Dear Nii Kpakpo,
your sister is in the capital on leave and she has grounded me here in the savanna not to travel anywhere soon mainly because of my traveling in recent days. whilst i cant really go anywhere, she is meeting people in exotic places in the capital eating exotic food and sending me photos. But Anyemi, i dont blame her. This is her leave period and she can have all the fun she wants without me in her hair at every turn and you know how i can get when i’m in my elements.
So Kpakpo you can imagine my non hesitation when my big man friend the banker asked me to get him goats or sheep from the savanna to cater for his guests at his mother’s funeral. This is me getting crazily excited because then it will mean that i was not gonna buy the livestock required right there in Tamale but will have to go to the outskirt towns to do just that. Upon plenty consultation, the obvious choice of Savelugu was too close and somebody told me about a market about an hour away in a town called Wulugu.
Wulugu is a small community on the highway from Tamale to Bolga and i won’t even deem it a village or town. The most noticeable thing about the community is the number of non governmental organizational projects going on in that community. Almost all the foreign aid agencies that you can think of both secular and non secular have community and social projects going on in the community and for how long i cant really tell. The main thing about the community however is that they are mostly farmers who plant seasonally depending on the weather and as i visited the community it was groundnut and maize season. The groundnut were just blooming and the maize had just been planted. The community is densely and sparsely populated at the same time.
Nii Kpakpo, earlier in the month you remember i had traveled the eastern veranda and my experience at Bimbilla in the morning was that their market opened as early as 6am with the livestock market as the first before even the produce sellers arrived from the villages around or wherever they were coming from. Old experience from the Savelugu market also confirmed same and as such i was confident that my travel to Wulugu would be pretty short and I’d be back in Tamale by midday to send the livestock on their way to the capital to meet their fate. On this note i woke up pretty early also to catch the very comfy big luxury buses heading out to Bolga that will pass through the community because if i waited until later it meant taking one of the small minivans that my legs usually didn’t fit into and very uncomfortable. Boss, when you are traveling such distances you cannot put a price on comfort especially traveling in the savanna. But that’s another discussion for another day. For now let’s just say by 6am i was already on a comfy airconditioned bus heading out to Wulugu.
Nii Kpakpo, it is very interesting just sitting on the bus and watching the landscape go by and also wish i had a powerful camera to take pictures of the sunrise and as the bus drove past some communities it was evident that open defecation is a thing of the savanna and all those NGOs trying to abolish it have a daunting task ahead of them. Men and especially women in just wrappers squatting to do their things early in the morning not too far from each other and mostly just chewing on morning sticks. The savanna is such a pretty diverse social entity and depending on what you are looking for there is so much to see.
After asking around after Walewale and getting directions from other passengers on the bus i got to the community very early in the morning when school children were heading out to school and when people were getting their morning chores done. I joined the breakfast revelers at the only local porridge aka koko joint. Kpakpo it you are a trained social worker like i am you will know that these are the places to tap into the community gossip and information. So after buying a bowl of porridge i asked about my contact and was asked if i already called her. when i replied in the affirmative and said i had also told her where exactly i was, the people were satisfied and even one old man, obviously expecting some money from the stranger told me that my contact was his girlfriend. Oh! he got himself a breakfast fully paid for by me to which he just kept talking giving a whole lot of information about the community.
Kpakpo, even before my contact arrived, it was this same old man that make me realize that firstly, it was wrong to assume that all the markets in the north were the same. The fact that i’d been to the Tamale market at Aboabo, the Savelugu market and even lately the Bimbilla market didn’t mean that i knew how markets in the north operated. He said the Wulugu market had a life of its own and came alive only after noon and that it was way after midday that the market was in full flight, somewhere around 4pm. wow! and here i was assuming i would head back to Tamale by midday. what was i gonna do all that time that i waited for the market to open up so i could get my livestock and leave.
My contact comes to the spot we are to meet and takes me to her home. walking in the community i realize that i’m just too early and people are now waking up and going about their daily chores. Back in Tamale i think we are too sluggish as compared to Accra by 8am people are at work and here i find people now taking their sheep out of the house compound to release them outside to go graze free range. You should’ve seen my face Kpakpo. Here i was thinking i was maybe too late for the market but rather i was too early and had to find a way of whiling away the time and resigning myself to a lazy day out of my comfort zone in the Tamale metropolis.
