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21.09.2019 Feature Article

The Dripping Ink Of A Bolga‘rian’ – Reliving Bolga Zango In The 80’s

The Dripping Ink Of A Bolga‘rian’ – Reliving Bolga Zango In The 80’s
LISTEN SEP 21, 2019

So it was in those days when the Zango (Zongo in other literature) in Bolga was likened to violence. Yet is was a delight for us to call it our neighbourhood and home; home for many from diverse walks of life and their families. We lived in compound houses that housed an average of five in a room. It was within these days that I recall these moments inked to paper and now on media. The house was numbered E138 or E38 (uncertain). We will wake up to the regular voices ‘fii sabidiyn lai’ of different beggars who came to beg alms. They would range from physically/mentally challenged persons to whole bodied/mentally stable persons and mothers of twins. ‘Fii sabidiyn’ is not Gurune, the dominant language of the people of Bolga - it appears to me the phrase is of Islamic origin which I find difficult to interpret. However, it was the regular recital of beggars in the Zangos in Bolga. Their presence was enough prompter that it was time to wake up and prepare for the day. Children and adults will get to the nearest Nim tree and get a piece to clean their teeth. It was a prerequisite for having breakfast of corn mill porridge (Mori Kooko), overnight palp/TZ (sagkute) or something else. It was those days when tooth paste was very rare and persons who were more organized financially bought and used chewing sponges and sticks for cleaning their teeth.

The Tenants of E 1(38)

E 1(38) had diverse tenants. There was THE BOY, who was in the transport business. He had migrated from Dagbong and settled in Bolga were his business was flourishing. He had a big truck and a small pickup with the inscription ALL IS GOOD, GOOD NEVER LOSE – SK THE BOY. Children were entertained from the loud music emanating from his sound system when he is at home. He was a music lover and accredited for bringing to Bolga the Amasachina Band from Dagbong for live performances. We also had Mman Safianu – she was/ is the mother of Safianu. Mman Safianu was a trader too. She lived in the same house with her husband and children. She was a Dagbana (Dagomba) and spoke Dagbangli. Like The Boy, she was from Dagbong. Her husband, a calm Bimoba man was a driver at the Bolga hospital. His wife will sell fried yam in front of the only storeyed house opposite of Mobil Gas Filling station. We loved her a lot, for children in our house had the responsibility of helping her park after the close of trade at night. This job came handy for us for we would enjoy the excess yam chips that would go unsold. When yam was out of season, Mman Safianu would trade in Kulikuli (a snack made of salted fried extracts of groundnut puree). Then was the Yoruba family, whose children included Tawa, Iyabo, and Rasheeda. They came in with their culture from Nigeria, especially reflective in their food. We learnt to eat TZ made out of powdered yam and its peels. Sister Zenabu also called Sister Z was an employee of the Ghana Education Service. She was sparklingly beautiful, well-mannered and had a good taste for fashion. She was the first to have a fridge and television in the house and perhaps the entire neighbourhood .Children will crowd at her window to watch same at night. She will treat children and adults to cold water, ice creams and more from her fridge on special days. It was those days when neighbours cared for/about each other. Then was Madam Margaret whom we called Sister Maggie whose siblings were Kofi and Laadi. They were Dagabas, for they spoke Dagari. Oho! How did I forget Mallam? He was a tall handsome looking Dagomba man and an Islamic cleric whom many believed had spiritual powers – for we saw many visit him for such related. His wife, (Memuna I think) was Hausa and sold smocked fish at the Bolga market. Danteni and Danladi were her children, who lived in the other side of Zongo after T99. Their room was outside of the compound together with that of Flash, Nobleman and John. The tree were Ewe and lived lives that amplified elitism, at least by Zango standards. They would dress decently and also cook meals that were not common in the Zangos, rice (shinkafa or mui) inclusive. It looks to me their mum or aunt had an eatery (chop bar) at the main Bolga station. Garvey Hayes lived with his brother John the Painter in the third outer room (they were Akans and spoke Twi), whiles THE BOY had his driver and others in the fourth outer room close to the entrance of the house. But were these the only tenants we had? No, there was Azure Longa Morahi, the mother of my mother who was a non-resident tenant. She lived I Zua-rungo but will visit at the least opportunity. She would come with Maa-ha, koohe, cooked yam or any other. Her visits were largely to see me. Bolga market days were the very certain days of her visit for she was a petty trader in Zuo-rungo. She would come to buy stuff in Bolga to retrade at the Zuo-rungo market. I would go to vsit her on Saturday after close of school and return Sunday in the evening to prepare for school on Monday.

