Today is a solemn moment for me. I will not write about the IGP. I will not write about the EC. I will not write about Bawumia. I don’t care if my editor publishes this article or not. I just want to write about myself. I just wish to write a letter, and post it to my Angel.
On January 24, 1998, exactly twenty years ago, my sister, Efua Annan, died. Efua was my closest friend, my confidante, we shared a common goodness, and we lived a very short lives, after which she passed.
It all began on Monday January 19, 1998, while a student of the University of Ghana. I had completed my last paper in the first semester exams, and I headed straight to Winneba, to be with my ailing mother.
I arrived home at about 11 pm. I found Efua sleeping in her room, with her three children. I woke her up, and asked her to show me where the left-over kenkey was kept. I took a portion of it, and ate as Efua attempted to initiate conversations. Surprisingly one of the questions she asked me was; so do you have nwiwii (a girlfriend)? I thought that was too abrupt. Ha! You paaaa, me? No! I answered, as I chocked on the kenkey.
I think Efua found me nicer, and gentler than the karatic Kwame Nkansen she had known in the past, and so was curious to know whether I was beginning to think about girls. She had previously prevented a young girl from getting closer to me, and had attempted to swap that young girl with her favorite girl, but I had disappointed her, because I did not show any interest in her choice of girl.
Efua was such a proud sister; she had always paraded herself as the sister of the first and the only university student in the village, taking all the salutes associated with that pride. She was the Badu (the tenth child) of our mother’s 12 children, and I was the 12th born. The eleventh child, Efua Kyikyibi, had died before her 2nd birthday. So Efua and I had become soul mates, sharing nearly everything together; we ate together, we slept on the same bed, she cooked while sending me on errands, we hunted for ataaba, mangoes, alakatewu, we were chased by dogs, she counted on me to ward off the boys in the village, and in some instances, we engaged in farting competitions. Efua and I lived like twins, although there was a wide age difference between us.
We ended up being separated, in the course of time. She was married off at about 14, and sent to a village far away from Winneba, while I was sent to the Lake, effectively snatching our childhood from us, with Efua enduring marriage while I endured work.
Within ten years, Efua had given birth to six children. Her first born, Kow, died before he was one. The second born, Kofi, survived. The third born, Kwesi, died before he was one. The fourth born, Kwesi Kyikyibi, survived. She gave birth to her fifth born, Abena, who died before she was one, and finally gave birth to her sixth child, Abena Kyikyibi, who survived.
After Abena Kyikyibi was born, I wrote a letter to Efua, warning her, that I was uncomfortable with the pattern of her children’s survival and deaths. I went on to predict that if she did not take precaution, the seventh death could happen to herself.
So on that day when I arrived home, all the three surviving children, Kofi, Kwesi and Abena, were with her. Kofi, who had then taken an exceptional liking for me, and me for him, had wept himself to sleep, as he was disappointed that I had not arrived home early enough, before his bedtime.
Just after 3am the next morning, Efua was already in my room, having conversation virtually about everything, from our mother who was dying, to the thieves who were stealing my plantains while I was away, to the hatred she had developed for those who masterminded her early marriage, to everything.
By 6am we had joined the rest of the siblings, to discuss preparations towards the funeral and burial costs of Efua Odobirba, our mother (did you get that one?). The woman was not dead yet, yet, we were summoned by the family to discuss monetary contributions towards her funeral and burial rites, in anticipation of her death…
Efua and I refused to join that conversation. Of course I did not even have anything to contribute, as I was not expected to contribute financially. But that was not the main reason why Efua and I refused to join. We thought that since our mother was not yet dead, and she was only in coma after several days of unrelieved pains, we should rather discuss financial contributions towards her treatment, not her burial.
Anyway, we were the youngest, so we were supposed to keep quiet. After the meeting, Efua and I took the children to the beach, where we used to plug coconuts together, when we lived together. I climbed a couple of coconut trees, and plugged many, to the excitement of the children. Kofi and Kwesi will run after the running coconuts, as Abena kept gathering those already gathered.
By 7pm, Efua and all of the three children, were in my room. While Kofi was looking through my books, Kwesi was just jumping in and out of the window, as Abena kept murmuring saliva on everyone. Efua and I opened our entire lives up for that evening’s conversation. I knew she did not like what she was going through, and I had been privy to many of them, but that day she told me stories that made me wish I could go out there and smash the hell out of a certain idiot.
As we kept the conversation unformatted, one theme that run through Efua’s version was her gift to me; her children. She kept on emphasizing, and re-emphasizing, that she had brought her children to the world as a gift to me, and that I should do whatever I wanted to do with them. If I wanted them to go to school, I should let them go, if I did not want them to go to school, that one too would be fine. The important thing is that I should know that she had given me the full authority to take whatever decision I wish to take, regarding her children.
