Useless Column: ‘Yes…Any Work?’

If you haven’t suffered before it is difficult to tell the difference between what’s sweet and what’s bitter…

From Akuafo Hall Annex B to Sarbah Annex B (Okponglo); from Legon Hall Annex A to Commonwealth Hall Block B…weytin man no do before!

At average age of 13 or so, we would run after the any size of luggage from the main gate under that silk cotton tree to Ford Foundation! That silk cotton tree around the Legon Police station was cleared to pave way for the highway to Madina.

Anybody who completed the University of Ghana before 1989 may not understand how the term ‘Any Work’ came about! True or False? Meboa? The days of Wizo, Shasta and the like! Not so? Hahaaa! Wizo always won the 100meters race for Legon Hall and Shasta was the leading machoman of the same Hall especially when they had to fight the Vandals after any ‘uncompleted’ football match!

After a while the market became tough and dormant. Typically the practice was to wait patiently in front of especially the annexes awaiting a call from any student who needed our help. ‘One Small Boy…’ and the scramble began. The fastest and the hungriest small boy would get to that student first to do the chores usually washing of clothing, dishes, running errands to go and buy fufu at bush canteen or milo and ‘Barns’ bread from central cafeteria or, cleaning, polishing of floors and all the other ‘useless’ chores you could ever think of for a little nokofio.

I recall the days of Ragami Kpodo who did the long distance races for Akuafo Hall! Oh mehn, paddy was Akuafo Hall’s livewire in athletics. I could vividly remember the daughters of fayaaaaa! – a group of lady sprinters from Volta Hall! Kw33333!

There were times we chose not to do ‘anywork’ for some students because of their ‘chisel’ nature. Such students unnecessarily often gave us knocks on our heads later any time they came across us roaming in their corridors in search of ‘survival’. Students whose pre-university education was in Achimota, Akosombo International, and Wesley Girls paid good moneys. Students from some other schools preferred to do their own chores; for whatever reason, I don’t know o. A good number of the rest were the kankpey ones even though there were a few good and magnanimous ones from Accra Aka, Presek and that school in Cape Coast whose acronym for their old students association sounds like ‘Mobile’. Mr Kojo Koranteng, now a lawyer was my godfather! This guy pushed me to the wall to go to school by force whether my parents had the means or not! I’ve just put it to you o, Sir…hahahaa! God bless you, Counsel!

During the 1988 /89 academic year, business was slow as it was hard for any student to call us to give us chores for nokofio. Then an idea came to mind. I led a group of ‘small boys’ one weekend that ‘hey guys, we cannot continue this way; instead of waiting here for so long and no one calling us for ‘business’, why don’t we go from floor to floor and door to door shouting ‘Yes…Any work?’ It sounded like a good idea to the hardworking ones. For the lazy ones, ‘that’s not how to do it; let’s wait till they call us’! Really? They didn’t mean business. Oh yea!

We hit the road running. We were about 4 in number. We moved from rooms 101-116 on the first floor up to 501-516 on the last floor of Legon Hall Annex B…’ Bwoyyy…this yielded results. This unconventional means of doing business was to give birth to the popular ‘Anywork’ thing such that any student who needed ‘one small boy’ to run an errand no longer shouted ‘One small boy’ but straight to the point ‘Anywork!’ Indeed the thing has metamorphosed into a big business empire and attracted other ‘small boys’ from neighbouring towns! There was so much ‘work’ to do and our personal ‘economies’ improved from which we paid our fees and supported the home. This was where my career in marketing started, perhaps. We would simply not wait for business to come to us, we went in search for business ourselves! Students who hitherto didn’t need our services suddenly found the need for us.

I think my friends and I own the copyright to what became known as ‘Anywork’ at Legon and gained grounds in other public universities till it fizzled out a few years ago at Legon. ‘Crazy’ things man did before just to survive o, you have no idea; hmmm!

