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Opinions of Monday, 20 June 2011

Columnist: Damoah, Nana Awere

Fearful things in Sikaman Part 1

by Nana A Damoah

It is a fearful thing to be in thick Accra traffic and to have an urgent call
from Nature. The first confusion is how to manage the heat in the car and the
heat in the alimentary canal simultaneously. Second challenge is how to control
the pedals without disturbing the delicate equilibrium achieved as the mind goes
into analytical, scanning and zooming mode: where to go?

The options aren't a lot. According to my friend Kafui Dey, you could park the
car, leave the hazard lights on, walk quickly to a nearby hotel, smile at the
receptionist, find the nearest washroom, sweet relief. Get back to your car, pay
the towing charges and drive back. The best solution, actually; just that it is
assumed that you can reach the hotel safely, one will surely have to walk with
circumspection and calculated steps.

Ebo Beecham believes the nearest bush calleth, but bush in Vanderpuje's Accra?
Scarce and what if you are in central Accra? Another friend suggest prayer, but
here too, you can only do silent prayer. Don't start blowing away in tongues,
you need all the control to concentrate!

During the Ghana @50, one of the main plans was to construct washrooms and rest
stops along the major highways. As happens many times in Sikaman, the talk is
sweet but the execution is sour at best or usually nil. We are still expecting

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Sikaman policeman. If it is
not your license, it will be your insurance tag which is checked. If both pass,
you will be asked for your warning triangle. If you have that, you will be asked
to show your fire extinguisher. Bring it out and you could still be asked to
produce your first aid kit. Don't be surprised when the kotiman asks you for
your torchlight. At noon. If you don't have it, prepare for some time wasting.
Your time. Could end up in court. Or your money in the policeman's court. A guy
was stopped around 5pm and asked for his torchlight. He argued that it was not
dark yet. The policeman asked him where he was staying and when the driver told
the policeman, kotiman stated that there was no way the driver could get home
before dark, so he still need to show the torchlight!

The highway patrol guys, those with the speed gun, pray you don't get into their
trap. They have a special ability to hide around sharp bends.

In Ghana, drivers on highways are like brothers; if you are attentive, you can
usually pick up the warning signages that the police are ahead, from the cars
coming towards you. The signal is a high light, followed by one finger pointing
to the ground, repeatedly. If you miss that, you aren't lucky.

Reminds me of a story I heard. The highway police realised for about 30 minutes
that all the vehicles from one direction towards them slowed down metres away
and the drivers smiled at them when they passed their temporary checkpoint. They
were puzzled. After a while, Chief Inspector, on a whim, asked one of his boys
to take the bike and go around the bend to see if the vehicles were getting any
advanced warning. The rider didn't have to travel far. A little boy decided one
day to put his ingenuity to good use. He was standing about 100 metres from the
police checkpoint, with a placard reading 'Slow Down, Police Just around the
corner'. Little boy was getting all the tips from the drivers!

I was 'arrested' once between Cape Coast and Takoradi, on my way to my holy
village of Wasa Akropong. I must have been travelling around 70km/hour, the
limit just after the town I passed was 50km/hour. The policeman flagged me to
stop, and to get down.

"Boss, where do you stay?" He asked me, after giving me a note to report to the
court in Tarkwa the next week Tuesday.
"I stay in Tema."
"Where do you work?"
"Can you come to court in Tarkwa next week?"
"No, I will be at work."
"Hmm, so what will we do?" He asked me.

I didn't answer. Told him it will be difficult.

He left me to attend to another victim. About five minutes passed.

One of his colleagues came to me.

"Boss, what did my friend say?"
I told him, I was to report at the Tarkwa court the following week.
"Boss, where are you going now?" I told him.
"Hmm, Wasa Akropong is very far, and your time is going too. So what should I
tell him? I can talk to him to 'do something'"

Over 30 minutes later, I was 'set free', to go and sin no more.

