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Leadership: Wg Cdr Andy Mensah @80!

BY: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
The General Ershine Research and Documentation Centre
The General Ershine Research and Documentation Centre

In my recent article titled “Give me my flowers while I can smell them”, I appealed to Ghanaians to make Ghanaians they admire know of their admiration for them because of their contributions to life locally, nationally or internationally.

I added that we should not wait till they lie stiff in their “chop-box”, as my son called his grandpa's casket, before heaping praises on them. I concluded the article with the quote below.

“Has Ghana honoured our deserving heroes?”

In September 2001, Zimbabwe's Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa (CPIA) honoured the first African United Nations Force Commander, Ghana's General EA Erskine, by naming a centre after him called the “General Erskine Research and Documentation Centre” (GERDC.) With his death in 2021, hopefully a monument will be named after him posthumously.

However, there is a waiting opportunity to honour Ghana's second UN Force Commander and former Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Seth Obeng, while he is alive.

While there certainly are others, I have restricted myself only to the institution I know well: the military.


As Bob Cole said, multitudinous platitudes heaped during thanksgiving services mean nothing to the deceased as they lie stiff in the “chop-box”, as a little boy called his grandfather's casket!.

While they are alive, let us give deserving individuals the recognition, praise and honour for their contributions to Ghana/humanity, and also to encourage the younger generation to make sacrifices, in the words:

“Give me my flowers while I can still smell them.”

Indeed, when I wrote this article, little did I think that only a week later, I would be at the Aviation Social Centre, Accra on a rainy Saturday, October 1, 2022 afternoon to witness copious tributes eulogising Wing Commander Andy Mensah (Retd). So, who is he?

Andy @80

A product of Mfantsipim School (MOBA 1961), he enlisted in the Ghana Armed Forces as an Officer Cadet in 1963. He was commissioned in 1965 into the Ghana Air Force and won the Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah Award for the best trainee pilot on commission as a Second-Lieutenant.

A Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) as the then Maj. Mensah was in 1976, he headed the Flight Training School, Takoradi where Ghana's Air Force pilots are trained. At the time, the Air Force used Army ranks until the change in 1978.

Not surprisingly, with his instructors Capt. Awuku, Capt. Mante, Capt. Quaison, etc, he produced former Chiefs of Air Staff (CAS) such as Air Marshal Samson-Oje, AVM Nagai, Gp Capt. Forjoe and Sqn Ldr Ebo-Bartels.

Wg Cdr Mensah was one of the first Ghanaian officers to graduate from the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji-Kaduna in the early 1980s.

He honourably retired from the Ghana Armed Forces in 1983.

He would for the next six years serve as the Director-General, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). Subsequently, he worked as the Director-General, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) headquartered in Dakar, Senegal.

In all the appointments, he excelled as a leader with an unmatched sense of humour in defusing difficult situations! Subordinates felt very comfortable under his leadership and, therefore, gave their best.

Ceremony

At the ceremony dubbed “Andy @80”, Wg Cdr Andy Mensah celebrated his 80th birthday in style! Looking half his age, the retired Air Force Pilot Instructor thrilled family and friends with his dancing skills partnered by his wife Auntie Marian. Their five adult children with their spouses and grandchildren were there to support them.

It was gratifying to see his family, MOBA 1961/younger MOBA, retired Air-Marshals/Generals and senior officers of the Ghana Armed Forces, Ghana Military Academy Intake 7, Flight Training School (FTS), Takoradi, Holy Child Past Students Association (HOPSA) and his church, Garrison-Methodist Presbyterian Church (GMPC), Burma Camp all there to eulogise Wg Cdr Mensah.

We were regaled to good music by the Harmonious Chorale and the Air Force Band.

Probably the icing on the ‘musical-cake' was provided by Bessa Simons and Kofi Kinaata (King Arthur) who got us all on the floor to exhibit our dancing skills.

Discussion

Coming only a week after my appeal to honour our heroes while they are alive, honouring Wg Cdr Mensah was particularly heart-warming. The Guest of Honour, the Chief of Air Staff, further promised that very soon, Wg Cdr Mensah would be invited to the Air Force Headquarters where his name would be “engraved in gold” with a monument named after him in recognition of his selfless service to Ghana, Africa and the world. He added that similar recognition would be given deserving officers.

Charity, it is said, begins at home! The Air Force has set the pace! Knowing the Navy, they are coming slowly and steadily, but surely.

I guess the Army has already warmed up to give the first African UN Force Commander Gen. Erskine a posthumous recognition soon, and also our second Force Commander of UNIFIL, Gen, Seth Obeng, who is very alive.

Once again, Ghanaians in positions of authority, please do not leave recognition to institutions only! Our heroes must be nationally recognised. That way, when the question “is Ghana worth dying for?” is asked, an answer can readily be given!

Remember the saying quoted last week, “Give me the flowers while I can still smell them!”

Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!

The writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra.