Category Archives: Uncategorized

Eastern Veranda 

Dear Nii Kpakpo,&

I am finally home in the old estate house of the fine London woman that your sister and I rent behind the classy Gariba Lodge. You should’ve seen the relief on my face when I put the key in the lock and it opened and then I remembered that that part of the roof that was leaking wasn’t fixed so I rushed to the room to check the flooding level. Not that it would’ve mattered considering the rivers I’ve had to cross to get home. But to my utter relief it was pretty cool.

Then I put my bag down and remembered that I had put the meter off since we weren’t at home. I go out to put the meter on and one of the readouts is 419.13.Anyemi I have no idea what that contraption is saying half the time and maybe since it’s made in China you can ask your Ghacem ad co partner for me what exactly it means.

After I put the meter on I proceed to take off ALL of my clothes I’m wearing. I didn’t even wait to check what I look like in the mirror and take photos. I can feel what I look like and trust me it’s the way we looked when after school in primary school we didn’t come home straight but indulged in the small poles at the football field whilst the local team trained. The look that mommy looked at you and gave you canes seemingly according to the Omo that was going to be used to wash your school uniform. Sometimes even patch it.

Nii Kpakpo I then walk barefoot to the bathroom (please don’t tell your sister this) and proceed to pour a whole bucket of water on myself. Chale I think I must’ve used half a pail of that sweet scented “alata samla” your other cousin Oko at Newmont makes. When I checked the dirt on the walls I thought I’d just probably scrubbed a mangy stray dog clean.

But Kpakpo, thank God I’m home. Like I told you in the note, that Eastern veranda isn’t even fit to rear a monkey and I’m surprised nobody has taken it up. A journey that should be just about three hours al thing being equal, takes 12 hours all things being unequal.

Lemme get some rest and I hope I can tell you all about it. I told you I have stories to tell huh.

Well the stories are plenty and I will tell you all.

God willing when I’m rested enough I’ll write to you.

Until then I still remain

Your Cousin in Law
Savanna Boy


Buipe Okada

Dear Nii Kpakpo, 

Your people are at it again. They have closed the major bridge that leads into the whole northern region at Buipe and well they said it is closed for repairs. 


So when will these random repair works be done once and for all so we can travel at will and not at the whims of some capricious politicians sitting in an air-conditioned office in Accra and doesn’t use the road to Tamale but will fly? 

Nii Kpakpo whilst some of us are full of complaints its harvest time for some people too. The young boys and youth who own motorcycles in the Buipe area and township have taken this opportunity to make a few bucks for themselves. The closing of the bridge means that traffic mounts on both sides but there is a sheer distance that needs to be covered across the bridge and only motorbikes can have access to the bridge during repair works. 

Let me break it down.  So lets say you take a bus in Tamale after work it is most likely you wont make the bridge crossing before it is closed for repairs at 6 pm so to facilitate travelers not feeling stranded, lorry stations have been set up on both sides of the bridge by transport owners.  These cars will transfer the passengers from the one side of the bridge that is closed to those empty waiting on the other side to their final destination be it Accra or Kumasi. 

But to move from one end of the bridge to board these empty buses is quite a considerable distance and this is where the boys come in. They transport the passengers to the waiting cars for a flat rate of Gh5 and just imagine the number of passengers that ply the route. 

The Buipe motorcycles are an ingenious way of making money off passengers to be able to make it to the buses for onward transport. 
Not only the motorcycle but also food vendors have opened a mini market where they cater for all the passengers needs when it comes to provisions, food and water. 

Kpakpo, being a northern community that’s not new to to open defecation it can be safely assumed that the putrid smell of human excreta is very prevalent in the area and during the day visible traces are seen all over. The interesting thing is that at night you won’t see the extent to which the open defecation is widespread, only with your nose and you know how kuffourlike our nose is. 

Anyεmi as at writing this letter the bridge has supposedly been fixed and as such traffic is back to to and fro but then it has been brisk business during the closure for the people living in Buipe and its environs. 

What lesson this has taught me Nii Kpakpo Thompson is that the youth do not have to wait for government to create enabling environment for them before they say they have jobs but they should hone their senses to recognize opportunity and seize it when it matters most. 

Let’s be the change we want to see in our society. 

