remarked to my guide that there is a place called Mokola in
Ibadan Nigeria. She smiled and told me jocularly that
everything ‘you people have in Nigeria, we have it in Ghana’
but then added seriously that indeed some tribes in Ghana bear
common ancestry with some Nigerian Tribes. She said she is
from the Ga tribe whose ancestors are believed to have
descended from the Yoruba of Ile Ife. This, she said, accounts
for the similarity in culture and language between the Ga and
she beckoned unto some young Hausa men. ‘They are Nigerians.
They can change your Money for you’ She said. The guy bent
over the window and asked in pidgin ‘how many you want’. 20
million the girl responded. I corrected her, ‘no it’s 20
thousand’. She smiled. That’s how we used to call it before we
knocked out the zeros. I understood. I got GHC2000 for my
passed near the slum bank of the Kovey River. A thick
odiferous breeze swashed through the car window as I lowered
the window glass. It was stench from the heavily polluted
river. My guide explained that that the river is associated
with a goddess. If two people have a row and one justifiably
curses the other, invoking the goddess of river Kovey, the
cursed will die once he comes in contact with the waters of
the river and his/her corpse will never be found. The heavily
silted river has become a receptacle for municipal wastes
which biodegrade and give off the offensive stench.
the Total petrol station, we bought Petrol at the rate of
GHC1.7, the equivalent of NGN170. The station attendant put an
extra 5cedi (N500) worth of petrol in our tank as a tip! I was
amazed. It is normal here for some attendants to dole out
little favors to motorists for their patronage. She
explained. Wonders, I murmured to myself, shall never end.
Out of embarrassment I resisted the urge to tell her that back
home in Nigeria, the attendant would make sure you are
shortchanged in both the liters and the money. She had already
made a comment to the effect that Ghanaians in Accra didn’t
know crime until the northerners and the Nigerians came
calling and I did not want to reinforce that perception.
headed for the countryside, cruising at 80miles per hour. The
road is good. I noticed that most roads I passed on were
either very good or very bad. It would appear there is a
culture of ‘no-half-measures’ here.
scenery of the countryside is breathtaking. The undulating
hills and lush vegetation combine to give an exotic feel of
nature’s harmony. The only place I had being in Nigeria that
rivals the beauty of this countryside is the mountainous
range in Obudu and Utanga in northern Cross Rriver State.
had passed through a Toll Gate where a fee of one (1) Cedi was
collected and a ticket issued to us. We headed North West
towards Nsawam, a rusty town buried among the hills, about 38
kilometers in the Central Region of Ghana. Flagged down by the
police at a check point, we slowed down and cleared to the
road side. I noticed that there was no road block but vehicles
stopped without coercion and the point was manned by only two
policemen donning AK47 assault rifles. It was then I noticed
that my guide was not on her seat belt. I was on mine. I
murmured ‘a gosh-what-a-mess’, to which the gum- chewing lady
carelessly shrugged off. ‘Don’t panic stranger, I can handle
them. I don’t even have a license’.
arrest you for violating the seatbelt rule young lady’. The
stern looking police officer barked. He had tribal marks like
that of a Hausa man. His name was Daudou (not real name) and I
guessed he could be from Northern Ghana. To this, my guide
simply smiled and opened the car door to alight. I did the
same but walked into the nearby bush to empty my bladder. As I
turned back to return to the road, I saw my guide petting one
of the Police officers, the more aggressive one, on the
shoulder and cheeks. The second one approached me, coming so
close and almost blocking my way. He spoke in a local dialect,
I feigned no faint understanding. ‘May you speak in English
sir?’ I said. He nodded in a way to indicate he had confirmed
something to be true. The lady had told them that they should
not embarrass her before her fiancé who is a stranger from
you want to maprry her? I nodded in affirmative while saying
yeah at the same time. It was a risky gamble had my answer
contradicted whatever the lady had told them. My intuition
told me however that the man wouldn’t ask me that question if
the lady did not hint so. I was right.
will pay seven cows and seven cartons of beer for her dowry’,
the officer continued but now in a friendlier mood. ‘Yeah’ I
said, ‘she is even worth far more than that’. The man smiled.
I could sense I had just given myself away. With that
disclosure, he estimated my worth and would demand something
from me. He did. ‘How e go be for us now?’ He asked in pidgin
with an unmistakable money-demanding gesture. I am used to
this sort of demand anyway, I said to myself; the difference
only lied in the phrase used. Whereas my Nigerian Police would
say ‘wetin you carry’ or ‘go and see my oga for there’ they
still meant the same thing. I also noticed that there was no
police vehicle nearby and no senior officer by the side. The
implication is that these policemen had no means to run away
should they do anything illegal unlike the case in Nigeria,
where they could get away in their patrol vans if they commit
an offence against a citizen.
dipped my hand in my pocket and came out with a note of
Ghanaian currency which I handed over to him without even
looking at the denomination because I knew it could not be
more than 20cedis which was the highest denomination I had on
me, and he squeezed it in his hand quickly, beaming a smile.
