Col. Winfreid Annor Odjidja
Farewell, our brother Annor Odjidja
Edmund Burke, the 18th century British statesman once
asked how we could expect to be honored when "no man
could know what would be the test of honour in a nation,
continually varying the standard of its coin?"
He wrote this in 18th century England. His statement
could apply to Ghana and the man we are about to bury,
our brother Colonel Annor Odjidja.
Annor was a man of honor and integrity. There are people
around today who can attest to this statement’s
validity. They know Colonel Annor Odjidja’s story very
In 1981, there was a military coup in Ghana. He was then
the Director of Military Intelligence under a civilian
government. When that government was toppled, he went
into exile. He was sentenced to death in absentia by the
military regime that had illegally snatched power from a
constitutionally elected civilian government.
Even when he was down and out from the circles of power
that he was used to, Annor maintained a lifestyle of
quiet and solitude at his sanctuary in Milton Keynes,
UK. He could have written books, been on the radio
telling the whole world what happened and lamenting
about his fate. But he took it all in a stoic manner. He
chose silence and retirement with dignity.
I started with a quotation from Edmund Burke because his
name often came across in our conversations; George
Orwell of Animal Farm fame being the other.
Our conversations on the phone were usually lengthy
since we were separated by thousands of miles. The
conversations usually evolved around current issues,
books and articles read and how these reflected present
I had once asked him a hypothetical question: As a
soldier, I said, could he have led a coup?
To ask Annor a question was either to invite a
respectful answer or see a frown; it all depended on the
nature of the question. But, certainly you got a frown,
if the question was stupid.
For the question about a coup, there was a pause, and my
mind raced back to times in the past when I had
approached him with queries that I found out later to be
The occasion was in 1966. I had gone to see him a week
or two after the February 24 coup. Annor was the officer
in charge of the Flag Staff House, the deposed
president’s residence. There were rumors about that
residence and Nkrumah and I was curious to know the
truth. One said Nkrumah had dug a long tunnel for escape
from the Flag Staff house to the sea, a distance of some
5 miles, in case of trouble.
“And where did all the sand and dirt and stone go during
the excavation, did you see those in the street too?” he
asked rhetorically. The look on his face was one of a
But back to the question I asked earlier, would he have
led a coup?
After a short pause, Annor said clearly and in emphatic
“No…. Coups are wasteful. They accomplish nothing. It is
not about bravery, since cowards can also kill.” He
For me, the response was about lessons learned; the
difference between life of a chicken and that of a human
being and the failure to know the difference. Annor knew
Then he quoted Edmund Burke.
“There is a manifest, marked distinction, which ill men
with ill designs, or weak men incapable of any design,
will constantly be confounding – that is a marked
distinction between change and reformation…”
For Annor, a coup would promise innovation and deliver
misfortune. He would rather prefer maintenance and
reform within the frame work of the national
Ladies and gentlemen, we were a family of six siblings –
from a larger Presbyterian family of pastors,
educationists, catechist, and Basel Missionary trained
fathers and forefathers. We grew up surrounded by
cousins some of whom were and are still more than
brothers and sisters to us.
As kids, we grew up nurtured in respect for the elderly
and developed an ingrained respect for proper authority.
Apart from ordinary childhood pranks, we stayed within
family guidelines of deference for established
institutions. Annor could not have thrashed a
constitution constructed by a democratic process.
Tekpetey (T.T), our senior brother, is at least 5 years
older than Annor. As such, he was out of our play
circle. We conveniently called him Old Joe.
But Annor was accessible to me. Years later, we would
describe our childhood associations as “Tom Sawyer and
Huck Finn” days, after reading that book. Last year, I
had my first grandson and we named him Annor, after the
Certainly, there were some aspects of our brother’s life
that we as family members knew nothing about. He was an
intelligence operative and a soldier. His brothers in
arm, some of whom are still around today, can declare
who Annor was - as a friend, a soldier, as a patriot,
about his sacrifices, and as a defender of the
constitution of his nation Ghana.