Our Neighbours

Close to our house was the home of a farmer of Sokabiihi origin. His children included Akogra, Atekya, and Abass whose sisters were Ayishetu and Awuletu among others. Their remembered tenant was a trader in the Bolga market whose daughters were Abiba (Abii) and the second whose name I do not remember. They spoke Mampurrli, for they were Mampruhi from Mampurrgu. Like a trio, our houses were arranged in a linear manner and the 3rd of the linear structure was one owned by an employee of the then Ghana Water Corporation. His wife made wakye (wache) for sale at the then Tamale Station also opposite of the Mobil Gas filling station. In that house was Mr. Amunya who made Amunya soap for sale. His children Anthony and Abaama were good childhood friends. On the other side of E1 (38) was the big traditional house. Mr. Akurigo, sorry Baba Akurigo, was the head. His children, Nyaaba and Atanga would offer us Naara (fresh home grown millet) when the crop was in season. Azeina was the strongest child in that house and by extension the whole neighbourhood. He did not hesitate to throw the first blow in all fights, including with those older than him. I was not a victim of his strength, for he considered me his younger brother. “Adokta, dela man yibga” he will tell others, in reference to me being his younger brother - for his mother Azuoringa, was/is from Zuo-rungo from whence I hail. I also had Gado, my Uncle who will come to rescue in any case of bullying; I was a lucky boy. Then was the other traditional home which was smaller compared to the first. Our colleague in that home was Adibuuro whom we called Mburo. He was a calm but brilliant chap in the soccer field. He would dribble opponents to the admiration of many on the soccer pitch. Their house was directly opposite the house of Alhaji BB, whose children include(d) Alhaji, Mohammed also called Marrays who also played for the Mighty Rocks soccer team and Ibrahim whose fiancée was (name withheld).

Mman Safianu’s business spot was the home of Ayuuba and his elder brother Issah. Their father was a teacher. Unlike other Zango boys, they were consistently neat in appearance and attitude. They spoke good English, read well and also had exceptional things. For instance we all rode on Borays (bearings) cars. Borays was a miniature car made of wood which run on three “tires”. The tires were actually used bearings of spoilt cars that facilitated the movement of this wooden car of our creation. Ayuuba’s father, would make theirs more unique by ensuring it had a steer like a normal car and also covered to give semblance of a real car.

In the CMB house was Kweku Sekyere, whose father was a newspaper vendor (Papa Odame), Amadu was in the house of the Hausa Alhaji whose wives sold herbal purgatives (duura). He had a grinding mill (nika nika) in a further part of the Zango operated by Asibi. Right close to them was teacher’s house which had Azakaama, Mercy and Johnnie (whose mother was a nurse). Teacher was a decent Ga man who did complimentary farming – he had a garden in front of his house. Corporal Alidu’s home had his son Olman while the Sissala home had Huudu and Salifu – their mum traded in a snack made of salted fried bean puree (koohe / Koose).

Zango – The Sports Hub of Bolgatanga

Like many Zango boys, we will sneak to the football park were the Union Uppers football club used to train. The favourite star then was Jabbah who wore the number 5 Jersey. In those days, it seem to me, defenders were more celebrated than other players. Bomber Toota was also a star player in a different team. He was from Bawku, light skinned and short. Apart from admiring them, we did not miss the chance of competing to pick up balls for the team when the ball got out of play. Those were exciting times. Other soccer teams in those days were Catholic Stars that trained on the Catholic Church Park and Cosmos Stars which at one time had The Boy as their manager or financier.

Mobil Volley Ball Club

Close to the soccer pitch was a volley ball court. Bolga’s volley ball team was about the best in the country. I was not told, I saw them beat many teams from different parts of the country year in and year out. Star players like Ahmad, Kweku Jedu, National, Dramanai and Dokurugu are worth remembering. Their coach was a tall handsome man of Moshie extract who lived in the house of Yakuta’s mother where kenkey was sold around CMB. Tawa, is the only female name I remember of the Mobil Volley club; same Tawa who is of Yoruba extract and lived in E1 (38).

The volley ball court was close to the house of a big name in the sports industry in Bolga then. He was Dan Iska - a sports man and the fastest runner in the Upper East Region of Ghana. His brother Seidu, also called Sedoo, later became a member of the volley ball team after the generations of Ahmed, and Bob Nakuku. The volleyball court environs had an isolated but fenced space that later served a purpose for the charismatic Christian movement in Bolga.

Other Games

Children engaged in Other Games. We played socks ball, alkoto, chass kele, pilolo, kpitinge, kyen pe (kyemu pe) and ludu. The mystery surrounding ludu is that, the elderly actually enjoyed it more. You would hear participants shout ‘Siisss Miluudu’. I grew up to understand that, it was actually ‘six Me Lead You’ – perhaps the game is of Caribbean origin.

Young girls played ampe, abontibom, and faila. Faila was actually unisex and needed only bare space, six boxes drawn with the foot, and a stone for each participants to throw into the right box and also hop on one foot through the other boxes till he picks up the stone in the designated box. One had failed, giving way for the next participant if he/she throws her stone outside of the boxes or in any of the drawn lines. ‘Hooking Sah’ made children cover their buttocks with their hands often, for if you did not, you will be kicked with the knee if you had a ‘Hooking Sah’ arrangement with the other.