Till I write to you again I still remain 

Your Cousin in Law 

Savannah Boy 

The Kumase More

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

so having seen the plenty videos that flooded social media on the new kumasi city mall and its grand opening, this savanna boy decided to go see it for myself. eish! you thought i would lose guard and be in kumasi and not even try to see it. forget it!

the opportunity presented itself when i had to go help my brother in arms and solidarity, the headmaster extra ho, the letter head, the heading, Comedian Aglah organize his Pure Comedy 5 show in the garden city. this was the fifth edition and we wanted to make it big. the videos on social media came at the right time too because now the garden city had a mall and its denizens didnt have to come to accra to be in a ‘coded location’ at \west hills more’ with their 207 in the car park.

the accra kumasi more has been born!

there were several videos and i realize that some were intentionally staged like the one with the woman selling who receives a call that somebody wants to buy some of the stuff she is carrying on her head and the person is inside the mall and she was shouting over the noise in the mall whilst she was secretly recorded.

the most hilarious videos were the ones in relation to the escalator and how people just stood by to look at other people use the escalator and the funny clip about an older woman using the one going down whilst she tried so hard to go up and finally commenting to somebody off camera that ‘adi3 nu enkor oh‘ to wit the thing is not moving .

anyemi truth be told these videos gave me some wild ideas as to how best we could have a good laugh about various people in this country, imagine if a voltarian got on the escalator with his cat and the cat jumped out of his hands and he was trying to retrieve it.

furtthermore, imagine too if a man in a smock got on the escalator and he fell down and almost got hurt but wouldn’t and started cursing in any one of the northern languages. if either of these went viral you can imagine the insinuations and the laughter that will cause.

with all these in mind and laughing my head off i had to go see what the euphoria was all about for myself. so armed with me social media applications on my small phone i took a troski and headed out to see the mall. first impression was a wonderful edifice like all the shopping malls in Accra layout was the same with Kumasi City Mall boldly emblazoned on the side.

kpakpo the first few people i met gave a me good laugh. these were the teenagers of the ‘coded location’ fame now having their own mall and it pretty much looked like everyone wanted to be associated with going to the mall and needed souvenirs that they had been there so you realize that each person carried an item or souvenir from a shop in the mall, usually Shoprite, and these were mostly very small items that were affordable. i saw some toothpastes, brushes and some usually bought food from the shops and at least i was impressed that they had bought something and they were not the usual revelers and window shoppers although that is the reason they had gone there.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, the ‘Kumase More’ was crowded. mostly teenagers walking in groups and just stopping anywhere that caught their fancy to take pictures. after all they have been there some. the euphoria was in the air and the dress code was on point. the impacts of the music videos these young folk watch was evident in their dress code and i honestly wont be surprised if a few of them actually came to the mall after watching videos on how to dress to the mall. tight pants and tee shirts with sneakers were very prevalent as to the poses these teenagers took for the photos to be taken. I saw several poses including the fork all pose and it was pretty obvious that these youth were thinking for the moment and not for the future. I know some of these photos will one day come to haunt them because of their posture in these photos. 

Nii Kpakpo, there was I live band playing and this dude had sung for over two hours and inasmuch as he belted out good songs people only listened. And then a young gal approached him and asked if she could sing a song. Dude handed over the microphone and the gal requested the band to play a popular tune to which she added her own ad libs. Within minutes people started gathering curious as to who was singing like that and they were rewarded because the young gal sang the song with feeling and was doing some dancing behind the microphone that got everybody’s attention riveted on her. Her stage craft was awesome. 

Chale anyεmi what I’m going to tell you now is highly confidential and don’t let the ash town folk had that I told you. I went into The Game shop to have a look at shop set up and patronage for myself and it was a pretty interesting experience. Firstly my travel bag wasn’t taken from me and I had to carry it inside. I’d actually hoped that they will tag it so I could leave it with them at the bag bay and go pick it up when I was ready to leave. But alas trick no work. 

So here is me logging my bag around like the tourist that I am and I first go to see the balls. Before I get to the balls session I notice people standing all over by the stands taking photos, even with the shop attendants in uniform at least to proud that they had also come to the mall. I get to the balls aisle and I walk to the basketball, soccer ball and volleyballs. I pick a basketball with my grip, the flex style to show I have big palms, and I bounced the ball on the tiled floor.  one attendant comes to me kinda furious and admonishes me for doing that and bouncing the balls is not allowed. I ask who gave the directive and they said the manager and I just keep bouncing and ask for the manager. Attendant then says it’s OK but I insisted really meaning to ask the manager if the ball is supposed to played in the air. Since he said it’s OK and wont call me the manager I resort to do the same timing with soccer and volleyballs on the shelf. They just left me to it.. 

Kpakpo now to the confidential bit. Amidst all this photo taking and posturing in the shop I walked past a couplets guys who upon first look appeared to be buying and stocking up a cart with drinks for a party. It is what I overhead them asking the attendant that got my head so up from typing on my phone to listen to them and be sure of what I heard. I thought I hadn’t heard right so when I got home I asked my host, the headmaster,  and he affirmed that it wap true that when he first heard it himself inside Melcom he was shocked. 

