Who benefited from our first coup d’etat 50 years ago?

February 3, 2016 • Editor's Choice, Opinions

My readers will notice right away that I have altered the title of the second part of my three-part series on the 50th anniversary of our first and successful coup in this country in 1966.

They should not take it amiss because it is important to convey to my readers the reason for choosing this otherwise nondescript event in world history for special attention. But we are Ghanaians, and the coup, and the story before and after, affected us in many noticeable ways, and still do.

Therefore to cut the chase, I go straight to who and what benefited from this significant event in our politics and which in turn, have helped to shape in significant ways, the period after up to today.

Correction and apology

But before I proceed, allow me to make an abject, profuse apology for a serious factual error in part one of the series. I had sallied forth in supreme confidence that the author of the book I had cited with approval, ‘’Operation Cold Chop’’, the Rev. Peter Barker, had passed away only recently. Peter Barker is very much alive. I must thank Dr Menno Wolters, based in Tamale, for first drawing my attention to this grave error of fact. Thank you, Dr Wolters, and to all the devoted readers of this column who drew my attention to this.

Police/Army collaboration

Now to the meal for today. I did not list all those who took part in the conspiracy, planning execution and actual operations that day, because of space, but suffice it to say that when Colonel Kotoka said the Armed Forces of Ghana, in his first announcement, as an institution, and the police, also an institution, had co-operated to overthrow the

Nkrumah regime, he was speaking the absolute truth. Except a handful of officers, the whole armed forces apparatus had taken part in one stage or another of the coup, guaranteeing its eventual success.

Not only that, Geoffrey Bing, who had been the Constitutional Advisor to President Nkrumah and attorney-general, made a startling disclosure in his book on his sojourn in

Ghana before the coup, that several of the officers involved in the coup had been named in the first unsuccessful attempt in 1958, that is what became known in our jargon as the Congo Junction Affair, and which produced the second most important report of a commission of inquiry in this country, the Granville Sharp Report, also known as the

Awhaitey Report! Of course, this is my own shorthand when studying the matter that the Watson Report of 1948, the Awhaitey Report of 1959 and the SIB Report of 1984, constitute veritable source documents on Ghanaian history from about 1945 to 1992.

Immediately one realises this interconnectedness of the 1958 attempt and the 1966 event, one can then appreciate the deeper significance of the first coup, and who and what benefited from it in this polity up to today. Of course, this does not take away the fact that as a confirmed Man of the Left, Geoffrey Bing, naturally sees conspiracy everywhere in all political activity! Indeed, his convictions worked against him when he returned to Britain after the coup and applied to return to the House of Commons as a Labour MP! He was debarred because his name was on the Red List for his pro-Stalinist activities in 1936 to 1939 during the Spanish Civil War!

Peter Barker’s records

This excursion is important because Peter Barker records in his book that Colonel Kotoka addressed the troops at dawn at the Dodowa junction on the day, February 24, 1966, in the company of Captain Kwashie who was named in Part One, and Colonel Tevie, whose name appears in the Awhaitey Report as Lieutenant Tevie in 1959! As would be recalled the failed attempt of 1958 resulted in a political farce when the three-man commission disagreed on the seriousness of the effort, Nana Sir Tsibu Darku with MA Charles writing a separate majority report of two members making the case for a coup and the chairman, Granville Sharp, writing the minority report that nothing substantial could have resulted from their examination of the evidence!

That of course crippled the supposed intent of Nkrumah to make an example of the 1958 conspirators, who were thrown into preventive custody till after the successful coup of 1966 when they were all freed. Now you may be asking yourself what happened to my original intent to disclose the significance and beneficiaries of the coup? Close readers of part one will recall I did exactly that in part one. Everything fits into something in the past but that does not mean inevitability.

I have skipped the details of what happened in the Nkrumah regime which made the coup justified, and will skip the details of what was done by the National Liberation Council which replaced the Nkrumah regime from February 1966 to September 1969 when that military regime handed over power to the Progress Party government of Dr

Kofi Busia. Not that the details do not matter, but the argument for ending in a particular way rather than the other is strengthened by the exact nature of the effect, and what that effect owed to previous events.

Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia

Dr Busia, whose government succeeded the NLC, had returned from exile after the coup to become vice chairman of the political committee of the NLC, and became also the chairman of the Centre for Civic Education, a body set up by the NLC to return the country to the values of democratic government. Busia had left for exile in 1959 in the wake of the events following the 1958 attempted coup and the expected publication of the Sharp Report. It is instructive that the day-to-day activities of the centre were co-ordinated by Samuel Odoi-Sykes, who later became the MP for Odododiodoo in the third Republic of Dr Limann.

But the NLC left a three-man presidential commission to act as the President of this country pending the election of a President. The commission comprised Akwasi

Amankwaa Afrifa as chairman, Ocran and Harlley, who were all mentioned in my first part as part of the 1966 coup. Afrifa had become chairman of the NLC in early 1969 after the original chair, General J.A Ankrah, had resigned in the wake of a corruption scandal involving a Nigerian businessman, Francis Arthur Nzeribe.

When finally the NLC baby, the presidential commission, left office, it was replaced by a sole President of Ghana elected by a special electoral college. The person elected was Edward Akufo-Addo, who was chief justice at the time. Not only that, he was one of the Big Six leading lights of the UGCC in 1947 and remained in frontline politics up till the demise of the UGCC in 1951. But more significantly, President Akufo-Addo had become the chairman of the constitutional commission of the NLC, which collated and drew up proposals for the second Republic constitution under which Dr Busia exercised power. The secretaries of this commission were the civil servants EAB Mayne and Dr

Hilla Limann who became our President in 1979. In addition, and most significant, President Akufo-Addo was the chairman of the political committee of the NLC whose vice was Dr Busia.


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