It was only after we got moving again that I did a mental
audit of my wallet and realized I had given away 10cedis the
equivalent of one thousand Naira to the officer! I was sad but
amused at the same time at my ignorance. I reckoned that was
one tip too large for a Ghanaian Policeman on the road
considering that a Nigerian Police officer would be very happy
with even N200. I needed to learn very fast how think in Naira
while spending in Cedis to avoid such a mistake again.`
what was that?’ I asked my guide as we got back into the car.
‘You pet and play with Policemen on the road?’ ‘I can do that
but you don’t try it’. She said.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘I am a
lady. Here in Ghana, It’s a ladies world! We are the stronger
sex! Men respect us more than they do fellowmen’. That was the
reason my company choose me to drive you for this trip. If I
were a fellow man like them, they would lock me up. ‘And what
would happen to me?’ I asked. ‘You will find your level’. She
said almost carelessly as she hit the throttle and zoomed into
Nsawam we turned right and headed northwards into the
Nsawam-Aburi Road, a narrow but fairly motorable winding road
almost covered by over lapping trees from both sides of the
road. I had the feeling I was on the road between Akure and
Ondo Town in Nigeria. The striking similarity in the scenery
of these two roads was amazing. ‘I have been to this place
before’. I told my guide. She looked at me in amazement and
asked ‘when was that?’ ‘In my dream’. I said. ‘I have always
dreamt of coming to the Ghanian countryside and here I am.
Dreams do come true after all’. She laughed. ‘You must be a
very funny person’.
are married back in Nigeria right?’ Alexis my guide had a
rather odd way of asking irrelevant questions at unexpected
times. ‘Yes of course.’ I answered almost immediately. ‘Why
the curiosity?’ ‘ ‘For this journey, you are going to maintain
your status as my fiancé. The villagers will trust you more
when they know you are a suitor who wants to know more about
your potential bride’s culture than a Nigerian spy poking his
nose around.’ Alexis explained effortlessly. I looked at her a
second time. She probably was more intelligent than I
estimated at the beginning.
have a deal, but on one condition’. I said. She pushed her
hair off her right ear, guiding them gracefully to her
shoulder and tilting her hair in a gesture of curiosity for my
condition. ‘What’s the condition?’ “You will half your fee.
That should compensate me for the honor I will be doing you by
posing as your suitor’. ‘Haaaaaa, that’s Nigerian sense. You
are like the Ashanti People. They like many too mach’. She
said in a rich Ghanaian accent.
Obodan, a small settlement of about hundred households, we
stopped by the road side where some women and children were
hounded over a pile of cassava tubers about 2ft high each of
them with a knife. They were pealing the tubers and dropping
them into a basin filled with water. Two little boys of about
three years old stood right inside the bowl and they were
jumping up and down, one leg at a time. ‘They are washing the
cassava’. Explained Mrs. FiiFi, a middle- aged woman who
seemed like she had some education. She could communicate but
in not too good English.
‘Where do they get the cassava from?’ I asked. ‘From the farm
up there, near the mountain’ she explained through my
interpreter. I squatted among them and asked one of the girls
of about 10years old to lend me her knife. I picked one tuber
of cassava and began to peal very professionally. They looked
on with excitement and admiration. They marveled at how well
fast and well I peeled the cassava. What they did not know was
that I had lived a greater part of my early life on cassava.
Sitting there with those villagers exhumed memories of my
childhood. My mother had conscripted my elder brother and I
very early into the family economic team. We tilled the
farmland, fetched firewood, together with mother. We planted
cassava, rice, yams, corn and groundnuts. We were actively
involved in the harvesting and processing of these crops. We
peeled and grated cassava to make garri. School vacation time
was not play time for us. It was the beginning of hard labour
to earn money for our school fees. We would work well into the
night grating garri manually. Occasionally a slip of the hand
on the grater led to a deep cut in the lower palm or the
fingers. Oooosh!. You would shout; but the work must continue.