Apparently the boys had called the shop attendant over to ask a question and then when she got closer they asked her “please if we buy more boxes of Voltic water is it possible to get a discount on it?”

Kpakpo your people have brought their things into the Kumase more. They were asking for a discount on items they were buying there like you’ll buy in the market outside. I almost went over to tell them that in a mall supermarket like Game, that only happens when they’re doing promo bargains. But then who is this savannah boy to go poke my nose in their matter before they “summa” me before some court. Lemme just walk in peace. As I’ve told you please keep it between us oh.. 

The things I saw at the more just stands to prove that now we have an European styled mall in the garden city people will turn it into a tourist center and not worry about traveling all the way to Accra just to see a huge market in a room. But I’m sure very soon the euphoria of the opening will die down especially when the teenagers go back to school after the Easter holidays. For now let’s just enjoy the moments. 

Kpakpo, I’m also predicting that very soon social media wont be able to contain the viral videos and photos that will swarm our social media sites about actions and events at the kumase more. You keep my stone and I’ll collect it later. 

Well we need Uber in ash town too because I noticed to go anywhere one gap to pick about 3 different cars heading to three different destinations just to get to a place which would’ve been easy if driving.  Theism system also needs to be improved but swamps don’t make it easy. Well let’s see what the metro assembly can do about that. It makes movement difficult and I rather was bored staying indoors the whole time. 

Nii Kpakpo I think I better end here and we’ll watch and wait for the viral videos and photos from the “More” and will try not to make a mockery of our fellows from the middle belt. I guess I have no right to laugh because I don’t have a dagban more and maybe my people will do worse. 

Anyεmi until I write to you again, I still remain 

Your Cousin In Law, 

Savannah Boy 


Easter Kamina

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

The very first time I asked about spending Easter in Tamale I was told that during the whole Easter time Christians went to church and Muslims mostly stayed at home. Being a predominantly Muslim community I expected just that until there was an added twist to the information that I got. 

Apparently Easter Mondays have always been exciting in Tamale and some people,  especially the youth, actually plan the whole year in wait for Easter Monday. Curiousity got the better of me. 

Kpakpo it is said that after the war people were divided and formed several associations and at major holidays and festivals these various groups met and not only had discussions in relation to their welfare but also did recreational activities to foster solidarity amongst themselves and also other groups. This is how the Kokomba-Nanumba Annual games started and it’s pretty interesting how the ultimate prize at this particular event is a dog. But hey! That’s up to them and it is a story for another day. 

The Catholic church in Tamale took it upon themselves to organize picnics for its members but open to the public and organized in various locations that were rotational on a yearly basis. Gradually it caught on and it became the go to event for Easter Monday within the Tamale metropolis. The event has been held at various Catholic dioceses throughout the metropolis until some youth started getting rowdy and then it was moved to Kamina and has stayed there since. 

So especially during Easter these various groups mostly ethnic based meet at a selected location and have fun sometimes in collaboration and healthy competition with other ethnic groups. At these meets ethnic groups learn each other’s culture and traditions and apprise themselves of the similarities and differences within the cultures especially up north. Mostly there are more similarities than differences and these events therefore foster unity within the ethnic groups. 

Nii Kpakpo so why Kamina. The Kamina barracks is the home of the sixth infantry battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces and every time there is unrest, usually ethnic, anywhere up north they are the ground forces discharged to dispel the conflicts. Somewhere along the line the base commander decided to provide a location for all these ethnic groups who were meeting at various locations to come together at the barracks on one particular day to have fun.

So the Easter Monday picnic for the various groups and even the Catholic organized one, now has a location at the Kamina barracks. 

I have mentioned earlier in one of my letters to you Kpakpo with regards to social gatherings in Tamale and let me remind you again. Tamale people normally move in groups. People will gravitate to a particular location knowing that it’s going to be fun. Unlike in places like Accra where you can just drive your car and go sit at the beach alone, in Tamale you will only do that when you know that other people you know are going to be there. If you don’t really know anybody and you go to an event you will be miserable because you’ll see people having fun and you can’t join in it.  Tamale folk have a weird way of making new friends. Somebody in the circle should know you and introduce you to the group and that indirectly acts as the person vouching for you and only then do you gradually get integrated into the group. 

