Up Atop My Roof So High: Notch 10 ‒ Naught In Action

We are living in a promising country now, my dear brothers and sisters. Everyone is promising. Even those who are not known for keeping their promises are promising this time that they will keep their promises. Did our elders not say that the state of the momoni’s rot started from its head? So it came to pass that the promising streak entered the Ahenfie and caused Odekuro and all his elders and sub-chiefs to also be so promising. What a wonderful world.

Our village has expanded ankasa, I tell you. Perched up atop this roof of mine, I can see in all directions. I see that the houses now stretch on the Farmers’ Road right up to Goromesa. As for Saamang, it has joined Old Town decades ago and one can now walk along the winding road down from the Old Palace to Saamang, buying pure water at every turn. Moseaso is almost a replica of the suburb that Aboko lives in.

I was with Aboko some months, as we caught up on times past. The good old times when we fished and swam in the Ehyire river and went to Adankasa – that fount of gushing water under the bridge – to fetch that soothing water for the sole purpose of keeping in the mmefi-scented cooler (pot) in the corner of Bombay’s room, that round earthen pot that could rival the functions of any modern-day refrigerator. That water that one drank and only uttered a long ‘Aaaaah’.

I sat with Aboko in front of his shop, as he started work on a piece of woodin cloth I wanted him to turn into a nice shirt for me. Aboko has become the best tailor in the village. We watched the stream of people pass that early morning – some to school, some to their farms, others just loitering. I saw many new faces. I had stayed up my roof too long, I mused to myself. Need to come down often and mingle.

I asked Aboko about the new people and he confirmed that the gold rush has brought new folks into town. As well, we were now a district capital so new developments were happening, new offices had been opened, new businesses had arrived, and the numbers had swelled. A boy passed by and I could recognise him. Oh how he had grown. I told Aboko that the guy looked familiar.

“Oh you know him,” Aboko exclaimed, “he is the son of that cousin of your dad.”

Ah, yes, I should have connected. The son of Wofa Kodua the old soldier. Kodua the son of Opanyin Kodua of Sadisco Hotel, the reigning hotel in town in those days of yore. The venue for all the concert parties in town then, and the starting point for the manufacturing processes of many unclaimed children.

I decided to play a game with Aboko: count how many out of fifty random passers-by that I could identify. The result was abysmal: too many new faces.

“That is why Odekuro is asking for the new identification cards to be issued,” Aboko told me.

Indeed. It made sense. The reason.

Soon after the encounter with Aboko, Kontihene was all over, imploring that when the chance is given for us to take our fotos, we should rush there in our Sunday best. I understood and prepared.

It is not as if we were hearing this for the first time. The previous Odekuro, the one who was famed to eat death, had also told us the same thing. It didn’t happen. His two successors said same. Again, no show. When the current Kontihene was asked if this time our fotos would be taken, especially when the arrival date of the photo-drivers seemed to be driving around, Kontihene gave an assurance that his earlier assurance of an assured delivery of the national identification system was still assured.

We believed him. I did.

Then Obenefo Safoa appeared on the scene and told the Daily Grafitti that he had just picked up the keys to the mummy truck bringing in the photo-drivers and that he, Safoa, will be driving and bringing them himself. Come and see clapping, and chats of “Safoa has the keys, Safoa has the keys!”

So, on the promised date, I climbed down this roof so high and went to take a long bath in the bathhouse behind the house, the one made of blocks arranged like a box. I entered my room and applied Saturday Night Powder in all the right places. I put on the kente that I inherited from my late teacher-uncle called Therefore. Then, smelling like a million cedis and feeling divine, I walked to the community square, where we usually hold funerals and where Obenefo Safoa was to bring the photo-drivers. Even some of the young girls turned to check out the owner of the fragrance in motion. I smiled back. I was still on the road, I told myself.

When I got to the community square, the place was empty.

Oh!

Had I missed the day and time?

It was only when I enquired later that I was told that the whole exercise was actually a proverb. And that I should have been wise to decipher the swerve in the name of Obenefo Safoa’s organisation which was tasked with the identification program.

NIA – Naught In Action.

It was that day I that I realised that even though I knew from Chinua Achebe that proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten, I needed to add some wisdom yams to my proverbs, to be able to rightly understand and interpret the times.

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