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26.10.2002 Feature Article

A Telephone Call from Ghana

A Telephone Call from Ghana
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When I first landed in aburokyire, there was no way to phone back to my hometown in Ghana. It was snail-mail all the way. Sparing some time to write and posting such mails was not a guarantee that one would reach his loved-ones back home. Letters were vanishing into tin-air through the post system in Ghana. Some of them managed to go through but whether the recipient received them or not also depended upon who gets them first. Letters from abroad were precious because the possible contents were either cash or pictures or senders’ telephone numbers and addresses. These were all what were needed for some guys to show and boast to others that their relatives and friends are in abrokyire. But these days the situation is changed and phone calls are common between those of us in the diaspora and relatives back home. Some of us still do not have the privilege and pleasure to dot.com our relatives and loved-ones in our villages because the Internet development is still at the toddling stage in Ghana. I provide in this article a typical telephone conversation from Ghana. It may sound satirical but some aspects are likely to be similar to the experiences of many readers abroad. One evening, krrr (ring),krrrr (ring),krrr (ring). I picked and hello. Bla (brother) can you call me? I am standing at Nso nyame Ye communication centre. What is the number? 01000010. Okay I will try. By the way, how is everybody? Puupuupuuupuu – contact lost. Dial, dial, dial, dial (after some 20 minutes dialling) krrr, krrr, krrr, - phone picked, hello. Hello, good afternoon. Please can I speak to Koo Twumasi? Koo Twumasi, who is he, a lady receptionist asked? Oh, he just called for me to call back. Okay wait a minute, she said. Anybody called Koo Twumasi (background)? Go to boot one to answer your call (background). Hello, said Koo. Koo, ete sen (how are you?), I asked? Eh, bla Onyame adom, eye (by God’s grace, fine), said Koo. Bla, na mo nsoe (what about you?) Not bad over here by the same grace, I responded. Well, Koo, what is up, I asked? Hmmm, bla I called to say hello and to hear from you about what I told you in the letter about my business. Business? I pretended. Oh, have you forgotten, asked Koo? No I haven’t but I don’t remember we had anything left to be discussed, I said. That is true but bla, you know it’s been quite some time now ever since. You promised to come to my aid as soon as things get better for you, Koo reminded me. I still remember saying that but I still need some extra time. It’s raining over here but the soil still remains hard, I preached. How is the business anyway, I consoled? Bla, hmmm, my problem is that I need capital. Are you sure everybody is doing well? I asked. Hmmm, bla I said we are fine just to provide the traditional answer to this question. But true, true, bla, Ghana is hard, things are hard, Koo lamented. Really, I shouted? Bla, you have to count yourself lucky not to be living in Ghana. Government workers who have permanent and consistent flow of income are crying and those of us in business have no future because anything can happen. Do you expect something bad to happen, I inquired. No, bla, but you know when life is empty and hopeless, negativities are as opened as positivities. You sounded right here, I praised. Bla, if you had not paid Yaw’school fees and the deposit, he wouldn’t have been at school. His father has no job and you know auntie’s business is not going on well. Yaw asked me to tell you that next semester begins in two months time. He has some new books to buy, his fee is increased, he needs a new bag, some provisions and pocket money. Aha, he also needs a scientific calculator. How much do you think would be needed, I curiously asked? Bla, about four million, Koo quantified? Cedis, I asked? Yes, of course, Koo responded. Wofa Kwadwo is here and would like to discuss his surgical operation he underwent at Okomfo Anokye with you, Koo informed. Really? I asked. Okay hand the phone over to him, I said. Hello Kwasi, wofa (uncle) cleared his throat. Hello wofa, I answered. Ete sen? I asked. Kwasi, hmmm, things are not going on well over here. Why? I inquired. Hmmm, you know poverty plus sickness is the worse experience that can confront any human being. I managed to get a loan of ¢2 million to undergo my knee operation as I told you in the letter. Yes, I remember, I said. The time for me to pay back the loan has long passed and it looks like the woman is no longer going to entertain any further deferments. I don’t have anyone to ask for help but you. Kwasi if you don’t help the next news you will hear would be that I am in jail or have done something to myself, wofa threatened. Okay wofa, are there other issues, I asked. No, Kwasi, that is all I wanted to beg from you. Amma and the children said I should extend their greetings to you. Kwame said he wrote to you some time to ask for a camera and he is till waiting to hear from you so don’t forget to post it to him as soon as possible, wofa concluded. You will hear from me soon, I said. Thank you Kwasi, bye. Hello, Koo Twumasi cleared the air. Hello, I responded. Aha, I was almost forgotten, Koo continued. Your father said I should thank you for the money you sent to him recently. He said it was a great relief and he is now having it fine. Okay, we thank God for that, I said. I am happy that no one is dead this time, I continued. Aha, I was almost forgotten to tell you. Two people have died recently and they are both in mortuary at Kumasi. Really, do I know any of them? I asked in shock. Well they are not family members but you may know one of them. One is Kiki, the guy used to be a fitter (car mechanic) and stayed near