Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Nortey – 1st Presidential Despatch Rider
Story: KOFI YEBOAH
Mr. David Dowuona Nortey, the First Presidential Despatch Rider in Ghana, says it was a great moment working with Ghana’s First President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
“Nkrumah was a very nice person. He can have nice conversation with you and if you need something and you ask him, he can provide it”, he said with profound nostalgia.
Police Constable Class Three Nortey, who rode a motor cycle with registration number AE 58, was the lone Police Escort for Dr. Nkrumah from 1955 to 1964 during which period Dr. Nkrumah was Prime Minister and, later, President.
“I was so pleased that I was the first Police Escort to work with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah”, he said with a great sense of pride.
Mr. Nortey, however, indicated that in 1964, he went on “strike” and refused to report to the Castle, the seat of government, because after nine years of performing that duty, he was not promoted whereas his juniors were promoted above him.
Instead, he said, for the nine-year period he worked as Presidential Escort, the only promotion he had from the President was a greeting after the days’ work; “Constable, well done and see you again tomorrow”.
The 79-year-old ex-Police Constable walked, with the aid of a stick, to the offices of the Daily Graphic to tell his story as his contribution to the country’s Golden Jubilee Anniversary.
Despite his advanced age, Mr. Nortey vividly recounted many events emanating from his close association with Dr. Nkrumah as though those experiences were recent occurrences.
He said after financial difficulties had terminated his schooling at the Gold Coast People’s College at Dodowa, he subsequently joined the Gold Coast Police Force in 1954 and after six months of training, was posted to the Police Central.
Mr. Nortey said that same year, the James Town Police Station was opened and he was transferred there. However, after a short spell at the station, he was transferred to the Motor Traffic Unit (MTU) in Accra.
He said in 1955, the late Superintendent Kporvie of the MTU assigned him to the Castle as the escort of Dr. Nkrumah, who was then the Prime Minister.
Mr. Nortey said he traveled with Dr. Nkrumah throughout the length and breadth of the country.
He recalled the Kulungugu bombing incident when there was an assassination attempt on Dr. Nkrumah.
Mr. Nortey said after the President’s helicopter had landed at Kulungugu, an army officer (unnamed) discovered that a bomb had been planted in the area and quickly, he pulled the President down. Not quite long after, the bomb exploded.
He said but for the timely intervention of the Army Officer, Dr. Nkrumah would have been killed.
Mr. Nortey also recalled another assassination attempt on Dr. Nkrumah when he attended a rally at Arena in Accra, but the principal executor of the plot, one Mahama Tula, lost his guts at the final moment.
“When he was arrested, he said that he was feeling sorry to kill Nkrumah and so he returned the bomb to the house”, Mr. Nortey recalled.
He said considering the risky nature of the job, he often requested for a change, but his request was never granted.
Asked why he did not make his promotion case known to the President, he said that was out of the question because there were Senior Police Officers who were responsible for recommendations for promotion, adding that it was not advisable to take such issues to the President.
“By then, we the Constables, we were afraid of our big men. You play any amount of nonsense with your officer in command but not as far as the late Osagyefo. You dare not”, he said.
When asked whether he regretted his action of not escorting the President any longer, Mr. Nortey responded; “Oh no, I didn’t regret at all. I wasn’t sorry because I was long on the field without promotion. My juniors were all wearing a rank and I didn’t get promoted”.
He said after his “strike”, another despatch rider by name Constable Koka Moshie was detailed to the Castle.
Mr. Nortey recalled that about one week after his new assignment, Koka Moshie accompanied the President to attend a conference at the Independence Arch, together with some senior government officials, including Messrs Kojo Botio, Krobo Edusei and Ako Adjei.
He said after sometime, Dr. Nkrumah and his driver, one Anyetei, came down and drove away to an unknown destination leaving Koka Moshie behind. After 8p.m. when the President was not coming back, the senior government officials also left the place but Moshie decided to wait.
Mr. Nortey said around 12 midnight, the President arrived with his driver at the Independence Arch, but no one was there except the Police Constable.
“Where are my people”?, the President asked Moshie.
“Master, they go sir”, he responded.
He said the following morning, Dr. Nkrumah rewarded Moshie for his dedication to duty when he sent a message to Mr. Madjitey, who was then Commissioner of Police, and recommended that Constable Koka Moshie should be promoted to Corporal.
“Then I knew that I’m finished”, Mr. Nortey remarked, explaining that the promotion of Moshie meant that his position had effectively been covered. And the following morning he was transferred to Ejura.
He said although he was surprised at Moshie’s promotion, he acknowledged the fact that everybody had his own luck.
Mr. Nortey said he enjoyed every bit of his working relations with Dr. Nkrumah except the fact that he was not promoted.
Daily Graphic - Wednesday, March 14, 2007 Page 34