Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Not so Happy Anniversary

A Touch of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

TWENTY-SEVEN years ago, on 6th March I saw her at the grandest birthday shindig ever put together for a maiden on the West Coast of Africa. The guest list could have equalled that of a celebration party for some of the world's jet-setting billionaires except that this one was graced by more than money men and women. There were heads of state, royalties and aspirants to political power in colonial enclaves all over the world.

Special songs were composed for the occasion and the celebrations lasted for weeks. The 'paternal' father of the young lady Miss Ghana - fired the imagination of all lovers of things beautiful. Freedom and justice for all oppressed people in the world featured in all the speeches made during and after the celebration when the guests had gone home. He made it clear through his fire-brand political speeches that his daughter's attainment of "age of consent"-independence - would be meaningless unless it is linked with the total independence of the whole continent of Africa. It was a period of hope and great promise. The young lady had everything going for her. Then disaster struck. It came ever so slowly; imperceptibly slow.

She began wasting away her natural resources. Now, when a young woman being chased by 'ideological suitors' all over the world flirts recklessly with any smart-Alec who takes her fancy and ignores the counselling of worldly-wise predecessors then as sure as the day follows night she is bound to end up broke and used (or is it over used).

The last time I heard, she had planned to celebrate her 25th birthday but problems about finance, a controversy over the guest-list and the disagreement over the size of the budget all together produced a backlash of public resentment over the whole project. The popular opinion was that it would have gone ahead all the same had her affections not been seized forcibly by yet another suitor, who declared her bankrupt and therefore impossible and unwise to observe the occasion.

I remember visiting Miss Ghana at her residence in Accra that time and vividly described in one of the local papers how bad times had totally destroyed the once resplendently beautiful young woman. At that time of our meetings her face, lined with wrinkles, pudgy under the eyes, and sallow skinned, she managed to keep her head high and proudly fielded through the interview with admirable aplomb; her lacrimous interjections when we flipped through her photo-album were understandably the obvious effects of nostalgia of good times gone by but I didn't approve of her drowning her problems in hard liquor - whisky and soda and I told her so.

That was a little over two years ago. From recent reports things have deteriorated further and with that Miss Ghana's circumstances could not have improved much. I spoke to her on telephone via satellite.

"Hello... Hello... am I speaking to Miss Ghana?"

"...Yes...yes. Miss Ghana here speaking". Her voice sounded rather hoarse but I couldn't immediately determine whether it's because of the distance or something else.

"Have you received my birthday card?"

"Not yet .. you know the postal system here is in a shameful state and it takes ages for letters to be delivered ... the P.&T. Corporation was short of postage stamps for a long time and with the petrol situation still in a critical stage; the whole P.&T. Corporation is in shambles."

"O.K., O.K., I understand," I rupted her, "Anyway congratulations, I believe are still in order on the occasion of your birthday. I say, how are you making out with your new man?"

"Would it be an understatement to say that we're not getting on? It's been a disastrous two years," she said.

"You don't say so! Why, when the engagement was announced on 31st December, 1981, there were reports of massive support for the union".

"All bloody lies... lies. I tell you! I have been used... abused.... she said sniffing loudly. I was afraid she was going to break down and cry as she did last time.

"I'm surprised to hear that your new husband, to be precise, Jerry John Rawlings promised to take you out of the misery inflicted on you by your former husband, Dr Hilla Limann. You mean it has also turned out to be an empty promise?"

"Rhetoric, that's what it's turned out to be."

"Hang on, so what's all the talk about you showing off so much jewelry these days about?”

"You mean Rawlings' chain?"

"Exactly. That's it. Isn't that reputed to be an expensive jewelry bought for you in the midst of all the problems?" I queried. "Nothing to it. That 'chain' is a veritable proof of my deprivation. If you should see me now, you won't believe it's me."

"Oh come on, don't paint so gloomy a picture of your circumstances."

"I'm telling you like it is"

"What about the widely reported assistance from the World Bank and other donor countries?" I asked. I knew I had touched a sensitive nerve. There was an ominous silence at the end of the receiver. "It's a shame it really is charity... it's pure charity. To think that I'm reduced to living on charity."

"Oh come off it. You're not alone in this. People in similar circumstances have been living like that in the world today." I consoled her rather unsuccessfully; the noise of crying filled my ears.

"Maybe. But I had everything going for me 27 years ago and it should definitely not have come to this..."

"Tell me. What are you children saying about all this?"

"They're divided. The lack of unanimity in formulating a common policy is the bane of my domestic problems," she said.

"Well, I now agree that you still have formidable problems. But please do tell me this. Do you ever intend to marry again after this disastrous flirtation with this, er ... er... current beau?"

"Never again! I swear! ... never again!"

"You said that the last time I spoke to you", I reminded her.

"Did I, really?"

"Oh yes, you did,"

"Well, as they say, marriage is really a state of mind."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I, Miss Ghana, remain spiritually the same woman, committed to the ideals of my 'founding father, no matter how many weirdos come and go!"

"Happy anniversary! Or is it not-so happy anniversary?"

talking drums 1984-03-05 Ghana immature at 27 - why buhari must declare assets publicly