Sleep is my ardent nemesis, no matter what sedating concoction I gulp down the throat or snuffed. Even the exhaustion from the daily manual work at the farm and “2-tots” of locally distilled moonshine (“Akpeteshie”) that I do expect to get me snoring, rather interfered with my sleep just like my nocturnal libidinal obligations. Therefore, it was a miracle when I woke up from a deep diurnal dream the other day under the giant Indian Almond-tree popularly referred to as “Azitsi-tɛ” at Tregui, my home Village in Anlo Constituency.
Precious nap under the Tree
The famous over a century old tree is known for its tranquil breeze and rooted for multipurpose activities over its lifespan in the Village that benefit all ages across the spectrum. It attracts children and bats to the almonds; lovebirds for romance under its soothing ambience; and for the adults, we usually exchange communal ideas over kegs of “Sodabi” or palm-wine.
I was the first to lay my inherited grandfather’s “akpasa” (locally-made, foldable wooden chair) under the tree as I awaited other folks to join later. Dinam had sent his daughter Selikem to notify that he was half-way excavating the mountain of “Akplē” (a ball of cooked corn and cassava dough) and viscous palm-nut soup his wife had planted before him; and that, he would join me as soon as the last ball was sent to the “ancestors” down his alimentary canal. Soon after that message, a wave of the breeze blew and I suddenly saw myself roaming in a dreamland miraculously.
In that dream, the Awɔmefia—the Paramount Overlord of the thirty-six (36) Anlo States had declared Mondays as traditional holiday in Anloland, banning all forms of farming, fishing, hunting and marketing activities. It was believed that Mondays were “Cleansing and Restocking Days” by the goddess of the land and the water bodies. As such, Mawuga (God) would purify the land, provide congenial atmosphere for fishes and wild games to exchange gametes for bumper breeds in the sea, lagoons and the bushes.
The proscription was strictly adhered on the land and it promoted peace, harmony and discipline amongst the inhabitants except for one household whose greediness, superciliousness, pettiness, bigotry, dishonesty, and egoistic behaviors defied the orders established in the Kingdom. They seemed to be anti-social and possessed strong aversion to the progress of the land. Mostly, their modus operandi involved adoption of witty means for instant gratification. On numerous occasions, they defied the rules and sneaked to the farms, fish in the lagoon and hunted on Mondays recklessly. In short, they gleefully took advantage of the absence of other clansmen to practice the forbidden with impunity. Their defiance was noted and reported to the Supreme Adjudicators of the land; however, when summoned to the palace, most of them remained taciturn and a few that forced some words between their teeth, chopped the truth to the extent that the word “truth” regretted its etymology. An experience in angling dictates that, sometimes it’s best to give the fish a long rope to fully swallow the bait with the hook before whisking; so the Elders in their wisdom did not offer any physical punishment but simply committed their conscience to the gods of “posterity” to judge metaphysically. Certainly, old dogs cannot learn new tricks. Unrepentant as they were, they continued their clandestine activities surreptitiously until one day when the goddess of corrigibility visited.
The Disaster and the rescue
It was the echoes of asynchronous ululating sounds from the lagoon; emanating from Alakple (General Kotoka’s hometown) towards Tregui that stimulated our tympanic nerves. One could see the clouds competing each other in the sky swiftly like the heydays of my cousin Kodzovi who always completes his 100-meter races “on the marks” before the officials would say “Ready..Go!” during inter-school sports festivals. The apex of the fresh neem-tree twigs were touching the grounds and the branches of other trees were yanking off. The winds felt like an eerie monsoon winds initially and grew into a form of today’s hurricane which brought their “SOS-wails” closer home. From the destructive nature of the wind and the panic cry, we knew outrightly that there was a behemoth catastrophe at hand. Nedi-Negbã...Neho-miaho..! (We chorused in unison to jumpstart our adrenal glands to release fuel into our bloodstream in preparation for the rescue, as though we were the local “NADMO” sacrificial lambs).
