that Dr. Clement Apaak, the Convener of the Forum for Governance and Justice (FGJ) thinks that Mr. Rawlings’s remarks were distasteful and unfortunate.
“ I find it rather distasteful and quite contrary to our traditions and cultures as Africans when he suggest that if our President had taken a wiser decision perhaps he could have lived for an additional six to eight months.
“ I think it certainly raises a lot of questions, because if he knew that our late President could have benefited from wise counsel and he didn’t offer that wise counsel, then he has a responsibility of explaining to the good people of Ghana why he didn’t offer the said counsel”.
Meanwhile, a close confidante of the late President said John Mills died because of his dedication to work and his passion to develop the country.
Rev. Nii Amoo Darko, a Member of the Council of State who saw the lifeless body of the president at the 37 Military Hospital narrated how the late president on numerous occasions defied the wise counsel of doctors to rest and rather stepped into the office to work because there was too much to do.
Even when it was obvious that his health had deteriorated Mills sneaked into the Castle to get one job done or another, Nii Darko told Joy News’ Evans Mensah.
In a heart-breaking revelation, the Council of State Member narrated how he mentioned the name of President Mills three times but no response came from the lifeless body of the president lying on a bed in a 37 Military Hospital ward.
Mills would have responded Rev or doc he stated, “but not this time”. It was then that he came to a shocking realisation that President Mills was no more.
“I am a pastor” he said, “but I am human first” he added in broken sobs and in watery eyes.
He said he offered to say his last prayer to President Mills in death.
According to Rev. Amoo Darko the late President complained of neck pains on Sunday so was unable to participate in church activities that day.
He added that on Tuesday around 12 noon he received a call that his friend, Prof. Mills had been rushed to the 37 Military Hospital on an emergency.
As he arrived at the ward, where late President Mills was on admission, he was met with a loud cry from another close confidante of Mills.
According to Rev. Amoo-Darko, he was in a state of denial and requested to see the body of Prof. Mills.
He stated that Prof. Mills used himself as a sacrificial lamb and dedicated his life to the service of this country till he died in the process.
Another person, who has also taken exceptions to Mr. Rawlings’ comment, is the Executive Director at the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr. Emmanuel Akwettey.
He told Joy FM yesterday that Ex-President Rawlings’ comments lacked custom.
Dr. Akwettey said the ex-President, although what he said may be true “could have done the niceties of it”, by talking about it later when the mortal remains of the fallen president are laid to rest. “This is not the timing, this is not the culture”, he stated.
He criticized Mr. Rawlings for failing to “respect the sensitivities and sensibilities of the people and the family” of the departed former president who died while in office.