The Car Failed ‘Road-Worthiness’ Test

Posted by By at 27 February, at 08 : 22 AM Print

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From my Archives


Life is a glomerate of tiny worries. Samples: The poor people are worrying about where the next ball of Kenkey will come from. The rich have their own worries too: enough Champagne left for the next party? Children worry about parents and parents worry about the little ones, too. Husband worries about wife who worries about him in return, even when her head tells her that he’s the biggest bastard this side of the ape divide. We all worry about the weather; will it rains, or will Accra dust destroy our fine attires? Worries, not genes, I believe, are the building blocks of life. What would our lives look and feel like should all our worries vanish like in paradise? Although we complain, I think human beings will perish from boredom, should we find ourselves with nothing to worry about.

Today, my worries are on things mechanical. I am worried about my abortion of a car. The road-worthiness certificate expires today and man has to get a new one before the fuzz (read police) turns me into a jackpot. I got into the jalopy with some trepidation. Anyone that plies the Madina to Accra route or vice versa cannot but feels some grip on the heart every-time he (I am not being sexist here, god knows) gets into the car. Unless. Yes, unless:

  1. the car doesn’t belong to him, or 2. he ‘learned’ his ‘driving’ in Lagos or 3. he’s high enough (not necessarily on cocaine or other performance-enhancing designer drugs) in the government, to rate one of those huge four-wheel beasts the Asians are churning out to keep our economy in the red.

Madina to Accra road is an apology of a road. Me I no lie!

Twenty minutes of cajoling, pleading, twisting wire, fuming at the battery, cursing the fan-belt, ranting at the oil-gauge and kicking one or two tires, and the engine sputtered to life. The exhaust emitted carbon monoxide like the chimney of a medium-sized factory. I engaged gear and rolled onto the road. My good neighbours waved me good-byes; silently saying prayers on my behalf.

The traffic had thinned out. I deliberately left late so that I could have enough of the road to do my Samba dancing, which is what you do to avoid the numerous potholes. On this road, I usually reduce my speed to about ten kilometers an hour. This makes a lot of folks angry – especially those dare-devil Trotro drivers. They cursed me in Twi, Ga and, occasionally, in Ewe. A few weeks ago, someone cursed me in a clanging language that sounded like Zulu. Decent folks would not like to read what they say about me and my car. I don’t worry about them much, though. Their cars are back-axled; mine is front-wheel drive. They don’t have to worry about fixing anything (the owners are doing the worrying); I’ve to. My backyard is like a graveyard for auto-parts. This year alone, I’ve bought six shafts; I’ve changed hubs four times; my fan-belt had given up on three occasions; the fan had packed up on two; the radiator had been to the welder about eight times; the battery had visited the charger on countless occasions. That’s on top of the fact that the jalopy now boasts a new ‘home’ engine.

I dodged a pot-hole too many and just after the Legon electricity office, I rammed into a hole and heard the noise that sank my heart. I winced in pain as a big pothole chewed forty-five thousand cedis worth of shaft’s bearings. The car collapsed as the tire gave way. Some fascists were hooting behind me? What do they want me to do? I turned off the engine, my mind in turmoil.

Like most car-owners that are illiterate in things mechanical, I reached for and opened the bonnet. Trying to look intelligent, I stared at the greasy metals and wires. They stared back at me. Nothing doing. Leaving the bonnet open, I got one of the dirty dusters and made a seat on a small mold by the roadside. I was trying to collect my scattered thoughts. These drivers are fascists. How could they speed so fast on this rough road? I sat there by the roadside, ruminating. Disused diesel from un-serviced engines scented the mid-morning air. Fine Accra dusts powdered my face. I felt like shit.

An ancient Trotro plastered with lots of Ewe wise-sayings stopped a few meters away from where I sat, its brakes took some catching. Out of the Ford bus flew a youth, his shirts unbuttoned, his trousers blackened by mechanical oil. The trouser was held in place by a thin lanyard. He had either forgotten to zip up or the zipper is kaput. In his hand, he held a nylon bag. A smile of delight was frozen on his handsome, youthful face.

“Master car e die.” He said with that peculiar West-African question\statement declaration.

“You’re mantic.” I yawned.

He went around inspecting the damage. “Why master open bonnet?” He wanted to know.

“Search me,” I answered wearily.

“E no be engine problem, oh!” He declared with operatic seriousness.

“Oh!” I didn’t need him to tell me that. Another youth, a lot younger than the first ambled closer. Broken down cars seemed to attract the youth the way a cadaver attracts vultures. Perhaps there is a parallel; the only difference being that one is mechanical and the other biological. I gave him a look and asked: “What do you want?”

The older one was apparently also the spokesperson for the party. His face creased with sunshine smiles, he told me told me: “He e be my broda. He dey learn also.”

The younger one couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen. I looked at his tattered attire and felt sorry for him. I hope that there’s no law against child- labour in Ghana. “You guys sure that you can wake up some life into this junk here?” I directed my question to the older lad. My party smiled in unison.