Mobilization was quick as we raced in our respective fishing canoes paddled with our bare hands since outboard-motors were rare implement in the Village. Folks, is it a news if a dog is seen biting a bone? Not at all, except that, the only difference that time was that, we did not get to consume our usual Eba and Yakaeke for energy before doing the manual vigorous paddling as we would when going for fishing! Yes, yes..! I recall some of the amused-cum-provocative names written on the canoes as we sailed in the direction of the distress calls: “Paddle Your Own Canoe”, “Enemies are not God”, “A Friend in Need”, “One Day”, “Unanimous is not Anonymous”, “Agyapa No Good”, “Avu dufu Medua Ga o!”, “Susu Biribi”, “The Wages of Sin” and “God is Watching”. The rest were “Nyafu-Nyafu”,“Wogbloexoxo”, “Makãa Makã”, “Petrepesu…”, “Monkey work; Baboon Swallow”, “Go To Court if 1+1 is not 11”,“Silence is Evil”, “Monkey No Fine”, “Still, No Co-equal”, “Afee fēe, Shi Anyɛɛ!” and “Sweet Today; Bitter Tomorrow”. Counting on the traditional sonar detective skills of Midawo Boso--the man with capability to speak the language of fishes, we located the drowning folks in a record time. Alas, anyone could have won a bet on them! They were the ones—the miscreants from the insensitive and deviant family. We saw two overturned canoes painted in Red and Yellow colors interlaced with Green and some Black inscriptions. The tides roared stronger and higher and the mighty spinning wind had formed a circle of ravaging pool around them—the whirlpool!
Strangely, it was as if the monstrous wind originated from South Africa judging from its ability to segregate Blacks from Whites. It differentiated the rescuers from the embattled fishermen because the effervescent tides always mellowed whenever it got to us. We deployed our diving skills and rescued those who had clinched onto the floating pieces from the smashed canoes. In all, we rescued five survivors on sight. Later, one of the five terrified survivals admitted that they were sixteen in all. Nine in the canoe with inscription “Freedom” and the other seven in another canoe that was shattered into pieces, whose inscription I deciphered as “Justice”. Indeed, Justice was badly disintegrated to the point that the woods bearing the “Justice” notation were disjointed and divided into two halves. One piece of the debris had the letters “J.U.S.T...” and the other flashing “..I.C.E” as it floats in an undulating rhythm.
Thank goodness! Another extricate recovered from his shock and began to open up too. He appeared repented and was frank in his frantic narratives.
According to him, all the blame should be heaped on the septuagenarian clan-head called Torgbuiga Azizakpi. That, the grandpa was the one who sanctioned their blatant disregard to the taboos of the land—in words and by deeds— in his bid to harvest the resources of the land “buyɛ-buyɛ” (amass wealth greedily) instead of “buye-buye” (in trickles to benefit all). He furthered that, they had embarked on their usual unlawful fishing expedition on the lagoon that Monday from dawn until the fateful storm struck. Truly, they had caught more than enough fishes and wanted to smuggle their catch to their loyal fishmonger—Daavi Dzinakpoe Mansa in Accra but Torgbui Aziza had instructed them to continue fishing until sunset to evade the righteous optical lenses that see and hear everything in the Village.
About fourty-two minutes from that instruction, a strong wind blew; their canoes were oscillating vigorously like a swinging pendulum and spinning simultaneously. They felt dizzy, lost their bearing and suddenly, the wind created a huge but deep depression in the water. Thereafter, a high altitude tide raised their canoes to the high-heavens and slammed them in the depression. Their canoes capsized and torn into pieces! As if that wasn’t enough, Togbui Eso (the gods of thunder) roared and struck his match (lightning) at them, hit “Justice” ferociously and shattered it into debris. He managed to cuddle a floating piece romantically as the cyclical wind became more vicious until the rescue party arrived just in good time to wrestle him from eku salagakyi (merciless death). That was how he escaped death—at least, for now.
Armed with that information, we dispatched emissaries to the neighboring Villages along the bank of the lagoon—Adzato, Atsito, Latame, and Alakple to augment the strength of our search parties from Tregui. Indeed, unity is strength. Their timely responses and collaboration yielded the retrieval of all 11 bodies.
Revelation from the Chief Priest
Torgbui Akorlor—Dufia (Chief) of Tregui rushed to Anloga—the traditional capital of Anloland to confer with Awomefia, Awadada and the Elders. Before they could send for the chief priest to consult the Supernatural powers, he had already appeared in their midst. He was Hunor Adaŋuklasu Tsikata Akpãvia from Whuti and Srogboe—(By the way, Tsikata partly translates as “they are fed up” or “the enemies are fed up). Hunor Akpãvia (the Crow) was cladded in black calico with his head draped in white piece of scarf . He bore in his fist a locally welded dumb-bell tower as a traditional staff that he prodded his path with as he walks. Whenever Hunor stumped the ground with this mystic staff, the noise reverberates in different keys of musical tones; and he was the only one with the rare gift of interpreting the messages carried in such rhythmic melodies that bleated from the mystic staff.
