Where President Mills Gets Buried Is Beyond Debate
The question of where the recently deceased President John Evans Atta-Mills ought to be buried is one that squarely rests with his family, rather than either political operatives or members of the general public
Indeed, it would have been quite edifying if our nation had a constitutional provision authorizing the earmarking of a special landed property for the purpose of laying our dead heroes and icons to rest just as, for instance, the Ghana Armed Forces has designated military cemeteries for the purpose of nobly laying to rest the mortal remains of our distinguished men and women in uniform. If memory serves me accurately, during the Acheampong era, or thereabouts, the noble idea of establishing a gallery of heroes – at where the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra is located – came up for debate. And if I recall correctly, plans were even afoot for this project to begin. Fortunately or unfortunately, with the radical removal of the then-Gen. I. K. Acheampong from office by some of his own colleagues, led by Gen. F. W. K. Akuffo, the entire idea appears to have been dropped from the list of our national priorities.
The aforesaid national gallery of heroes would have largely contained the statues and statuettes of the most distinguished Ghanaian citizens from all walks of life and academic and professional disciplines. To-date, Ghana does not have any constitutionally stipulated, or statutory, guidelines governing the burial places of our presidents and/or our national heroes and leaders. And until such a system is institutionalized, the decision of where to bury our presidents would remain a pure matter of custom and tradition, even as Nana Asante Bediatuo, the well-known constitutional lawyer and Apagyahene of Akyem-Abuakwa, recently observed.
The preceding notwithstanding, matters are not nearly that simple. For instance, if it happens that the late President Mills had actually made the decision of where his remains ought to be laid to rest prior to his death, by either a written testament or verifiable nuncupative (or oral) testimony, then there is little that the dead man’s extended family members, or relatives, can do about it, let alone residents of his hometown who have no clan of familial affiliation with the subject.
It is also rather amusing, to speak much less about the outright disingenuous, for Mr. Ken Dzirasah, Chairman of the Ghana Refugee Board, to so facilely claim that many a Ghanaian youth lacks an adequate knowledge of decedent distinguished personalities like Prime Minister K. A. Busia and Presidents Edward Akufo-Addo and Hilla Limann, merely because the latter had been buried in their “remotely located” hometowns, instead of Accra.
The grim fact of the matter is that it is key National Democratic Congress (NDC) operatives like Mr. Dzirasah and the late President Mills, as well as the newly-sworn President John Dramani Mahama, who have deliberately stalled salutary attempts to canonize and deeply etch the icons of the preceding personalities, as well as Dr. J. B. Danquah, in our collective national memory. The rather infantile attempt by the Mills-Mahama government to relatively depreciate the moral and political significance of the other five members of the Big Six, by creating a separate monetary denomination uniquely honoring the late President Kwame Nkrumah, eerily attests to this abject and regressively deliberate and partisan attempt to selectively promote our national heroes.
As a country, we have a very long way to go in order to be able to credibly speak of an organic and cohesive national identity. And as to whether merely interring the mortal remains of the late President John Evans Atta-Mills in his hometown of Ekumfi-Otuam would economically redound to the benefit of the townsfolk, requires elaborate planning and significant capital investment than it may appear on first blush.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.