I was in Accra yesterday and I saw something that has humbled me for two days. It wasn’t spectacular or anything; just a familiar everyday scene that we all take for granted. Why this one had so big an impact on me is inexplicable. I think it was the perspective. Maybe the motive.
I was in one of those rare coaster buses with AC, thankfully, for all the heat, and wasn’t really thinking about much. There was so much traffic, there was nothing to do but just hope that it’ll all get beat down soon. There were the usual rush-hour scenes. Somehow, it is difficult to call Accra traffic chaotic. Many different cars, buses and trucks just tow the line behind each other and wait till they can move. It’s usually as clean as that. And on the very busy roads of the capital, many men and women run and walk, with the mind to make a life.
Obviously, after upwards of an hour in traffic, I had seen all sorts of wares and sellers come and go. None struck. I was listening to positive soul music from 102.7fm and enjoying it too. There’s so much radio choice in the capital which means that you can get whatever you want. Good christian music lives on 88.7 and 102.7 and I knew that. Of course, those international telecoms people have given Ghana only odd-numbered choice of bandwidth and so we don’t have .6 or .8 or the like. Some tune took me far away into the lost reaches of some place where hope lives (philosophical) and I was living in my own world with it.
Suddenly, I picked up my gaze and met eye-to-eye with a young man right outside my bus window. He was sweaty; that was the first impression I had of him. Then I noticed that he was not your average street-look guy. He had a muscular build, a grave look and in his hands were apples strung in groups of three. He was selling them. When he caught my eye, he only said, “wobɛtɔ bi anaa? 2 cedis” – “Will you buy any? 2 cedis.”
My eyes met his eyes and I saw in them a sense of harwork and hope. There was a deep passion to make it that showed through his eyes. He barely knew they were there because he just kept repeating ‘2 cedis’ while I kept looking at him. I wasn’t going to buy any. He looked tired, but he looked determined as well. In his situation, , I saw a man who was contributing his mite to make Ghana a better place. I saw a man who sold to the driving, working class, a fruit that he sought them stuff in a part of their anatomy while they went about doing the ‘obviously more important’ things that make Ghana tick. That was his contribution to making Ghana tick.
He was asking us to take his little contribution to our lives so that we can give better to Ghana in our high office jobs on 12th and 13th floors of the city’s towers. And he chose to do it at the returning rush hour. A time when he could meet the biggest crowd and sell to them his small political ideology. He was campaigning for better working conditions for himself and a better life for his family. And he did it with ‘2 cedis’ and a couple of apples.
Before another thought could cross my mind, he was gone, just as he appeared. Maybe, to sell his campaign to another bus. He had very little time. He was lost in the buzz of the city before I knew where he went.
That man wore a shirt that I can remember so vividly but cannot well describe. He had just passed when the traffic moved on but he was not one more ordinary seller on the streets of Accra. He was a life. A political idea. A dream. An inspiration that things could be made better. A reminder that we can make Ghana what it should be, from our various small corners, if even with ‘2 cedis’ and three apples. He was the greatest shove I had in my life for a week. He deserved better. He was making Ghana so much better by his humble sale. He could have been anywhere with that stature and build, doing anything. But he chose to be on the street where his message would be heard loudest. A message of a better Ghana, ‘2 cedis’ and three apples. He changed my life for that brief second before the traffic moved on. And he changed my life forever. I saw all this in a split second, just catching his gaze.
It was somewhere before the Canadian embassy at East Ridge I had this encounter. Whenever I pass there again, I’ll look for him, knowing well that I won’t see him again. I’ll just look for him because, perhaps, he may have realised that on the 19th of October 2010, he won the first follower of his polical party with ‘2 cedis’ and three apples. A young guy who he left struck, with a grey polo shirt and ear pieces.
Elsewhere in the news, parliamentarians were voting to give each one of them a new laptop…
I love Ghana more!!