However it was whilst I was waiting in the house that my host’s brother had a suggestion. Apparently, the sellers of livestock in the market use most of the morning to go into the hinterland in the bushes to buy from farmers who want to sell their produce and bring it to the market. So it was suggested that if that is the case and i didn’t intend to stay that long then he could take me on the motorbike to the bushes and we try to get some livestock even before it got to the market. wow! what an idea. A pretty good one. So dude brought out his motorbike and i paid for fuel and off we headed off into the bushes.
Nii Kpakpo Thompson, there are places in Ghana that when you’re riding or walking through you will ask yourself even if you are on the same planet earth. These places are like virgin spots on the planet where civilization hasn’t touched much less taken a hold of. The things i saw in those bushes within the one hour that we were on the motorbike are tales that need to be told by the fireside with bottles or as in modern civilization, at a pub with crates of beer.
Lemme tell you this though, one profound experience was an insight into the whole Fulani experience in the bush. almost everywhere we went to there were Fulani herdsmen who hardly come to town and this were the ones, my host explained, the boys bought the livestock from in exchange for stuff like palm oil and salt from the market. The Fulani hardly came to town unless they really needed something urgently. Their whole life was in the bushes. Furthermore, it also made me understand why people in communities all over Ghana were suspicious of them. The Fulani are very careful about who they deal with and very protective of each other. Whilst we were talking to them, there was always a sense of foreboding that anything could happen and that one particular Fulani in every group was a sentry on alert to pounce on any danger and avert it before it hit the community. This Fulani sentry usually looked pretty scary both in stance and poise.
The Fulani women stayed in the makeshift tents that were obviously temporary because of their nomadic life and their children, very pretty children who didn’t look anything Ghanaian but more half caste, went to the water sources to fetch water. Saw this pretty little gal and her brother and as soon as i took my phone out to take a picture they just scuttled into the bush.
Anyemi, after all that time in the bush came back empty handed because everywhere we went to the boys had beaten us to it. Out of consideration host mother decides to sell one of her stock for me and now i have enough to get one more animal and i’m done for the day. By this time it was already midday and information had been sent around that i was in the market for livestock. We got news that somebody had big sheep for consideration and we set off to go see it on foot. One other thing that was obvious was that the livestock owners were actually absentee owners who had no idea how big their livestock had become but only suggested prices via phone to try to make as much as they could on their products. The market by then had started picking up with people beginning to bring their wares for sale.
After acquiring the livestock, it was time to head back to Tamale but had a brainwave to rather send the livestock directly to Accra where they were gonna meet their fate. This will save me the trouble and expense of transporting them to Tamale first before to Accra. The first option was the VIP station at Walewale where they said the luggage compartment was full and the next option was Gh Travel and the Nigerian loading boy charged me quite a penny for transporting the sheep to Accra. My only consolation was that i managed to get a place on the bus to get me to Tamale and this was another pretty comfy luxury bus. As if by design, just as we got on the bus to leave the rains set in and it rained all the way to Tamale till i got down.
Nii Kpakpo, some people can indeed be annoying. Here i was having spent the whole day looking for livestock and as a favor my contact has asked me to deliver a goat to a friend in Tamale at my own cost and when i got down from the bus in the rain it was a tussle between me and the goat and when the dude was asked to come for his goat, he said he could not come out in the rain. what is pork!
Anyemi, i was so furious i almost let the goat go and just went home to take a warm bath and sleep. But our mothers brought us up well and that was his saving grace. i waited for him in the cold till he could come and it was so obvious the dude was angry we got him out in the rain that when i said i’d come for my share of the goat pepper soup, he just bundled the goat on his motorcycle and sped off. Honestly, i could care less. All i wanted was to get home and sleep. My phone batteries were long dead and I just wasn’t in the mood to call or talk to anybody on account of my tiredness. Come to think of it i’d been out of the house the whole day.
Anyways, this is an old story and this story had to be rewritten because every time i tried to publish it i lost it somehow. well, it’s written now and i hope it is published.
Kpakpo, until i come your way again with another missive keep keeping on. Now that our ex brother in law the old man has relinquished his throne, let’s see what happens in that land.
i still remain
your cousin in law,