Attempted Prophecies: Finding Obooya and Mary PART I


Obooya Beats Mary

I do not know about you, but I am yet to stumble across a truly one-dimensional human being…

But here is the thing though, oftentimes in our effort at making sense of our very complex human ecosystem, we tend to resort to ‘pigeonholing’. We tend to put one another in boxes. It is way too much work going about, analysing each and every human being you come across in life as the multi-layered beings they are. So, what do we do? We look out for their most prominent traits—be they natural or learnt—and place these persons in these boxes of traits. For instance, you know this lady drunkard called Mary. So quite naturally, the booze is the first thing that comes to mind whenever you hear her name mentioned.

Mary is the most drunkard I have ever encountered in a human being. Of course, there is this very close contender, Obooya. I have absolutely no idea what that name means—or if I have spelt it out correctly for that matter. But these two, they were something.

In intensity of drunkenness Obooya, one could say, outranked Mary. But we couldn’t precisely fault Obooya for this lead, could we? This was a man who, for economic reasons, was separated from his family and his community; a man still within the bounds of his own nation yet so far from home that that deep sense of accountability—that accountability which transcends that which one owed to their own self into that which they owed to their family and community—had been lost in him. Obooya had no life to live but that hard-knock existence often presented the lower class in a developing / floundering nation. Obooya’s only relief, it seemed, was in the booze. It was a false saviour, albeit a cheap and readily available one.

I wish Obooya could see himself when he was in that state. After rounds and rounds of akpeteshie, he would go on an insulting spree. These very people to whom Obooya went in search of menial jobs and pay, Obooya’s drunk mind and legs would direct him to them, and command him to hurl insults at them. And insulting Obooya did. As receiver to these insults, you had no option but to watch him go on for he was a strong man—any attempts at retaliation and one was beaten. You just bided your time, waiting for the day when sober Obooya would come to you in search of a day’s job and a day’s pay…

It was a vicious cycle. The devastating nature of his life, the lack of a steady inflow of income, the overall minuteness in the quality of life, led Obooya to the booze; the booze led Obooya to the homes and workplaces of his contractors with an assignment to insult; after the insults came the loss of these few remaining gigs (digging, weeding, carrying this load, putting it there—menial yet exerting tasks such as those) … And this further loss of livelihood meant more devastation, hence more boozing…

It was the year 2005, during one of those sunny early mornings that word got around that Obooya had been found dead. ‘Found’ makes it sound as though there had been some ‘search’ involved. At the edge of that long stretch of gutter lining one-side of the Agric-Nzema road, lay the tall muscular frame of Obooya. Death had stripped him of the remaining life left—his fair skin turned ashy; bloated in the face from the previous night’s boozing round, it seemed; choked up on his own vomit—the vicious cycle ended. News of his death hit matter-of-factly and was treated matter-of-factly—as though to say, “Oh! Obooya has finally died.”

A purposeless life, but his death, I must say, did draw a crowd. Granted, not wanting to destroy the spectacle, not one person out of us who came to view the body in sadistic delight attempted removing the body from that gutter. The handling of one’s lifeless remains, that was a job for one’s family and loved ones. And these both, Obooya lacked. All he had was spectators. Spectators there to use his life—the ending thereof—as life lessons, conversational pieces, and anecdotes (as I am doing now). I remember seeing one particular man, marching back from viewing the body, disgustingly spitting in disgust, and grimly declaring to the people around him, “The tetanus has spread all across his back!” Up to this day, I still don’t know what he meant by that.

Who is that who said Obooya didn’t have loved ones? I mean, didn’t his comrades upon hearing the news also trudge to the scene? Solemnly they watched on as their boozing partner lay emptily by the gutter. They kept their composure even as the crowd surrounding them took turns slapping them with life lessons, aided by this visual presentation. “This is how you will end up if you do not take care!”

Obooya’s buddies were going to put an end to their alcoholism—this they swore to Obooya’s lifeless body, and the rest of the people present.

Lanky Kwesi, a.k.a. ‘Last Two’, must have been half-awake when these solemn pledges were taken by his colleagues. Because right from the scene, he took a trip to the infamous blue kiosk, and returned to the scene when the body had been finally removed and the hullabaloo had died down… and oh, didn’t he dance! Inebriated ‘Last Two’ danced for his dead friend till the sun died down.

Into the Gutter

I bet you have forgotten about Mary already. But now that I have brought her up again, I bet you must be thinking: how can Mary possibly beat this?!

I honestly don’t think there are definite ways of measuring the varying intensities of alcoholism—especially when it’s the most extreme of situations that’s in question. It gets to a certain point in the alcoholism game when it all becomes a blur—when all rankings cease. Mary and Obooya were in that category. But what Obooya lacked was ‘purpose’; Mary had that in full. She had a family, a family having a steady flow of income allowing her to pursue a gainful direction in life—in education, in trade, the act of gainful living in general. But Mary chose to live this life out on a dare—daring herself, her friends, her gang, that she could, with her eyes closed, any day, anytime, anywhere, out-do them on the booze. And ‘out-doing’ she did. She was found in the gutter—a lot…struggling for breath yet sleeping peacefully. ‘Out-doing’ Mary did—to a point where her eyes could not be open for a day, one second, anywhere, any place, without her, getting herself intoxicated. Now all she could do was to dare herself, her family, and her friends that she could stop. But that was the only dare she constantly lost out on. This beautiful lady, with hair flowing to her back, died at an early age of 32, dared out of life.

In His Handbag

I remember vividly, news of this young boy hitting the radio sometime during the early 2000s. This 17-year-old boy, resident in the same town of ours, had been caught on the streets of [I forget where specifically], in his handbag, prostituting. I remember vividly the reporter seemingly being more upset that the boy had been caught holding a handbag, than he had been, by the fact that this under-aged boy had been out there in the wild, selling sex in exchange for money.