The speed guns used are not always calibrated. My friend Harry decided to take
them on one day. He was so sure he was not travelling at 70 km/hour (interesting
how many times that speed shows on their screens), because he had seen another
friend on the road and slowed down to wave, or something to that effect. He
challenged them, insisting that the equipment was faulty. He asked that one of
the policemen drive his car, turn and come towards them at a high speed, so he
stands by the recorder to check its efficacy. Turned out that the reading stood
at 70 km/hour, regardless of the speed of the on-coming vehicle. He was
dispatched with 'Go away with your too-known!'

My writer friend, Qouphy Appiah Obirikorang, related his story. "Those highway
patrol cops are really dreadful. Got busted on the Tema-Akosombo road, cop
charged me GHc 5, I had only GHc 10 notes, cop took the note, I ask for change,
cop sarcastically asked me whether he looked like a forex bureau!"

Ei, kotiman want to catch you, only God can help you!

It is a fearful thing to be accused wrongly by a girl in a Sikaman school. I
have attended co-ed schools all my life but it was in the secondary school that
I learnt, very well, that when a girl makes a complaint against you, the
likelihood of getting your side of the story believed is very slim. I used to
joke when in the University that when I wanted to visit a washroom in the
Central Classroom Block, I was very careful to double check that it was the
gents I was entering. Any mistake and any shout, and mankind could be branded
for life. In general, it is a fearful thing to be on the receiving end of a
girl's wrath. Even the greatest wrath in hell is said not to match its ferocity.

It is a fearful thing to miscalculate the swallowing of a morsel of gari and
beans and not to have a cup of water close by. It happened mostly in secondary
school, in the dining hall where water was not served on the tables (well,
during the time I was in school, perhaps things have improved now). You are able
to recognise a victim when you see the person sit still, very still, for some
time, as if in meditation, and then nod solemnly. The time between the start of
the stillness and the nodding is when the morsel takes its sweet time to travel
down the oesophagus, via peristalsis to the stomach. That movement must not be
disturbed, otherwise a blockage of the system can happen, leading to a gasp for
breath. Even if water is available, the volume needed to push the morsel, like a
fluid pushing a pig through a pipeline, should not be too much, lest a back
pressure is experienced!

It is a fearful thing in Sikaman to be in a position of authority and to have
your sponsor who helped you to that position hit at you and criticize your every
move. It is even worse when he nominates another person, closer to him that he
(the sponsor) is to you, to replace you when you duly expire.

It is a fearful thing in Sikaman to go to the Ohene Djan Sport stadium to watch
a match betwen Kotoko and Hearts and not sit with the right group of
suppporters, that is, those supporting your team. You will learn a great lesson
in sycophancy and masking of feelings that day. For every good move that your
team makes, you will have to show the reverse emotion. You will learn to cry
with your opponents, smile with them, rejoice with them and celebrate their
goals with them. If you lose concentration and jump up in jubilation when you
team scores, know that you will not sit again, and start saying your 'Hail

It is a fearful thing in Sikaman to have your car breakdown on the Tema motorway
at night. Firslyt, no car will stop to help you. There are so many crooks around
these days that one can never be sure if the person flagging you to stop on the
road is genuinely in need of help or not. Next, you cannot trust those who come
out of the bushes to help you. Some have said that most of the farmers by the
side of the motorway have more implements than the usual crocodile matchets and
hoes. Some of them have tools that will put any regular fitting shop to shame.
Thirdly, you can not be sure that your car parts will be intact later, if you
left the car there. These days, we are lucky there are some 24-hour towing
services available. That is, if you have their contact numbers. If you are
unlucky to have zero credit on your phone, there are no phone booths on that
stretch of toll-paying road. Then, how do you get home from there? Above all,
there are no streets lights on the motorway. It is a fearful thing.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Electricity Company of Ghana
(ECG). Especially these days that I hear they receive interns from NEPA on
industrial attachment. Woe betides you if you postpone the ironing of your
clothes to a morning of an important meeting, and wake up to find that the ECG
duty officer has had itchy hands again. Or the rains start falling at dawn...

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Sikaman tailor and the
seamstress, his sister. It is only when the tailor sees you coming that he picks
up your attire to work on. Leave and he leaves your work to attend to that of
the new customer he sees approaching his shop.

Source: Nana Awere Damoah