What happened to February 28 martyrs
Trends with Vance Azu
Monday, February 28, will mark the 63rd anniversary of the death of three of three ex-service-men who were shot at the Christianborg Cross-roads in Osu, Accra on February 28, 1948.
The three, Sergeant Cornelius Fredrick Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, all members of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force that fought alongside the allied forces during the Second World War, were killed while going to present to petition to the then British Colonial Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy.
These fallen heroes, in the company of other colleagues, had been demobilized by the colonial administration, who at that time promised to resettle them but had reneged on its promise.
News about the death of the ex-servicemen spread rapidly, leading to the break down of law and order in Accra and other parts of the country.
The Big Six, namely Edward Akufo-Addo, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, Kwame Nkrumah, William Ofori-Atta, Emmanuel Odarkwei Obetsebi-Lamptey and Joseph Boakye Danquah, who happened to be the prominent leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention(UGCC), the leading political party in the British colony Gold Coast, were arrested
They were detained by colonial authorities who connected them to the disturbances leading to the death of the three war veterans.
It encouraged anti-colonial movements to press the British government to institute a committee to investigate the killings and general disorder. The committee recommended self –government for the Gold Coast, which subsequently led to the attainment of political independence for the country.
I have recounted this historical event which precipitated the nationalist movements and galvanized the momentum and served as the catalyst for self government.
Each year, wreaths are laid at the Freedom Monument at Osu, in Accra, to commemorate the incident, amid other ceremonies.
Twelve years ago, I tried to find out the reason for this national event and what had been done in honour of these fallen heroes to warrant such a massive commemoration of their death.
First, I tried to establish whether there were any records of these heroes available to students of history and the public in general, to enable them understand the events that acted as a catalyst for Ghana’s independence.
Are we, as a nation, remembering and commemorating the memory of these gallant men well enough so that future generations will be able to recall their contribution?
I sought to know what was done with the remains of the late veterans, and I discovered that these men were not accorded any state burial. Their bodies were rather released to their respective families for burial.
I managed to locate Sergeant Adjetey’s tombstone at the La Cemetery. At the time, the tomb had caved in and was devoid of any resemblance to the tomb of a national hero or a martyr. I, however, could not locate those of Corporal Odartey-Lamptey and Private Attipoe.
I, therefore, went to the Directorate of the Army Public relations and still had no result. I remember the then Director, one Colonel Akowuah, saying there was no information on where they were buried and that when those men were killed, he had not even been born.
Ten years on I have realized that the people of La, having recognized the sacrifices made by their kinsman, Sgt Adjetey, have, through the selflessness of the La Socio Economic Development Association and support fro the La Traditional Council and in collaboration with the Ga Dangme Council, mounted a huge monument in his honour.
Apart from this modest recognition of the role of the gallant men, nothing monumental has been done to their memory , yet every February 28, the few remaining war veterans and other retired veterans of the Ghana Armed Forces converge at the Castle Cross-road to mark the demise of these three men.
What I think should be done is to locate wherever these men were buried, exhume their bodies and give them a fitting burial anywhere near the Castle Cross-roads. A huge monument should be erected in their honour in recognition of their independence struggle.
This must be done under the seal of executive urgency because a country which does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for.
Alternatively, government should factor in these concerns and possibly revise the Founders Day date to February 28, to celebrate these gallant men.
The Mirror Page: 19 Saturday, February 26, 2011