Doing a regular column is no easy undertaking. Sometimes, settling on a theme or subject alone, can be as intellectually and creatively taxing as writing out the detailed article. I was in that kind of state of mind this past Thursday, and was about to put it down to a writer’s drought and give up, when inspiration landed on my laps!
It came in the form of a retired Lt. Colonel of the Ghana Army. He had called me in an agitated tone of voice, which I guessed may have ended up as a lament or even dirge – not in short supply in these days of the Kyebi mafia!
“My brother”, he thundered, “what are they doing to our armed forces?!” Not knowing what he was referring to, I waited for details, suspecting it was yet again some outrage perpetrated by a soldier or soldiers. It wasn’t.
“When was it ever part of a soldier’s duty to carry the files and other documents of a civilian lawyer to court?” Not sure what to say, I held my silence and allowed him to proceed.
“Have you not seen the picture trending on social media showing an almost battle-ready soldier escorting one of Nana Addo’s lawyers to the supreme court?” Not much of a social media trawler myself, true, I had not seen it and I responded with a “no”. He then promised to forward it to me and launched into such a piteous lament of “What are these people doing to this country?”, I could not help but empathize with his pain. It was clear that he loved, adored and respected the uniform he used to wear when he was in active service and was now totally scandalized by its desecration. I understood his pain alright because I lived in Burma Camp for a while and hobnobbed with soldiers – officers and ORs – and came to recognize the two things a soldier must not compromise on: rank and uniform. In their own unique sub-cultures, the military have developed hierarchies to handle their vertical and horizontal relationships.
A king, queen or head of state may have an equerry in addition to an Aide-de-Camp (ADC), all military or in certain cases, police personnel. Then there will be the discreet or overt bodyguards, in the US, selected from the Secret Service. ADCs are not restricted to only a Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), but also to very senior service commanders or command holders, for example Army Commander, etc. Following strict military traditions and discipline, embedded in the structure are adjutants, PAs (Personal Assistants), all the way down to an orderly to an ordinary officer’s batman. That is the string that sews together what in the end becomes the spirit de corps.
I do recall that the current CDS, that is, Chief of the Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Obed Akwa, was PA to the Minister of Defence, Dr. Addo-Kufuor, in the early years of the first Kufuor administration, while Naval Commander Eshun served as President Kufuor’s first ADC. Colonel (later Brigadier) Adjei served as ADC to President Kufuor when Eshun was redeployed. After Brigadier Adjei’s retirement, Dr. Addo-Kufuor passed on his PA, Col. Akwa, to his senior brother, the president. Col Akwa’s career zoomed from then on as he gained promotion from the Mills/Mahama, presidency rising in rank to Major General to head the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre, Teshie, Accra. In 2017, he was made CDS and promoted to Lt. General thus become the top man of Ghana’s military. He retires this year. Was he NDC or NPP? I don’t know, because he enjoyed the patronage of both parties.
I also do recall that when President Mahama was Vice President, his ADC was selected from the police with the rank of Superintendent. The two must have developed a strong working bond that, when JM succeeded President Mills as president, he moved with his police ADC at the vice presidency to the presidency. But the system would not have it and the policeman was dropped and replaced with a military man carrying the rank of naval commander. The late J.J. Rawlings initially had a Warrant Officer (W.O. Tetteh) by his side, perhaps due to his own junior air force captain’s rank, but even he had to acquiesce later when my friend Captain “Pataku” became his ADC.
During major parades like Independence Day, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) together with the CDS act as joint ADCs to the president to review the troops. In “Trooping the Colour”, the head of state, if a civilian, must acknowledge with a bow or if a military man, with a salute. These are time-honoured protocols that are not to be trifled with.
And so if today, you find a soldier meekly being exploited by a civilian in a partisan political fashion, you can well imagine the chagrin of military purists like the Lt. Col who called me to lament the loss of the honour and dignity of the uniform. He forwarded the picture to me above with comments (deleted) already provided. In parting, he more or less commanded me to “expose how these people are compromising and politicizing the armed forces.”
Later, I mused, asking myself, what other vital institution of state have “these people” not compromised – even the supreme court where the lawyer was heading to! With this civilian lawyer and his military manservant, a number of questions arise: Is he a real soldier or one of the vigilante thugs forced into our military and police by Akufo Addo? Which unit does he belong to? Did his commanding officer sanction such a deployment and which budget is the deployment being charged to? And if he is not a real soldier, where did he get that uniform from and what is he doing battle-ready on the supreme court premises escorting a civilian lawyer representing Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo in a petition against the outcome of the 2020 presidential election? Was it meant to intimidate the lawyers representing the petitioner, cow the justices sitting on the petition or yet another expression of the kind of impunity to show where power lies?
Still fresh in our memory banks would be the incident near Michel Camp, Tema, late last year when a Warrant Officer (WO) of the Ghana Army, in full military uniform was arrested and humiliated by a group styling itself as “national security” personnel – a civilian outfit. In fact, why go that far? One of the most disturbing defining images of the 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic in the opening week of 2021, was when the House was invaded by heavily armed soldiers when the new parliament was debating the choice of a new Speaker. Who ordered them to attempt what amounted to an attempted insurrection? Their presence in so brazen a fashion is yet to be investigated. A colonel or brigadier-general’s name has come up but so far neither parliament, the government nor the military authorities have hauled him in for questioning. The Michel Camp incident has also fizzled out. There are many other incidents recorded when our military personnel have been drafted in to take part in nefarious activities like galamsay! But what for me shows our soldiers at their lowest level of disrespect are images showing Madam Jean Mensa, who after messing up Election 2020 is now misusing personnel of the Ghana Army as her bodyguards. Our soldiers deserve better!
If one may ask: Is the military high command concerned as others are and advising the appropriate authorities accordingly about the misuse of our men and women in uniform? The GAF has been one of our reliable, impartial and professional institutions, earning it top marks in UN peacekeeping assignments all over the world. We must preserve this well known and enviable standard of professionalism, especially here at home.
Why have we so readily, in recent times sought to cheapen our institutions of state, including our armed forces, which should always remain “Kunlum Shiri”* and ready to jump to the defense of the state and not pandere to the ego of a little wannabe dictator wallowing in the intoxicating haze of crass partisan politics? The soldier in our truly professional soldiers boils up in anger at such humiliation, which if care is not taken, could boil over… Enough is enough!We do not need to go there again! What is this koraa?!
*Hausa for “Always Ready” which was/is the motto of one of the brigades of the Ghana Army.