Annor, in his time, was perceived as powerful. He had an
aura of command about him. People told us of his
exploits and confirmed at the same time his
When an in-law was told that Annor was gone from us, he
said metaphorically that “Annor was indestructible.”
True, Annor wasn’t destroyed, as he would have been in
1982. God took him away in May 2009, some 27 years
As an elder brother, he was a good playmate. Annor
served as a convenient shield and took the hit for any
mischief that went wrong.
One day I humorously told his son, Tettehwayo, in
Annor’s presence, that his father had caused me a lot of
trouble when we were growing up.
Annor laughed and simply said “Look at who is talking,”
knowing full well that I was the source for much of the
But there was one memorable experience that Annor
instigated himself. I tell this childhood story now to
put a human face on our brother whom many had often
described in epic terms.
We were kids, in our “Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn” days,
when it occurred to Annor to find out why a chicken
would not fly like a bird. He promptly decided to
investigate the mystery. His plan sounded like fun and I
followed his instructions.
The exercise involved a massive military like
operations. First we had to acquire enough chickens. My
father raised ducks then, but we thought it would be
much safer to collect free range chickens.
In no time we had enough chickens under a basket, like
soldiers would round up victims in a coup.
The operation required a platform for launching the
birds into space. There was a carpenter’s bench nearby
and we went there. We brought along a couple of kitchen
stools to help the elevation. Then we went to work.
We enlisted our sister Elaine of blessed memory’s help
as nurse in case of casualties – for the chickens, not
us. We brought along Judith, the youngest, for insurance
against punishment. In case things went wrong, she was
the one most likely to win our father’s sympathy and
forbearance. Our elder sister, Willie, we all agreed
should be kept out. She would tell on us.
By the way, Sister Willie still carries around the
latest birthday card that Annor had sent her, ready to
show it off as trophy Judith as well as our other
brothers and sister, Sheila, Dudley, , and Alpheus, are
currently displaying superhuman strength in the face of
Our experiment was a total failure. Not a single chicken
flew, no matter how hard we tossed them into space. All
we launched came back, severely and some fatally
wounded. The consequence also came fast and furious.
My father got the news the same evening. Judith, our
insurance policy certificate, was spared, but failed to
protect us from our father’s anger. Elaine was also
spared on the strength of the suspicion that I had
dragged her into it. The punishment came proportionately
heavier on Annor.
Again, lessons learned
about the preciousness of life, any life.
Now, back to Edmund Burke. In 1982 Annor was sentenced
to death by the PNDC regime of Ghana. To this day,
family members, friends, and colleagues are still
wondering exactly what he did wrong.
Annor knew that he had done right by his country. But as
Edmund Burke reminded us, in a country with shifting
field of standards, rarely do true heroes get honored in
their life’s time.
No one could have changed who Annor was, like as kids we
couldn’t teach chickens how to fly. So we shouldn’t now
allow revisionist stories about this soldier to
overwhelm the true measure of the man as he was - a
Military traditions call for steadfast honor. For those
who have served with Annor, as brother and comrade in
arms, you truly know who he was. Our family would wish
that you would amplify that reality to those who don’t.
Colonel Annor Odjidja was a soldier’s soldier and a
He was born Ghanaian, of a true Ga-Adagme parentage. His
late father, Winfried Tettehwayo Abladu Odjidja’s home
town of Korletsom, Krobo Odumasi will miss him. And so
Special thanks are due to those members of the family in
the UK who with their presence, resources and tremendous
sacrifices have helped to bring Annor’s body to its
final resting place; Bernard Odjidja, Mrs. Augusta Tay,
Mark Odjidja, Ms. Diana Aryeetey and son, Rev. Gerald
Thompson, and Mrs. Mandy Awkesi-Baah.
Annor’s wife Oye and children, the entire Baarmiyee
House of Korletsom, Odjidja, Wilson, Brown, Aryeetey,
Mohenu, and Ablorh’s families of Ghana have asked me to
thank you for this honor and the respect that you have
paid to our brother, father, uncle, cousin and friend .
May the Great One reward you for your presence with us
And may the Good Lord also rest Annor in peace.