Elsewhere you can just go introduce yourself and all you need is a common interest. There was one time I remember during the dumsor era my Nigerian neighbors (my mother doesn’t like them) had DSTV and a gen set and it was a Champions League night.  I didn’t want to go to the streetside centres because I’ve had some bad experiences with them and so I just bought a double six pack of Heineken beer from the supermarket and when I got home just put my bag down and armed with my beer I went to knock on their door. “My name is Kola (they pronounce it the Nigerian way) and I live next door. I’m here to watch the champions league match”. You should’ve seen the wide grin on his face as I lifted the Heineken beer as my entry gift. And since then we’re not too close but we say hello to each other in the street when we meet. 

My mother doesn’t know so don’t go telling her. 

But yes Nii Kpakpo the Kamina picnic has gradually become the biggest event in the Tamale calendar year and I’m really surprised that there is virtually nothing about it online or anywhere else. People from all the various ethnic groups are represented not only ethnically but also people bring their families to spend time outdoors. If I’m allowed to say I’d say it is the Kwahu of the north with people coming in buses from other regions to participate. 

Probably because it is a military base there are no banners unlike elsewhere to show various companies advertising or headline sponsoring but there are several business interests on display.  It was at this picnic event that I first discovered that there was a smoothie outlet here in the savanna and it is not so bad either. With several people from the south now relocating up north such business as pubs and pizza joints and catching up pretty quick. Furthermore they are staying open till late which is a good thing because people are working late more and will need these things after a hard days work as it is in the capital. 

At the Kamina picnic the various ethnic dances are displayed and this one is a public communal dance where anybody can join. Traditional drummers are present and once in awhile they ginger and whip the crowds into a frenzy. Such a beautiful sight especially the energy. The atmosphere is all charged. 

For the much younger ones there are also spinners with Djs to belt out the latest tunes and also whip their crowd into a dancing frenzy. Boys and gals huddle in group in the latest fashions available and with slick hairdos and haircuts to look good for the opposite sex.  After all it’s a festival atmosphere and anyone could get lucky especially since they’re mostly high school students down for the Easter holiday break. 

You remember our days when we were in high school and of attended this interco events? Same feeling. I find myself watching them and their antics and smiling at myself. 

In this social media era its is even surprising that even though plenty photos are taken nobody has hash tagged #KaminaPicnic and made it trend. Maybe I could talk to one of the radio stations to do a competition so people post the pictures they took at the event and let’s get some info on it online. 

Nii Kpakpo Thompson this issue of writing about this event has been on my mind for over three years and I’ve put together a team of like minded people to brainstorm on how to put some of the savanna events such as festivals online. I really hope some good comes out of it. 

Anyways hope you also use your media to help us project the north because as one of my stakeholders said it is difficult to sell the savanna and the negativity is easily perceived quicker. Good things can come from here too.  

Kpakpo, this is me from us here. I will be glad if I see you championing the cause of the north. 

Until I write to you again. I still remain 

Your Cousin In Law 

Savannah Boy 

Electric Stories 

Dear Kpakpo, 

So this morning I got to the office and just when I entered the lights went off. Since the office was hot I and my fellow co workers stepped out of the office and as if automatically we started trading stories on electricity in Tamale and usually peoples’ reactions to disconnection.  

Kpakpo, northerners have a way of reacting to electricity officials depending on their mood. When it is a scheduled blackout and time is given for the lights to come back on, the people expect that at the exact time the lights should be on.  Otherwise when it doesn’t come on opinion leaders and community leaders will be scanning the radio stations to check which station the public relations officer is at explaining why lights still not back on. By the time he finishes explaining on air, they’re already outside waiting for him with their motorbikes. Most usually the delays are from the engineers so those waiting use motorbikes to escort the PRO to where the engineers are to see for themselves what is going on. Until it is fixed they all stay on site and even when it is done a young man is sent with a motorbike to check at home if the lights are back. Only then will the staff of the electricity company be released with smiles.. 

So one time on one of my walks I passed by a disconnection team putting out lights on the pole in some areas. In one particular area there was a guy on the pole and some youth playing cards sitting under a shed close by. One of the burly youth just walked to the car and then to the ladder the electricity man was on and called his attention. He spoke a few words to him in dagbani and then he went to join his friends to continue playing cards. He’d just said his mind but I realized that the man up on the ladder was disturbed and had stopped work. So I asked the other worker sitting in the car what the young man had told the man on the ladder and the dude in the car just kept grumbling that this work didn’t pay them enough for the kind of threats they had to endure on a daily basis. 

Now I was more curious to get the interpretation and explanation. 

