Dr Hilla Limann,
President of the Republic of Ghana 1979 – 1981
From Ghana Union London
The road to democracy is often long and torturous, there are several hostages, martyrs and committed people for whom the principles of democracy are more important than whatever office they eventually attain.
I feel very privileged this evening to have been allowed to pay this tribute to President Hilla Limann, teacher, scholar, economist, diplomat, President and statesman and above all a hero of democracy in Ghana and Africa.
I am doubly honoured because this is the first time that I am paying tribute to someone I was not personally acquainted with, although I lived in Ghana during the initial year that he was President. The honour also arises because I am paying this tribute on behalf of the entire executive and membership of Ghana Union London in my role as Chairman.
The first time I heard of Dr Hilla Limann must have been sometime in 1979 when we were all eagerly awaiting the return of our country to democracy after several years of rule by military dictators. When it was announced that he had been elected as the Presidential candidate for the Peoples National Party, I thought that it had been a mistake because we all expected that it would have been one of the aspirants from the old CPP guard. Well, the campaign started in earnest and I and others all realised that this was not a mistake at all. This was someone with a passion for democracy who was campaigning for the highest office of our land, this was someone who understood that democracy may start as an experiment but would in the ultimate promote good governance. The amazing thing for me was that here was someone who was seeking the office of President because he believed that democracy must be given a chance to work in our country.
President Limann when he came to power was virtually unknown on the national scene, although it emerged that he had served as a councillor at the local authority level. He was unassuming, modest and incorruptible. He dignified that high office with his integrity and his insistence that the rule of law and the due process must be the norm in all things relating to government. President Limann held on the ideals of democracy, he allowed debate and welcomed contribution from all quarters.
Those who had judged President Limann harshly when his government was overthrown should now revise their views about him and democracy. There would have been no lessons learnt if he had used autocratic and illegal methods to prevent the coup. He showed us all that there was virtue in waiting patiently for democracy to happen again by refusing to subvert the government that had overthrown him, he was prepared to wait for an opportunity to contest elections no matter how long that took.
There are other equally important lessons. Very few past Presidents in Africa have escaped being accused of amassing wealth after they had left office. President Limann was never accused of amassing wealth although there was ample opportunity for him to do so, he could not have been accused of abusing his power while in office, when he could have illegally detained people who were suspected of plotting to overthrow him, he stepped down in 1996 for another candidate to contest the Presidential election for his party, when he could easily have insisted on being the only fit candidate because he had formed the party.
These lessons are a victory for the democracy that we continue to crave in Africa. And it is because of these qualities and principles that I stand here today to pay homage to this past president of Ghana.
Someday when the political history of Ghana is written, Dr Hilla Limann, a gentleman President will be seen true light, a man who was interested in high office but who would only use the democratic process.
I stand here to pay homage to President Limann today because he is a hero to all who believe in democracy, he set an example by his modest life, he was full of the humility that is a rare quality in African leaders.
By his untimely death we have been unjustly robbed of a loving husband and devoted father. Ghana has lost a true son who aspired to, and won the highest office in the country.
May he rest in perfect peace in the Lord
Long live the Republic of Ghana
Long Live democracy
Yaa wo Dzogbann