Written by Captain (retired) Nkrabeah Effah Dartey
The year was 1979, the month of May, the 1st or 2nd, probably, and it was a Friday. I had arrived from UK, Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, as a Lieutenant in the Ghana Army. I had been posted to First Battalion of Infantry, Michel Camp, Tema.
At about 8 o’clock in the morning, I arrived by taxi to the unit, dressed as a Lieutenant and reported to the Adjutant, Lt Yaw Tawiah. He told me he was aware of my posting and that I should go to the MTO for transport to go and bring my personal effects from Teshie, Military Academy.
I asked and I was shown the MTO’s yard and when I entered, I saw the MTO, Lieutenant Ben Agudogo, a stocky looking officer and I saluted him.
“Sir, the Adjutant says I should come and see you for transport to Teshie to bring my things”.
I continued standing there. Why should I relax? I want transport to Teshie and you are saying I should relax. I don’t understand. I kept standing there.
The MTO looked up at me:
“Young man, is it not transport that you want? I am the Transport officer. I say relax. Go to the officers’ mess and relax. I will sort you out”.
So a car drove me to the officers’ mess. I bought cigarettes and beer, and relaxed. Young officer in Michel Camp, Day one; relaxing, drinking and smoking. Then I fell asleep.
I woke up, checked the time, then rang the MTO. Sir, there is going to be a function here at the mess this evening and I must be around………….
“Officer, I said relax!”
Finally, reader, at 6pm, the MTO arrived at the officers’ mess with a Pinzgaeur, and in a loud voice to the hearing of everybody he rang out: Young man, there is going to be a function here at 7:00pm, and you must not be late. Understand?
Then he turned to the driver – “look here, driver, I am the MTO. I am warning you: you must not drive more than 50 km per hour on the highway”.
My God!! How can any driver move at 50km per hour from Tema to Teshie and back within one hour, even if there is no traffic? I brusquely told the driver: “Look here I am in command. I am responsible for anything that will happen. Go all out, use siren, if possible.
From that day, the MTO and I became very close personal friends, and we developed a nickname – KOKOTAKO – parasite!!
I left Michel Camp under one year but my relationship with him continued all these years; nearly four decades until one morning reading the newspapers I saw an obituary – Oh God! Kokotako is gone?
This is one funeral that I must attend at all costs.
And so it was that at exactly 0800 hrs on Friday 4th May 2018, I arrived at the Methodist Presby Garrison Church, Burma Camp, to see Kokotako lying in an open coffin with his burial service ongoing.
I used to worship in this Church until my retirement in 1983. Back then, it was a small classroom type of structure at MOD area, but now, it is a very imposing edifice with seating capacity of about one thousand.
In entered the wife of the CDS, Dorothy, who, back in the officers’ mess at Michel Camp in 1979, was then the girlfriend of young 2/Lieutenant Obed Akwa, today Lieutenant General, and CDS. I have not seen her since 1979!!!
At exactly 0900 hrs, the CDS, General Akwa and his entourage walked into the church, saluted the corpse, and the pastor said they should come and cover the coffin.
Anytime a coffin is being covered, usually, they will put a cloth to cover the team, but this time, everything was done in the open.
A squad of seven soldiers marched up to the coffin and in a very military manner, they fixed the body, lifted the cover, put it on, then brought out a folded national flag then unfolded the flag in a military manner, then they placed his ceremonial cap and sword on the coffin.
Reader, where is my ceremonial cap and sword? I am afraid if and when it is my turn, my family will not be able to locate my cap and sword – oh God – maybe I will have to make do with a lawyer’s gown and wig?
Tributes were read for him including one by his mother, his widow and his son, a soldier in the US Army read a tribute in typical American ascent. The tribute by intake 17 was read by Brigadier General Oppong Kyekyeku who once landed at Black Star Square in a parachute during one anniversary parade.
Rt Rev Dr Setorm, Moderator of the Global Evangelical Church gave a beautiful never to be forgotten sermon. He preached on the famous letter of St Paul to the Philippians, Chapter 4 versus 6-8.
He told us that letter was written by St Paul at a time when he was a prisoner, to encourage the believers in the church.
The moderator said nobody on earth decided when and where to be born. There are certain things you cannot control, so don’t worry about ANYTHING. Instead, pray about EVERYTHING. Don’t go to anybody to pray for you, talk to God as you will talk to your earthly father.
The Global Evangelical boss told us that as God created you, He has a plan for you, He will not forsake you nor leave you. Just trust Him.
After the sermon we did offertory and receive the benediction.
Farewell, my friend, Kokotako.
But before I sign off: Anytime a dead body is taken to the church, they point the head to the altar and the legs down the aisle – for Colonel Agodugo, his legs were rather pointing to the altar, and the head the other way. Why?
Then we all know MHB 608 – Captain of Israel’s Host – two versus – but the pastor said MHB 609 – and, three versus!!
Finally, why did they not publish my tribute to my friend? Or they did not believe I am a retired Captain?
But of course, all these are part of the funeral blues. Kokotako – farewell, from Kokotako.