Some of these students who saw the seriousness in some of us encouraged us and even supported us financially to go to school. This was where I met Mr Gavivina Tamakloe, then at Legon Hall Annex C which housed mostly Post Graduate students. We were told at the time that Gavivina was one of the brainiest students the UG ever produced. I wasn’t surprised at all because he was also very philanthropic. Great guy and I don’t expect him to remember me; a trait typical of most good people!

As for the ladies in Volta Hall, awwwww they were great to us… they didn’t only pay us for running errands for them but also fed us with good food compared with some of the guys whose food? Hmmm…! Did we have a choice then? Volta was the preferred hall for most anywork boys to ply the trade but the Porters invariably prevented us from entering the hall as a few of our colleague anywork boys were sometimes involved in pilfering. Too bad! I see some of those boys (now men) today and I feel like crying for them…their lives are miserable as they could not control their kleptomaniac fingers in their formative hustling years.

At least for my group of pioneer anywork boys, we earned the trust of most of the students. Some of my close colleagues are now lawyers, engineers, and the worst among them is me, a ‘useless’ writer and a bl3di marketer! To God we give the glory.

Guided by the fact that ‘the goat says wherever there is a stick, there is food there,’ we one day sneaked into Volta Hall using those concrete pillars at the School of Admin (now UGBS) end of the Hall. While parading ourselves in the Hall in search of ‘any work’, the porters detected our presence. The chase with which they came after us led all of us running through those same pillars out to safety. Unfortunately there was this fat ‘anywork’ guy from Madina, who instead of meandering his way through the pillars in a crab-like fashion, decided to go through the pillars straight with his big stomach and he got stuck. Beatings from the porters be what! Paradoxically it was the same porters who ‘pumped’ his fufu stomach to facilitate his evacuation amidst some spanking. Ei! Everybody has a story to tell o.

The business was also seasonal. Our cocoa season was when the students resumed after especially the long vac. Luggage would be everywhere to carry and dirty rooms and louvres were available to clean. Ohhhh Commonwealth, Volta and Legon Hall guys were good with cash. Akuafo guys gave us boiled yam and gari! Sarbah guys and ladies gave us sardine, gari and beans. A good number of the male Dadabees on campus were in Legon Hall, which was then an all-male Hall. The only mixed hall then was Mensah Sarbah Hall…awwwww how I remember a reggae lover by name Zorba in Sarbah Annex A! He almost always placed last in the 800meters for Sarbah Hall but for reggae music, don’t go there! Hahahaaa! Akuafo was all Male, Volta (all female) and Vandal City (you for knorr – still)! Power belongs here, mehn!

I recall how we followed this BMW car from Sarbah Annex B (Okponglo) round the Central Cafeteria through Legon Hall all the way to Volta Hall panting with the hope of getting good luggage that would get us good pay. Naturally, the fastest guy got the best deals! The driver of the car, with a lady sitting in front gave us hope that anybody who got to carry that luggage was going to be ‘rich’ albeit temporarily. All anywork boys crowded over the boot of the car to ‘get the catch’ in the impending scramble. The driver patiently opened the boot and with everybody’s hand entering at the same time, the boot was empty! What a disappointment as there was not even a student mattress to carry la ah! Wasted effort! We were mad at the driver for leading us ‘into temptation’ all the way from okponglo to Volta Hall for ‘nothing’. Kai! We were hungry…hungry for success, was it? or rather survival!

Interestingly most of the students at the time never looked down on any of us as they saw us as an integral part of their very existence on campus. I still wonder how they managed us, as some of us smelt of terrible body odour! I retired from ‘Anywork’ in 1992 when my dream of entering the secondary was realised!

The likes of Lawyer Kojo Koranteng, Pickus Laryi, Chief Supt Ahlijah, Col. Penney Laryea with the UN now, one George Lawson, Gyesiwa Ansah, a certain Sowah at Okponglo among others really inspired some of us to greater academic heights and moulded us morally. As unnecessary as this information may be, at least if you didn’t know, now you know the origin of  ‘Yes… anywork! ‘Can you wash?’ Hahaaaa!

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