When this happened we would use the grated cassava as to stop
the bleeding. A little ball of the cassava pulp was pressed
firmly against the wound for about two minutes and the blood
ceased but not the pain.
looked at the village women and then at my palm. The scars of
those grater wounds were still distinct. A little tear dropped
by the corner of my eye. Resisting the urge to break down and
weep was not easy but I brushed off the tear and smiled. The
women had no idea why a tear drop escaped my eyes but I
guessed they must have assumed that it was because I pitied
their onerous task. I saw my childhood in those to kids
jumping up and down in the cassava basin.
to the shack under which these women were peeling the cassava,
was a Zink structure housing the grinding mill. From the wash
basin, the cassava is transferred to the grinding mill where
it is ground into a pulp. The pulp is then put into
polyethylene sacks and placed on the ground to drain. Dozens
of these sacks lay by the road side while a thick starchy
leachate flowing from the sacks formed a long trail of starch
caked on mud and infested with algae and fungi turning it into
dark green carpet along the side of the road.
dried pulp undergoes some fermentation over a period of about
three to four days before it is removed for sale to buyers who
take it to the townships. ‘What do you do with the pulp?’ I
asked. Speaking through my guide, Mrs.Fiifi explained: ‘We
cook and pound it with Plantation or cocoyam. The paste is
eaten with choice soup, like Banku.’ Banku is a popular soup
in Ghana almost an equivalent of the popular Delta State Banga
Soup, but it is more watery.
posed for some snapshots with them and then we said bye. They
waved heartily as we returned to the car. I had a feeling that
I would come back again, but when, I could not tell.
we drove down from Obodan to Ogbodani, we spotted a newly
built police station and an equally new Presbyterian church.
‘They were not here four years ago’. My guide offered,
pointing to some other buildings along the road. ‘I was here
four years ago to shoot a movie. We camped at a school
building down the corner. I took mental note of the ‘four
years’. That is enough time for government in Ghana to make
some difference in the life of these villagers but too short
for my home state government to show her presence in my ward.
reached Ogbodani at about one-o-clock in the afternoon. My
guide decided to stop when she spotted a group of elderly men
sitting under a tree in the middle of a compound by the road
side. All the four men were draped in a black traditional
Ghanian dress. A thick hand-woven cotton cloth, wrapped around
the body and strewn across one shoulder, leaving the other
exposed. An elderly woman and a younger one holding a baby
also sat among them. They were drinking a faint brown liquid
in a bottle, I suspected to be local gin. They had just
finished a burial service for a popular truck driver in the
village who died in an accident. Mr. Eric Owusu a.k.a ‘K ’, a
49 year old member of the Obodan district of the Presbyterian
Church, left behind 6 children and 4 grand children. The
mourners all wore black because the deceased was considered a
young man. When an elderly person dies, they would conduct the
funeral wearing white.
guide approached them and greeted them in their local dialect,
bending one knee in respect. She beckoned on me to greet them
in like manner. I found their manner of greeting elders much
similar to my people, the Tiv of Benue State Nigeria. When an
elder wishes to shake hands with a younger person, the younger
is expected to put his left hand on the right hand as a sign
of respect before shakinghands with the elder while bending
slightly to show reverence.
followed my guide’s guidance and greeted them respectfully.
She spoke to them in their language, explaining my mission.
The look on their faces was that of excitement and
hospitality. I felt at ease. They offered me a bench and I sat
down facing them, completing the circle.
are welcome my son’; Elder Esimama threw the floor open. He
was the eldest among them; a retired police officer, he could
speak clean English, save for the rich Ghanaian accent. I
cashed in immediately and began to ask them questions about
just everything I could think of.
started with the funeral. I asked if the funeral had a
traditional ritual associated with the ceremony. One of the
other elders (Elder Dakosi) answered almost immediately but
was something in his tone showed that he was a bit surprised
at my suggestion. ‘We are Christians!’ He said. ’As you can
see the funeral service was held at the ‘Presby’(that’s
the way they refer to the Presbyterian Church), handing over
to me the funeral programme with the picture of the deceased
you have no way to ascertain who in the community is
responsible for his death?’ I asked.
‘Ahhhhh. No!’ he exclaimed. Death is natural from God. We do
not believe in fetish things. Though the animists do practice
rituals of some sort, but not for us Christians. Like in this
case he died in an accident. Anybody can be involved in an
accident. Therefore we do not apportion blame. We give it to
continued to probe further;’ I mean before the advent of
Christianity, what was the practice?’.
‘Even before Christianity came, we believed in one almighty
God. Some people could use objects to represent Him but we
never ascribed supernatural powers to mortal men! It is like
the Corinthians who were worshiping an unknown God until Paul
showed them the true God. I realized that Mr. Dokosi was so
Christianity-inclined that he regarded it inappropriate to
talk about traditional rituals or to ascribe them to his
people. So I gave up on that topic and shifted to another
is your community Chief selected? I asked.....