Agya Adu’s store, Koo convinced. No, I don’t remember him, I said. The other one was a stranger in town. He came to settle here after you had left to aburokyire so you won’t know him. Okay, but my sympathies to their families, I consoled. Bla the rate at which people die in this town is scary and this is why many of us want to leave, Koo argued. The poverty is the main cause of many, if not all, of the untimely deaths, said Koo. Hmmm, poverty is relative and it is present in every society, including where I am, I preached. Bla but, no matter what, aburokyire is better than here, Koo stood firm. Well, we will get to that later but don’t forget the saying in Ghana that nowhere is cool, I intervened and concluded. Koo, what about politics in the country? I asked. Eh, as for bla and his politics, said Koo. Hahahahahaha, we both laughed. Since the P/NDC lost power life has not changed as we expected, complained Koo. But, this government will need some time before making individual pockets well-filled, I defended. That is true but bla, we want action, action now. That is true but magical action cannot be possible, I continued. I agree, bla, we are still waiting and hoping for the best, said Koo. What do you think about the chances of NDC in 2004? I asked. Well bla the elections would be keen but the NPP will carry the day, argued Koo. Why do you think so? I asked. Bla, hmmm, people are bored and fed up with the NDC and Rawlings. But Rawlings cannot become president of Ghana again, according to our Constitution, I argued. Bla, it is true but don’t forget Prof Mills promised to let him rule had he won the presidential contest in 2000 elections. Right, I agreed. But what about if Botchwey is elected the flagbearer of the NDC, I asked. Oh, bla “gye wo ahome, abe koro nsa“ (they are the same), Koo argued. And continued, Botchwey is going round across the country telling Ghanaians that he turned Rawlings chain to coat and this is annoying many of us. Really? I asked anxiously wanting to know more. Yes, and that is a lie because many Ghanaians still wear this chain and many have died and continue die as a result of it. Hahahhahaha, we both laughed, out of disappointment. Koo continued, Prof Mills is also annoying us by saying he now understands issues better and if elected will be his own man and will ensure the safety of all Ghanaians. Bla, these are all lies, until NPP came to power, no one was safe except people like him. We no go sit down make them cheat us, never again, Koo sounded disappointed and determined. Prof Mills has recently returned some of the cars they greedily shared among themselves before they left office, informed Koo. Really? I remained anxious to know more. Yes, bla, how can we forgive these people, especially so soon? That is the question, I said. Koo what do people say about the NPP government at the village, I inquired. Bla, people think JAK is doing well, argued Koo. But it is not everything that we are happy at? Really, I curiously asked. Yes, the president travels abroad too much, his cabinet is argued to be too large and he does not visit the countryside and the villages. People are scared that very soon there will be a minister for armed robbery. Hahahahahaha, laughed both of us. Since he became president, we haven’t seen him in our area before and there is no hope that he is coming to us anytime soon. Koo sounded worried. He continued, but during the campaign in 2000 he came to our village once and made two stop-overs at the chief’s palace here. Don’t worry he may soon come, I said. Bla, but when, asked Koo. Well, as people are free to tell the president his faults, I am sure if that is a serious issue he will soon adjust, I argued. I will find time to call again for us to talk more politics, I said. Bla, continued Koo, I was almost forgotten, Yaa has given birth to her second child. Her husband has deserted her and her living conditions are critical. The money you gave to her for business is believed to have been misused by her husband. She asked me to send you her greetings and that she is waiting for a reply to her letter. Aha, Koo remembered again, Yaw Sam has returned home from Germany. Really, how is he doing? Eh, bla the guy has grown big and is a real burger. He is in Accra to clear his goods. Sources have it that he came with a latest BMW. Bla, aburokyire be good paa. I knew Yaw very well before he left for Europe. He had nothing but now his personality has changed, he is putting up a building at the new site, he sent a taxi-cab to his mother and he is going for his latest car and goods. Bla, I can’t wait to join you at aburokyire. He has done well, I humbly said. Bla, I like your call paa, praised Koo. Really? I asked. Yes, because anytime that you call we can talk for a long time. Over here we do not have money to call aburokyire for more than 1 minute. It is very expensive, explained Koo. It is the same thing over here, I said. I am using a prepaid card to call and we have just about two minutes left so if you have anything left..., I said. Well, bla I don’t have much left but what I want to say is that, these days one can use one-touch mobile phone here at the village, announced Koo. You know, one cannot say all the secrets when in a public boot like this. Having a phone at home will make it easier for mama to receive your calls. She always has to rush to come for your calls. The receptionist has no respect and I hate to come here. So do mama and the others. It will be nice if you can send us a mobile phone and about ¢1m connecting fee. With mobile phone we can receive your calls wherever we are. Sorry, we have little time again you will hear….puupuupuupuu- contact lost.

Peter Ohemeng
Peter Ohemeng, © 2002

The author has 12 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: PeterOhemeng

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