Statistically, he became the first-ever sitting president of the land to have died at post and surely, the confusions and the deep thoughts were to be expected but for one man, not even enough time was available for him to mourn the sudden, shocking death of his boss: the job needed to continue.
Kwame Tenkorang was the Director of State Protocol at the time and with the speed of lightening, he recalls how he was jolted out of this grieving state, right back to the desk from where he needed to get the job done.
His accounts of how things happened on that day are captured in an article he authored, titled “The President’s men and when Atta Mills died.”
According to myjoyonline.com, the article is one of many published in the Journal of the Council of Foreign Relations-Ghana, “The Baobab.”
“I had not been so affected by a death in a long while, not after the passing away of my dear mother, Mame Korkor who I believe is resting in the bosom of the Lord at her beachfront ‘home’ at Teshie. 24th July 2012 carried bad news for the people of Ghana and the overcast weather of that day was indicative of the massive blow that hit Ghana that day.”
“Indeed, a mighty ‘Odum’ tree had fallen. I started the day in my office at the State Protocol Department, as usual, waiting for the appropriate time to go to the Castle to see my boss. At about 10 am. I called Uncle Bebs who informed me the President had not come to the office yet. He promised to call me as soon as the President got to the office. Then at about noon, I thought that maybe Uncle Bebs had forgotten to call, so I called him back. This time he told me he did not think the President would be coming to the office since the signal he was getting was that the Boss was not very well,” his narration begun.
Things escalated quickly and Kwame Tenkorang explained that by 2:00pm, just when he was deep in a conversation with a friend, a phone call from someone he only refers to as ‘our brother,’ nearly blanked out his mind.
Without any hesitation, he rushed to the 37 Military Hospital where he said he saw the lifeless body of the late President John Evans Atta Mills stretched out on a bed in one of the wards. His close workers and family were also right there.
Being the man he was, he spoke about how his phone would not cease ringing in those brief moments until perhaps this ‘saviour’ came through.
“In the midst of the incoming phone calls, the BBC, (British Broadcasting Corporation) announced the news to its global audience which in a way put a stop to the phone calls. I thought I should join my work colleagues who were gathered and were wailing in mourning for our departed ‘father’ but the next phone call would not permit that,” he wrote.
Even though his boss had only just passed and that there should have been some allowable, decent time for him to process everything that had happened, was happening and should or could happen thereafter, the next thing that would happen would let him know that his job was undone yet.
“It came from Mr Martey Newman, the Chief of Staff. His message was stern but simple: There could be no vacuum created at the Presidency so the Vice President had to be sworn in that evening. That meant that I had to rush to Parliament and make the necessary arrangements for the swearing-in ceremony that evening.”
“So, before I could sit and mourn my Boss, I was on my way to see the Clerk of Parliament. I called my team to meet me at Parliament House as we went into full gear to make the ceremony succeed. I also called my son Kwaku to bring me a dark suit, shirt and dark tie from home for the occasion. The Chief of Staff was dealing with the bigger people, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament, Mrs Bamford-Addo and the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood. My protocol team and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the chamber of Parliament, together with the staff of Parliament, making sure that everything was in place for the swearing-in ceremony.
“At about 6 p.m., I left for my office to prepare for the event, with instructions to one official to stay back until my return. I donned the dark suit that Kwaku had brought to the office in my absence to await the commencement of the event. While waiting for the ceremony, I got in touch with my deputy at the SPD, Mr Damptey Asare who was assigned to the Vice President, soon to be sworn in as President, in order for us to synchronise our movements and timings. I also learned that the Vice President was distraught, hardly able to contain his sorrow. All the same, the event was arranged for execution soon and nothing was going to hold it back,” he added.