President addresses the nation
President John Dramani Mahama addressed the nation on Wednesday night in his first televised broadcast since taking over following the death of President John Atta Mills.
He announced that he would be making a number of policy announcements over the next few weeks but the main thrust of his address was one of unity and peace. The full text of the speech as published on the presidential website is as follows:
Good evening my fellow countrymen and women. It is a great privilege to address the nation tonight.
Five days ago, all of Ghana, Africa and, indeed, the world, bade farewell to the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills, our leader, our president and Commander-in-Chief. May his soul rest in perfect and everlasting peace.
I would like tonight, to thank the family of our departed Professor Mills, the funeral committee, members of Parliament, the Judiciary, the security services and the members of the numerous other committees and organisations, as well as the various individuals who took part in the funeral of our late president. It was a home-going celebration that turned out to be not only fitting, but flawless.
I would like, also, to express my heartfelt gratitude to every single Ghanaian for the tremendous outpouring of support, kindness and love that was displayed—even in the midst of our collective grief. The depth of our loss was made evident, as was the depth of our respect and appreciation for the life and work of Professor Mills.
Though I have always been proud to be a Ghanaian, over the course of the past three weeks, as I watched our country coming together to mourn, to remember and to reconcile, I felt that pride in an even more profound way.
Over the course of the past three weeks much has been mentioned, by me and by several others, about our impressive show of unity during this time of unimaginable tragedy.
There are some who believe that this feeling of goodwill we have towards one another will fade sooner rather than later; and that so, too, will the unity that it has produced. I don’t share that belief.
There is no reason why we cannot continue to stand united, and to move forward as one. There is no reason why our differences have to divide us or turn us into adversaries, especially not our political differences.
When it comes to the practice of peace and unity, we Ghanaians have always been exemplary.
Whether we support Hearts of Oak or Asante Kotoko, when it’s time for the Black Stars to play, we are indivisible.
When other nations descended into ethnic rivalries and warfare, we Ghanaians worked and laughed, ate and lived together without regard to ethnic background.
When other nations allowed religious intolerance to turn to violence, we embraced our brothers and sisters of differing faiths, wishing them Good Friday and Happy Easter, or Ramadan Mubarak.
And let me take the opportunity at this point to say “Barka da Sallah”, in advance, to all our countrymen and women who will be celebrating the end of the Holy month of Ramadan this weekend.
The reason we have always been exemplary in our expression of peace and tolerance is because we Ghanaians have always been aware that standing united is not the same as standing unanimously.
We don’t all have to come from the same place or adhere to the same philosophy or to see situations from the same point of view in order to be of service to our country, or to work together to create progress.
Our differences of identity, differences of opinion and differences of political party or ideology must never overshadow our patriotism as Ghanaians.
There have been times in the recent past when it seemed as though we had forgotten this simple yet powerful truth. But over the course of the past three weeks, we were reminded of it again and again.
And this remembrance of who we are as Ghanaians, of who we have always been, has ushered us into a new arena of hope and possibility.
I consider it my responsibility as your President to ensure that our Government emphasizes, appreciates and protects our unity in diversity.
My Brothers and Sisters, let us take the opportunity provided by our unity at this difficult time to build on the legacy that was created by Professor Mills, and the legacies that were created by the presidents who served before him, in order to move forward and claim our destiny. It is a destiny that springs forth from a foundation built on tolerance, fairness, compassion, humility, decency, strength and resilience.
The best tribute we can pay the memory of our departed president would be to continue to keep the flame of peace burning. I hereby use this occasion to urge all political actors to use the unprecedented event of Professor Mill”s passing, which so united our nation in grief, to effectively refocus Ghanaian politics and alter its tone for ever.
I believe there is space in the political arena to compete for political leadership in an atmosphere of decency and dignity. It is said, that “politics is a dirty game.” I daresay, it is us politicians who make it so.
We have arrived at this point in history through our collective effort. Let us together tap all the rich and diverse talent and resources available to our nation to spur its accelerated development.
Although together we have made great strides as a country over the past two decades, I am very much aware that there are places within this country where our people lack access to the productive economic, health and social infrastructure that will help them make the most of their opportunities and create a decent life for themselves and their families.
Together, we can change this.
Fellow countrymen and women, in the next two weeks I will present an agenda to the nation on some policy measures we must take to consolidate the progress we have made as a nation.
I wish to preside over a country whose ethnically divergent people are its greatest source of strength; a country whose energies will be concentrated in extracting the most extraordinary aspects of our differences and transforming them into a source of growth and enterprise creation.
I encourage our young people, both men and women, to embrace these qualities in all that they do. I encourage them to believe in themselves and to have the confidence to think differently, to do things differently and innovatively, whether that involves developing and designing new technologies that can be applied in cost-effective ways to change the day-to-day lives of their communities.
Whether it involves making their voices heard by offering input as to how to improve our educational system so that it is more responsive to the needs of students and more effective in teaching the information and skills necessary for our graduates to compete with their peers across the globe; or whether it involves being engaged in acts of social responsibility such as ensuring that the environment in our communities are conducive for human habitation.
Our young men and women can each, in their own way, become active partners in the creation of a better nation.
In this vein, I encourage everybody—male or female, young or old—to take ownership of this country of ours by limiting the voices of pessimism and negativity that seek to break us down as a society rather than build us up; the voices that try to sway us away from a conversation of constructive efforts and involvement and turn us toward a pattern of petty name-calling and baseless personal attacks.
Our growing democracy deserves more from us than that. And my fellow citizens, our country, whose independence and stability has been hard-earned, deserves more from us and from its politics than that.
I believe that Ghana, our great nation, has yet to see its greatest achievements.
For all of our past successes and accomplishments which are praised the world over, I believe that the best we Ghanaians have to offer lies ahead of us, not behind us.
Given our ability to negotiate a potentially challenging but seamless political transition through the sterling performance of our democratic institutions- our Judiciary, Parliament, the Security services and a vibrant and largely responsible media –I am fully confident that greater success is within Ghana’s grasp and we shall continue to be a beacon of hope and pride to Africa and the world.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, our founding father, the first president of the republic, is famously quoted as saying, “We face neither East nor West. We face forward.”
My Brothers and Sisters, I want to thank you, once again, for the support that many of you gave to me, as President, during this difficult time. I want to thank you for the support that we gave to one another. Let us all continue to say our prayers for Professor Mills. Let our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his widow—Dr. Mrs. Ernestina Naadu Mills, his son, Kofi Atta Mills, and his entire family.
In the coming weeks and months, let us also continue to stand proud and united as we face forward to work together to create a thriving Ghana, one that is better, greater and stronger than it was before.
May God bless you, and May God continue to bless Ghana.
I thank you for your kind attention.