Joseph Arthur Ankrah

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Joseph Arthur Ankrah
Chairman of the National Liberation Council
In office
24 February 1966 – 2 April 1969
DeputyJohn Willie Kofi Harlley[1]
Preceded byKwame Nkrumah
(as President of Ghana)
Succeeded byAkwasi Afrifa
4th Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity
In office
24 February 1966 – 5 November 1966
Preceded byKwame Nkrumah
Succeeded byHaile Selassie
Personal details
Born18 August 1915
Accra, Gold Coast
Died25 November 1992(1992-11-25) (aged 77)
Accra, Ghana
SpouseMildred Christina Akosiwor Fugar (d.2005)
Military service
Branch/service Ghana Army
Years of service1939–1969
RankLieutenant General
CommandsChief of the Defence Staff
AwardsMilitary cross
Appointed after coup d'état of 24 February 1966

Joseph Arthur Ankrah (18 August 1915 – 25 November 1992) was a Ghanaian army general who was head of state of Ghana from 1966 to 1969 as Chairman of the National Liberation Council. He was Ghana's first military head of state. Ankrah also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 24 February 1966 to 5 November 1966. Previously, Ankrah was appointed the first commander of the Ghana Army in 1961.

Early life[edit]

Joseph Arthur Ankrah was born on 18 August 1915 in Accra to the Ga family of Samuel Paul Cofie Ankrah, an overseer for the Christian Missionary Society and Beatrice Abashie Quaynor, a trader.[2]

Ankrah began his schooling in 1921 at the Wesleyan Methodist School in Accra, where he was nicknamed 'Ankrah Patapaa' for his "forcefulness in arguments and always playing leadership role among his mates".[2] In 1932, he entered Accra Academy, where he established himself as a good football player.[2] He obtained the Senior Cambridge School Certificate in 1937.[3] He then joined the Ghana Civil Service.[2]

Military career[edit]

Ankrah joined the Gold Coast Regiment in 1939.[4] On the outbreak of World War II, Ankrah was mobilized into the Royal West African Frontier Force.[3] While his Brigade was in East Africa in 1940, he was transferred to the Record Office in Accra with the rank of Warrant Officer Class II and made second-in-command.[2] In October 1946, he went to the Marshfield Officer Cadets Training Unit in the United Kingdom and graduated in February 1947 as the first African officer in the Gold Coast Army.[2] He was commissioned a lieutenant in 1947[3][4] and became the first African camp commandant at the Army Headquarters.[2] He was later made the first Ghanaian Chief Instructor of the Education Unit.[2] He was promoted Major in 1956 and became the first African to command an all-African company, the Charlie Company of the First Battalion at Tamale, Ghana. He later became Lieutenant Colonel and took over the whole battalion.[2] He rose to the rank of colonel by 1960, at a time when there were few Ghanaian officers at that level.[3] During the United Nations Operation in the Congo, he was the Brigade Commander of the force-based at Luluabourg, Kasai in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo. He was the only Ghanaian awarded the Military Cross in Leopoldville for acts of unsurpassed gallantry in Congo in 1961.[2] The citation read:

With great common sense, maturity and tact, this officer handled a delicate situation which otherwise would have created grave consequences in Leopoldville and many parts of the Congo. Colonel Ankrah, with complete disregard for his own life, disarmed an Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC) soldier who, with a loaded sten machine carbine, attempted to shoot Mr. Lumumba. He carried the Prime Minister to safety in a vehicle which was fired on by ANC ambushers. Had it not been for the quick and bold action of Colonel Ankrah at the risk of his life, Mr. Lumumba's life would have been taken with untold consequences at that time.[2]

After his experience in the Congo, he was promoted Brigadier then Major General[3] becoming the first Ghanaian commander of the Ghana army in 1961 and then Deputy Chief of Defence Staff.[3] He was dismissed from the Ghana army in July 1965[5] on suspicion of involvement in a coup plot.[2]


Ankrah became the head of the National Investment Bank after leaving the army. However, he became the Head of state and Chairman of the National Liberation Council after the 24 February 1966 coup.[5] In January 1967, he mediated between the warring factions of the Nigerian Civil War in Biafra.[6][7][8] He was forced to resign as Chairman of the NLC and Head of State over a bribery scandal involving a Nigerian businessman.[3][9]


Ankrah served as the first ever President of the Council of Patrons of Accra Hearts of Oak S.C. and steered the football club for a long period.


In 1965 he married his third wife, Mildred Christina Akosiwor Fugar (12 June 1938 – 9 June 2005), in Accra.[10] His son also went to Accra Academy. He had a daughter called Jackie Ankrah who is a broadcaster, songwriter and musician.[11][12] He had several wives and 18 children.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chiefs of State and Cabinet members of foreign governments / National Foreign Assessment Center. 1966Sep-Dec. 2003.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Former Leaders - Profiles:Lt-Gen Joeseph Arthur Ankrah". Official Website of The Osu Castle, seat of Ghana government. Ghana government. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Lt. General Joseph A. Ankrah". - Famous Ghanaians:Heads of state. Ghana Home Page. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  4. ^ a b Jubilee Ghana: A 50-year news journey thro' Graphic. Accra: Graphic Communications Group Ltd. 2006. p. 94. ISBN 9988809786.
  5. ^ a b Jon Kraus (April 1966). "Ghana Without Nkrumah - The Men in Charge". Africa Report. Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  6. ^ Donita Brown. "Nigeria-Biafra Civil War - Aburi Accord, Ghana -Transcript from the tape recordings of the Aburi Meeting, 5-7 January, 1967". Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. Philip Emeagwali. Archived from the original on 9 April 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  7. ^ Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. (1971). Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria January 1966 – July 1967 (Vol. 1). A documentary sourcebook 1966-1970. London: Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Max Siollun. "ON ABURI WE STAND: NO NEED FOR A SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE". Niger Delta Congress. Archived from the original on 16 November 2006. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  9. ^ "Our Leaders-LT. GENERAL JOSEPH A. ANKRAH". Official Website for the 50th Independence Anniversary Celebrations of Ghana. Ghana Government-(Ghana@50). Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  10. ^ "Wives of Military Rulers". GHANA, 50YRS OF NATIONHOOD. Graphic Communications Group Limited. 28 February 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  11. ^ Lartey, Winifred (22 November 2022). "Ghanaians don't appreciate my father enough, says Jackie Ankrah". Asaase Radio. Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  12. ^ "Broadcaster, singer and songwriter Jackie Ankrah takes her turn on Whats Cooking with Apiorkor". Modern Ghana. 26 June 2022. Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  13. ^ "Although my father overthrew Nkrumah, he still deserves some praise – Jackie Ankrah". GhanaWeb. 25 November 2022. Retrieved 27 November 2022.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Head of state of Ghana
Military regime

Succeeded by
Preceded by Foreign Minister
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Defence
1967 – 1969
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairperson of the Organization of African Unity
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Chief of Army Staff
1961 – 1962
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of the Defence Staff
1967 - 1968
Succeeded by