On my part I kept on assuring her that as soon as I was done with school, and I had a job, I would make sure that she came back to resettle in Winneba, with the children, and I would make sure that the children had the best of education. That was January 20th, Tuesday, a day after I had returned from school.
The next day, Wednesday, January 21st, I woke up to Efua’s complain of headache, but she had been given a local medicinal root, peteku, to chew. After the initial exchanges, I dashed to Woarabeba, a small fishing village, for fishing. I came back late in the night, but Efua and I stayed on to cook the fish I brought, after which I gave her all the money I had from the day’s fishing work.
The next day, Efua’s situation seemed worsening. My brothers had therefore decided to take her to a local prophetess for spiritual protection and healing. I had protested, that at least she should be sent to the hospital first, for diagnoses, but as it were, I was too young to have a voice.
The fourth day, Friday January 23rd, I visited Efua at the spiritual center, probably ten times, from morning to the evening, for I had a disturbed spirit. I saw my sister strong, but fading rapidly. During my last visit to her, I had a confrontation with my brothers, warning that if they did not send Efua to the hospital, and anything happened to her, none of them would know peace.
But they subsequently had an assurance from the prophetess that everything was fine, and that there were worse situations that were healed, insisting that she was not going to release her until she was totally healed.
That night I could not sleep as the feeling of leaving my sister in the care of that woman prophetess, scared me. I was even more scared when Efua kept re-assuring me that I should not worry about her, and that after all she had been fruitful, that she had children of her own, and that I should rather worry about the children. I was beginning to hate those comments that came from her, especially remembering what she had said to me previously in my room, that her children were a gift to me.
The next morning, Saturday, January 24, at about 7am, I was still asleep when I heard incessant shouts of my botanical name, Kwame Nkansen, Kwame Nkansen, eii sister Efua, what is this. I suddenly realized the desperate calling of my name was coming from a multiple of people, and that brought me to full consciousness.
Just as I was recovering from sleep, I managed to rush out of my room, straight to the spiritual center. The spiritual center was about 500 meters away from our home. As I entered the compound, I saw this prophetess, standing under the mango tree, with my sister seated on the ground, nearly pinned between the prophetess’ legs, with my sister soaked in water, with her mouth wide opened, eyes not properly closed, neck hanging towards her thighs, two hands stuck in the prophetess’ palms. As the Prophetess attempts to move away from her, Efua seemed to be falling to the ground.
At that time taxis were not common in the village, so about half of the village members had rushed to Winneba main town, in search of a taxi to rush Efua to the government Hospital, which was about one Kilometer away from Sankor, our village.
As I approached the Prophetess, and as I realized my sister’s situation, I was torn between hope, and hate. Hope because my sister should not die. I forced myself to deny the death that had occurred.
I had to take a decision, within seconds. Should I join in the search for the taxis, or I should find a big stick to club this prophetess down, in retaliation for what she had done?
I rushed to town, in fruitless search for taxi. Five minutes into my search, I saw hope, a taxi had come to pick Efua, and some of my siblings to the hospital.
As I run, from Sankor, to the hospital, shouting Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus for 45 minutes that I run to the hospital, it was all about the shout of Jesus, Jesus. I had to pass by the back of the hospital, before being able to enter the emergency. Just when I passed by the entrance of the mortuary, I saw my sister, Efua, wrapped with her own cloth, ABCD (that was the name of the cloth), green and yellow, lying on the coroner’s stretcher, as she was wheeled into the cold mortuary, my Angel, the end had come, it was no longer a confusion, it had actually happened.
I don’t have enough space, I don’t have enough energy, to write the rest. But today is exactly 20 years, I have lived every single day reminded of Efua; the life we shared, the sister that she was, and our common hope, all took flight in a flash. All the joy of living to see an educated brother, all of that was gone, living your children, Kofi (barely nine years), Kwesi (barely four years), and Abena (barely one year), without any memories of you.
Today I am not sure if I should say I am celebrating you, or I am mourning. Our mother, Efua Odobirba, died exactly two months after you died. Your son, Kwesi, struggled a bit, through school, to complete secondary school a couple of years ago. Abena, your youngest is in the University of Ghana currently. Kofi is done with his Masters degree. I am proud that I stood in for you.
But taking care of your children has not been enough to remove the pains of your passing. You broke my heart. You took a piece of me with you. I have lived with you every single day, all those moments we shared, all those moments we hoped, all those moments we dreamt, they all still live with me...
Source: James Kofi Annan
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