When he arrived at his uncle’s house, Kojo looked very exhausted, emaciated and pale. His sunken eyes and cheeks were highly noticeable with an unkempt bushy hair that had turned greyish. He wore a faded red T-shirt, a pair of oversized trousers and slippers. His “Opanka” bag hang on his right arm and in his left hand was a big cassette music player. The house still looked the same way it was before his departure. Recognizing him was a huge task for the younger members of the family because he left home at the time none of the younger generation were born. The only people that could make him out was his aged uncle, Opanin Nimo and cousin, Kwame Poku. Even though members of the younger generation in the family were often told of a “missing” uncle, they never believed they could ever set their eyes on him due to the circumstances under which he left. In his own family, Kojo had turned a wild stranger.
About twenty five years earlier, Kojo had nurtured the idea of traveling elsewhere for greener pastures after obtaining his Middle School Leaving Certificate. His decision was influenced by his friend who had also conceived the idea of traveling to Nigeria due to the country’s economic development. The only thing Kojo needed was the support and blessings of his parents. His father, Agya Ntow, had kicked against the idea of his son becoming a sojourner. With vast lands and numerous farms at his disposal, Agya Ntow felt his son should stay and take over everything as age was not on his side to manage all those properties. Agya Ntow, in a bid to convince him to stay, alloted a large tract of land to Kojo for his personal farming. However, Kojo’s resolution to travel was stronger than what his father was using to influence his decision.
“Honestly, I don’t agree with your decision to travel at all. You are the eldest of my four children and I believe in your capability to handle all our properties if I am no more. As you can see I am full of years and I may join my ancestors at any time. Who would be there to take care of your aging mother and your younger siblings? Please, stay. Don’t go. You can equally make it here. See, I am your father and have seen and am seeing what you cannot see. “, advised Agya Ntow, who was almost in tears upon seeing the determination written on his son’s face unchanged.
While they were still talking, Eno serwaa bumped into them.
” Come and speak to your stubborn son. He doesn’t want to listen to my advice “, Agya Ntow, covered in a thick cloud of disappointment, complained to Eno Serwaa.
Agya Ntow left the room with his mood buried in emotional quicksand.
After his father had left, Kojo, who looked extremely angry said to his mother,
” See Eno, nobody can stop me. I am a man now – 22years of age and I won’t have you people repress what I desire to do. By hook or crook, I must leave.”,Kojo lamented bitterly.
Eno serwaa didn’t look happy about her son’s decision. She decided to try her best to let Kojo’s desire to succeed gain root in the village with her words of appeal.
” Kojo listen to me, we are your parents and want the best for you in life. Don’t take any decision that will make you regret in future. Remember the stubborn Billy goat that breaks its leg finds its way into the owner’s HOUSE”.
“Eno are you cursing me”, quizzed Kojo aggressively.
Kojo attempted to get up from the old rickety chair he had sat on for hours in order to walk out on his mother but a heavy slap from Eno landed on his left cheek. With his right fingers gently on the affected part, he stood there staring at his mother for seconds and then left. Eno had regretted slapping his son but did so out of pain. Looking very unhappy, Eno Serwaa sat back on the bed and began shedding tears of pain and anguish.
It’s 5am in the morning. No other sound could be heard in the village of Asaman except for the chirping of the birds. The morning dew had rendered the roof of the inhabitants of Asaman wet that one could think it rained the previous night. The fowls were already out of the coop to peck whatever they chanced upon. Yaa, the only female among the four children of Agya Ntow and Eno Serwaa, was the first to wake and sweep the compound. She had just gone through the bragoro(puberty rite for young Akan girls) and had learned a lot regarding housekeeping. Eno Serwaa was proud to have a daughter like her. The 15year old girl looked a bit older than her age due to her plump physique.
