In the school that Osagyefo built, up the Menya Mewu Hill, we had an electrician who was quite difficult to get to undertake maintenance work, especially to replace burnt out fluorescent tubes. One of the popular stories was that he was afraid of heights. This story was most prominent when there was the need to replace the fluorescent light on the wall of the Junior Block that faced the Administration Block. That fluorescent light suffered downtime mostly because it provided illumination to the most popular ‘tapping site’ on campus, tapping well defined by one of the old girls of Ghanacoll, Nana Shirely, in an interview with Abeiku Santana (a product of Menya Mewu, himself) on Okay FM, as “an intimate communication process”. Tapping usually happened between the end of supper and the start of evening preps and said intimate communication was best done in dum.
However, it was soon discovered that one of the quickest ways to get the electrician to respond to maintenance requests was to call him ‘Electrical Engineer’. Just say ‘Oh Engineer, we need so and so to be fixed or replaced’ and he treated the request with dispatch.
Wofa Kapokyikyi brought this story to mind this week when I went to his house to discuss the latest Sikaman festival of deputies and how Odekuro had just returned to the Ahenfie with a quiver of ministerial arrows. Wofa told me that even Odekuro Kantinka was said to have stated that a messenger in the house of a sitting Odekuro was better than a sub-chief in the house of a former Odekuro whose sun has set, no one wanted to be called a messenger. A minister sounded much better.
I bring you greetings from Wofa Kapokyikyi, from a Sikaman which is cruising into the future at a speed of 110km/hour, which my friend Kofi Yankey says is the required speed for anyone who wishes to be in a comfortable lead.
So it came to pass that when the deputies in Odekuro’s quiver were counted, they, together with the senior arrows, amounted to five score and ten. Odekuro Odieasem Nana Tutubrofo Dankwawura, the first Odekuro under the fourth Empire of the State with a compound name, had blessed us with a compound full of sub-chiefs and deputies. Wofa says the main lesson learnt is this: don’t install an Odekuro with a double-barrelled name. Like Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu.
As Wofa Kapokyikyi discussed this matter behind Auntie Esi’s chop bar, Teacher Johnson joined us on his way home from school. As usual, his mind was in that acrobatic mode where numbers and figures did akoni aba like the flies behind the Zongo meat market. Teacher Johnson submited that Odekuro Tutubrofo had multiplied his percentage in the elections by two, added the number of his attempts at the annexing the throne, and rounded it down to the nearest whole number to arrive at the number of ministers and deputies in his quiver. Typical of Teacher Johnson, he just said this with the attitude of someone who wanted to offload the output of his mental excursions. As he left Wofa and me to continue our deliberations, he muttered that Odekuro had kept his best promise from Sikaman as to the intent of his reign going forward: one district, one minister.
Wofa was emphatic: the traditional council of chiefs and sub-chief is just too large. He wondered if there was any law barring the Odekuro from appointing two or more deputy Krontihene as well?
Wofa added: “My nephew, let me remind you that one of Odekuro’s main plans is to create new subdivisions in Sikaman. So assuming y is the number of subdivisions to be created, we can expect an additional number of sub-chiefs and deputies, mathematically expressed as 2y”.
Ei, Wofa, I remarked. He just smiled and told me that one cannot walk daily with the billy goat without acquiring some nunu scent; and that surely his association with Teacher Johnson has taught him to also appreciate equations, mathematically speaking.
Wofa also asked me if I had ever seen a lean elephant, even one that has been chased into the bush and returned after eight market days. I had no answer.
The next day after the sighting of the quiver full of deputies, Amakye the town crier was heard in the village square with a message from Odekuro. The message was to the point: the village was so dirty, the streets so cracked, the farms so weedy and the barns so empty that Odekuro needed many hands to rebuild as quickly as possible. Amakye didn’t say anything about how these workers were to be fed, seeing that the barns were so empty.
As I listened, I was reminded of another story, this time told me by Obaapanyin Potisaa.
A boy fell into a well with weak walls. The men of the village gathered around and debated now to rescue him. Kofi Antobam gave the best suggestion: “The walls are so weak but the rescue is so urgent that we need ten men to descend into the well to rescue the little boy”.
But who is to understand the ways of the royals who get to occupy the Ahenfie? It has been said that electoral campaigns are done in poetry and governance conducted with prose. How true. I am not disappointed at the predictability of these royals. Tells me my healthy suspicion of political talk and gymnastics is still relevant.
I can only speak from the point of view of the farmer that I am. If I have my farm and I am able to harvest my cocoa with twenty ‘by-day’ (pronounced baa-day) workers for a period of time, my peers would wonder at me if I suddenly increased the number to thirty but argue that you should judge me by how much I produce for the period. Without necessary having planted more trees over the previous year. My friend Mike Tyson (not the boxer) would scream overheads, and labour efficiency. Input is important per benchmark or trends over the years.
But Odekuro says the cocoa trees need more hands as they have grown taller and the farms have become more weedy than in the previous years. So we can only give him the benefit of the doubt. He says he wants Sikaman to become kra bɛ hwɛ so we should allow him some painters and designers as well. But we cannot ignore this, that one of the problems we have is the power of our parties over Ahenfie policy and resourcing, and its way of deriving political payment after election of the Odekuro. This garguantuan size of the traditional council cannot be said not to have been influenced by this consideration.
The debate continues in Sikaman, under the trees where dami is played, in Liberty Club where Wofa’s favourite is swallowed (and not drank), in the market place where the value of the cowries is still doing see-saw, and on the benches as the citizens sip Auntie Memuna’s kooko in the mornings. Some have said the end justifies the means whilst others say the means should have consideration of the size and state of the purse which is said to be the reason why we need to move fast, to restore to vitality. As the elders say, we use money to get money. Or do we, in this case?
One bright spot in this saga, however. How quickly Odekuro himself hit the village square with his explanation behind his quiver of deputies. Eish, brofo paa!
My friend Maame Ekua Boakye said it best: “Brofo, brofo saaaa na ya forgeti numbers no!”
Till I come your way again with another sebitical, I remain: