Useless Column: Jail poverty

Useless Column: The Fetish Pastor
Mawuli Zogbenu

Happy birthdayyyyyyyy to you Mama GH! Ghana Ghana Ghana oseeeeeyi eeeeeeey…..yeeeee…yiyeyeeeeyyyyy! Ghana ooooo….yeeeeei! Ghana oooo….oseyyyy aiyeeeeee! Hahahahaha! Ghana sweet roff! We don’t give chance to what wants to make us unhappy; we would find a way of creating fun with it and life goes on. It is a national asset; in case you don’t know. Let’s cherish it!

On 6th March, 1990 I was privileged to have been selected among a few brilliant pupils from Anunmle JSS by Mr Ben Tetteh and Ms Josephine Hekli (fantastic duo) to go to the Trade Fair for the first time. My eyes were opened. I saw the round pavilion for the first time and they called it a fountain. How can water go up, fall down and never fill the tank? I wondered. From Anunmle through Achimota Village in a hired bus singing vernacular jamma songs that made no sense, I pretended to be ‘eye open’ but my walking gave me up.

At the Trade Fair Centre, we met school children from Christ the King, Morning Star, Achimota Primary, SOS, University Primary and imagine the sharp contrast between the former on one hand and Anunmle boys and girls interspersed with Aayalolo, Abavana and Haatsu Under 17 Cluster of schools walking in only God knows where we got those slippers from; they didn’t even look like sandals. Aooo! Cyto go kill us. The pupils from the ‘classic and powerful schools spoke impeccable Grammar and carried on them beautiful lunch bags and teddy bears. For us, so so Twi Twi, Ga, Ga, Ga, Ewe, Ewe and Hausa. Kai!

The best you would hear some of us speak especially when arguing with our Dadabee friends from the endowed schools when we were confused and intimidated by their presence was ‘ern…you say what? instead of just saying ‘pardon?’ and then we would walk away mostly funnily with some village swag without waiting to get an answer. We often did this to prevent these rich boys and girls from asking further ‘technical’ English questions, in slangs. They didn’t know it was a strategy to avoid further embarrassment!

Montesori guys often hated fighting and would cringe when they saw cyto boys biting and hitting each other. Abeg, they were not fights oo; they were simply expressions of frustration due to poverty from home and we often fought really hard till a tooth got broken and it was fun though! I recall at the Trade Fair some boy bi from Kotobaabi 15 hit me at the back kpaaa. The Montesori boys started crying for me when me myself I was doing just fine and happily clapping too. They called it assault. Cyto knows no assault oo. We know ‘kw33333! ‘ok333 mini’. That’s all! You must be hard as survival depends largely on that.

Even the Montesori teachers had nicer names like Mr De-Graft Johnson and Ms Shiela Dunlop, Mrs Vineyard Gidibom. Come to Anunmle line. That’s when you hear teachers’ names like Chicha Atatsi, Mr Gbetivi (Baby Tiger), Mrs Gladys Akadongo, Mr Agbelima, Mrs Ganyaglo Amegayibor (meaning Black Boss), Mr. Kudolo (death is wonderful)! The nicest name one was likely to find was ‘Mr Tetteh’!

For us the underprivileged, just see us with our ‘apachi apaachi noko p3t3 kaya duna’ shorts! (torn knickers). Of course we were the Niggas in town! I remember how I found myself in the midst of some Montesori boys when my cyto colleagues were their somewhere playing all kinds of unnecessary games including fighting. I had gari wrapped in cement paper and put in my pocket for the ‘rainy day’. Squatting around Pavilion E (that was when Trade Fair was Trade Fair o). I could hear the sound of the crispy gari sipping down and the sound was like ‘yoooooooooo’. That sound that you hear when the rains from the next town had started hitting the roof yet to get to your roof. Ehernnnn! Unfortunately for me, some boy bi from Greemhill International ‘uninvitedly’ came to draw my attention to the fact that my gari was pouring from my pocket. Ala! I disowned that gari that very moment. Whaaaat! Nothing annoyed me about this expository situation apart from the fact that inside the gari were palm kernels to match. Those boys were convinced it was from my pocket but I swore it never belonged to me. Why should I accept it especially when everybody around me was eating jollof rice with chicken? Poverty is a crime; do everything genuinely possible to ‘jail’ it!

It is only when your problems are not big enough that you pray in the English language. I like pastors who pray in the local dialects. ‘Mawu Sogbolisa’ applies to Jehovah God in my Father’s house. Nutsor is how my friend Nii Lante would call on God though. The women who call their husbands ‘Mi Nutsor’ are the most submissive and respectful of all. ‘Mi Nutsor’ simply means ‘My Lord’ if you have stayed in Accra for long. My better half calls me ‘Kako’ just because of my smelly armpit though she is very submissive and not from Accra. I really would have preferred ‘Mi Nutsor’ too! It will make me feel good.

Back in Anunmle 3 Primary 2 in September 1983 (hunger time). Imagine me going to seek permission to go out to urinate and Anunmle brofo, OMG! Chai! Mrs Katoko of Anunmle 3 Primary School in the early 80s. A class mate walked to her and said something I only heard as ‘please teacher…’ That was all I heard and was not sure of how he ended the sentence and the teacher allowed him to go out and urinate. Guided by this, I also went and to Madam and said ‘Please Teacher’…while still standing there. Hai! The teacher was just looking at me expecting me to conclude what I’d wanted to say. In fact, I had nothing more to say bcos for me ‘please teacher’ was a complete statement because if my friend said ‘please teacher’ and he was allowed to go out, how come I was being asked to add something? ‘I repeated…’please teacher’. That was when my troubles started! The teacher lost her temper and asked ‘please teacher what? ‘Please Teacher what?’, Mrs Katoko retorted angrily with a cane already greeting me on the head! What was my offence here? How come someone said ‘please teacher’ and you allowed him to go and urinate and when I said same, I was being lashed? If you have attended a Montessori, sorry you have missed the real fun of life! Sadly, my kids are in a Montessori! Hmmm!

Happy 65th Independence Day on Sunday 6th March, 2022! By the left…quick March! Layf rai…layf rai…layf rai!

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