Soon, Agya Ntow also woke up to sharpen all his cutlesses and hoes for farming on the “serebuo” (a type of stone used in sharpening cutting tools). Eno Serwaa was already in the kitchen preparing food for the farm. The two other children, Bota and Korang had gone to the riverside to fetch water and fill the large barrel. Typically, Kojo, who was the eldest, had not come out of his room. He had relinquished his duty of sharpening the cuttlases and holes due to the misunderstanding he had had with his parents the preceding night. All the family members but Kojo had completed their respective domestic task and getting ready for farm. Realizing Kojo had still not woken up, Agya Ntow went and pound on his door. The response that came was feeble. Kojo complained of stomach ache but assured his father that he would be alright and join them in the farm. The rest of the family, together with Agya Ntow, headed for farm. On their way to the farm, Agya Ntow and Eno Serwaa kept lamenting over their son’s obsession to travel. Agya Ntow then decided to give his last shot with Kojo when they returned home. Though Eno Serwaa looked worried, Agya Ntow assured her of the fact that Kojo would finally rescind his decision.
The Sun had crossed to the other side of the sky and was gradually retiring to bed. Eno Serwaa and Yaa had gone ahead of the rest to prepare food for dinner. Agya Ntow, Bota and Korang stayed behind to inspect their trap they set for grasscutters. Fortunately for them, their trap caught two with one almost decaying.
While Agya Ntow was going back home from the farm with his children, he bumped into the “Essen” (the palace court crier). While the two children greeted the Essen and moved further, Agya Ntow stopped and engaged in a marathon conversation with the essen. With darkness approaching, they bade each other good bye. However, the essen had something to tell Agya Ntow.
“I saw your elder son at the lorry station today with his bag”.
When Agya Ntow was told that, his countenance fell. He didn’t want people to know the happenings in his family and so told the essen that he had sent Kojo to Sefwi for some cocoa seeds.But deep within him, Agya Ntow knew his son had embarked on the ill fated journey. He got home and aggressively asked his wife whether she had seen Kojo when she arrived home. Eno, who looked confused and worried did not answer in affirmative. Agya Ntow proceeded to the door to Kojo’s room and knocked on it vigorously but there was no answer. He forced the door open and to his amazement, his belongings were gone except for the bed and two kitchen stools.
“He’s gone”, Agya Ntow cried out with grim face. Eno hurried to the scene and began to shed tears. Agya Ntow narrated to Eno Serwaah about how the essen he met on the way had told him about seeing Kojo at the lorry station. On that day, the house was in a mourning state. No family member touched the mouth with a muzzle of food.
Three months after Kojo’s departure, life seemed to be going back to what it used to be. The family whose happiness had broken into irreparable pieces had been located by joy. Agya Ntow assured the family that Kojo would surely return. The family’s hope rested on the words of encouragement from Agya Ntow. The wits in the words of Agya Ntow attracted many people to seek counsel with him. At 67years, he looked strong though the developing wrinkles on his face were eroding his smooth face. One evening, while the family was getting ready for supper, they heard a knock on the main gate of their five room compound house. It was the son of Papa Mensa, Afram. His father had sent him to take something from Agya Ntow. He greeted and told of his mission:
“My father has asked me to come for the item he gave to you for keeps”
“Oh I see. Kindly sit down. I will be with you Shortly”, said Agya Ntow.
He came back from the room and told Afram to go home and he would send the items himself. Immediately Afram left, Agya Ntow went back to the room and called out Eno in a distress tone.
“The valuable items are gone”, complained Agya Ntow who was almost teary eyed
“Which valuable items are you talking about?”, Eno inquired as she gaped for breath.
“The gold nuggets and ornaments Papa Mensa asked me to keep. I had kept them in this old metal box but see, it’s empty now.”Agya Ntow replied.
” Let’s take our time and look for it. It must be here”, Eno assured.
For close to two hours, the items were still being looked for. The room was ransacked but they were not found. Agya Ntow was completely worried for he did not know what to tell papa Mensa.
That day, sleep eluded Agya Ntow while Eno kept thinking about the missing item in her sleepless sleep. He called Yaa, Korang and Bota and questioned them about the missing items but they seemed to have no idea.
The following morning, after not being able to receive the items the previous evening, Papa Mensa personally went to the house to take the items from Agya Ntow. When he was told of the missing gold nuggets and ornaments, Papa Mensa fumed and left the house giving Agya Ntow three days to produce the items.
