On August 10, 2012 at 15:15 GMT, the casket of President John Fiifi Atta Mills was lowered six feet in a well decorated grave by military chiefs to crown three teary days of mourning in Ghana.
It was the first time a sitting president had died and it was all too palpable. The whole nation was in grief. It has been, ever since he fell on July 24,2012. But the final grave side ceremony with a show of military prowess served a painful reminder that President John Atta Mills was no more.
The Airforce flew their jets past the mausoleum which has now been christened Asomdwee Park; the Navy ships sailed in the Ghanaian waters; the 66 Artillery Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces fired the 21 gun salute in honour of the fallen Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces.
It was solemn; the sword and medals of the late president was handed over to his wife Naadu Mills to underline a symbolic, yet agonizing reality that Mills' reign was finally over.
The Army Generals paid compliment, the dignitaries paid their last respects; ordinary men, women who had come from far and near were in tears celebrating the life and death of a past leader.
The Final Funeral Ceremony
It was emotional. The world had its attention on Ghana as heads of states of 15 countries including Yayi Boni of Benin, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, hundreds from the Diplomatic Corps, including US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, thousands of politicians, clergy, traditional leaders and millions of ordinary Ghanaians watched with pity as late President John Mills was accorded a befitting funeral at the Independence Square.
The hoofing, rhythmic, sounds of decorated horses, led the hearse of the late president to its final ceremonial ground early Friday morning. The body had been laid in state at the Banquet Hall of the State House since Wednesday.
Mourners were already seated. The President John Mahama in his resplendent traditional black 'Agbada' attire arrived with his wife Laudina Mahama for the final funeral rites to be performed.
Mahama in his tribute eulogised the late President as a leader whose “words were measured”; a man with an “unshakeable faith” who in his death left the country more united.
The brother of the late president Cadman Mills and on behalf of the wife of the late President Naadu Mills, emotional tributes were read, highlighting the values and traits of a leader known not for his power but his humility; not for his opulence but simplicity; a rare, calm and honest leader. That was President John Mills.
The consoling sermon from Most Rev Prof Emmanuel K. Asante was brief; the prayers from members of the clergy were powerful but the tears still dropped uncontrollably. Even the President had his share of teary moment as the cameras captured his wife pass on a handkerchief to wipe drops of tears in his eyes.
It was time to say good bye. After 68 years, fifty solid years in public life, seven years of which were spent at the presidency-first as vice president and as president respectively, Ghanaians will no longer see that soft spoken, calm leader.
In a procession through the ceremonial streets of Accra, the president was led in a cortege guarded by the military personnel as thousands cried and waved along. They had to see this day; they had to see this man even in his casket for the last time. It was a final farewell.
To the Asomdwee Park the procession ended. The casket was lowered by the bearer party as the buglers offered the last post. Two minutes of silence were kept in the last honour of President John Atta Mills after which wreaths were laid.
President John Atta Mills is no more; but is core values of honesty, simplicity lives on.