Nii Kpakpo, when they interpreted it to me I couldn’t help laughing out so loud that I had to check myself because I had to respect their job. The guy had asked the dude on the ladder what he thought he was doing and when he replied that he was disconnecting the electricity he had blatantly told him that since there will be no power in the lines when he’s done, he should just use it as a route to get out of there without coming down because the land is also his and he’ll disconnect him off the land. What he meant in essence was that after disconnection don’t come down. Simple!  😂😂

What a world!

Anyemi, reminds me also of the speeches made during the anniversary of the electricity company three years ago, coincidentally celebrated in Tamale where the Chief Executive of the company warned that if northern peoples didn’t curb their attitudes with regards to threats to officers and staff the company was going to relocate its northern sector grid location to Techiman instead of Tamale. He was emphatic and serious in this decision he said. 

However in his reply the Dakpema, the chief of Tamale also stated that he couldn’t tell the Chief Executive how to do his work or take whatever decisions were best for the company and in the best interest of the people so indeed he could move the machines and equipment of the grid to Techiman as he threatened but then he’d have to find his own roads to move the things out of Tamale. He however promised to talk to his people to treat staff of the electricity company well since they’re only public servants. 

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, these people don’t play and when I’m in the capital the sort of things I see the electricity company staff and officials do will never happen in the savanna. Lie lie! 

Imagine that when they were changing to the prepaid meters the dude presses the door bell on our gate in the capital and when my dad opens it he explains that he is there to change the meter. Daddy explains in turn to him that he’s just on his way out on a journey and if he could wait to come after the weekend since it was a Friday and the units they put on the prepaid meter wouldn’t last till after the weekend. 

Apparently Kpakpo the contract was that the more meters the boys change the more money they make and so in his exuberance he wasn’t hearing what daddy was saying especially since in his line of sight he could see the meter, why not just do it especially since it would take only a few minutes. The frail old man was just being an unreliable nuisance. From my vantage point of my room overhanging the gate I saw the young man push daddy aside and head straight to the meter but what he hadn’t counted on was the house dog lying under the meter. 

Code, our dog, is in tune with whatever happens in the house so hearing the old man calling the young man back and to order for his insolence, the dog raised himself to his full height and just as the young man get there gave a bark whilst yanking on his chain. 

Anyemi! Come and see speed.  Usain Bolt you’ve been proud to have such a protege and the Ghana Olympic committee needs just take a dog into the tracks and this dude could just make Ghana proud. He ran out without booking back. The old man got shoved twice but he had the biggest smiles on his face as he patted Code and walked into his house. 

In a suburb of Tamale staff of the electricity company were driven away several times when they tried to fix the prepaid meters until officials went to see the chief who explained that they should have come to him first so that he announces to the people via town crier and call the community to inform them that this was a national sanctioned program to change all the meters and if the people agree then they can go ahead and change the meters. That area still doesn’t have prepaid meters because they said they don’t want it. Simple! 

So Nii Kpakpo Thompson, as for the electricity people we have no love lost for them up here and all the utility people such as water company staff are bundled into that category. They have learnt to be circumspect too in their dealing with the local people. 

Well I’ve told you enough electric stories and hope they electrocute you into telling the Public Utility Commission to put pressure on the utility providers to improve their services.  What is it that since we were growing up every time there are signs of rain then fuii! The lights go off and this hasn’t been fixed in forty years? Is this what Nkrumah gained independence for? 

Anyways lemme end here before I get angry and say plenty else. 

Till I write to you again I still remain 

Your Cousin in Law, 

Savannah Boy. 

Blind Spot 

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

today is a very special day in our lives. yes today is  a special day for me and your sister oh. exactly a decade ago at 2:33pm (coincidentally it is the country code for ghana) the reverend minister declared your sister and i husband and wife. Anyemi it hasnt been easy but God has seen us through successfully. the other day we were just checking and realized that inasmuch as we have been in this arrangement we have in many ways made it fun for ourselves even through the hardship and have been there for each other.


Kpakpo i remember one time when i was in the final year in school and we had a hall week, it was VANDAL GOES RURAL  and the renown professor Kuenyehia drove by as i walked  behind your sister looking like an old man in just my one piece sleeping cloth and a long chewing stick in my mouth and heading towards the Jones Quartey lecture hall. she stopped to ask your sister what was wrong wirh her uncle and if the said uncle, refering to me, was sick and how these family members could not stay away from letting students be free to learn. her indignation was further increased when we just started laughing and she was told that i was a student and that i was just portraying the theme of the day for the Commonwealth Hall week celebrations.


Kpakpo years down the line we met again at the wedding of our brother at Tertiary Council and she recognized your sister and when we went over to say hello and told her we were married, she gave a huge smile and said we had done well. indeed she still insist that family members will not let academics have their peace of mind.

