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Opinions of Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Columnist: Diesob A.K Cecilia

The man who lived long enough to pay for his sins

To many, this might sound familiar, but to others, this might be the highest form of a much-needed awakening whilst there is a chance to quit that addiction, built your spiritual life, change from that bad habit and get your priorities straight.

I first heard about his story from a relative, and later heard different stories relating to his case, the rumors got even bizarre as I probed further, so I decided to speak to the man himself.

I have known Peter pretty much through family ties, I never got to know the full story to his predicament. My parents paid him visits and supported him with necessities whenever we travelled to the village. He was one jolly person who will use every chance he got to admonish my siblings and I to stay in school and study hard. He once told me he believed my father resented him because he never heeded to his wise counsel when he was younger. He admitted that life had thought him the hard way.

It was only natural for me to take after my parents to continue with the little support I could offer Peter from time to time. We got to know each other better since then.

Although his health got worse each time I visited, his conviction in regaining his strength someday got even sturdier. His faith and positive attitude towards life in the face of his current dilemma is commendable and could rival that of Job in the bible.

The last time I visited was earlier this year he requested if I could help him tell his story to the world, he was positive his story could open doors to his recovery but more importantly serve as a forewarning to youngsters all over the world “after all dead men tell no tales” he believed his purpose on earth could only serve as a “cautionary tale” if he articulated it himself before he died. I promised to grant him that opportunity and that gave birth to this article.

After a long 12hour bus ride with VIP from Accra to Wa, a whole day rest to rejuvenate was much desired. I continued the journey to Babile the next day where I arrived after an hour and 30minutes bus ride from Wa the regional capital.

As we walked along the paths through the village, I noticed the full force of Harmattan in the community. Golden brown grass rising from a barren land lay on each side of the dusty footpaths we walked as we made our way to Peter’s Compound. Children with cracked lips, careful smiles and skin so dry it whitened the pigment of their complexion strode past us as we made our way through the village.

It was that time of the year for the usual visit of the most unforgiving native in the three northern regions, although unwelcome, it was evident the almighty Harmattan had come to stay for the next few months.

Not knowing what to expect this time, I was both eager and nervous to see him. We got to the gate of a walled compound with four locally built huts. Constructed with mud, cow dung and straw for its roofing.

Peter’s mother was sitting on the ground with two other women shelling groundnuts, she explained to me that a farmer had engaged her to process the groundnuts for a token.

Peter sat in a veranda in front of one of the huts on two wooden benches pulled together, actually the benches served as his bed as well. We moved over to greet him, he signaled to his mom to let us sit a distance away from him. I was not offended at the gesture, from a distance I felt it, and how could one blame him for that weird behavior.

He was obviously conscious of the stench that emanated from him. Even from a distance, one could smell human excreta and urine where he sat. He bent over and cleaned his face on a filthy rag on his lap. I ignored his plea, walked over and shook his hand, he coyly smiled at me.

He then told me he was suffering from catarrh and running nose and the rag was for the phlegm’s. We exchanged pleasantries and proceeded to chat some more.

Peter Yourbaka Zimbo was the fourth child of his parents. Originally from Babile in the U/W region, both parents were farmers who moved to settle in Chingakroom a village in the Northern region. Peter as a young boy was known to be intelligent and had a retentive memory which set him apart from his peers, one thing I noticed throughout our conversation was the way he recalled specific dates, names, places and events with so much ease. At school, his intelligence made him friends and enemies as well. Whilst some admired him, others envied him and this he said contributed to his downfall in life.

“I passed my “O” levels with flying colors and proceeded to Lawra Secondary school in 1986 where I was admitted to study General Science. At the secondary school level I was feared by many especially my seniors, some teachers loved me so much they will invite me to lecture my seniors and some of the seniors started consulting me for private lessons, he said.

As a result of so much attention Peter naturally began to feel pompous and felt untouchable. Notwithstanding the poor background he came from he started emulating the lifestyle of other blue-blooded students. “Ladies loved me and I did my best to keep them impressed and interested, little did they know I could date several of them at a time. I needed more money to maintain my new lifestyle so I started looking for the easiest and fastest means to get it” he added.

