Salifu Dagarti’s heroism and how Kwame Nkrumah scuffled with the officer who tried to assassinate him
This is a tale of the bravery of one of the people in Ghana’s history who isn’t perhaps celebrated as much as he deserved but whose significant role in the storylines cannot be easily erased.
In fact, had Superintendent Salifu Dagarti not shown that much heroism, it could have brought a more abrupt end to the beautiful story of Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
And while the real story starts from when the brave officer took a bullet for Nkrumah on the fifth attempt made on the life of the Head of State, there is also an interesting tale of how the president got into a scuffle with the man who tried to assassinate him.
Salifu Dagarti, the Ghanaian hero:
Salifu Dagarti was born in July 1931 and died on January 2, 1964.
He was a British-trained Ghanaian police officer and became a presidential bodyguard.
During the fifth attempt on the life of Kwame Nkrumah, Dagarti shielded the president with his body, killing him in the process.
This happened about 1:15 pm on that Thursday, a report on ghanaianmuseum.com said.
Kwame Nkrumah’s close shave with death:
On that day, Kwame Nkrumah left his office at Flagstaff House and was returning to the Christiansborg Castle for lunch.
As he moved towards his car, across the courtyard, accompanied by two security guards: Salifu Dagarti and an amateur provided by the president’s party, CPP, a rifle shot rang out.
It had been fired from behind some sort of cover – perhaps about 50 yards away – by Constable Ametewee, one of the policemen on guard at Flagstaff House.
Ametewee had been transferred for duty there only a day or two previously, the report further added.
It was reported that the driver of the president’s car immediately disappeared, while the CPP security guard hid behind the car to save his life as Kwame Nkrumah and Salifu dived for cover.
Reports later indicated that Constable Ametewee fired a total of five gunshots at the president in that assassination attempt.
“Two more shots were fired. One or both of them ripped through the president’s shirt but were apparently deflected by his bullet-proof vest.
“Constable Ametewee then attempted to fire his fifth and last round, but the bullet was accidentally ejected. The president, perhaps seeing what had happened, got up and ran. The distance he covered was considerable. And, as he ran, he shouted for help. A number of armed policemen apparently watched with interest to see how the incident would end but did not move,” the report added.
It is said that while all this was going on, some senior officials similarly watched from the windows of nearby offices, with one of them confining himself to the single comment: ‘They’ve bungled it again’.
But as the president approached the kitchen of the Flagstaff House, the constable is said to have caught up with him, attempting to club him with the butt of his rifle, but the rifle slipped from his hands.
“Inside the kitchen, the president and the constable finally got to grips.
“The constable bit the president’s cheek. The president kicked the constable in the groin and the latter momentarily collapsed. At that stage, other policemen arrived on the scene and decided the time had come to intervene,” it added.
Constable Ametewee was quickly knocked out and left lying on the ground.
The president, having changed his shirt and had his cheek dressed by a Russian doctor, was then captured by a photographer crouching over his assailant as if he had just overpowered him.
Kwame Nkrumah then left for the Castle.
Salifu Dagarti’s heroism was not forgotten as he was given a full military burial and other honours.