Growing up as a child, I always wondered why after receiving some beatings from my mother, she will still threaten to top it up with more beatings if I cried. Trust me, I have still not figured out why African mothers do that. Maybe that was a way of toughening us and transmitting to us the part of the African values that says ‘men do not cry’. So as a man you need to be strong and not show your emotions openly. Today, I am sorry to announce to our African mothers that I know a lot of men who cry. I have shed a few tears myself and those were moments in my life when the only option left was to just cry. Strangely, all those times I remember crying, I did it for Ghana.
In June 2010, my soul wept and a part of it waned leaving me with a scar on the other part that lived. It was in the evening around 8:00 pm. The whole of Ghana was so quiet that you could hear the sound of a pin fall. Everything had literally halted as they all prepared for the big one; for history to be made. I held my fist tight as I placed all my gaze on the television. For the first time in history, an African team was going to make it to the semi-final of the World Cup. The Black Stars would become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of a Fifa World Cup. All we needed was for Asamoah Gyan to put the ball in the net to score that penalty. But as the saying goes, When bad luck chooses you as a companion, even a ripe banana can remove your teeth. And so Asamoah Gyan missed the all-important penalty. I was stiff and felt as if I had been struck by lightning. I thought I was blinking faster but it was actually tears flowing. Those tears I never invited nor expected but they flowed anyway. That memory can never be deleted because it was a great occasion for the Black Stars to make history at that competition. If I may borrow the words of Asamoah Gyan in an interview later, “It haunts me every day. I will never forget this. It has become part of my life.”
Again in the evening of July 24, 2012, my whole body wept for Ghana, and when I was done, I felt like I had lost all the bones to lift me up. Maybe I was the last to have heard the news. I had been engaged almost the whole day in my small corner working on a project. I stepped out to buy something only to be greeted by the news through the conversation of two hawkers I passed by. I thought I did not hear them well, I still was not sure it was true. I hurriedly removed my phone from my pocket, called one or two persons and they confirmed what I heard. The news had spread and I guess I was the only one left to know. I went back to the office, turned on the radio and I could hear the voice of Rev. Dr Amo Darko sorrowfully giving a blow-by-blow account of how it happened. For the first time, a sitting President had died while in office in Ghana. President, John Evans Atta Mills, who was 68-year-old had died. As I listened to the narration, I also ‘died’ for that moment. The news shook me to the core as I tried to be strong. I did not know why but I was visibly and unusually affected. Probably, the character ‘Atta Mills’ was one of the few I admired at that time. There was too much intense sadness everywhere I turned. After struggling for an unknown measure of time, I finally lost control and tears just flowed. I thought that was the end of my cry for mother Ghana but I am sorry to disappoint you. Not too long ago, I cried again.
In February 2020, just when the country was preparing for her 63 years anniversary, I encountered another part of Ghana which I never dreamt will happen to me. I woke up only to realize that a piece of land and property I genuinely bought was being taken away from me by some landguards. They first came to cease workers tools on site all in the name of demanding for digging fee. Official report was made at the police station but I still ended up paying for the digging fee twice. In case you are wondering what digging fee is, it is an amount of money demanded by some groups in specific places before they will allow you to work on lands you have rightfully or lawfully acquired. I do not know which part of our constitution or laws support the collection of digging fee but truth is, it is real, it can be expensive and land developers are left with no choice than to pay. Through my back and forth encounter with these landguards, it became obvious that digging fee is a way certain people highly enrich themselves. There is usually the Master or Boss who is feared and believed to possess some powers. These Masters see themselves as overseers or custodians of the land and they merit some payment for their needless service. Gradually, some of these Masters have metamorphosed into sub-chiefs and Odikros and they work with jobless, idling, and uneducated young men who can be a nuisance and ruthless.
Whilst I battled with landguards for digging fees, I also had to deal with another set of people who claimed my piece of land belonged to them. These people also hired their landguards and so I had to find a way of making peace with all parties. I must confess that being in the ‘land’ of landguards trying to claim what was rightfully mine exposed me to all kinds of dangers and a whole set of rules one will not find in mainstream Ghana laws. So I had to virtually rebuy a land I had already bought. The morning as I was preparing to do a round-two of payment of something I had already paid for, my feelings suddenly turned chaotic and that frightened me. As I looked at my hard-earned cash going to some people who did not deserve it, I felt a pain in my heart and tears came before I could stop them. What was the point in wiping the tears off? I allowed my tears to fall as I cried more for a lot of my friends who had to pay three times, four times and still lost the lands they legitimately acquired. I let my tears fall for the many who have been traumatized and maimed by the actions and inactions of landguards. I finally let my tears fall for Ghana, a country with the inscription Freedom and Justice engraved under its coats of arms.