Fifty years ago today, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana was on his way to Hanoi Vietnam to resolve the Vietnam war when he was overthrown through a military and police coup d’état in which the key figures were Col E.K. Kotoka, Major A.A. Afrifa and Inspector General of Police J.W.K. Harlley.
The Soldiers led by Lt. Col. Emmanuel Kotoka and Major Akwasi Afrifa made sure Nkrumah did not make a return trip to Ghana and to power again.
Major Afrifa who played a significant role in the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah made a revelation before his death on how Nkrumah and the CPP was removed from power .
A few days after our eventful trip to the north,, I visited: Colonel Kotoka in his house and we conversed about Nkrumah’s forthcoming visits to Hanoi. We agreed that during his absence, a coup should be staged. It seemed that the colonel had been thinking about a coup for some time. He was so happy that we stayed up until the early hours of the morning drinking beer and making plans. I felt so relieved and ecxited on my return from the colonel’s house .that I could not sleep that night. The following morning he called me to his office and put certain facts before me to enable us to assess the situation.Without wasting time, the colonel went to Accra to meet Mr Harrley, then commissioner of police. The broad plan of the coup was drafted In Colonel Kotoka’s office at Kwadaso in Kumasi.After this, the Colonel and I swore to each other that in the event of anything happening to either of us, the one left alive,would see the coup through.The colonel told me that if he was killed, or captured in Accra,In the course of our preparation,I should continue with our Mission and carry it through to the end. .So far as I know, the only other person who knew the details of the plan was Mr Harrley whom I had not met at that point. We all agreed that Major-Gen Ankrah should lead our Revolutionary government.
I was Colonel Kotoka’s Brigade Major,and his staff officer in charge of training and operations. Whatever contribution. I made to this exercise was on my Commander’s orders.But I would not say this if the Coup had failed. I was prepared to take my place at the gallows and leave my name in history..
To us the exercise commenced at 04.00 hours on Wednesday 23rd February 1966 when 600 men representing all the units in our Garrison, at Tamale started moving. They were moving to the south and to an unknown destination for a test exercise in connection with the Rhodesian operation.Since November 1965, we had been in the high state of readiness to move into Rhodesia at short notice.We exploited this situation to deceive the intelligence system.
Colonel Kotoka and I met the troops between Ejura and Atebubu at 12 hours,and there I was left in Command while he proceeded to Accra to confirm to Mr Harrley and Brigadier Ocran that the exercise was going ahead,
Meanwhile, Major Coker- Appiah, my trusted friend from Sandhurst, Had been assigned responsibility for the arrest of the director of Military Intelligence, Brigadier Hasan, and the Commander of P.O.G.R, Colonel Zanerigu, before the H-hour. The arrest of the late Major -General Barwah was a seperate exercise. The director of MI surrendered on orders, and the P.O.G.R Commander escaped through a window.As for Barwah, he resisted arrest most unwisely and thereby compelled an officer to adopt other methods which he himself knew would be adopted if he was stubborn.
By 06.00hrs on on 24th February the Accra police had rounded up most of the Ministers.
Not a single shot was fired at the Castle.At the Flagstaff house, our casualties would have been very heavy if the opposition had been trained properly, and by this time most of our men were wounded
We captured the Ghana Radio Station without much incident and at 05.25 hours we were in full control of the studios. I went on radio and asked the now awakened Ghanaians to stay by the radios for important announcement at 6 a.m.,and I told them, there would not be the usual news.
Just before six o’clock, Colonel Kotoka arrived at the radio station.He shook my hand and said “Well-done, Akwasi”.He then went on air and in these words told the nation what had happened.
“Fellow citizens of Ghana, I have come to inform you that the military in co-operation with the Ghana Police, have taken over the government of Ghana today. The Myth surrounding Nkrumah has been broken. Parliament is dissolved and Kwame Nkrumah is dismissed from Office. All ministers are also dismissed. The CPP is disbanded with effect from now. It is illegal for any person to belong to it.
We appeal to you to be calm and cooperative; all persons in detention will be released in due course. Please stay by your radios and await further details
Thus, for the first time we told Ghanaians and the whole World what we had done. This in brief, heralded our new era.
At Kumasi, a funny incident happened..At the end of Colonel Kotoka’s broadcast, the Ashantis flocked to the bars drinking and singing the praise of the Armed Forces. Then someone said,”You don’t know Kwame Nkrumah. This is one of his wicked plans to test the loyalty of the masses. He wants to find out who is with him,and deal with those who are not” And as if they had been ordered to disperse at gun point, the gathering crowd disintegrated as they run into their houses, This was at Ashanti New Town, one of the United Party’s strongholds..
Our coup has been described elsewhere as one of the Ashanti invasions. If indeed it was, we hope this will be the last. This description is correct to the extent that the coup was planned in Kumasi by Colonel Kotoka and Mr Harlley and myself. But Colonel Kotoka and Mr Harlley are not Ashantis.. The Ashantis and the Ewes, their tribes, are, however, traditional allies.