Some schoolmates convinced him to join them during the holidays to move to some remote areas in the Southern part of Ghana to do “by day” farming for money. They would move from farm to farm, charge the farmers, divide the work and later share their earnings.

They were earning good money at that time but working long hours to earn more money was not an easy task. In their quest to do less for more gain, some of his friends introduced him to certain drugs which they claimed could make you work longer, faster and exert less energy. He said he hardly knew those drugs but he felt comfortable taking them because his friends took some too.

Life was good, they would return to school after holidays and continue with studies. He also noted that one of his friends started acting strange, he would ask for Peter’s exam papers and report cards to go and study every vacation. A close friend hinted him about that said guy and said he was skeptical about the true intentions behind borrowing his results. Peter shrugged the caution off anytime his friend will try to bring up the issue.

At the end of the first year, Peter had a conflict with his father who had requested he visited the family, he refused and moved with his friends to carry on their “by day” work in the south. “I wanted to live my life without any restrictions. We would take drugs, work for long hours comeback and party with young damsels in the community at night. I had just met this young girl in one of the communities, one thing led to the other and she got pregnant. Although we were young we were excited to have the child.

That same year, Peter decided to quit school and work on farms for a living. One of his teachers who he said was highly disappointed was Mr. Kenneth Dabuo, now a retired educationist. He said Mr. Ken took interest in him because he was from the same village and he took some French lessons from him. He recalled how Mr. Ken invited him in a bit to get him back to school but he refused.

Instead he returned to his pregnant girlfriend, it was not long after that he woke up one day with swollen testicles. It was strange to him because it happened suddenly, he went to the clinic and was referred to the Holy Family hospital in Techiman. He went for the treatment and returned home healthy and sound.

After a month however, the ailment returned in a different form. His hands and legs became numb, he went back for some more treatments, this time he was not so lucky, his health began to deteriorate rapidly. After several failed attempts by the hospital to salvage the situation he finally run out of money and was discharged to go home. He got home to meet an empty house. His girlfriend had returned to her parents.

Peter’s mother, decided to come and nurture him back to health. But life had its own plan for him. He visited a herbalist in the community who had promised to heal him on condition that he lived with him through the process. Peter went to live with the herbalist and his family in a village close to New Longoro for about four years.

By this time he could longer walk, he was paralyzed from his waist down. Within the same period the herbalist fell ill and later passed away and Peter had to return home once again. At this point he could only stand up with the help of another person, but could not move about.

His father eventually passed away resentful of the fact that he never heeded his advice. Peter believes he was cursed by his father and sometimes feels his situation is hopeless.

When I enquired about the whereabouts of the girlfriend and their child, he told me someone later informed him the lady gave birth but later lost the baby to sickness. She is married to a different man now.

Peter has since been living with this mysterious infirmity for about 30 years, the condition has eventually turned him into a vegetable. When he wakes up in the morning, he sits up with the help of someone and just sits there till night, they then help him to lie down again. He cannot feed himself, because his hands can no longer function, it is his mom who feeds him.

He urinates on himself and attends nature’s call on himself as well. It is his elderly mother who cleans after him and cares for him. It was evident he goes without bathing for months and admitted to me that he and his mother sometimes starve for days. His elderly mother helps farmers with their activities who in turn gives her some of the farm produce to fend for themselves.

Till now, one cannot clearly tell what triggered his condition. Peter has so many theories to his predicament, whilst he believes he was probably attacked spiritually in school by some mates who envied him, he also believes the excessive use of some of the drugs he took to work long hours on farms could be a contributory factor. Sometimes he blames himself for pissing off his father which he believes probably triggered a curse haunting him till date.

It is obvious that, not everyone gets to enjoy a second chance in life, but one cannot live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives.

When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, Peter said he wanted a wireless battery powered radio set to serve as a distraction since he is always left at home by himself most of the time.

Any health facility, health expert, corporate body, Non-profit organization, philanthropists willing to assist Peter Yourbaka Zimbo in any way can reach out to the writer through email address diesobcecilia@gmail.com or on phone 0553184204