There was a time when a eulogy delivered by one West African head of state to a former head of state was characteristically short.
And there was a time when it might have been a lot more violent.
But things have changed. Nowhere more so than in Ghana where the recent death in office of President J.E.A.Mills heralded a peaceful transfer of political power to his successor.
His successor, President John Dramani Mahama, gave the eulogy speech at the funeral of the late President J.E.A. Mills this week.
His speech brimmed with metaphor from its beginning:
Today a dark cloud hangs over Ghana, over Africa and indeed over the entire world. Today we have come from so many parts of Ghana, from so many parts of Africa and from so many parts of the world to pay tribute to His Excellency President John Evans Atta Mills; a great man who served our nation and our continent Africa with honour.
His speech paid full tribute to the former President, his achivements and character as Ghana’s leader.
The speech used repetition to good effect:
As I look across the entire landscape today I see unity, I see a sense of purpose written on the face of every Ghanaian, I see resilience, I see determination and a resolve to prosper. We are indeed one people with a common destiny.
Metaphorical images abounded…flames of freedom and topical images of torches:
we proudly carried the hopes of an entire continent or whether in liberation as we sparked the torch of freedom, a torch that blazed for decades and a torch that continues to blaze from Cairo through Khartoum, through Addis Ababa to Cape Town.
Sporting analogies continued with:
We broke the adversity of Africa’s lost decades and peacefully passed the baton of leadership from President Rawlings to President Kuffour and then on to President Mills who lies before us.
The President’s speech managed to include as reference to the lodestar of African freedom:
Whatever achievement Ghana has made, we have done it together as one people with a common destiny. We have done it as one people and as one nation which has served and will continue to serve as the shining star of Africa.
This proved to be an effective speech. Neither too short nor too brief. Not sycophantic or swaggering. The speech summed up the man and his achievements. And it amplified the debt of gratitude owed by the nation. That’s an effective eulogy.