Ghanaians had a shocker when news came through that the sitting president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, had died mid-morning.
His party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), was preparing the tax law expert for a second term in office in December 2012, but that never was.
The circumstances surrounding President Mills’ death has continuously been shrouded in secrecy ever since. Activities marking the fifth anniversary of the sad passing of Prof Mills, as he was affectionately called, are approaching very fast but details about what caused the president’s death are still outstanding.
There is currently a divided opinion about whether the autopsy report of the president, if there was any, should be made public and it looks like pressure is beginning to mount on the current government to do something about the issue so that the records could be settled.
The government of former President John Dramani Mahama, who was Prof Mills’ vice and subsequently succeeded him upon his demise, from all indications, did not tell Ghanaians what actually was the cause of death and are still not in any position to say so.
In fact, what actually led to the death of the president was a taboo topic when the NDC ruled, but the maternal family now wants it done by the current government.
They believe there is currently a window of opportunity because a government other than the NDC is in office, and it is possible for the investigation to be done.
DAILY GUIDE caught up with the head of the family, Ato Harry Brew, an 85-year-old consultant in industrial etymology, who says they have nothing against any effort to investigate the death of the president. “If the opinion of the country is that it should be done then it has to be done,” he tells DAILY GUIDE.
“We won’t mind if the new government probes what actually caused the death of our brother, the president. We don’t mind if they do that so that everything will be clarified,” the first African cocoa insect pollinator biologist/taxonomist explained at his residence in Ashongman Estate, Accra.
The octogenarian who calls himself the family’s ‘encyclopedia’ says the family’s history, including tribute he personally wrote for the funeral planning committee, was rejected without any explanation.
The NDC government ended up producing what he called a brochure full of ‘half truths’ about the late president during his funeral on August 10, 2012.
“Most of the things about Prof Mills captured in his tribute were false. I sent the right one but they threw it away. I don’t want to mention the name but they didn’t use what I sent to them.
“When they were preparing the funeral, they all consulted me and I gave them all the fact about the Prof. I remember Ato Dadzie, Kofi Totobi Quarchie and a fair lady I cannot remember her name (sic) and two others came to me and I gave them all the facts and I wrote a tribute. They said my brother was poetic and I am poetic so what I wrote was poetic so they sent it back to me then I wrote another one but they didn’t publish,” Mr Brew narrates.
He says, “What I wrote was not in tune with the political air at that time.”
Mr Brew states, “The widowhood rites by President Mills’ wife Ernestina (former first lady) were brought to him, and the wife knew that I was the right person.”
He says some three days to the unfortunate passing of the president, the family visited him at the Osu Castle, the then seat of government, and says, “He looked very sick and was speaking through his nose.”
“Myself, my nephew Brew-Butler and the wife and other nephews, we went there to the Castle and it was a nice reunion. He would talk and then I told them jokingly that I was giving him a bath when he was a little boy and Uncle Fiifi (President Mills) would say ‘don’t put the water on my head’ then he said ‘yes I remember it’,” the head of the family discloses.
He mentions that he heard about the president’s death through his daughter domiciled in the UK and adds that no government official contacted him about the death. “It was Cadman who later called to say ‘Yes, Brother we’ve lost him!”
“Cadman was living in the Castle so they were altogether every day. Sometimes Cadman is sent by government on official assignments outside Ghana. He told me he was going to China. When he came back, he saw that he (Prof Mills) had changed instantly so he came here and told me Brother, I want to send Uncle Fiifi (Prof Mills) back to the United States and then I said Yes! Why Not!”
“So we decided he (Prof Mills) was going to fly on a Monday or so. When he was going to fly him, they (NDC government) said no! I said take him! Whatever they say we should not listen to them!”
“They said they were going to have election and when they send him to the US, it will affect the election and all that. I said but he is a human being and he is my brother if he is sick and we are taking him what is their problem,” he adds.
When you visit Ato Harry Brew at Ashongman Estates, you will leave the residence without any shred of doubt that President Mills is truly his first maternal cousin. This is because he has in his possession important archival documents, including old pictures, indicating he is a blood brother of the late president. In fact, he has the names of every family member at his finger tips. He is the head of the Nkuma-Kyerba Twidam Ebusua of Tantri, Cape Coast, the maternal family of the late law professor.
He even has in his possession a site plan indicating his great great grandmother’s acquisition of a plot of land at Kotokuraba, Cape Coast in 1890. That building housed President Mills’ mother Mercy Dawson-Ahmoah who later became Mercy Dawson Atta Mills, as well as Mr Harry Brew’s own mother, Emma Dawson-Ahmoah who later became Emma Dawson Brew.
He tells DAILY GUIDE that their maternal great grandmother was called Nkuma acquired a land at Kotokuraba in 1890 and it was this lady who gave birth to Prof Mills’ grandmother called Kyerba. Interestingly, and it was the same street that the NDC recently renamed after President Mills in Cape Coast as Prof Atta Mills Street.
He says President Mills’ mother, Mercy, was born in Cameroon, so they used to call her Esi Yaounde or Esi Amoanua.
“Our maternal grandfather was called Lt Commander Edmund Dawson-Ahmoah. He was a soldier who was sent to Cameroon by the British Forces from Cape Coast to fight the Germans in World War I. He married our grandmother Kyeraba and gave birth to our mothers, including that of Prof and my mother.”
“When he returned from Cameroon, he was made a registrar in the High Court of the Castle. He died in the Castle and so it is not any co-incidence that Prof Mills also died in the Castle.”
He says their grandmother Kyereba had 13 children. Her first husband was called Mensah, whom she had four kids with and later married Lt Commander Dawson-Ahmoah, who also gave her nine children.
“One of Mensah’s children was Theophilus, who also gave birth to Robert Mensah, the famous Ghana Black Stars goalkeeper.”
“In Kyerba’s line, my mother Emma was the sixth and Prof’s mother Mercy was the last born. Prof’s mother gave birth to six children (three boys and three girls). They include Emma, Prof, Cadman, Adjoa, Araba and Sammy (the current NDC MP for KEEA).
There is also the issue of where President Mills comes from. This is because since the Professor hit the political limelight somewhere in 1995, the NDC has continuously made the public to believe that he hailed from Ekumfi Otuam.
Mr Brew says Prof Mills was named after his paternal grandfather called Edward Atta Mills, who hailed from Ekumfi Otuam, but the Fantes called him Mbir Atta.
“The name was, however, anglicised to Atta Mills,” he says.
“He was the father of John Evans Atta Mills Snr. So I can say that Edmund begat John Evans Snr and John Evans Snr begat John Evans Jnr.”
“They have to explain why they are claiming that Prof comes from Otuam. Clearly they were playing politics out of it,” he says, adding, “It is supposed to be matrilineal and not patrilineal. Fantes are matrilineal. We are from Cape Coast.”
He says the president was born in Tarkwa in the Western Region in 1944 because the father had been transferred there as a teacher.
Mr Brew says he was the person who was sent to Abosso near Tarkwa to bring a midwife to deliver President Mills, adding, “I was 12 years when the president was born.”
He says President Mills is never a twin as some have cynically claimed and adds that the president was given the name Atta because he was name after his paternal grandfather, Mbir Atta.
“Prof was born on 1944 and Cadman was born in 1946. How can they be twins? It is not possible.”
When asked whether the government disclosed any autopsy results to him as the family head, he answered rhetorically, “Would they even do that?