02.03.2002 Feature Article

Why Afrifa Could Not Have Been My Hero

Why Afrifa Could Not Have Been My Hero
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“On reflection, I cannot see why anybody worries whether Jerry Rawlings was in agreement with his colleagues on AFRC to kill or not to kill Afrifa. Let it be known that Afrifa did not have mercy on a fellow military officer on Feb. 24, 1966, when he sanctioned the killing of Brigadier Bawah, Commander of the Presidential Guard and some members of his household.” This statement attracted vile comments from almost all readers who reacted in writing to my commentary on a public exchange between Lt. Gen. Hamidu, Ghana’s National Security Advisor and Mr. Tony Aidoo, former deputy minister of defence in the government of Pres. Jerry Rawlings. (Ref.: “In the Matter of Hamidu v. Tony Aidoo”, Feature article, By way of explanation, the statement in dispute was my comment about one of the issues Hamidu and Tony Aidoo were gripping about: that is, whether or not Jerry Rawlings supported the decision that resulted in the killing of Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa by firing squad. I stated in the earlier commentary that on the basis of conversations with individuals associated closely with the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, AFRC, regime, Jerry Rawlings was opposed to the killing of Afrifa. This point is not meant to hold brief for Rawlings or the AFRC. What needs to be clarified as the fact of this matter is that the decision to kill Afrifa, among others, was a collective one and as the chairman of the Council, Rawlings cannot be exculpated from blame for the action. After all, Jerry Rawlings has claimed credit for having made two coups, even though that happens to be fictitious, according to my thinking. Every fish rots from the head, right? In the wee hours of the morning of February 24, 1966, when Major A. A. Afrifa cornered unarmed, non-combatant, Brigadier Bawah and members of his household, he (Afrifa) had options available to him besides shooting them to death. The least Afrifa could have done was to have arrested, detained and interrogated Bawah as was done with other unit commanders of the Ghana Armed Forces. There must have been some other reason why Afrifa took the instant rash action he did in the case of Bawah. Did Afrifa execute Bawah because of complaints by some officers of the Ghana army, including Col. Emmanuel Kotoka, Afrifa’s coup-making compatriot, that Bawah had been promoted ahead of other senior officers? Or did Afrifa do what he did to Bawah because he hated the fact that the Presidential Guard unit was better equipped and clothed than the rest of the army personnel? What ever was Afrifa’s rational for behaving as cowardly as he did by shooting Bawah cold-bloodedly, he could not be my hero, dead or alive. Quite frankly, as a Ghanaian, I want to reiterate, consistent with the level of my sense of patriotism, that I don’t care one Cedi to know who, by what, when, where, why and how Afrifa was killed. Besides the wanton murder of Brigadier Bawah and the people in his household, soldiers included, there are other reasons Afrifa did not endear himself to me. In principle, I hold in disdain any military person who overthrows a constitutionally existing government. In this category I include Afrifa, Kotoka, Kutu Acheampong and Jerry Rawlings, inglorious defenders of Ghana’s Constitution. The reason is, “It is not the role of the military to rule a country,” President Kwame Nkrumah said as much in the parliament of Ghana soon after some undisciplined men in uniform overthrew the government of Nigeria in 1965. Successful military coup makers, out of haste, hardly ever have a plan of action to project the interest of society as a whole. Often, after-the-fact rhetoric and programs following a coup are directed towards consolidation of power without regard for the effects of outcomes on the population as a whole. Findings from available scholarly research indicate that in general soldiers who have overthrown governments in post-colonial Africa have done so out of personal grievances; not the interest of the military institution or of society. Evidence in Afrifa’s book, Ghana: The 24th February Coup (actually started by Prof. Kofi Awoonor and finished by Prof. K. A. Busia) corroborates findings of the research into coup-making in Africa. One important piece of evidence which Afrifa left out of his book, the one that solidifies my contemptuous view of him and those who continue to worship him, is the fact that he and Kotoka were bought and paid for by foreign agents to commit a willful act of treason against the state they had sworn, as professional men in uniform, to defend against external enemies. Kotoka and Afrifa peddled their professional integrity, albeit for a pittance, precisely because no amount of money paid them by agents of United States Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, could compensate for the injury done to the Ghanaian society as a result of the Feb. 24, 1966 coup. I am not making up the story about the fact that CIA agents paid Afrifa and Kotoka to overthrow the first government of the First Republic of Ghana, headed by Pres. Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory. One day in 1978, I sat across a table from John Stockwell at an event to launch his new book, In Search of Enemies. Stockwell was a retired CIA agent who at one point was the resident regional director of the Agency based at Angola. I looked straight into Stockwell’s eyes and asked him if Kotoka and Afrifa received money to execute the 1966 coup in Ghana. To my utter surprise, Stockwell responded to my question in the affirmative. I had a chill when Stockwell explained that the deal with the two gentlemen was so easy there was no need for the local agents to inform their bosses in Washington, DC or seek permission from the White House; a case of “willing buyer, willing seller.” Do you remember, “Operation Cold Chop”? After the formal launching of his book, I followed Mr. Stockwell to the outside of the old African Studies Program building on the campus of Howard University. I asked him if he would tell me the amount of money paid to Kotoka and Afrifa, “What I can tell you is that they were paid, but I can’t tell you how much,” Stockwell responded. Given my knowledge of this information, does anybody expect me to rollover for Afrifa to walk over me like he is some kind of a hero? To all intents and purposes, Kotoka and Afrifa were national traitors; they betrayed Ghana’s political independence and freedom from colonization. Indeed, the attitude and conduct of Kotoka and Afrifa had negative reverberating effect on the course of total independence and development of Africa, on the continent and in the Diaspora. On top of the CIA money, Afrifa promoted himself from the rank of a Major to Lieutenant General within three years, an act that became obvious laughing stock among self-respecting military personnel around the world and at home. Rather than take umbrage at Kotoka and Afrifa’s sellout and their nation-wrecking behavior, some of their worshippers had the temerity reserved for mortified cockroaches to chastise me for merely speaking plainly. In most instances in the zeal to score undeserving points some respondents threw logic out of the window, replaced only with fuzzy thinking. Check this out: “I do not support military coups but Afrifa’s coup was welcomed because Ghanaians couldn’t stand the one party state of Dr. Nkrumah,” wrote Yaw B…. Anybody wise enough to not support military coups must be brave and honest to dislike all of them, including the one by Afrifa. Would the Afrifa exception apply if a declaration were made that Ghanaians could not stand a two party state? Kwame Nkrumah worked with the Constitution of Ghana and won elections; granted that he was fallible with respect to some political decisions and actions. Majority of respondents to the article under discussion leave the impression that I had a deliberate intent of bashing Tony Aidoo in defense of Gen. Hamidu. I wonder what reason and benefit I could derive from defending Hamidu or attacking Aidoo. The familiarity I have of Hamidu and Aidoo begins and ends with the fact that they have both been associated with public office in Ghana. As a journalist, I see it as my role in society to defend the ruled against the excesses of the rulers. The point I wanted to hammer home in the Hamidu and Tony Aidoo brouhaha is that the National Security Advisor should not waste the taxpayers’ time and space in engaging in petty squabbles with an out of power politician seeking to regain former glories and perquisites. By attempting to do my duty as a journalist, this is what Kwame A… wrote about me and my comments, “You are just one of the servants of the present government hired to throw dust into the eyes of Ghanaians, however, it is clear the issue being discussed is above your comprehension, we saw what happened, maybe you heard it or read it.” I may not know everything or anything yet I crave my right to make my opinion known to anybody who is not coerced to listen. For the crime that I have committed, Kwame A… warned, “Do not forget in your service to your messiah, that, just as the previous government, they are not perfect and must be criticized for the well being of Ghana not for your pocket. “Only time will tell what kind of treatment you and your lords will receive after you are out of office, (italics mine). “Do not forget there is more to the security of Ghana than Hamidu, we want Ghana to remain peaceful but people like you must be careful of your statements even if it is just for you to fill your pocket.” What excites me about this respondent’s vituperations is the idea that I am a paid agent provocateur for the present government of Ghana. The fact is I have not seen a check from the government to date and would want to solicit Kwame’s assistance in collecting the back pay; he’ll get a cut, by all means, I promise.
I have taken time and space to reproduce the attitude of some Ghanaians with regard to public discourse as Ghana experiments with democratic ideals. Free speech, to my thinking, ought to be one of the pillars of democratic principles that need to be ingrained in Ghanaians if progress is to be made in the course of national advancement. To see the carrier of an opposing view as an enemy to be threatened is downright silly and untenable in anybody’s civilization.

As for the nonsense about what is going to happen to me when there is a change of government, I can say that I have lived through Convention Peoples Party, CPP, to New Patriotic Party, NPP and have accumulated 33 years of news writing experience and have heard a lot of asinine comments. What I want to say in this regard is “I don’t fear huute!”

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