Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

And came to pass in Ogyakrom (2)

A Touch Of Nokoko

by Kofi Akumanyi

(see previously: part 1)
It came to pass that the Kingdom of Ogyakrom was shaken on New Year's Eve. The authoritative People's Grapevine had it that Abacus, for the first time since his elevation from a mere pedagogue into the position where he looks after the kingdom's resources, was going to read a Budget. So high was the expectation of the people that the courtyard seats were sold out in a matter of hours.

Abacus entered the courtyard clutching a scroll-case to his bosom in which all the wisdom of his office had been pain- stakingly inscribed and would be read to the people who would water it down to the multitudes eagerly awaiting the news throughout the kingdom.

It was not long before the proceedings began. It became obvious to the people gathered therein that Abacus had come to reinforce the beliefs of King Rollo, affirmed on Mount Peduase not too long ago. Without any shame, Abacus juggled with more and more figures with dazzling effect than ever before. The listeners clapped and marvelled at Abacus' display of knowledge. But the atmosphere was soon to change when his captive listeners were allowed to put one or two points to him. Showoff was the first to have the floor.

"Melord Abacus, you have, forsooth, juggled figures today to the amazement of all herein assembled. Verily, I say unto you, if juggling of figures alone could save us from the great pestilence that troubles this Kingdom, you could become an instant hero. But I fear, it is not to be," sayeth he. "Every Ogyakromian is beside himself with grief that while the multitudes are giving up the ghost because there is no medicine; they wonder why at this period when children of the people are giving up going to school because of extortionist school fees, you Abacus, speaketh of recovery from the pestilence..."

"You talk about the money-lenders group from across the seas as if they are angels but we all here assembled know that they are no such things," Showoff spake with voice heavy with despair and Abacus solemnly harkened unto all that he said.

"Now I would entreat you," he continued, "man of great learning, to tell us all, especially the multitudes who die BANK)? every day because they have no food to eat and medicine to cure their ills. Think you not of the profits of the money-lenders' fellowship (IMF-WORLD BANK) at the moment but the suffering of the multitudes in the market place outside. And while you are at it, please spare us the dazzling figure-juggling which the multi- tudes understand not."

As Abacus listened to young Showoff, he was aghast, his brow was like thunder. He stroked his well-cut beard in deep thought, stood up and spoke thus:

"Verily, you asked a very good question but I like not how you asked it. Forsooth, it is the same thinking that the multitudes think about my labour which I must confess, weigh heavily upon my shoulders day and night. This pestilence that afflicts the kingdom is a big one and it helps not to talk about it renting your clothes and tearing your hair. You, Mr Showoff, believest thou with all your heart that figure-juggling is bad? All manner of men sayest that it is bad but think you that we could rule the kingdom without it? Oh, full of all subtlety and mischief, thou child of the devil and kingdom-wrecker, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the money-lender fellowship (IMF-WORLD BANK)?

"Is there any man herein assembled who can in all truthfulness, figure-juggling and hatred for the money-lenders association apart, tell me that he has not seen any improvement in this kingdom? Arise, if there be such a person. Methink that everybody agrees that there has been improvement. It is abominable to say there is no improvement. I beseech you to look at the record. When we took over the ruling of this kingdom over two-score moons ago there were no chariots on the roads and no horses to pull them. And the multitude paid extortionist fares. Today more chariots are on the road for all to see except unto them that are contemptuous and do not accept truth.

"For those who are not blind to see, look at food. Many moons ago we went unto other kingdoms to beg for grain. Verily, hunger that spread throughout the land produced the Rollo chains... Behold ye despisers, I never said here this day that everything is good in the kingdom. If Showoff had lent his ears to me he would perchance have heard and understood all that I said…

"As for the problem of juggling with the kingdom's money I pray that we talk not about the Money Lenders' Association which every Ogyakromian now wrongly believes I take counsel with before I go to bed every day. I would like everyone here to know that I studied at the feet of the great learners and know all about the Money Lenders Association and forsooth, it serves us no useful purpose to attack them...

"What we have to do, dear brethren, is to increase our foreign exchange earnings (same translation in the ancient as manuscript) or cut down on our foreign exchange consumption. Dear Brethren, how do we do that? Behold Showoff yonder, think you that if I give him 100 talents in spite of his saintly qualities he would go and bury it or quadruple it? Methink he would go and double it in Zongo Lane (ditto in the ancient manuscript).

Verily, verily, I say unto you, it is much easier to increase our export earnings than to reduce our consumption...It takes not the money-lenders' group to make us know that we have to do something about it for as much as the pestilence is unabated...Be it known therefore unto you that we are doing everything we can about it," Abacus spake thus.

And all those who heard Abacus, the amazing figure juggler speak, were amazed and said: "Is not this he that once hated the IMF-WORLD BANK so much with his heart that spake nothing good about them?" The multitude marvelled and some even believed that, indeed, the great spirit of Akonedi had taken possession of his soul.


I thank once again the Ghana National Archives for giving me the permission to quote extensively from the ABURI SCROLL dated AD1986 which was dug up in the Aburi Valleys during an excavation by the Department of Archaeology of the University of Ghana.

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