Pretty woman in my rear view; in the spotless, silver Corolla; digging deeply in your nostrils; checking out what you produce. You're the reason I don't look back often enough. When the traffic moved along, it took you ten seconds to note; you were balling up your goo.
In broad daylight, last Friday, on the ceremonial street at animated Nima, Birdie and I saw a group of muscled men singeing a whole cow-carcass with a blow torch and scorching the pavement black.
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2012! It bewilders me, and I cannot say
which vexes me more – the superstitious teachers or the benighted varmint. The
ones have zilch to teach because they need a lamp too. The others are a
stupendously sorry sight: ignorant, petty, perishing, future-less.
In 2008, Accra was
a jaded jamboree. I preferred to float in bed and fantasise about far-flung frolicsome
places. I had happened on ‘personal websites’ without knowing their sexy name -
blog. Then, my friend, Sandra, introduced me her blog. I was besotted three times over. A poet in
hibernation, I dusted off my skills and became a seeker of ‘second sight’: that
hallowed ‘hang’ to see extraordinary sights in everyday scenes. To experience
and describe Accra’s rich, deep and colourful layers of sights, sounds, smells
and tastes in a unique way. Blogging has given me a novel, vibrant city that’s all my very
I've heard it said about prisons, mental-health institutions and toilets. Now I add traffic lights. You can tell how civilised a country is by how its drivers mind the traffic lights (and traffic circles).
Five or six years ago, a friend and I saw a Nigerian businessman do a jaw-drop when visiting Accra for the first time. "They actually obey the lights?" He asked. He said the lights were useless décor back in his country. We had a sneaky suspicion that he was self-deprecating too hard.
That kind Nigerian gentleman; he visited five years too soon. Every morning at the Regimanuel traffic lights on the Spintex Road, I barely hang on to dear life after three 'Hail Marys' and four near misses.
My heart turns cartwheels
every time I see a cyclist’s thirty-second madness. Pumping pedals to race your
car, they’re in the lead for twenty seconds. Then you’re level...edge past... whiz ahead. Ten seconds scrape by; they surrender; admission of no catch-up chance.
It’s the human spirit in the race of life.
The Age of Innocence is gone. We buy late-night Kelewele at 5pm, and do dawn-jogging at 7am. Twenty of us at a pub are no match for 4 gunmen. Saturday night-crawling is a far-off, silver-screen fantasy. Security is merely a word we teach four-year-olds.
Four years from today, you'll leave home on Monday and get to Accra City Centre on Wednesday. If you don't take too long about your business, you may make it back home by Saturday. But we'll still vote for leaders.
Days after my rebuke of the Nigerian mob murder, a robber's pistol poked my chest. And a friend's question probed my beliefs: do you still condemn mob justice? I thought about the shiny, black, cold metal and the nine years' worth of data lost. Then, my answer run out boldly: Yes. Mob justice is wrong and the lynching murder.
Four boys are lacerated, eviscerated,
excoriated and incinerated by a mob of maybe ten. Thousands, literally, feast
on the cruel skill of their local ‘gladiators’. A few officers of the law cower
among the rabble in this arena of the gory and the gruesome. They do nothing to
stop the baying wolves. If they try to stop the lunacy, their reward would be a
flaming pneumatic garland.
In my knowledge of African history,
criminals and suspects may have been punished by flogging, burial-while-alive, banishment,
capital punishment. BUT it happened after a trial; a trial by the elders or,
indeed, a trial by ordeal before the gods and their priests. The punishment was
cruel sometimes and the trials not credible in today’s conventional wisdom.
BUT THERE WERE TRIALS BEFORE PUNISHMENT!
We were cheated into colonialism, yes. We inherited
some great legal norms, though, to add to valid virtues of our own. Joy!
So when (and why) did we learn to seize
suspects, untried, to bludgeon-n-burn to death? Why are we more barbaric today
than 500 years ago?