The Beginning of Brother Eastwood’s Church

Close to the volley ball pitch was an isolated but fenced space. Perhaps abandoned by one government agency (likely the Leprosy department of the Ministry of health). It became useful for the formative worship place of Nintam ministry which later became Broken Yoke Church and now Fountain Gate Chapel International. Brother Eastwood, the leader of the ministry was outstanding in stature, appearance, charisma and the things of God. He and his team would meet for prayers at the stated place to worship. The act was very new in Bolga and its environs, for we knew Christianity to be associated with calm meticulous ritualistic prayers. Brother Eastwood and his team were a departure from this norm. They will pray with understanding and in tongues loudly. They became the conversation for both adults and the young in Bolga, especially within the Zango where their worship centre was located. Many complained, murmured, etc but they prevailed (I know because I would overhear the gossips when one of his fatefuls visits our home and departs). Characteristic of his church to the biblical church was the stoning of fatefuls. Brother Eastwood and his team would attract stoning while worshipping – an act I still cannot understand whether triggered by the children themselves or the instructions of their parents. I thank God I was/ am not guilty of these persecutions. Brother Eastwood later became and is a Global figure in the end time harvest for God – check out East Wood Anaba Ministries.

Around T99

Kun – kuao- nyina, was corn mill porridge (kooko) of a different kind from that which was poplar within Bolga. It was sold at the chief Imam’s house. This was more of a foreign product brought to Bolga as a result of migration. The chief Imam was a Dagomba and his wives were same too in the best of my knowledge. They made this porridge in large quantities and it was the lunch time delight. Children had no options but to queue for longer times before getting served – for elderly persons were respected and allowed to skip the queue. It was porridge like we know but had bits of fermented corn grains in it. It was served usually with cube sugar, which out of scarcity was remolded to look big but were actually hollow. Persons will bite a bit of it with a gulp of porridge. I miss kunkuao-nyina.

Then was ‘kwalulu’ and ‘tubani’. I cannot give a vivid mental picture of the route that led to the kwalulu spot, but the most popular kwalulu trader was and elderly lady living behind Alhaji OK Naira’s house on ones way to T99. Alhaji OK Naira reminds of two names, Ibrahim whom we called Adoogo, for he was tall; his younger brother was Nurudeen, who was the goal keeper of Asuramenta Primary school and his younger brother Kaamil who was very stubborn. Aha, how can I miss this? A school I was once the senior prefect – its Experimental Primary school but we and our parents called it Asuramenta, for so was it called by all.

Hiding from Sama Sama

Tangahi would come in to inspect homes to ensure each individual kept his surrounding clean. Tangahi was actually a word I did not understand till later in adulthood. T was actually Town Council, the government agency in charge of the town with varied responsibilities including ensuring sanitation. Their officials would be referred to as tangahi or sama sama. I later understood that, the word sama sama actually was a mispronunciation of summons, for if one was guilty of not keeping his surrounding well, the one will be summons at the town council to pay a fine. It was a very good way of checking the Zangos to ensure compliance with sanitary standard. Many were guilty of deviating from the standards. The Zangos had houses which mostly did not have places for defecation. Many either used the bushes, went to public toilet or defecated in chamber pots- sometimes black polythene bags. The crux of this heading was those who would defecate in the polythene bags or chamber pots. These acts were done in the room and thrown into the bush at night. T was these category that the sama sma would arrest and summons to the council when caught with the substance in their rooms. The sama sama had the license to get into peoples rooms and conduct searches.

Simpa at Night

YaaKuta and Ayishetu come handy with Simpa recollected and of cours Olman Konkona. Olman was a beautiful man associated usually with ladies. He sold cosmetics and acted in every sense like a woman including tiring the regular clothes or wrapper Zango women wore. He was a big name in the Simpa scene. Simpa was yet another form of entertainment associated with the Zangos. It is not the traditional entertainment of the Gurihi. I will not be surprised if it is of Dagbong origin. One will know the evening entertainment is about commencing when you hear “taaabei, tabei, taaabei”. These are hausa words meaning clap, but in a musical manner. Other names existed but Yaakuta was one of their leaders. Her dad was a driver in one of the government organizations and her mother traded in kenkey. Her younger sister Wakiyatu whom we called Kia was a friend to our family. We will hurry on our food and ran quickly to the playground around the CMB house where the entertainment will take place. Largely a lady event, they will dance with a lot of energy with their waists and errrrm, what is this word? - Yes I remember, their buttocks. There were so many of them in the Zangos and could be identified by their special clothes. Traditional prints like ABC and CTT were in fashion and associated with the groups. Groups will claim identity or ownership of a particular cloth design resulting in rival fights. Amidst this, a popular Simpa song emerged;

ABC baa na kowa ba

CTT baa na kowa ba

Abinda mu kei son Allah ya baamu

ABC baa na koowa ba

The song in Hausa is transliterates to mean no one has rights to ABC or CTT. What we want has been given to us by God, so ABC is not for any one. This Hausa bit brings me to the word of the environ in discourse, the Zango. Other literature has it as Zongo. Much as it is the popular usage, oral literature has it that, the word is Zango. It originally was a temporal place of rest for sojourners or travelers. They would put up a tent to rest and continue their sojourn at the appropriate day. Akafa Zango – Hausas can relate. The word later became synonymous to shanty towns and slum neighborhoods with different tribal persons.

Fred Awaah is a lecturer at the University of Professional Studies- Accra, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of African Culture and International Understanding and a globally sort after speaker on Higher Education and African Affairs.

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