Feature Article of Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Columnist: Egu, Francis Kwaku
Most often the AFRC and the PNDC eras are described as the dark days due to the squalid things that took place. Innocent people were brutalised by over zealot revolutionists who became overlords. These red eyed men became enforcers of the curfew rules that were used to stifle political opponents. People lived in awe of these enforcers as they patrolled the street in army jeeps with assault riffles at night. They dealt ruthlessly with curfew breakers and scores of people did not survive to tell their tales.
Oko Jomo was an example of persons who got caught up in the milieu. He did not live to tell his tales of sorrows. His remains laid six feet below the earth at the La Bawaleshie cemetery till today. Jomo as he was affectionately called was a man with learning difficulties. He was a very frail man and depended on hand outs from relations and well wishers. As handy man he ran errands for folks who needed his services. Life was unkind to him; his handicap made it impossible for him to settle to family life. None of the shapely ladies in the village wanted him as a husband, not even Akwele the widow with ten children.
Apparently La Bawaleshie in East Legon was a soft spot for the revolutionists during the curfew days and they invaded the place regularly. Perhaps the presence of the Revolution’s top notches who own plush mansions in the area explained it. Frequently a handful of the thugs patrolled the village during the night and caused mayhem. La Bawaleshie was once a serene village but lost this serenity to the rambling mansions of East Legon. Mansions mostly owned by those in corridors of power. In the distant past the inhabitants of the village were famers who cultivated the fecund fields of Legon in the areas now occupied by the students’ hostels called the Pentagon and others near Legon Presec. According to legends Bale was founded by some natives of Labadi who find fishing life in La too strenuous and migrated to this serene village and settled to farming life.
The curfew came at a price as it destroyed the fibre that held the village together. The gomey drums which usually resounded late into the night when the moon lit the skies became soundless. Typically Kotey the master drummer and his friends would be in front of the linguist’s house drumming their sorrows away on wavelengths of kpanlogo rhythms. That was their only form of leisure as TV was a luxury. Their drumming normally activities intensified with the approach of the Homowo festival.
Sowah the gifted songster would compose the ‘Kpa’ (Homowo song) which usually targeted the vain girls of the village who turned down nascent suitors. The village square generally bustling with blokes out to meet willing moist ladies became a grave yard. Curvy ladies in search of cuddling denied them by parents who saw their own broods as burdens; cuddles that often sent them to the maternity wards at Legon Hospital. Jomo’s disability made him oblivious of the curfew set of laws which stipulated every citizen must be in bed by 6pm and wake by at 6am the next day. He was unaware there was a Revolution and under which there was no rule of law. His rights were worth that of Bibi the strayed dog that scavenged for food on the rubbish dung. He was unaware druggists prowled the village at night in military jeeps to make sure people obeyed the curfew rules. He had no idea the red eyed men brutalised people who disobeyed these draconian laws. On that doomed night Jomo had starved all day as folks became frugal. Auntie Tsotsoo the benevolent lady who fed him often was out of town. The spasm of hunger made it impossible for him to sleep. He walked out into the night during curfew hours towards Tsotsoo’s home for some food. This was his third trip to the house; his earlier trips were futile as auntie Tsotsoo was not back from Labadi. Instead of the usual route he took a detour along some dark alleys. This led him instantly onto the path of some ‘Revolutionary Guards’ prowling in the dark. They could not believe their eyes. Which lunatic was walking around during curfew hours? They ordered him to stop and what ensued later was quite horrific.
The monsters brutalised Oko Jomo by taking him through carefully selected torture routines. The frail man was ordered to squat holding his ears and hopped in a frog style. The first few hops landed him flat on his back with both legs in the air. A kick from a boot caught him in the scrotum sending a razor-sharp sting down his spine. He yelled and his hoarse voice reverberated on top of the rusted metal roofing on the mud houses. The yell woke people in nearby houses who watched events through slits in their windows; too scared to get out. Monsters were on the loose. A butt of AK 47 assault riffle caught him at the jaw and muffled his yelling. This knocked off the few teeth occupying his empty gum and took a chunk of flesh off.
As part of the torture routine they ordered him to push their 3 tons jeep. The jeep had its hand brake on with the ignition off. Jomo pushed the vehicle while his assailants followed in a distant with a whip. The whip descended on his bare back and tore through his flesh anytime the jeep stood at ease. There was a very little thing a frail body could do; Jomo fell to floor never to wake up again. The brutes left him under the agbormi tree in the centre of the village and drove off. Jomo was buried ‘without a tune’ as the loved ones who cared for him in life were unwilling to do same in his death.
Who will cut a stone for Oko Jomo?
‘Who will cut a stone’ for Jomo ‘to be laid above his head’ at his unmarked grave in East Legon? Who will write an epitaph for a tombstone for him? Oko Jomo and many like him were caught up by the turbulent whirlwind of the Revolution that was supposed to be their liberator. Their wives and daughters were raped and their houses, lands and shops rampaged by marauding beasts in uniforms.
Sadly many of them like Jomo had no children who became lawyers or ministers of state like Mr Kwabena Adjapong to keep their memory alive. They have no links with people in corridors of power to call for the head of their assassins. Jomo was killed by the same system that killed the three Judges and the army officer. However because he was less human; politicians are unaware he once existed. His name unlike the three Judges cannot be a propaganda tool during electioneering campaign. It cannot win vital votes that will make them dwell in Taj Mahals and ride in motorcades.
Francis Kwaku Egu. UK