The Cockroach is no more

They called him Gbagbladza. It is an Eve word meaning ‘Cockroach’. I do not know how he acquired that name. What I do know is that controversy followed him wherever he went. As a junior military officer during the Nkrumah regime, Mr. Kojo Tsikata was part of a military regiment sent to Congo from Ghana, under the instructions of Major General Joseph Ananti Ankrah.

The standard instruction from Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was for the Ghanaian contingent to protect Mr. Patrice Lumumba, who was widely recognised as the Pan Africanist Prime Minister of the new emerging Congo.

Later reports indicated that he visited Guinea at the time the former Head of State of Ghana was in exile there. He was arrested and put on death row alleged to be plotting an assassination on the then co-President of Guinea.

First reports indicated that Mr. Samora Machel intervened personally, travelling to Guinea, to seek his release. Mr. Tsikata had arrived in Angola earlier in 1964, when he joined the then Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – MPLA) freedom fighters.

In the scheme of things, it has always been difficult to conceptualise how he lost the honour of his service title. Gbagbladza became an ex-Captain indicating that the honour of service had been taken away. He remained an ex-Captain until the confused era of the Provisional National Defence Council, when he became a member of the ruling oligarchy and National Security Capo.

A terse statement signed by Mr. Fui Tsikata, a Law Lecturer with a long practice at the University of Ghana, Legon, and Colonel Joshua Agbutui (Rtd), said: “The family of Captain KojoTsikata (Rtd) regrets to announce his passing in the early hours of Saturday, 20th November, 2021. He was 85. In accordance with his wishes, the family will be making arrangements for a private family funeral.”

Death is the inevitable end of all mankind. It is commanded on all living things to die. The passing of Mr. Tsikata serves a lesson on all of us to remember that there would come a time when the mouth that commanded other human beings to prostrate before our powers, would be permanently sealed.

Kojo Tsikata was not an ordinary man. As the security capo at the time the men on horseback descended into our body politic and determined our fate, he was an extraordinary person.

It is not my intention to pay the kind of tributes that have very little bearing on the life and deeds of the departed. My intention is to recall, in as brief as possible, what I have come to know about the man who certainly was the longest servicing security capo this nation has ever had. Not many Ghanaians might have fond memories of the man who stood astride the security of the state like a colossus. The first time I heard of that name, I was in the secondary school. The Congo crisis was the dominant issue in Africa.

It was during the era of the re-diffusion box. At Suhum Secondary Technical School, I was always in the Guest Room before half past five in the morning. “Apedwa Radio Na Erefre Yi. Osagyefo Se Oma Mo Akye O.” The programme content of the day then followed.

There was time devoted to the Congo crisis, the Angolan and Mozambican movements and what was considered Pan-African issues. As usual, news about Fidel Castro and the ability to stand up against American imperialism was paramount. It was that time that I learned about ex-Captain Tsikata and his socialists activities.

Kojo T seemed to have faded out of the memory until my days at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, when student activism, especially with the Student Movement on African Unity (SMAU), engaged several discussions on socialism, involving the dismantling of apartheid and other Pan African issues.

I have never been a socialist. My friend, Kwesi Pratt, used to harangue me as a capitalist.  Kwesi was the President of the Students Representative Council, and I was the General Secretary. On occasions, we argued for a whole night over the opening sentences in our letter to institutions, both locally and internationally. Kwesi wanted all the isms in the opening sentences.

It was as at that time that Kojo T surfaced again. For a considerable period during the Kutu Acheampong regime, Gbagbladza complained of harassment and intimidation; claiming that security officers were following him and a group of friends all over the place.

The understanding from state security was that the ex-Captain had been fingered in several destabilising plots against the state. He was arrested, detained, and released on a number of occasions until the June 4 insurrection by junior officers and the other ranks. Even then Kojo did not play any leading role in the administration, until Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings handed over the baton to the Limann administration, and served notice that the military was right around the corner.

From the hand-over to the coup on December 31, 1981, news of the security services following Kojo T and Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings on suspicion of plotting another coup did the rounds in almost all security briefings. Kojo T and Rawlings were sighted on the University of Ghana campus at Legon on several occasions trying to seek students’ collaboration for a coup.

My good friend, the late Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, alias Sir John, and a group of student leaders even went to the Castle at the time to meet then Vice-President Joe W. De Graft-Johnsonto inform him about what was happening.

Instead of working on the leads, the Vice-President brought in the late Mr. Krobo Edusei, Political Adviser to the regime at the time, who threatened the student leadership with a trumped-up card of coming to solicit for cash from the Presidency.

Barely two weeks after the students encounter with the top political brass, the military struck again, with Jerry John Rawlings leading from the front, and Kojo Tsikata taking over as security capo. From then, ordinary Ghanaians knew no peace. Ordinary folks were slaughtered in their numbers.

From the various barracks news broke of soldiers being hunted and killed. When Corporal Halidu Gyiwa attempted a coup d’état with eight men in track suits in June 1982, an order went forth that any person in truck suit should be shot on sight.

That particular day was one of the saddest days in my life. I was not arrested, but my sister, Gifty Affenyi Dadzie, was so traumatised that she still has not recovered, in spite of the appearances she has portrayed.

Gifty, a young news lady employed by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, was engaged to marry a young military officer. The young man had just finished playing tennis and headed for the Broadcasting House to pick his fiancée. Apparently, the young lady had taken seed and the wedding bells were ringing.

The young man had been at the tennis court and was unaware of the announcement not for anybody to wear a track suit. Just as he meandered his car to a stop in front of the reception at the Broadcasting House, an order to stop was shouted from behind. He stopped the car and attempted to come out.

Before anyone could say Jack, a hail of bullets were released into the young man and his car. He slumped down dead with blood all over the place. His wife-to-be watched the proceedings from close range. Gifty had a miscarriage there and then, and passed out. By the time she revived in hospital much later, the baby was lost.

In place of the wedding she was expecting, poor Gifty had to prepare to take her loved partner to his maker. Life has never been the same for the woman who later became the President of the Ghana Journalists Association and a leading member of Women Aglow.

Under the watch of Kojo T, security became a search and destroy operation, under which military officers and business moguls found their way into their graves earlier than scheduled.

When three judges and a retired army officers were abducted from their homes on a curfew night on June 30, 1982, an official Provisional National Defence Council, with Jerry Rawlings presiding, and Kojo T as the security capo, said the three men and breast-feeding Cecelia Koranteng Addo had been abducted by enemies of the state.

It turned out that four of the five men who seized the judges and the retired army officer were lower ranked ex-military personnel staying at the Independence Avenue residence of Jerry John Rawlings.

The Special Investigation Board tasked with unravelling the mystery singled out Kojo Tsikata as having master-minded that atrocious crime. However, the man who moved from ex-Captain to Captain Tsikata without any official explanation sat sheepishly before the National Reconciliation Commission and told the world that his enemies tried to implicate him in that crime.

I do not think I am one of his enemies. What I do know is that like Jerry John Rawlings, Gbagbladza is going to meet his maker with so many allegations of criminal intent unresolved. It bleeds my heart that he lacked the courage to look into the faces of Ghanaians and say, ‘I am sorry.’

I do not believe there are many out there who will mourn his departure. Certainly, I am not attending his funeral.

I shall return!

Ebo Quansah in Accra


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