Saturday, July 5, 2008

Check Point Charades in the City of Accra

And then the road dives into a vale, together with the black woods flanking it on other side. There’s nothing to see on the opposite lane. No cars, no lights, no people. But my line only inches ahead by the treble minute.

I have not seen them yet, but I know they’re there. It is past 10 O’clock. A bold night suggests itself. A restless driver behind me swerves out of the queue onto the jagged, hard shoulder. He meets my eyes with a bright-eyed smile, and burns up the dirt sidetrack. Another car follows. And another.

My turn comes. It is a bold night for sure. There are three of them standing silhouetted in the headlights.

“How is the evening?”
“The evening’s over.”
“What did you bring from town?”
“I’m coming from work.”
“On Friday? What work…”
“…I’m a lawyer.”
“Ei! You look young-o. Small boy lawyer. You know we and you lawyers, we are brothers.”
“Charlie, your brother is sleepy-o.”
“And your brother is cold. Won’t you give me something small for tea?”
“Here, take this. Which tea woman will come by now, anyway?”
“Oh, they come-o. Carry on, my Lord.”

Like most of them, he does not know he just addressed me as a judge.

They are not searching the cars or looking in faces. As I coax Maxine (my car) forward, I scan three cars parked a ways off the road. There is a half dozen people standing around, lips chattering in sync. As Maxine cruises past, they stretch their arms with open hands towards their captors. A bold night all round.


  1. i totally agree that asking for money in the line of duty is wrong but i can't blame them. how do they survive with the kind of money they earn?

  2. Anonymous05 July, 2008

    what is the purpose of these checkpoints, do the police set them up with no authorization ( just to extort money from ppl?) what would have happened if you had told him/them that there would be no tea that night, at least not on your accord?

  3. Nana, is this not another form of Ali Baba and the forty thieves? Both work at night, one uses force and the other uses his uniform, at the end of the night we've been robbed of something.In your case money,but mine was a bottle of ridiculous!!

  4. Just came on your blog... I think I will come back. Are you who I think you are?

  5. Just came upon your blog. I like your perspective on life in Accra. Were you in Crossing Borders????

  6. You say you agree, Kordai. But with what or whom? Not sure I took any position. ;-). Of course what they do is bad, but I seriously prefer that to security services personnel turning to robbery or kidnapping as has been known to happen.

  7. Coffie, trust me, even more ridiculous possessions have been parted with in the dead of the night. And, yes, it is extortion, no?

  8. Thanks, Adjoa, for dropping in. Hope you come back. Yes, I was in Crossing Borders, the first group.

  9. Hi Nina,

    Thanks for "happening" on my blog. If your initials are N.C. then I am who you think I am. Thanks for the thoughts of coming back.

  10. Hi Nana Yaw, interesting charades really. Remembered being asked outright for the 5,000 cedis (old) that was in one of those little holders on my dash board. Was against my principles but at that time of night and alone in my vehicle thought hmmm, maybe I should just part with the money. Was easier.

  11. Anon, I believe it is safe to assume that if I had refused to give any money or anything at all, they'd still have let me go. The thing is, if there is a little infraction of the law with your car which they were willing to overlook, it might become a big problem once you refuse to buy midnight tea :-)

  12. Good decision, Denise, better safe than sorry... is it?

  13. nice
    Must agree with Kordai, they have no other option.
    Life is unfair and we have to do what we have to do. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do; ryt?
    We all need to survive . No two ways aba that

  14. Anita, while insensitive politicians in power should be kidnapped and tortured :D, I do not agree that the cops have any excuse under the sun.

  15. And they create a kilometer long traffic at midnight. No criminal worth his/her profession would chance by any of them blocks. They are as predictable as the word itself. And if Mr/Miss Criminal decides to be as foolhardy as Jeffery Dahmer, he/she could bucther 14 people, cut them up and arrange the flesh nicely on the passenger seat and drive right through them blocks without the slightest worry. They have no excuse to do what they do. Its simply outrageous. Meanwhile the real crime is being committed in the alleys where they should rather be patrolling. What if I said my salary as a lecturer is so sorry that my students would have to "do something" anytime I come to class? I hope I never have to publish so long a comment again.

  16. Brilliant, Kiz, brilliant. As I said to Anita, " excuse under the sun".

  17. massive Nana!

    i recently got this one!

    occation: one of the days (nights actually) that i was heading home in a cab. time was almost midnight!

    location: Nungua barrier! (This one has been there before i was born i guess).

    (the cabby pulled to the expected stop almost naturally)

    (speaking Twi) "Abaiii" (this guys just personify Government itself true and true, however that came to be!), the cabby salutes the AK47 brandishing officer!

    officer man did not really respond...he proceeded to inspect the stickers on the windscreen!

    officer: high lights?

    cabby: "abaiii, waa we ni tua!" (Government-ttttt!, you can see for your self how powerful they are right?")-the cabby brags about his working headlights!

    me: (i felt sexy and waded in without even realizing)- "abaiii eee" i gave the office some fans' salute!

    i saw him look at me without a single strand of his mustache making as much as a fly! Then he moved all the way round the cab, taking it all slow and steady behind the back of the car and then finally ending up by my side.

    office to me: manager, as for today i dey on you oooo!

    me: "why, are you arresting us?"

    officer: oh no, the driver is ok...but abi you know say your man for have some coffee to keep wake in the night!

    me: "abaaiiii eee" I couldn't hold back now. i laughed out his label.

    the guy boldly tells me he couldn't take anything from the driver so i should help out.

    office: we have to protect you; you see!

    me: sure "abaaiii"

    i passed ten thousand cedis (what we now think to label old) to him and he responds with thanks:

    officer: thank you manager...thank you. Good night...we are trying our best for you!

    me: okay! good night!

    and we drove off with my ribs still tickling! but one thing got me to take a hold of my self, this are guys if we want to display respect for their profession, then we must take their conditions of service seriously! period!

    Nice write Nana! this is so true and massive.

    how else many a man go survive! even the well to do are doing what do we expect of they that are just hanging on the thread of life!

  18. No, Novisi, my friend, you are massive! I lean on you so much! Thanks, man.

  19. why is everyone lashing out on these policemen? what they do is just a reflection of society go to a gov't institution and you have to pay your way through. well for some private institutions you might have to pay alot more than money - workplace harassment for eg isn't it the same thing? can anyone tell me any profession that doesn't have bad nuts? the police problem seems pronounced because we all use the roads whether we like it or not so we will definately come into contact with them.this country will be a better place if we are as vocal in our criticizms of these other people as we are of the police!

  20. Let them take the flak, Kordai, as indeed everybody who is so corrupt and shameless about it too. Some people by the critical relationship between the job and human life should be more heavily censured for corruption, don't you think?


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