Biography of late President Mills

Professor John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills was sworn into office on 7th January 2009 as Ghana’s third President of the Fourth Republic.

In December 2008, on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress, he defeated the New Patriotic Party’s (then ruling party) candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in the presidential election.

Born on the July 21, 1944 at Tarkwa, President Mills died on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at the 37th Military Hospital in Accra.

He was survived by Dr Mrs Ernestina Naadu Mills and a son, Kofi Sam Mills.

He was vice-president from 1997 to 2001 under President Jerry Rawlings, and stood unsuccessfully in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as the Presidential Candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

He is the first Ghanaian Head of State to die in office.

Alma mater: University of Ghana; London School of Economics, UK; and Stanford Law School United States of America.

Early life

Prof Mills was from the town of Ekumfi Otuam in the Central Region.

He was educated at Achimota School, where he completed the Advanced-Level Certificate in 1963, and proceeded to the University of Ghana, Legon, where he completed a Law Degree Programme in 1967.

Mills also studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and earned a PhD in Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London after completing his doctoral thesis in the field of Taxation and Economic Development.

Even during his career in politics he was sometimes called by the nickname “The Prof”.

Early career

Mills’ first formal teaching assignment was as a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana. He spent close to 25 years teaching at Legon and other institutions of higher learning. In 1971, he was selected for the Fulbright Scholar programme at Stanford Law School in the US.

He returned to Ghana after receiving his (Juris Doctor) JD to work at his alma mater, the University of Ghana, for 25 years. He became a visiting professor of Temple Law School (Philadelphia, USA), with two stints from 1978 to 1979, and 1986 to 1987, and was a visiting professor at Leiden University (Holland) from 1985 to 1986.

During this period, he authored several publications relating to Taxation during the 1970s and 1980s.

Outside of his academic pursuits, Prof. Mills was the Acting Commissioner of Ghana’s Internal Revenue Service from 1986 to 1993 under President Jerry John Rawlings, and the substantive Commissioner from 1993 to 1996.

By 1992, he had become an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ghana.


Vice-President of Ghana

For the inaugural presidential election in 1992, the National Convention Party (NCP) had formed an alliance with the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Former Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) Chairman, and leader of Ghana, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings chose the NCP leader, Kow Nkensen Arkaah, as his running-mate for vice-president.

Having been elected in the 1992 election, Arkaah served between 1992–1996.

However, on 29 January 1996, the NCP broke with the NDC, merging with the People’s Convention Party (PCP) to form a rebirth of the Convention People’s Party.

Mr Arkaah stood as candidate for the reborn CPP in the 1996 presidential election against Rawlings. Rawlings selected Mills for the vacated Vice-Presidency in his bid for re-election to a second term in the election and was re-elected to his second term in office, serving from 1996 to 2000.

Presidential elections

President Mills featured on a billboard with U.S. President Barack Obama

In 2000, Mills became the NDC’s candidate for the 2000 presidential election after Mr Rawlings had served his constitutionally mandated terms as president. The main rival for Mills’ own bid for the presidency was John Agyekum Kufuor, who was running as the candidate for the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

In the first round, held on 7 December 2000, Mills gained 44.8 per cent of the vote. Kufuor won the first round with 48.4 per cent, thus forcing a second round. On 28 December 2000, Kufuor defeated Mills with 56.9 per cent of the vote and was sworn in as president on 7 January 2001.

It was during this time that the term Better Ghana Agenda was coined.

In December 2002, Mills was elected by his party to be its flag bearer and lead them into the 2004 election. He was, however, defeated again by incumbent president John Agyekum Kufuor, who received 52.45 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

On 21 December 2006, he became the NDC’s candidate for the 2008 presidential election, winning his party’s ticket by an 81.4 per cent result (1,362 votes), far ahead of his opponents, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, and Eddie Annan.

In the 2008 election, John Agyekum Kufuor was no longer eligible to run as president, having served two terms. Mills’ main opponent from the New Patriotic Party was now Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Mills ran under the campaign slogan of “A Better Man for a Better Ghana,” on a platform of change. He declared: “People are complaining. They’re saying that their standard of living has deteriorated these past eight years. So if Ghana is a model of growth, it’s not translating into something people can feel.”

The result of the first ballot had Nana Akufo-Addo in front with 49.13 per cent of the vote to Mills’ 47.92 per cent, however, a run-off second round of voting was needed.

The second round of voting took place on 28 December 2008. The result was a slim lead held by Mills, but due to problems with the distribution of ballots, the Tain constituency, located in the Brong-Ahafo Region, was forced to vote again on 02 January 2009.

The final result was a victory by Mills with 50.23 per cent of the vote to Nana Akufo-Addo’s 49.77 per cent. Mills then became the third president of the 4th Republic of Ghana.


Amongst his accomplishments as president was presiding over and initiating Ghana’s first ever oil production. He was also credited for other economic growth in the country during his tenure.

A few months prior to his death, he was praised by U.S. President Barack Obama for making Ghana a “good news story” that had good democratic credentials.

He also fostered economic ties with China. He was also the first incumbent president to be re-nominated for an election for his party via a primary.

Other Activities

He contributed to the growth of the Ghana Hockey Association, National Sports Council of Ghana and Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club. He enjoyed field hockey and swimming, and once played for the national hockey team. He remained a member of the Veterans Hockey Team until his death. He was also a board member of Hearts of Oak and a Manchester United fan.

Selected Writings

Prof. Mills’ more than one dozen publications include:

Taxation of Periodical or Deferred Payments Arising from the Sale of Fixed Capital (1974)

Exemption of Dividends from Income Taxation: A Critical Appraisal (1977)

Report of the Tax Review Commission, Ghana, parts 1, 2 & 3 (1977)

Ghana’s Income Tax Laws and the Investor (1978)

Mills was involved in various activities and projects:

He was a member of the Ghana Stock Exchange Council.

In 1988, he became the acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service of Ghana and was named Commissioner in September 1996.

He also held examiner positions with finance-related institutions in Ghana, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Bankers, and Ghana Tax Review Commission.

Illness and death

He died on 24 July 2012 at the 37th Military Hospital in Accra, two days after his 68th birthday. Though the cause of death has not been officially released, he had been suffering from throat cancer and had recently been to the US for medical reasons.

Announcing his death, his office said he died hours after being taken ill. His vice President, John Dramani Mahama was sworn in at about 18:00 GMT on the same day.

In accordance with Ghana’s constitution, Mahama’s tenure will expire at the same time Mills’ was due to end, by the end of the year just prior to an election, in which he was due to run.

Mahama said after his inauguration in Parliament:

“This is the saddest day in our nation’s history. Tears have engulfed our nation and we are deeply saddened and distraught. I never imagined that one day that it would place our nation in such a difficult circumstance. I’m personally devastated, I’ve lost a father, I’ve lost a friend, I’ve lost a mentor and a senior comrade. Ghana is united in grief at this time for our departed president.” GNA

Leave a Reply