Nii Kpakpo i am reminded of this incident  because just this morning as we walked to the junction to pick a car to work as we usually do, we just giggled and walked along and people just wondered what was wrong with us. Kpakpo, ever since I moved up north every time we are going to work, we walk together to the junction at the roadside to get a taxi and we do this usually hand in hand or with my hand on her lower back whilst I carry her handbag. Your sister needs to feel pampered every morning and when we moved into the estate a couple of people noticed the practice and thought we were newly weds and that it will soon pass. You should’ve seen the surprise on the face of the delegate sent to make enquiries if it was a passing phase.  After a decade of marriage these are some of the practices we have never given up on despite the observation that the culture of the people up north hasn’t been exposed to such public intimacy and display of affection yet. 

OK so Nii Kpakpo Thompson I’m narrating all this because it happened again. The sun is blazing hot in the mornings these days so I got one of those thick UV ray shades for myself and so I put them on just as I step out of the gate. Here I was seeing your sister off as usual and walking down the street to the roadside to get a taxi. As usual again people just rode their motorbikes and cycles past us just staring because I was carrying her bag in one hand and had the other hand resting on her ample lower back as we chattered along. When we got to the roadside she had to move along whilst I got some breakfast at the now not so new waakye joint at the roadside. I had just finished my breakfast and adjusted my sunglasses and was reading the early morning messages on social media when this gentleman parked his motorcycle right in front of me and greets me. 

Kpakpo I was taken in by what this guy had to say to me especially when he piqued my curiosity by asking if I was the one who was walking with the pretty woman earlier. Oh! So he noticed your sister was pretty. What was this guy up to?  He’d managed to get my attention. Dude slowly got off his motorbike and got closer with a curious look on his face so I had to ask him what he wanted. “Oh Boss ! It’s nothing really but please forgive me. I am sorry !” For what I asked.  Then he dropped the bombshell.

“I thought you were a blind man. I am sorry!”

What? Nii Kpakpo! Me? I have suffered. My Nigerian friends will say Blind man nkor? But you see that set me thinking too if I will make money sitting in one corner of this land begging for alms like we saw the other day at the station where the have coins in hand and will jiggle it and be singing for you to give them more. These were even able bodied men who can get work. Makes me wonder what society has turned us all into beggars. 

Well Anyemi thats my story oh.  Your cousin in law has been mistaken for a blind man who walks about carrying women’s handbags and puts his hands on their waists. Maybe when I regain my sight I’d write you another letter. 

Until then I still remain 

Your Cousin in Law, 

Savannah Boy 

Journey To The North

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So I got into a bus heading north and though initially I didn’t know the people but I was cordially welcomed and before long we were chatting like we’ve known each other for years. After all what other choice did they have but that they were stuck with me for at least the next ten hours on the long drive to Tamale.

Kpakpo it is said that a man is not measured particularly by what he has but more by the friends he keeps. Here I was the day earlier doing errands for your sister especially to do with some documents she needed from that monolith institution up on the hill with its cumbersome bureaucratic processes. You know how it is in the capital when you want documents instantly then you have to fill some forms which bear The Big Six on the front pages and as letterheads. So there was no way I could get the documents without it taking a hit on my pockets. Meanwhile here I was having to rush back to Tamale for a mentoring program at the local university so I had to rush to the Intercity STC to book a ticket for the next day to travel. But the big sign post in the cashier’s window NO BOOKING WITHOUT CASH really had me prepped for an angina attack. What was going on and where was I to mobilize funds especially since I was told there were only two seats left on the second bus for the next day.

Kpakpo here I was feeling stranded and then after saying a prayer decided to tell a couple of friends and see how it goes. Now lemme tell you why I chose the InterCity STC. The company just recently purchased new Scania buses and these buses are fitted with usb ports and power sockets for electronic gadgets. I know when that our cousin who likes beans a lot hears this he might even try to take his rice cooker into the bus and cook some beans whilst he travels. But yeah! The buses are fitted with usb ports, a freezer and has on-board toilet facilities (which I have never seen in use considering how some passengers will even go to the bush and you can smell them a mile away) and best of all they have wireless services on board. This is what will make social media and internet users wanna ride in these buses and I am going to spearhead a campaign that it becomes our mode of transport of choice at social media events or gatherings.

So yeah that is it.

