07.04.2003 Feature Article

'Koloya, Koloya' and the Art Of Disappearance.

'Koloya, Koloya' and the Art Of Disappearance.
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Rhapsodies On 'Kindness' - Verse 29

Underdevelopment is not just an economic phenomenon. At the super-structural level underdevelopment supports a plethora of 'nwanwaful' occurrences, the most lurid of which, is the art of disappearance. True to dialectical theory, disappearance does not exist only at the super-structural level, but it freely descends onto the sub-structural plane of economics too. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to assert that the whole question of underdevelopment is the art of disappearance.

I was witness to this amazing art way back in the carefree seventies at the Koforidua 'lorry station', where a super magician, a master of illusion, called Sisala Boy performed feats of money doubling and money disappearance for his admiring fans. Daily, right beside the long Koforidua to Accra queues adjacent to the public latrine that sat smack in the middle of the station, ordinary folk, villagers especially, would bring their life savings to him in the hope that his touch will double their meager savings. Most would leave happy after they had exchanged their money for a strange swaddling bundle, which they were under oath not to open till they got home. The next day they would return in tears, if they still had any money left, to confront Sisala Boy. Then he would hypnotize them and ask them, "Mabowo apoo?" (Have I cheated you)? Miraculously they would answer in the negative, and depart and come no more.

But it was in the actual performance of disappearance that the fascination lay. The ritual was always accompanied by a jingle. Sisala Boy would tell the crowd, "If I say 'Okolo kolo, you say, Koloya" The drums would start beating and he would start dancing:

"Okolo kolo' "Koloya

"Kolo kolo kolo" "Koloya"

"Koloya Koloya" "Koloya."

And just like that the villager's money would disappear and the fake bundle handed to him.

What I call the 'Koloya Syndrome' has become a feature of national life. Take for instance, the ship laden with $2 million worth of oil at the offshore Saltpond oil fields. Just like that without, any warning, 'Koloya Koloya koloya' and the ship disappears. It has since been reported sighted doing the 'koloya' in Nigerian waters.

But if you think the Saltpond 'koloya' is an amazing feat, then, I say, you have not lived long enough. In the illustrious reign of Kutu, the Swebusco alumnus, a ship loaded with Ghana's cocoa beans disappeared off the high seas. No, it did not sink. Neither was it sold for scrap like Tsatsu Tsikata's oil rigs. But, 'Koloya Koloya koloya', Commander Kyremeh, then Commissioner of Cocoa Affairs, was rumored to have sold all the cocoa and put the money in his pocket. I must confess I enjoyed a bit of the fruits of that 'koloya' because on a visit to Asuatiano in the Brong Ahafo region, I stayed at Mr. Kyremeh's house for a month.

Still this magical art of disappearance predates the wonderful Kyremeh. Remember in the early seventies when shaking hands with somebody became the most terrifying act in the country. You would shake hands with your neighbor, and then, 'Koloya Koloya Koloya', your manhood would disappear. It became quite the sight to see two grown men shaking hands whilst each man held his 'thing' with his other hand to guarantee that it will not be a victim of that 'koloya'. And the whole nation believed it. Just like we believed that if you did not paint a red cross on your door, the angel of the Lord was going to crucify everyone in the house.

Alas, in the present day, the acts of disappearance do not possess the pizzazz of earlier day acts. They have become too blatant. It is definitely a result of the information revolution and the fast food world, which induce people to wish for immediate results with no frills, songs or dance. The central regional Minister, the buffoon-like Edumadze is the epitomy of this new genre. No sooner has his protégé bilked Ajumako farmers of their life savings ostensibly to set up a co-operative farm than, 'koloya, koloya, koloya', his billion cedi mansion takes shape. That is definitely uncreative.

The IFC loan which was 'there and not there' is another uncreative act. But at least those are better than the sordid disappearances of many innocent people during the reign of Junior Jesus when he seized power in order to kill people in order to save Ghana from and for Ghanaians. Come to think of it, that was rather a complex 'koloya'. Sordid, gruesome, yes, but definitely complex. Such complexity became the hall mark of Junior's rule, sort of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul to make Paul and Peter rich' That one 'pass' my power.

But how else would you call an arrangement that allows SSNIT to fork out $2.24 million of tax payers pensions to invest in a ghost company, and then the 'ghost' turns around and uses part of the money to buy some real estate property, and then sell it back to SSNIT, whilst the ghost company uses the remainder of SSNIT's money to pay itself and take 45% shares in the said property, all without using a cent of its own money? That one, definitely 'pass' my power.

Hopefully, the trend will change and new artistic life shall be breathed into the disappearing act. Already signs of this are showing. One that comes into mind is one that mimics Jesus' great miracle of feeding the five thousand. In that astounding 'Koloya', the carpenter's son took five fish and two loaves (or vice versa) and multiplied it many times over. Ghana, always a country to rise to the occasion had a similar performance recently when heroin seized from a drug courier, suddenly turned into salt in the possession of the Korle Bu police. Now the carpenter's son would have been very impressed.

Koloya, koloya, koloya? Koloya.

But I definitely miss the disappearing acts of the old days. I remember in the mid eighties when there suddenly appeared in front of the Okyehene's palace in Kibi, about 15 tractors that were rumored to be earmarked for this gigantic agricultural project in partnership with the Italians. A new streetlight was installed over the square where the tractors sat day and night for almost six months. One day, without any warning, the good people of Kyebi woke up to find all the tractors had disappeared. The rumor had it that the project had commenced, and many in Kyebi were relieved and glad. Imagine my surprise when on a visit to the palace a week or so later, I noticed the tractors, all 15 of them tucked away in a corner of the yard within the high walls of the palace.

But the great Wayera, a Takoradi brother who lived in Koforidua, performed the greatest of all disappearing acts, one that shall haunt me for the rest of my life. His name literally means to disappear. He was a thief, a bully and drug dealer, but he was untouchable because it was believed he possessed 'Ayara duro" or juju for disappearing. Even the Koforidua cops were afraid of him. Well one day, Agai Kofi, an imbecile in town, took a club and totally demolished Wayara's face and head. I met Wayara that evening and inquired about his multiple bruises, cuts and swellings.

His answer was, "E no be Agai Kofi. That's all say, he figure say, that's all be that's all, so that's all..I go show am say I be Takoradi bro. Them no dey call me Wayera for nothing".

Wayera had one more disappearing act to perform. He ordered all of us to close our eyes to enable him disappear. We obeyed dutifully until the crash of broken glass snapped our eyes open. We rushed to the window and looked down. There lay Wayera, dead after falling two stories and hitting a concrete pavement.

Maybe we should wish for the same fate for those who think public funds or property can be used for 'koloya koloya koloya'!

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