From my Archives
Being unable to afford a television set, I have to wobble to my favorite akpeteshie bar every time there’s an interesting thing to watch. It was an old Tatung television and one needs a binocular to construct a good image of the pictures shown on the about 10″ set. But it is the only thing we got. I am too poor that I think they will call the police if I wander too close to any electronic shop. I am an avid football fan, though, and I do my best not to miss any important match, on television, that is. I am too poverty-ridden to dream of going to stadia. Actually, the ‘bar’ is nothing but a glorified shack. A few rejected planks were slapped together and covered with ancient tarpaulin. An Ewe woman, abandoned by five husbands started the thing rolling by selling hot drinks and cigarettes. As business picked up, and in true African fashion, she sent a message to her village for her sister to join her. The sister added Kenkey and Bankwu to complement the drink section. Very clever women, they choose a very appealing name, ‘Don’t Mind your Wife Chop Bar.’
People like I and I, too poor to get close to those fancy hotels and restaurants, where food prices look like telephone numbers patronize the bar. We complain about how dirty and unkempt the place always look. We demanded to know why the women cannot utilize part of their huge profit to improve the sanitation (you have to be dexterous to eat there – one hand to handle your food, the other to keep the flies away. We occasionally threatened to bring the AMA in. All to no avail. The women were too clever not to see through our feeble protest. They realized that we are coming there only because we had no choice.
It is always a motley crowd. There is ‘Professor,’ so called because he is always having an old newspaper with him. He works as a security guard and he keeps rescuing newspapers from the bins. He cannot afford to buy a newspaper; none of us could. Over there is ‘Married Bachelor Man,’ so-called because one evening his wife came to ‘show am pepper.’ In the full view of everyone, she bared their conjugal secrets. Her husband, she wailed, ‘has stopped performing for over a year now.’ She blamed his premature-impotence on the inordinate amount of booze he injects into his blood system every day. She shouted abuses at us for leading her hubby astray. Luckily, he was too drunk to hear. We also have ‘Old Congo,’ a retired serviceman, who can hardly make a sentence without referring to his Congo experience. They call me the ‘Agitator,’ because I am always arguing the fine points of arguments. There is ‘Small Boy,’ because he is the youngest member. We have, at least, our love for the bottle to keep us together.
The African Cup of Nations was in full swing. Today it is the Black Stars of Ghana versus the Bafana Bafana of Azania (South Africa). In true drunkards style, we all put our money on Ghana winning. We couldn’t envisage any other result. The first goal we opined was just a flux: nothing to get excited about. The second one we drunkenly concluded was a trap to lure the BB into complacency. Even when the third goal was thundered in, we refused to bow. Our boys we soon start to show their true stuff: watch out for the fireworks. Imagine how crestfallen we were when the black starts were humbled 3.0!
The final whistle was hardly blown when, in true Africa fashion, we started our instant analysis.
“Na constipiracy (sic), wailed Small Boy. With very little education but tons of dreams, he had escaped his village to dig for gold in Accra. His diggings turned up nothing but dirt. He never gives up, though – still full of dreams. We older members always feel sorry for him. We pray and advise him to get out of our midst before he became a un-reformable drunk like us. He, however, likes our company. He also has eyes for one of the women.
“Constipiracy,” the professor repeated disdainfully. “It is conspiracy, spell C O N S P I R A C Y, you illiterate twat. Illiteracy is a malady.” He said throwing Small boy a professorial frown. He fancies himself the grammar purist and will not countenance lesser mortals.
We have all seen it before. Small boy was not in the least intimidated, “I told you before that grammar no be my language.” He proclaimed, laughing with the rest of us.
Old Congo drained his glass and called for another drink. His eyes were rheumy, “Let the boy talk his talk. Professor, here no be classroom. Why you no go lecture them for Legon? Tcheew.”
Professor rose gallantly to his own defense. When agitated, he always rises to his feet, exhibiting his emaciated body. “We have to learn to speak properly.” He concluded and sat down. The whole exhibition lasted less than a quarter of a minute.
The two ladies sat on the usual seat watching the proceeding with great amusement. They’ve seen it all before.
Married Bachelor Man cleared his throat noisily, it was an indication that he wanted to join the fray. He had the strongest voice in our group. What he lacked in logic, he made up for in high-pitch voice. He could easily out-shout the rest of us put together. “It is as easy and as clear as crystal,” He analyzed. “The rest of the teams get better as the tournament progresses, our team is the only one that found itself retrogressing ( I just got that new one). Put it down to Nutritional Conspiracy. I agree with Small Boy there.”
Not understanding properly, I beseeched MBM to conclude his analysis.
MBM, in turn, looked up to Small Boy, who was busy admiring the cleavage of the younger woman.
“Look,” MBM boomed, rattling the seasoned and flimsy planks. Of course, we are looking. “If you watch the first match, Ghana versus Ivory Coast, (of course, we were all here), you will notice how marvelous our boys were. They were tactically superior in every department. They simply overwhelmed their opponents with such soccer artistry that even the great Pele of Brazil was jumping up in excitement. You will remember that they played that game a few days after leaving Ghana. You have to remember that here they feed our boys on our national foods. Bankwu and Kenkey are the only things allowed in their canteens. I have been there and have seen it all myself. But in South Africa, they feed them all these European nonsense they call food. Of course, our boys have to eat the rubbish and we can all see the adverse effects that had on their performance: they got progressively worse. How can you compare Bankwu with all those leaves they call salad? You get more Carbon-hydrate from Kenkey than from all the rice in this world. Our fish gives the best protein in the world. Our TSITO produces the best iron in the body. Those are the three most essential elements the body needs to keep in top shape. Any biologist will tell you that.” MBM’s inebriated mind is working overtime.
