Ghana’s unforgettable dates! First quarter

BY: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)


If Ghana were a human being, he or she would have retired on 6th March 2017 on hitting the compulsory retiring age of sixty for civil servants. As it is said, “a lot of water has passed under the bridge.” As some milestones in a retired person’s life cannot be forgotten, so certain dates of significance both positive and negative in the life of Ghana as an independent country cannot and must not be forgotten! As one radio presenter puts it “let the children know the truth.”

Again, it is said that, knowing where we are coming from, prepares us now in the present for the future.

On Wednesday 13th December 2017, I launched my second book, KOFI CHOKOSI SPEAKS: From Archaeology to Zoology, 1985-2015. The venue was Burma Hall, Burma Camp, where my first book Leadership and the Challenges of Command was launched in 2010. During the launch I restated an appeal I made in my article in the Daily Graphic of 13 January 2017, as I have made in fora I have participated in.

“Bring Back History and Civics”
I said to the authorities and the media that day that, “Bring back History and Civics” as I did earlier in the mentioned article on page 40 of Daily Graphic titled “13th January and Beyond……….” My reason for advocating the reintroduction of
History as a subject at SHS is that, as a country, we appear not to have recorded our history. More talking is done than writing! Consequently, issues which should have been documented as facts and taught in school tend to be subjected to debate most of which are based on speculation and wishful thinking. Indeed without written history, there is the possibility of deliberate distortion of facts for reasons best known to the distorters. Even worse, attempts could even be made to erase history!

Sir Roger Bannister
Every country has dates of significance! For example, on 6 May 1954, a twenty-five year old British medical student Roger Bannister (later the famous neurologist Sir Roger Bannister) did what was until then considered physiologically impossible for any human being at the time. He became the first man to run the one mile flat race under four minutes in a time of three minutes, fifty-nine point four seconds (3:59.4.) Until he did it, running one mile flat was considered impossible. The chances are that, but for proper recording and documentation, this hitherto impossible act of running the mile under four minutes could have been disputed and contested.

Joy or Pain
While some dates may be a source of joy, other dates would gladly be wished away, if possible. Unfortunately, history cannot be erased as a country’s advancement has events considered both positive and negative. Our country Ghana is no exception to this fact of life.

This article will discuss dates in the first quarter of the year, January to March in the past, which the writer considers worth knowing about especially by the younger generation. My start point will be Independence Day 6th March 1957.

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For ease of understanding, the dates from January to March will be treated chronologically. Thus, I will start with 6th March 1957. Similarly, the event of February 1966 will be discussed before the later date of 13th January 1972. This article is also intended to be the first of four such articles I hope to write at the end of every quarter of 2018.

6th March 1957
On 6th March 1957, the British colony of the Gold Coast became the independent state of Ghana with Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah as its first Prime Minister. Two days after independence, Ghana was admitted into the United Nations on 8th March 1957. On 1 July 1960 Ghana became a republic with Dr Nkrumah as its first President. Nkrumah’s government was overthrown in a military coup d’etat on 24th February 1966.

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24th February 1966
On 24th February 1966, the government of Ghana’s first President Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup d’etat by the commander of the Second Infantry Brigade Group headquartered in Kumasi, Colonel Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka with his Brigade Major, Major Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa. In the process, the Army Commander Maj Gen Charles Mohammed Barwah was killed for resisting arrest. This was after he had refused to join the coup makers when asked to do so by Col Kotoka. Seven soldiers guarding his house were also killed.

President Nkrumah was on his way to Hanoi, Viet Nam ostensibly to broker peace to end the Viet Nam War between the USA and Viet Nam. Declassified material released over thirty years later stated that, Gen Kotoka’s coup was masterminded by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This was corroborated by some of the agents who took part in the planning of the coup.

After the coup, an eight member military cum police commission was formed called the National Liberation Council (NLC) to run the country. They were made up of four military officers and four senior police officers. The soldiers were Gen JA Ankrah, Chairman of the NLC, Gen EK Kotoka, Gen AK Ocran and Brig AA Afrifa. The police officers were Mr JWK Harlley, Mr JEO Nunoo, Mr BA Yakubu and Mr AK Deku.

The NLC ruled Ghana from 24th February 1966 till 1 October 1969 when the Progress Party under Prime Minister Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia assumed office with Mr Justice Edward Akufo-Addo as the ceremonial president.

13th January 1972
On 13th January 1972, Lt Colonel Ignatius Kutu Akyeampong, the Acting Commander of the First Infantry Brigade Group, Accra overthrew the government of Dr Busia in a bloodless military coup d’etat. Promoting himself after the coup, Gen IK Akyeampong created a governing body the Supreme Military Council (SMC.) The SMC ruled Ghana from 9 October 1975 to 4 June 1979 when it was overthrown by some soldiers. This mutiny led to the release of Flt Lt Rawlings from detention cells where he was being tried for treason for leading an insurrection on 15th May 1979, and the formation of Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).

My appeal has not only been for History to be taught in first and second cycle institutions, but also for Civic and Moral Education to be taught as my generation was. As children growing up around independence, we were taught Civic and Moral Education in primary school. Respect for elders and authority, Integrity and Discipline were the bedrock of Civics. The current state of indiscipline and disrespect for authority got injected into the fabric of Ghanaian society sometime in our history. Without discipline, no nation can develop. The younger generation argues that it is my generation which is responsible for the indiscipline and corruption in Ghana. Some of the questions they ask are as follows.

What happened to Ghana Airways and Black Star Line? What happened to all the State Owned Entreprises (SOEs) under the Ghana Industrial Holding Coporation (GIHOC)? What happened to the Bonsa Tyre Factory, the Aboaso Glass Factory, the Volta Corned Beef Factory, the Kumasi Jute Factory, Nsawam Cannery, and the Asutuare and Komenda Sugar Factories among others?

The renowned televangelist of blessed memory Billy Graham stated that
“If Money is lost, nothing is lost
If Health is lost, something is lost
If Character is lost, all is lost.”

Using this lithmus test by the younger generation, my generation has been deemed to have failed. So far, we are not bequeathing them with the solid legacy we claim to have had from our parents, their grandparents. They are not amused by our pontifications because they believe in the saying that “what you are, shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you claim to be.” They are not proud of Accra being declared the filthiest city in the world with open defecation assuming centre stage in the country.

This article on the first quarter of the year has been on significant days in the months of January, February and March since independence on 6th March 1957.

Starting with independence on 6th March 1957, I discussed 24th February 1966 which saw the overthrow of President Nkrumah by Gen Kotoka. It was a bloody coup with casualties including the Army Commander Maj Gen CM Barwah and seven soldiers who were guarding his residence. This coup marked the beginning of coups and counter coups which subsequently has littered Ghana’s political landscape.

On 13th January 1972, then Lt Col IK Akyeampong overthrew the government of Prime Minister Dr KA Busia in a bloodless coup. His supreme Military Council ruled Ghana until 4th June 1979 when it was also overthrown by Flt Lt Rawlings in the bloodiest coup in Ghana’s history.

My next article on this subject in early July 2018 will cover past significant dates in Ghana in the second quarter of April May and June. We have been told that, at sixty plus, Ghana has not done as well as we should have. Currently, Accra’s filth can compete any of the capitals at the time 0f arrival in the war-torn countries our troops go to keep peace in! Montesquieu stated that “where too much talking is done, too little thinking is done.” Let us stop insulting each other and think to develop the only country most of us have.

“God bless our homeland Ghana
And make us great and strong”

Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA)
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1 April 2018