Kpakpo after an hour of making calls and convincing the ticket lady to hold the ticket for me I walked out of the station with a ticket in my pocket. Every day when I wake up I say a prayer to thank God for life and for his many blessings to me and that includes my friends and then I say a prayer for my friends too for God to bless them as they go through their daily lives. I have some friends and even though are crazy will go to the ends of the earth just to have my back. Look at yourself. Lol

So from the station I stopped over at the Body Temple of ICGC  to see my basketball friends I haven’t seen in a while and I’m sure the receptionist was shocked at how the boys just run out to carry me into the premises telling her I was VIP when everyone else is supposed to pay before entering the premises. It was really good to see them and regrettably I couldn’t stay any more days so we could hang out.

Anyemi, it was just as I got home that I got a call that there was a company bus leaving the Accra Mall in the wee hours of the morning and most of the people on the bus were going to be in the north for the first time and they would love for me to be on board that bus. Wow! What was happening I asked myself? I already had the ticket for the Intercity STC and I had to go return it but still I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave the comfort of the public bus for some folk I didn’t even know and whether they will even treat me cordially. ‘Human beings are someway’ as a friend of ours will say. But then again, every journey had to be an adventure so why not. Luckily when I called the number for the Intercity company the same lady that served me picked up and she was so courteous I almost said I was sorry for bothering her but I will still take the bus. The lady explained my options to me and even wanted me to hold on till the morning so I make a decision when I came to board the bus but I told her the other bus was leaving around 3am and then she agreed on a refund or I change the ticket to Kumasi for another friend who was traveling there in the morning. Refund won the debate.

Kpakpo, by the time I was done doing all these calls and getting home and packing , it was long past midnight and which meant I had barely three hours to get ready. I called to confirm that I will be on the bus, took a shower, ironed my clothes, switched to news channels to watch what was going on in the rest of the world and lay down to wait for the time so I could leave home and go meet the bus  at the Accra Mall. Oh yes! And for the first time ever I set an alarm so at least I had some noise reminding me it was close to time. I didn’t know this people and I did not for any reason want to create a bad first impression. It was gonna be a long drive.

So at half past 3 I was at the roadside with my bags debating whether to take normal trotro which is cheaper to the mall or to take dropping which was comfy. I was wondering if there were any Uber drivers up by then. Well, since I still wanted to make an impression the dropping won and thankfully the taxi driver was very chatty and we have an interesting conversation on the drive. Within minutes we were at the mall since it was the wee hours of the morning and there was virtually no traffic on the roads. Moreover using the N1 we could almost wish we had another car to race with. There was no sign of the bus when I got to the mall but when I called the contact I was supposed to call I was asked to come into the station behind the mall and there I realized the company had a small office there and that was the pick-up point. The bus hadn’t arrived yet and after greeting those that were around I settled to wait.

Nii Kpakpo it wasn’t too long when the driver arrived and he was driving a new Ford Transit 14seater van and that put a smile on my face because I knew I had made a good choice. Before long we were chatting like we had met before and we were telling each other stories of travels to parts of Ghana to the delight of the rest of the passengers waiting. We assured them that inasmuch as it was going to be a long drive they will have fun along the way and should just enjoy the journey. The driver told me that he had suggested we leave that early because of the Buipe Bridge that was usually closed for repairs daily at 2pm and we needed to cross the bridge before its closure, else the alternate was to drive to the Bole-Bamboi-Sawla-Fufuiso road that will add at least four hours more to the journey. As for the alternative we didn’t even want to consider it at all so we set timelines and told the passengers that there will be minimal stoppages on the way until we got to the bridge. One passenger that was delaying was left behind because he could not be specific as to where he was as at the time we were ready to leave. At exactly 5am we set off from the Accra Mall.

The women went to the back seat and amidst giggling, gossiping and teasing each other we drove off. This soon petered out since it was obvious because of the time we were leaving peoples’ sleep patterns had been affected and before long most people were asleep. The timelines that I had set were pretty effective by my estimation and I understood why when I told the driver that I was estimating we get to Kumasi in four hours he just laughed. We hit the Ejisu roundabout at a quarter to eight but then the traffic in Kumasi driving through the center of town was crazy and we spent another hour manoeuvring through to get on to the Tamale road via Offinso. We picked up another passenger in Kumasi and by now the women in the car were awake and complaining that they were hungry.

Kpakpo inasmuch as we jokingly say that you can buy anything in traffic in Ghana it is very true for Accra and Kumasi cities. Driving through the traffic there was food that could serve a full British breakfast: oats, toasted bread and eggs, milo, milk, burfloaf, sandwiches and somebody even carried porridge. But alas our women didn’t want any of this but they preferred a local breakfast of some waakye or banku or probably some early morning fufu with some herbs and bushmeat. The discussion of what to eat on the bus also generated its own laughter and truly Ghanaians we laugh at our pain. Having gotten to the outskirts of Kumasi and out of the traffic the driver then stopped at a place where there was waakye for the women to buy breakfast whilst him and another passenger found a fufu joint and went off to have their own meal. They were the last to get on the bus and then we set off again with a further warning of minimum stoppages.

