Former Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi in his book, “Working With Rawlings” has disclosed how the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills was captured by Jerry John Rawlings barely a week to the filing of nominations for the presidential elections in 1996.
He narrated that things were getting desperate for the party as Prof. George Benneh, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana and Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in the third Republic and Prof. Samuel Kwasi Agyapong, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, had both declined the offer.
According to him, in the midst of this desperation and in very fortuitous circumstances, he came up with what eventually turned out to be the solution to the party’s dilemma.
He recounted that Prof. Mills had just lost to Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah by a single vote in the University of Ghana Governing Council the position of Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana.
The Minister of Education, Harry Sawyer, whose preferred candidate for the Vice Chancellorship position was Professor Mills with whom he shared some Accra Hearts of Oak affinity, spoke passionately in a cabinet meeting about Prof. Mills and how he wished Prof. Mills had won the position.
He said after the meeting he went to the office of Dr. Obed Asamoah, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and a member of one of the search teams for a Vice Presidential candidate and suggested to him that the Professor fitted the bill of what it took to be the NDC’s Vice Presidential candidate.
“Obed Asamoah’s reaction was immediate and almost instinctive,” he wrote.
He spoke to President Rawlings and I was asked to ensure that Atta Mills was on the ticket.
“Please go to the Professor’s house or wherever you may find him today and do whatever you can to get him to come on the ticket. Do not leave until he has agreed,” Mr. Ahwoi said as he was assigned by Jerry Rawlings.
He continued that that evening his wife and he visited Prof. Mills and his wife Naadu at their Legon residence, but they met his absence.
“On his return around 10 pm, he looked and sounded a bit inebriated but as soon as he saw my wife and I, he sobered up and wondered at our presence . . . I broached the subject to Prof Mills. I was not very successful. Our long discussion which lasted till dawn ended with Prof Mills reluctantly agreeing to ‘sleep over the matter’,” he narrated.
Throughout the conversation, he said Mills through his constant references to Ato Ahwoi had given a clear indication to him that in matters of contemporary politics and especially in matters of the NDC, he deferred to the opinion of Ato Ahwoi.
He said after his unsuccessful discussions with the Professor, he briefed Ato Ahwoi that same dawn about his initiative, Jerry’s assignment, his apparently unsuccessful meeting with Prof Mills and requested for his intervention.
“At Midday of that same day, Ato and Prof Mills came to my office at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.”
On opening the door Prof Mills beaming with smiles, said: “Kwamena, I have news for you. I know on hearing it you would like to have a bottle of our favourite Club beer but let us pray first ”
” He has succeeded, through appropriate and relevant spritiual and biblical references, to convince me to accept the offer to be Jerry’s running mate. So I will do it. But let me tell you one thing: This is neither your will nor Jerry’s will. This is God’s will,” Prof Mills had said.
“I called President Rawlings on the telephone and relayed Prof Mills’ positive response to him. Rawlings was ecstatic. ‘Lock your door, mo nua’, he said, ‘Don’t let him leave your office for somebody to go and change his mind. I am sending some people over’,” he said.
He said within 30 minutes Nana Ato Dadzie, Chief of Staff to Rawlings and Tsatsu Tsikata arrived with the Presidential nomination forms in which President Rawlings had filled his personal details as required by the EC and Prof Mills took the forms and duly completed his portion.
He continued that a meeting was to be arranged with President Rawlings for the first face-to-face encounter between the two of them, to be followed by a full meeting of the Chapel Group at which President Rawwlings would announce his choice of Running Mate.