Amidst a rebellion within the army, Major GeneralNeville Alexander Odartey Wellington turned to his officers and said ‘this is the end of the army’.
It was not. It was the end of him. He was killed by soldiers, paying the price of a mutiny called ‘June 4 ‘Revolution.
In another political history documentary, JoyNews reached actors of that day to construct events in the words of the ex-soldiers marking the 40th anniversary of ‘June 4.’
Photo: Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings
It was the unusual legal argument in court that appeared to have set off the ‘revolution’. A mutinous band of junior ranks had been rounded up in the first-ever foiled coup d’etat against a military junta that had done their coup successfully in 13 January 1972.
With this mutiny on May 15, 1979, foiled, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), George Aikins, would appear in court to prosecute the disgruntled officers in what would mean certain execution.
But the state personified in Aikins, defended the soldiers, turning conspirators into co-stars.
Taking the cue, some junior officers released those standing trial and this time they finished off where they left off – a coup.
Capturing the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the leader, a band of soldiers announced a dissolution of the Supreme Military Council, a band of senior officers that run the country.
The Squadron Commander at the Recce Regiment, Major Ibrahim Rida, remembered how it all started. Tumbling into his bed the night before, the soldier had just celebrated his birthday June 3.
Duty called him from bed at 6 am. His commanding officer got his officers to set up armoured cars, ammunitions bracing for a junior rebellion.
‘’We were ready for orders,’ he told JoyNews Raymond Acquah. That order was expected from the Brigade Commander. But the commanding officer never got hold of him.
It was Maj. General Odartey Wellington who would answer the call. The man described as the soldier’s soldier was the one who foiled Rawlings’ first attempt at coup-making. A high-flying soldier he was a top government official much like a Cabinet minister.
Under the Supreme Military Council of Col. Ignatius Acheampong, he was appointed Commissioner for Health and later Commissioner for Agriculture where he led one of Ghana’s hailed policy initiatives ‘Operation Feed Yourself’.
At the time of the mutiny, he was Chief of Army Staff at 45years– an important line of resistence to be overcome if any forceful change in government was to take place.
“He never gave us orders to fire at anybody,” Major Ibrahim Rida said.
The Major General, being a senior officer was a target of the mutinous soldiers. He wanted to go to the den of the mutineers -the captured GBC – to address the excited soldiers.
But he would change his plan and resign himself to the police headquarters with his men. Airplanes were sent flying over the police station after they were notified of his presence there.
His officers begged him not to leave them, promising to defend him. Senior Army officers were being rounded up as the ‘revolution’ gathered steam.
Major General Odartey Wellington left his men and proceeded to the Nima police station in Accra.
It was reported that “there is a General hiding there”. Soldiers were dispatched.
“They just opened fire. They just opened fire,” the bespectacled former soldier still appeared shaken by the 40-year-old story.
“He was hit….and as he was lying down dying, the normal way was [for him] to have been given medical aid immediately.
“Instead they opened fire on his body with a machine gun. They fired so much into his body that his flesh started shredding out. They literally shredded his body,” he decried the extrajudicial killing.
The slain soldier’s daughter, Esther Odartey Wellington, one of five siblings was writing her O’Levels exams at the Achimota school, while soldiers wrote their deeds on his body in bullets.
Watch an episode of JoyNews upcoming documentary, ‘Scars of the revolution’.