The Akoras Class of 1969 premiered the 2014 edition of our no-holds barred but very affectionate e-mail conferencing last Monday. Uncharacteristically, the tone was eerily sober, even as the content quickly drifted to the usual subjects such as booze, food and the excuse for the next round of inebriated imbibing.
We are making arrangements to bury one of our own, Dan Kwedeha, a long serving ex-scribe, on January 18, 2014.
In the background to this sombre and sobering chit-chat, the voices of the official ‘social commentators’ of the government were doing a vociferous round of navel examination, back slapping and self-congratulations about how well they had assisted their President to move Ghana forward in the first year of the legitimate Presidency of John Dramani Mahama.
The coincidence of the two events jolted the fading nerves in my cranium and I changed course from the normal appetite of scoring the doings of those who govern in our name and on our behalf.
Having chosen to mark their own score card and come up with a near perfect First Class, I am left with little choice than to resort to total recall and share the brief life and times of our classmate, Joe Watusi, who started with us but failed to become a fully fledged member of the OAA 69
In September 1964, we entered Motown (then mere Achimota Secondary School) as the “nino class.” Included in the 156 odd fresh and some not so fresh entrants (the few private school folks who had sat the common entrance in primary class six and spoke French), many of us had entered from “Cyto Elementary Form 2 or beyond and were equipped with a spluttering of English and certainly no French.
As has been the story of my life, I got lucky. Suame Division had been chosen as the first ‘cyto’ school to enjoy the privilege of sitting the exams and Auntie Xtie transferred me from St Peters school ( and the delights of Ocansil’s 1215 “last show”) to join the 20 pioneers of this bold attempt to bridge the education gap between the "haves and have-nots."
Well, the legendary Master Arthur took up the challenge and Charles Wereko-Brobby passed the common entrance from P6 and entered Achimota with an admission letter that came through the post office box, devoid of the machinations of the massed computerised admission system and the intervention of a CHASS conclave.
I was admitted to Cadbury house, obviously chosen to force the social cohesion and integration visions of the school as encapsulated in its alternate anthem, “From Gambaga to Accra; From Wiawso to Keta.”
Most of the Akan boys, especially we from Kumasi, had been put under the same roof with the best of the Ewes; an experiment that spawned some of the most enduring friendships and partnerships, such as Owusu & Fiadjoe, and Sammy Geyewu & J.B. Atiemo. We were Ghanaians then, not Ewes, Asantes, Northerners, etc. as we have become
I missed out on the diversity arrangement in the shelter and found myself sleeping next to ‘Sackey Black’, alas, another elementary school boy from deepest Ashanti. There was a fairer Sackey in the same class and house who naturally became ‘Sackey Red’ and whose daughter’s elegant and sumptuous wedding we enjoyed in the nearly ending Festive Season of weddings in Ghana; a very welcome break from reflecting on Dan’s loss and the preps for the last goodbye.
Sackey Black had many talents. He was a fantastic football player. He was excellent at regaling everyone with very tall stories and fables. He generously gave away the now unaffordable Exeter ‘corner beef’ to escape having to spend half of the night standing under the clock on account of our twittering away after lights out. His creativity and survival instincts knew no bounds.
Joe Watusi, his adopted ‘guy name’, (everyone had one and many still carry it), knew who buttered his bread and kept him in Achimota and was determined to make sure that his father’s investment yielded optimum returns at all times such that the old man could look forward to his swan song years to be looked after by his very successful son. To probably confuse dad and the village folks more, Watusi had added his own mystical appellation of “The Man from Manpoliwawa, near Apararawewe Madison Square.”
In the very innocent days of our lives, Watusi befriended and compromised the ‘son of thunder’ (on account of the thickest eye lens on any human in the school). The Manpoliwawa whizzkid secured unfilled term report forms for a little consideration (the early days of “I can help you small”). He was determined to show his brilliant success at Achimota to his folks in the village, not least dad who was coughing up money for music lessons, Gilbert & Sullivan operas, Elizabeth Halcrow’s classical theatre inculcation and all.
The Man from Manpoliwawa intercepted the end-of-term school report from the village Post Office Box (they did work then as did the No. 12 bus from Anumle to Opera Square, whose punctuality meant no one needed to have watch). He completed his own version of the report and swapped that for the official version.
Sackey Black’s self-effacing modesty was at its very best when creating the Watusi version of the term report. Biology A-, Satisfactory Progress; History, A+ Room for Improvement; Mathematics; A+++, Could do Better”. This went on for the nine terms of forms one-three until it came to a crashing half with the sad news that Joe Watusi, the man from Manpoliwawa, was not fit to continue in Achimota.
John Mahama has made the frank admission that his stewardship in 2013 “anko yie.” That did not stop him from taking a luxury rest in Dubai while the markets of Ghana opened on Christmas day and postponed the celebrations. But as quickly as the President admits failure, his ventriloquists, Ofosu Kwakye, Okudzeto Ablakwa, Omane Boamah, the ubiquitous Fiifi Kwetey and the sole woman, Hannah Tetteh (who is not even here often enough to have known what happened), mount the platform as “the modern day incarnation of Joe Watusi and act out their “Men from Manpoliwawa” act of self-delusion, immodest congratulations and unwarranted praise for the failed performance of the first year.
My brother from Manpoliwawa was cruelly exposed after three years. John Dramani Mahama has another three years to make real and substantial progress on achieving a Better Ghana. He must then face an independent assessment of his stewardship, this time from us the people who gave him the powers of governance. President John Mahama will have to prove to us, in the reality of our improved well-being, if he is fit to move from the JHS to SHS.
On that fateful day in 2016, the effusions and praise-singing of the latter day Men from Manpoliwawa will count for nought. Joe Watusi, probably returned to the Aparawewe Madison square and was never heard of again. Alas, he never made it to the Big Apple Square.
A fulfilling and rewarding 2014 to every Ghanaian living everywhere,
The writer is a Chief Policy Analyst, Ghana Institute for Public Policy Options, (GIPPO)