“I don’t doubt you, my brother. As usual, your inimitable wisdom has illuminated for us very dark secrets.” It was Old Congo patronizing MBM. It was an indication that he wanted to talk. MBM smiled benevolently and passed the torch.
“As I used to tell you,” OC started, “We Blacks don’t know what we’re dealing with. When I was in the Congo (there we go again), I saw things. I heard things. People will think that I am making them up if I start to relate them. Considering what our country did to dismantle the old regime in South Africa, why do we expect to go there and win accolade? Those of us who know the ways of the world will know that the power that be will do everything possible to frustrate us. We will not even get the third position, mark my work. Granted that the BB played very well, the officiating beggars comprehension. You see how our very clear goal was disallowed while a patently offside goal from our opponent was allowed to stand. The whole enterprise is a gigantic fraud. There was no level playing field. The shakers and the movers will prefer any none-exclusively Black nation to win. I put it down to Racial Conspiracy.
The lady had closed up her cleavage, denying Small Boy free show. He rubbed his eyes warily and decided to plunge into the discussion. “I think that our boys are unpatriotic,” he cried out. “Look at the casual way our boys treated the whole game. It was as if they have nothing at stake. I heard that the South Africans promised them political asylum if they will throw the game. In addition, they gave them five million dollars each. And watching the game, I can reach no other conclusion except to say that they have been bought. My sources told me that taking Abedi Pele out early was part of the game plan. He could never be bought. He loves his country. The rest, tcheew. As soon as Abedi was damaged (sic), they all joined together to deny us the cup. I put it down to Bribery and Corruption Conspitipiracy. At bars such as ours, facts and fictions are mixed freely; no one questions the source of any info, however fantastic.
“Do we have iron in our body?” Small boy asked me, trying not to let MBM overhear him. It was, however, the professor who overheard him. Belching condescendingly, he growled, “They don’t mean your everyday metal, scally-wag. I hope that you will one day take up our advise and go back to school before it is too late for you. Illiteracy is a malady.”
“All of you are missing the great picture,” the Professor announced authoritatively. We all turned to him. The women exchanges giggles. “All the analyses so far produced lacked one critical element. in fact, they all suffer from the same critical deficiency. Surmising the whole thing, we can arrive at no other conclusion except Racial Machinations, concocted to deprive the Black Man his place under the sun, what the Germans called ‘Lebensraum’.” The Professor likes to wax lyrical, but I’ve had enough of his plagiarism.
“Are you not re-hashing, re-phrasing what Old Congo had just told us. What new things are you introducing except empty bombast.” The woman laughed out loud and the professor felt grossly affronted. He had wanted the elder woman a long time and it hurt to be humiliated in her presence. He rose feebly, unsteadily, to his feet, “Look, Anago man, who invited you here? This is a Ghanaman affair. What do you know about football? Me, I played soccer before you were born,” he said beating his bony chest.
The anger was dissipated as fast as it came. “Anyhow, as I was saying before I was so rudely and imprudently interrupted, we can blame our defeat on the Abedi Pele Factor. Anyone who watches the other matches will know that he was the live-wire. Take him out and the rest of the team fall to smithereens. That is why the referee should have sent at least six of the South African players out to compensate for the loss. I rest my case.” He concluded and shifted his body against a plank. He was soon snoring. Always trying to play the intellectual, he’s a penchant for re-phrasing what other people have concluded.
“I think it is still a constipiracy,” Small Boy persisted. With Professor snoring like a He-goat, he knew that the rest of us have soft spots for him. “See,” he started, looking around to ensure that the rest of us were listening. “Before the tournament, our team was not given a chance in hell to scrape through the first rounds. See what happened. Immediately we trounced The Elephants, we were elevated to the greatest team on the continent. Our sports journalists were outdoing themselves pouring accolades on our boys. We suddenly became the hot favorites. Do we realize what that could do to the boys? They knew their own limited capabilities. They must have been surprised by all the new attention they were been given. The new expectations must have been un-erving for them. That is the only explanation I have for their progressive deterioration. Put it down for Journalists and Sportswriters Conspiracy, any taker?” He said and glanced around.
“It is the Arabs. Don’t put it beyond them!” Old Congo ejaculated mysteriously and shut his mouth.
“What have the Arabs got to do with it?” I was not called the agitator for nothing.
OC’s blood-shot eye roamed over me. “Can’t you see. Don’t you see! The Arabs wanted the cup so badly that’s the only reason they organized their Ramadan to coincide with the tournament. I put my money on Arab-Ramadan Conspiracy.” Alcohol-induced logic flew freely. I was the only one still listening to him. The rest are snoring away happily. The women were busy watching their soap. We heard footsteps outside; soon exchanges of greetings. MDM’s wife has come to take her hubby home. A very faithful wife, she came every day without fail to drag him home.
About the Author
Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.
Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.
He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.
His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:
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