The police did let him go eventually, and the buzz surrounding him on the news finally died down. But not without causing an almost ever-lasting taint on his young self, his family, and threatening same on his future. You mention his name and the first (and only) thing that comes to mind is prostitution.

Writing about Obooya, Mary, and this young boy today, something dawns on me: I know nothing about these three—only that they were alcoholics and a ‘prostitute’ respectively. And this cannot be right. Human beings are never this one-dimensional. Human beings are—even the most perceived lowly of them—complex creatures. They usually have a sense of self—one that often transcends that which they put on display for the world to see. They often have aspirations—aspirations informed by this deep-rooted understanding of selves. Human beings—even the shallowest of them—when dissected, oftentimes are found to have a deeper sense of being and of needs, one that transcends the shallow display and thirst for material things they tend to put up for the rest of the world to see.

This is a young boy, a complex creature who had dreams—who had layers to his being; layers that transcended that one incident. Yet, to the world around him, he was just that: that incident. The world will never know the complexities which existed within him, Obooya and Mary for that matter. But this does not detract from the fact that these complexities existed—these aspirations and deeper sense of selves existed in these people. Indeed, human beings are scarcely ever as one-dimensional as we, for ease of identification perhaps, often paint one another to be.


There are times when an entire ecosystem—family, community, or nation—becomes so steeped in a particular trait that it becomes quite redundant describing members of such groups singularly by these traits. For instance, in Europe, you find heavy-boozing countries like Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. And in ecosystems such as these, the adjective ‘alcoholic’ is very likely to be thrown around with much more caution than it does in ours. But that is not to say that the canker that is alcoholism isn’t identified in these ecosystems. So yes, there are identified alcoholics in Germany, Ireland, Bulgaria, and the rest of these countries. Indeed, even in this camp of allowed normalcy, the human sense of right and wrong—the sense of limitations, are allowed to prevail.

And these countries, we must quickly note, are able to explore their multi-dimensionality so optimally that no singular derogatory adjective is allowed to stick out like a sore thumb. So, you mention Germany, and the first thing that comes to mind, is most definitely not alcoholism.

Now to the matter of leadership…

In an ecosystem—family, community, or nation—where leadership has been redefined to mean: ‘go in and grab as much as you can, without scruples’, there is often the temptation to view such people—such people of such an ecosystem—as one dimensional, as persons stripped off all scruples when it comes to the act of committing this mischief of thievery. But even in this kind of mess, one shouldn’t expect to find themselves ‘successfully’ losing their complexities—their multi-dimensionalities as human beings. It is not so often that a person goes into leadership, governance, with a mentality to ‘grab’ and so successfully ‘grab’ and come out of this grabbing with their innate complexities as humans not pulling a fast one on them.

What I mean to say is this: let no one trust themselves to be so one-dimensional that they will be able to go into governance, into leadership with the ultimate aim of stealing, of syphoning public funds into their private coffers, and do exactly so, and come out unscathed—come out as wealthy in self-fulfilment as they have managed to be in personal wealth. We are too complex a creature to find our fulfilments only in the mundane—in stolen wealth for that matter. After the theft, almost always comes the reckoning. After the undeserving, greedy enrichment, comes the self-reckoning. Everyone, at the end of the day, wants to be something. And we often commit the unfortunate mistake, again for ease of identification, of equating that ‘something’ to the mundane—in this case, stolen wealth.

No, Obooya and Mary weren’t just alcoholics—there were complex layers to them. Obooya and Mary, they knew this of themselves, but they had no chance or made no efforts showing the world what those complexities were. Same goes for the poor young boy, dubbed the prostitute. Same goes for the Ghanaian leader… The Ghanaian leader is not a born thief. Those people who come to us in search of places in our governance so they may serve shouldn’t underestimate themselves by thinking they will be successful completely stripping themselves off their innate complexities as humans in their thievery of us. After the theft, will definitely come the self-reckoning. After your term serving as leader of your country, after it’s all come to a close, you will find yourself beginning to ask deeper questions like:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I represent to the world around me?
  • What have I done for the world around me?
  • What will history say about me?

It is only the psychopath who escapes this self-reckoning. And best believed that chances of you being a psychopath are little to zero. So yes, that reckoning, it will come. And it will be then that one will be faced head-on with their innate complexities—those complexities that make one human… That multi-dimensionality which shows one that what they truly aspired to be and to achieve in this world goes beyond the mundane (i.e., wealth—stolen wealth for that matter) …That what one truly aspires to be and achieve is in the ranks of their fellow consequential leaders spread across the world and history. There are complexities to you, the Ghanaian leader—one that goes beyond your bellies and those of your families. You aspire also to leave a mark—to contribute marvellously to the upliftment of not just your individual families, but your communities, your country, and your entire race.

If the name ‘Ghana’ will mean ‘something’—something more than ‘one of those many struggling nations’, it lies right there in your hands. If the race ‘Black’ will mean something—something more than, excuse me to say, ‘the lowly’, ‘the inferior’ and all those derogatory adjectives we have come to be identified with (and oftentimes identify our own selves with) it will depend on you—your each and every step as leader of your communities and nation. You have such potential for transcendence, for greatness—greatness that far exceeds those bank accounts of yours… And you know this.

There are leaders worldwide who have managed to pull this feat and have had their majestic names carved into the heart of history. There are leaders who, even after those bellies of theirs have been dead and gone, and their generations almost gone extinct, still have their names chiselled into the hearts of their people, their nations, and the world at large. Oh! to have lived and lived for ‘something’…

This kind of leadership, the Ghanaian ecosystem is very capable of. It’s about time we began making strong demands for it.


You know what I realise, I have one too many drunken stories.

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