Speaks to ADM on campaign, health, Rawlings and more!
Interview by Alhaji Harruna AttahTranscription by Kofi Agyepong
In line with ADM’s policy in this election year, of giving the chance to the main protagonists in the political game to air their views, ADM managing editor met up with NDC Presidential Candidate, Professor John Evans Atta Mills in his campaign office at Osu, Accra and the following brief interchange took place.
Happy looking Prof. Atta Mills on his official website.
ADM: Prof, how is your campaign going so far?
Prof: I think it’s going very well. What are people looking for? Enough money to pay for their children’s school fees, enough money to live on, if they can be guaranteed regular supply of water… the basic things of life…they judge the success or failure of a government by the extent to which the government has been able to show concern for their welfare.
ADM: You look very healthy and robust, how is your health?
Prof: I feel quiet well. I give thanks to God; he determines how many years one should live on this earth.
ADM: Is your health not getting in the way of your campaign?
Prof: Not at all. As I said it is God who determines how long each of us would live on this earth. My campaign is taking me all over the country and I am fine.
ADM: I ask because a lot has been made of it in the media…
ADM: Another issue that has been in the media since the last two elections is this: Should you become president, are you actually going to consult Rawlings 24hours a day?Prof. Atta Mills: I'll win the 2008 elections.
Prof: This was taken out of context. In our tradition, when you are swearing in a chief, he says I will be available morning, afternoon and evening. What I was trying to tell him [Rawlings] was that he shouldn’t go anywhere because he has been in power before and there are certain things which are peculiarly within the knowledge of the occupant.
That is why people leave handing over notes, because you cannot know everything. What I was telling him was this: ‘Be around, when we need you to throw light on anything, we will not hesitate to call you.’ But of course people put their own interpretations on it. How can you consult anybody 24hours? That was what I meant to tell him; that once you have served this country, once you have occupied this sensitive position, you need to hold your self in readiness because there are certain things which only you know and these are the things that a new government would want to know to be able to carry on from where you left.
It was to tell him that he has a duty and in fact anybody who holds a position, it does not matter what position, takes with him something. And indeed it is good to maintain good relations…not that I will go and sit behind his door seeking his advice on everything.
ADM: What do you think of us, that is, the press, all of us, including those who are for you and those who are against you… what has been our performance these past years?
Prof: I don’t think the press is anything different from the rest of society. Nothing has amazed me; there are the very good ones and the not so good ones. Since the press is a segment of society, any development for the good of society, if it built on honesty, will move society. Once society moves, very soon you will find that everybody will toe the line, the press would be no exception.
ADM: Should you become president will you be your own man?
Prof: I taught at the University of Ghana for 25years, eight and half years as a Commissioner of Internal Revenue collecting taxes for the state and became a Vice President for four years. I am yet to come across anybody anywhere who can say such a person is not or cannot be his own man or woman. You have to take your own decisions when you have occupied such positions. I think that those who say this know the truth. I will be open to suggestions, to criticisms, etc, but the buck would stop with me.
ADM: Should the NPP go into opposition what relationship would you have with the former government? Would you set up commissions of inquiry to probe them?
Asomdwehene he is affectionately called.
Prof: I am not a vindictive man. I will never promote selective justice. My problem now is the fact the country is polarized. If you are NDC, and it should not be so, you treated like a leper. Indeed If we all held the same views, if we all had the same political ideas society will not move.
There is, I think, richness in diversity and there I would like us to promote in the best interest of society. Mills’ government would stand for everybody, whether you are NDC, NPP, DFP, and so on. You form parties as vehicles for obtaining power, once you obtain power you don’t think that much about your political party, you think about the nation. And I will never divide the nation. I would promote unity. Make people feel they belong to the society. ..on a foundation of unity, of transparency, of honesty, etc.
ADM: Should you become president, what would be your immediate priority?
Prof: Immediate priority is to demonstrate to Ghanaians that we are now in a new era and belong to one group; we are all Ghanaians. This is a president who is going to unite us. I am not going to start in the first week establishing forensic audits, asking people to report to this or that government agency or ordering people who did not support us to proceed on leave. No I will not do that. I want all Ghanaians to learn from the mistakes of the past.
ADM: Any last words?
Prof: This country belongs to us all. It is not because God has given us any special power that the people would vote for us. The people would vote for us because they want an improvement in their welfare and in their daily lives. If you ask them, 99.9% will tell you that’s water matters to them.
Let us never forget that the people put us there not because we have any special qualities but because they believe that we are in a position to help them. The moment we forget about the people and think about our persons, think about our relatives, etc., we are creating conditions for disunity. I would not want to see Ghana descend into chaos. I want to see Ghana emerging stronger like our national anthem says, I will like to “make our nation great and strong”.
That is what I believe, as president, would be my objective.