Time for people to start chattering again with food in their bellies but very soon, sleep took over again. The next stop was in Techiman to refuel and have passengers stretch a bit and use the washroom. Whilst they did that I quickly rushed over to see my cousin who was at a shop just a street away. The Linda that we used to know as a little gal is not so little anymore and she has grown into a lovely young woman helping her mother at the store and managing some of the business. She’s become the Techiman La Gata after the telenovela character. I know I should soon introduce her to my other sweetheart in the town, the svelte community nurse Vee but soon. Every time I show up there people are curious as to who I am because I relate to her by the love I have for her and we laugh easily. It was a quick pop in and I just hugged my aunt since I haven’t seen her in a while and told her I was passing by on a journey to the north and wanted to come get a blessed hug from her. She followed me to the bus and when the other passengers saw her and after the introduction one particular man started already calling me in-law mischievously. We set off again heading to Kintampo but passing through Tuabodom which also led the women to sing the old song that had once been a national hit and we laughed over it.

Kintampo is the center of Ghana and the town thrives on traveller trade because most of the buses that ply the north and south stop over there thus there are several rest stops. There was one time I remember we stopped over very late almost midnight and GN Bank van was still working giving announcements for people to come deposit their monies from daily sales for safe keeping. The town never sleeps because buses pass through almost every minute of the day. However we didn’t stop at Kintampo since we had already stopped at Techiman and we drove past heading to the bridge which was now our target because we intended to cross it before the close down time of 2pm. We were on track. We got to the bridge with still an hour and half to spare before closing time and just after we crossed it we were all clapping for our driver. He had made good time. It was then that I suggested whilst we were getting some snacks including tiger nuts, aka atadwe, that we get the driver some guinea fowl (akomfem) eggs to celebrate his feat. Moreover he needed to take a break of at least ten minutes which we insisted on so he had to find a place convenient to park the van.

Nii Kpakpo, just as the driver parked the van and got out I opened the door for those who wanted to stretch a bit to come out of the van and the very first lady who was eager to get out tried to come out of the van. Just as she put her leg down and her full body came into contact with the heat outside she jumped back into the cooler confines of the van. The action was very short-lived but very funny because just as she put her other foot on the ground out of the van the heat wave caught her straight in the face and she jumped back into the cooler confines of the van. At this time just before the rains is the hottest season in the north. The average temperature daily is 38 degrees and the passengers didn’t understand how I was feeling so cool in the heat and I told them that sometimes I felt I was solar because I have always been energized by the sun’s rays and it felt good to be back in the northern sun. One of the ladies commented ‘then we can’t live here oh’ and to which I replied that they will get used to it if they lived here and my experience the first time I visited Tamale.

When we set off again we knew that the next stop will be in Tamale and we even passed the Intercity bus that had left Kumasi at 6am that morning on the way. To impress the other passengers I put my wireless device on and caught the Wi-Fi from the bus to prove that indeed there was Wi-Fi on that bus and why I believed it was the bus of choice. Approaching Tamale and people were taken aback by the development and their impression that the place was a backwater changed instantly to be confirmed the next day when I met them that they will give consideration to a chance to relocate up north to stay.

The long journey gradually was coming to an end and all I could think about was the food that the boys were going to have at lunch. Every Friday are special days at The Observatory, a particular table set in Club Enesta, a restaurant in the very heart of Tamale. I was in contact with the chef and I had already told the boys to take a photo of the food I’d be missing but they didn’t know that I had made arrangements that just when the food was placed in front of them I will appear to eat some. I could just imagine the look on their faces. And Oh! I achieved that perfectly. Got to lunch just in time to just wash my hands and join in the meal after dumping my bags on the floor.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, you see how this letter is long, so also was the journey long but in the end we made it. Considering the aftermath of accidents all over the news and casualties I give God the glory and thank Him for traveling mercies all over the nation. It is not by intelligence or might but just by His favour, grace and mercy that we travel as much as we do safely. Keep praying for me that I will enjoy safe travels in these parts as I bring you more stories from up here. And paddy, hurry and get your show on the road. I’m still waiting for the day you call me and tell me you’re heading up here or are here already. Like we will paint the savannah with its own sunset.

Till I write to you again I still remain,

Your Cousin in Law,

Savannah Boy