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“Air Commodore Parker’s Final One-way Solo Flight Home!”  -  A Tribute

On Friday, 9th February 2024, Burma Camp saw a huge invasion by mourners who thronged the Garrison-Methodist-Presbyterian Church (GMPC) for the funeral service of Air Commodore (Brigadier-General) Godfried Sackey Parker. Until his sudden death on Sunday, 26th November 2023, the Air Force Pilot Air Cdre Parker was the Commander, Takoradi Air Force Base.

The funeral was attended by the CDS, Service Chiefs, the Chief-of-Staff, Commandants, serving and retired Generals, Senior Officers, Men and Defence Civilian Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces. Also present were a former Speaker of Parliament and his wife, the Commissioner-of-Police in the Western Region, traditional rulers, representatives of Tullow Oil, Old students of Accra Academy, and people from all walks of life.

Preaching the sermon, Colonel (Rev) JK Otoo (Rtd), former Director, Religious Affairs of the Ghana Armed Forces, and former Anglican Archbishop of Sekondi reminded the congregation of the Biblical quote, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) Trying therefore to understand why Air Commodore Parker died suddenly at age fifty-six is futile.

Early Life

Born in 1967 at Prampram, Air Cdre attended Accra Academy from 1982-1989 for both his GCE Ordinary and Advance Levels. After winning a sprint event in school, the rather smallish Parker declared “I am Carl Lewis,” the name of the world’s fastest sprinter at the time. Carl Lewis would become his nickname for the rest of his life.

Digressing briefly, I saw a bit of his sprinting prowess at the Jungle Warfare School, Achiase. In 2000, as a young Flt Lt (Captain) instructor in the Ghana Military Academy where I was the Commanding Officer, Parker and some instructors went with me and our cadets for Jungle Training at Achiase. On a Sunday afternoon, a huge grasscutter inquisitively came close to our summer-hut Officers Mess. With the reflexes of a pilot, Parker grabbed a nearby cutlass and sprinted like Carl Lewis after the bow-legged grasscutter, determined to sentence it to the soup-pot. The saving grace for the grasscutter was its superior knowledge of the terrain, which enabled it lead “Carl Lewis” into a gutter near the bush, from where it escaped.

Career/Qualities

After school, he enlisted in the Ghana Armed Forces as an Air Force Cadet and was commissioned with Regular Career-Course-Course (RCC) Intake 32 in 1992.

After his ab-initio pilot training in Ghana, he trained in the US, Holland and France as a Transport pilot.

As a UN peacekeeper, Air Cdre Parker served in the DRC and Central African Republic. He also served at the African-Union Headquarters in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Twi expression “oye onipa” literally, one is a human being, is used to describe a good person. Not surprisingly, that apt description of Air Cdre Parker flowed freely, and resonated in all the tributes. He was an officer of integrity who led from the front. His smallish stature and quiet nature belied a tough, rugged, determined and physically fit officer.

An excellent team-player, he was loved by all. His Intake mates of RCC 32 described him as a live-wire in their social activities, and indeed a family man. No wonder, his death so shocked his mother, she died soon after his death. It was a moving spectacle seeing his mates of RCC 32 on the stage trying to control their tears, with varying degrees of success like many of us, as they read his tribute.

The devout Anglican that he was, he started a choir at the Air Force Base Anglican Church. They came from Takoradi to sing at his funeral.

Lessons

For our rulers/leaders, Air Commodore Parker’s selfless life presents a blueprint for leadership. He left a legacy not of houses, cars, lands and money, underpinned by unbridled arrogance/wickedness, but of decency and respect for fellow man! His humility, integrity, selflessness and discipline are qualities worth emulating to make the badly needed change from our present situation.

Air Cdre Parker’s Regular-Career-Course 32’s adoption of “UBUNTU” as a slogan must remind Ghanaians of the Zulu meaning;

“I am, because we are!”

 It emphasizes the individual’s importance only within the context of a successful whole! For example, in the international community, we are known as Ghanaians, not as family or tribal advocates. That is why we carry the passport of Ghana, and not family/tribal passports.

Ghana First!

When Abedi Pele was voted Africa’s greatest footballer, it was a source of pride to Ghana! Similarly, when HE Kofi Annan became the UN’s seventh Secretary-General, all Ghanaians basked in the glory! At an international airport years ago, an Immigration Officer checking my passport exclaimed, “O my God! You are from Ghana! Thank you to Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Africa’s greatest Pan-Africanist!”

Finally, for those busy amassing every wealth in sight, remember Alexander the Great's three-point death wish! Firstly, he wanted his casket to be carried by the best physicians. Secondly, he wanted his empty hands to show outside his casket. Thirdly, he wanted all the gold he had won in conquest strewn along the route to the cemetery.

Asked why these unusual demands, he explained that the first was to emphasise that, when death beckons, the world’s best physicians cannot save any human. His second wish for his empty hands outside was to remind humanity that we came with nothing and will go with nothing. On his third wish of all his gold being strewn along the cemetery route, he said it was to emphasise that acquisitions of splendor and self-aggrandizement are nothing but vanity, as King Solomon said. What is important is the positive legacy one leaves!

Air Cdre Parker lived the Latin motto PRO DEO ET PATRIA, which translates “FOR GOD AND COUNTRY!”

 May the soul of Air Commodore Godfried Sackey Parker Rest-In-Peace!

Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!

 
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)

Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association

Nairobi, Kenya

Council Chairman Family Health University College

 Accra

[email protected]