He looked straight into the eyes of Awomefia and minced no words: The deviants had desecrated the land by their nefarious activities! For their stomach, they had insatiably traded obeisance to the gods of the Land for personal greed!! They desecrated the lands and the aquatic gods by their continuous plundering of the wealth of the village folks. Angrily, he opined that, the gods are very much incensed and that, what happened was just a droplet of a calamity yet to befall them. He insinuated deeply that, usually the early canoes to arrive from the hinterlands on Market Days are not the cargo-carriers, it is the latter ones that delivers the real commodities—Ewu do ngor menye asiwu o! With proverbial tone, Hunor counseled the gathering that, no one sows a corn and reap “dawadawa to prevent Covid-19”. Torgbui Azizakpi and his cahoots had sown a hot air of lawlessness, impunity, dishonesty, aggrandizement, embezzlement, profligacy, ineptitude, cunningness and disunity on our land. And the gods would, as a matter of course, visit them with a combination of whirlwinds, whirlpools and hurricane, to cleanse the land from those atrocities.
He went further to deliver a stern message from the deities to the land through the Awomefia: “Summon all the chiefs on the land and tell them about the wrath of the gods. They should disseminate the message to all—to include even the unborn generations; that, whosoever sees the cork of truth afloat on the lagoon and yet decided to submerge it, shall equally be drowned. And anyone who aided—one way or the other, in processing these illegally caught fishes will equally not be spared”. From the fishermen, to the fishmongers in the markets, down to the innocent consumers shall all be held in contempt for abetment. To eviscerate the message and reveal its importance, he elaborated further that “Even if the choking smoke of the fish from the grills enters one’s lungs, it will turn into colora virus in their lungs.” Adding to that, the foreteller further warned that, again, even if a staff of the local Waste Management Company collects the bones and scales of these fishes as a thrash, same waste collectors will suffer the consequences unless he removes the bones and declares them as sacrosanct bones from the sacrilegious fishes caught in the lagoon in the full glare of the people!
To those grey-haired elders in the communities who chose not to see evil, hear evil and smell evil around them, he bemoaned that, fire and the whirlwind does not discriminate on judgment day. The Chief Priest recited some appellations, paced to the North, South, East and West in the palace; he forcefully stumped his staff again and instructed the gathering: Dispatch your “Gong-gong beaters” throughout the Kingdom to spread the message. And let those with sailing ears, listen and comply; because, no condition will ever remain permanent. He struck the staff again and screamed “Jah-lelelele..!” like he was standing on the late Jamaican musician—Joseph Hill’s (aka Culture) tomb and proclaimed solemnly: “Behold, I come quickly to pay every man on earth according to the work they have done. This land is like a mirror, it reflects back what you do. If you smile at it, it shall surely smile back at you; [but, if you point a spear at it, the spear will point at your heart too]”. Therefore, “Fellow Anlos”, do unto other tribesmen what you expect them to do unto you, so that whirlpools will not capsize your canoes and whirlwind fires shall not consume your ghosts!
“Vinyewo, miga ŋlɔe be o..!” (My children do not forget the message.)
“Vi masetonua, añɔkae kua to ne!! (A recalcitrant child’s ears shall suffer the consequences of his disobedience).
He raised his staff higher than before, chanted again and just as he was about to bang it, I felt a tap on my shoulder and I woke up from the dream. It was a convoy of Foga Zoiku Edinam, Nufiala Senakor, Amega Gameli, Fovia Likem, Dumega Mawunyo, Adelã Suda, Dumega Ahiable, Gbefadefia Malor, Dumega Vigbedor, Fovia Adzraku, Nufiala Sefordzi and my cousin Adukpo who arrived with some bottles of “Ogoglo” and palm-wine. I narrated the dream to them and they all panicked. We prayed to Sogbolisa and pour libation to the ancestors to intercede on our behalf. Oh yes, whatever happens under the tree, stays there tightly zipped; so the rest of the story remained untold under the giant almond tree at Tregui!