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29.01.2007 General News

"I've never been ill…I drink water to slim” Statesman quotes Mills

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As politicians came together to welcome home Kofi Annan Tuesday night, the Statesman newspaper reports that the talk was not just of unity and nationhood.

The paper said in a publication on Monday, Professor J.E.A. Mills, the National Democratic Congress's recently elected presidential candidate, rather took the opportunity to tell the former Secretary General of the United Nations that he was not unwell - despite persistent rumours and his own admittances to the contrary – and to accuse Francis Poku, the head of National Security, of financing and planting stories to that effect.

Ironically, members of his own party, led by his main rival in the 2006 NDC flagbearership race, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, spearheaded that campaign about Prof Mills' alleged failing health, an issue that the NDC leader was understandably extremely ticklish about.

The image of reconciliation and political calm so welcomed by the nation last week had been tarnished; according to the paper, because as the returning international diplomat apparently enjoyed drinks with President John Agyekum Kufuor, his secretary D K Osei, Prof Mills and Mr Poku, it turned out the hush of conversation was far from friendly.

The paper said Prof Mills used the opportunity to address some splenetic personal concerns of his.

He surprised his audience when he told Mr Annan, in the presence of the three others, that “I've never been sick. I don't even take aspirin.”

Prof Mills, according to the Statesman went on to explain why he opted for water rather than the champagne that was making the rounds at the Castle.

“I'm drinking water to lose weight,” was his explanation for the marked drop in his body weight.

Skewed details of the conversation were, however, leaked, allegedly by the NDC flagbearer, to the paper controlled by the office of the former President, the New Democrat. Prof Mills and his supporters had earlier accused Dr Spio-Garbrah of disclosing a disputed private conversation the two men allegedly had when the latter visited Prof Mills in South Africa where the former Vice President was undergoing medical treatment.

Though Francis Poku denied giving any story to the Vanguard, which published last Monday that Prof Mills was planning to fly back to South Africa for surgery, the NDC presidential candidate told Messrs Annan, Kufuor and Osei that Mr Poku was his friend when the two were students at the University of Ghana in the 1960s.

This and others in the Vanguard accusation were captured by the New Democrat of Friday January 26, which revealed: “The accusation… was made by the NDC flagbearer in the presence of President J.A. Kufuor, Mr Kofi Annan, Francis Poku and others.”

A Vanguard publication in the Monday January 22 – Saturday January 27 edition, had reported: “Feverish preparations by aides of former Vice-President Atta Mills to fly him to South Africa for another bout of his deteriorating health continues to make the rounds in highly placed political circles.”

Mills' denial of his sickness came as something of a turnaround.

Previously, whilst denying “serious” health problems, Prof Mills had admitted Sinusitis – a nasal problem. His latest statement to Mr Annan therefore comas as something of a contradiction.

It was because of Sinusitis that he went to China to seek medical attention, he had said – citing the reason that adequate treatment was not available in this country. His subsequent move to and four-month-stay in South Africa, again on medical grounds, was explained by language barriers in China.

Though he admitted on Peace FM late last year that he was “talking through my nose,” he stressed that he was now getting treatment and was perfectly fit to endure the two-year long campaign tours to the next general elections.

Prof Mills' medical condition had taken centre-stage in his campaign, as some concerned NDC members had said the thrice-defeated party flagbearer should step down and attend to his alleged failing health. They also called for his medical records to be made public before the NDC went to Congress on December 22; this never happened, but he was elected again anyway.

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