Agya Ntow cried and cursed, “it will never be well with Kojo wherever he is for bringing shame,
pain and anguish to me and this family”. All efforts by Eno to restrain Agya from saying those words proved futile as tears flowed freely down his cheeks.
The three days had elapsed and the gold nuggets and ornaments had still not been found. Agya Ntow, as well as the rest of the family, had not been able to eat well. The event had clouded the short lived joy they were privileged to have after Kojo bolted.
Agya Ntow was getting ready to go see Papa Mensa when a palace official appeared with a broom stick. It meant that Agya had been summoned to the chief and his counsel of elders. That day, he went with his wife to honor the summons. Papa Mensa suspected that Agya Ntow was playing tricks on him after being lied to by the Essen that he once saw Kojo traveling and therefore suspected Agya Ntow to have given the items to him. In the palace, no amount of explanation by Agya Ntow was taken into consideration since it came to light that his son’s journey had coincided with the loss of the items. Though majority of the elders believed Agya Ntow had defrauded Papa Mensa, the few that stood behind him did so because they were privy to his honesty.
Finally, the chief declared that the house of Agya Ntow and the lands he owned should be transferred into the possession of Papa Mensa. The protest and pleas by Agya Ntow and Eno Serwaah amounted to nothing as they had no option but to give up all their possessions until they found the items.
Consequently, the family went and lived with Opanin Nimo, the younger brother of Agya Ntow. He lived with his only son, Kwame Poku whose mother died while giving birth to him. Opanin Nimo had decided to Chanel all his resources into taking care of Kwame instead of getting married again. Four months after the Ntow family moved in with Opanin Nimo in his big house, Agya Ntow had stroke and died shortly after. His wife, Eno Serwaa, who also battled with depression for the losses she had suffered, died of depression a year after. Opanin Nimo assumed the role of a father, a mother and an uncle who never relented on the promises he made to his brother.
Five years later, Yaa was impregnated by her boyfriend but the pregnancy was denied. She gave birth to twins. Unfortunately, that same day, Bota was sent to the farm by Opanin Nimo to bring some food stuffs home for supper but never returned. A search party was dispatched to look for him but the mission was fruitless. Korang, the second born died mysteriously in his sleep a day before he was to join his distant maternal uncle in the city.
Opanin Nimo proved to be a good uncle upon all the stress around him. Despite Yaa being the only surviving member of his brother’s family with two children whose father had derelicted his responsibility, he went ahead and supported Yaa when a man finally came forward to marry her. Her second pregnancy was a hell. Before delivery, she had gone into comma for three days. Opanin Nimo, who was overwhelmed by the episodic disasters on his family decided to consult an oracle. It was revealed that Papa Mensa had looted the grave of a chief at a far village and gave the stolen items to Agya Ntow for keeps. Calamity wouldn’t have befallen Agya Ntow and his family if Kojo had not also taken the gold nuggets and ornaments with him to Nigeria. Therefore, not only Papa Mensa and Kojo were going to be punished but the entire nuclear family. As for Papa Mensa, the house he took from Agya Ntow had mysteriously gone up in flames and the lands were occupied by strange spirits that tormented him each time he decided to farm on them.
Having been told the secret behind the calamity of his brother, the wife and his children, he was given directions to follow in order to remedy the situation but it was too late to save Yaa’s life. She died together with the baby.
Kojo, the reason for whom his family had been wiped out returned home after twenty-five years of unsuccessful life in Nigeria. The valuable items he stole from his father were taken from him by armed robbers at gunpoint. He could not also come back at that particular moment knowing the problem he had created back home. Kojo never tasted the sweet side of life until the Nigerian government decided to deport all undocumented Ghanaians from Nigeria in 1983.
After Opanin Nimo told him about the pain he(Kojo) had brought to the family that night, he became very sad and went into the room he had been given to spend the night in. The following day, a group of villagers stormed Opanin Nimo’s house to Inform him that Kojo, his nephew was hanging on a tree with a rope tied to his neck. Kojo had committed suicide.
The Sweet Bile, in an attempt to make life tasty for himself, ended up spilling its liquid content to all part of the chicken.