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40th anniversary of Odartey-Wellington’s death observed

BY: Mark-Anthony Vinorkor

A ceremony has been organised to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Major-General Neville Alexander Odartey-Wellington, a former Chief of Army Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).

Major-General Odartey-Wellington was killed on June 4, 1979 in a failed attempt to quell a mutiny by junior officers and men of the GAF.

The ceremony last Saturday in Accra was marked by a church service, laying of wreaths on the grave of Major-General Odartey-Wellington, a reception at which tributes were paid by family members, friends and former military officers who knew him.

Preaching the sermon, Rev. Frank Ala Adjetey said Major-General Odartey-Wellington demonstrated great love for his country by attempting to prevent chaos and bloodshed and paid the ultimate price for it.

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He laid emphasis on love, forgiveness, humility and prayer and said constant communication with God was necessary for all Christians to ensure a manifestation of the will of God in their lives.

A former Commanding Officer of the Fifth Battalion of Infantry, Rev. Lt. Col (retd) Kwasi Oteng described Major-General Odartey-Wellington as a disciplined soldier and a man of integrity.

According to him, the late Major-General knew that the action he was embarking on could result in his death but could not sit down without doing anything about the mutiny.

"If he had not died on that day, Ghana would have been worse off. He was a sacrificial lamb," he said.

Lt Col. Oteng urged Ghanaians to emulate the dedication to duty, honesty, integrity and love for country of Major-General Odartey-Wellington, adding, "Let the lessons he left behind be enshrined in our hearts."

Tributes

Reading a tribute on behalf of the children, Mr Michael Odartey-Wellington, a son of the late General, said 40 years after his death his children still treasured memories he shared with them.

"Although Daddy inculcated in us a strong awareness of his work and current affairs in general, we probably did not grasp the enormity of the responsibilities he carried in a fast-paced career that spanned both military and state leadership,"he said.

A former Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro, Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe, recounted his encounters with Major-General Odartey-Wellington and said due to his integrity and dedication to duty, he was affectionately referred to by a former Head of State, Gen I.K. Acheampong and his close friends as "Soldier-hene" and "Soldier-mantse."

He said Major-General Odartey-Wellington was a man of great courage who did the unthinkable by leading the troops himself to put an end to the putsch, and added that he "always got his hands dirty" by performing tasks which sometimes were outside his scope.

Brutal murder

A former aide-de-camp of the slain army commander, Capt. (retd) Emmanuel Opoku who was present when he was killed, said he had lived with the memory of the tragic event for the past 40 years.

He recalled the arrival of a truckload of soldiers at the Nima Police Station where he was with the General, the sudden heavy and intense gunfire from the soldiers, the refusal of the soldiers to allow medical help for the wounded Odartey-Wellington and his execution by the soldiers.

He wondered why no befitting memorial or monument had been erected in the name of the slain soldier.

"I returned to Ghana to learn that an obscure tennis court tucked away at the Army Mess has been named after him. Surely the General deserves a better memorial.

He deserves to be ranked alongside General Kotoka and General Bawa. Both died in their attempt to quell a mutiny and have been properly honoured.

“General Odartey-Wellington deserves to have his name bestowed on one of the military institutions. The army was his life and he fought and died in its defence," he said.