“My broda e dey learn, but me I be senior. We be serious fitters.” The older lad assured me and then proceeded to tell me how he had completed his three-year apprenticeship, only to be held back by lack of money to pay for his testimonial. He had specialized in Japanese cars. He didn’t blink an eye when I told him that mine is a European. “No problem, masser. Car e be de same. I fit fix anything that runs on motor. Yes yes, sir.”

“I think that e be the ‘caliper’.” The younger party fluted with enthusiasm. He had been running his hand on the damaged tire.

“E be de caliper, sir.” The older brother collaborated without checking. He was looking intently at me.

“I’m sure e be de caliper.” The younger one purred encouragingly.

“I don’t know a ‘caliper’ from a horse. I thought it was the shaft because I could hear the bearings being chewed up.”

“E fit be the shaft.” The older lad agreed with me. His face registered profound doubt and confusion.

I was beginning to dislike the party. “Why don’t you make up your mind. Too many agreements, they say, kill the conversation?”

“I for check.”

“That’s my lad. Get going.” I urged.

They set to work with enthusiasm. In no time, they ‘shocked’ and jerked up the car and removed the tire. They took time analyzing and diagnosing and came to the conclusion that the shaft had gone home.

“Master for buy new shaft.” The older kid told me. I detected something like a smile of delight on his face. I was suspicious but didn’t show it. “Words of wisdom. How much?” I replied.

“I think e be forty or forty-five. I for go Abossay-Okai.”

I’d bought enough of them to know that his estimate was within reason. “Do you think that I’ll trust you with my forty thousand cedis?”

He looked at me with strange eyes. “Why master?” He questioned with an injured look. The younger lad’s smile was radiant with confidence.

“How do I know that you’ll not disappear with the money?”

“Me?” he beat his chest. “I no fit run away with master’s money.”

“You’re asking me to take your word for it?”

“My brother will wait for me, OK?”

“OK for you. But, do you think he’s worth forty-thousand cedi?” We all laughed.

“He’s worth a million, sef.” One million cedis must be awful lots of money to them.

“You think this heaps of bones and tattered dress here is worth a million?” I touched the back of the head of the little lad. We’re thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

“Me, I am worth more than a million, tcheew.” Looking boyishly arch, the lad protested feebly. He accentuated his protest with a beating of his bony chest. “I’m worth more than ten million, sef.” He proclaimed in high delight.

I counted and gave forty-six thousand cedis to big-brother. He re-counted and handed a cedi note back to me. “I no think that it’s worth more than forty-five.” He said. Such honesty!

“Aren’t you going to take a transport?”

“We don’t pay for Trotro.”

“Oh! How do you guys manage that feat?”

“I know half the drivers.” He said with a laugh.

“What happened to the other half?”

“I am prepared to take my chance with them.”

“Wonders shall never end.” I collected my cedi note from him and he spoke rapid-fire Ewe to his brother and caught a Trotro. Little brother fooled around a bit, engaging me in small talks. He joked with a lot of the drivers’ mates. He called a Fan-Milk vendor only to discover that he had only eighty cedis in his pockets. The lollipop he wanted was one hundred and fifty cedis. I bought one for him. He beckoned a pretty groundnut seller with bouncing breasts. By the look of things, he was more interested in the girl than in her ware. He bought some groundnut, all the while flirting with the girl. He offered a pack to me. I declined.

“What I’ll do with those breasts in my hand is no man’s business.” The youngster dreamed after the girl had departed.

I refused to acknowledge him.

He finished his groundnut, sucked the last bit of his lollipop and settled behind the wheel. In a minute he was snoring. I was impressed. A huge articulator rumbled pass at impossible speed, jarring the car violently. Little boy rubbed his eyes, trying to focus. He smiled weakly in my direction.

“Missed your sleep last night?” I asked him.

He gave me another weak smile. “Got myself involved with some party yesterday night, sir.”

“Oh!” I wanted him to continue.

He opened up, “One of our boys was doing his freedom, sir. After the main ceremony, when the oldies had done their things and gone home, we youngsters got ourselves together to have a bash, sir. We rustled some bottles and some of the girls woke up some small chops. We must have had a little to drink, sir. The next thing I know, some guys and gals started throwing hands and legs. One of the dudes got out something that looks like a kitchen knife. I realized that it was time to vamoose. Even though I know bits and pieces of kung-fu – from watching Shaolin masters movies, I try to avoid probs, sir. I rescued one of the bottles, dodged myself into a corner and went into an executive session with the drink. I must have overdone things a bit, sir. I guess I fell asleep there and then. When I came to sir, I was in someone’s mouth, sir. I didn’t realize it at first, sir. When I realized what was going on, I caught fire. The birds started singing songs in my ear. She was calling some guy’s name. Possibly, her boyfriend, I don’t know. I didn’t bother to ask her. She was vibrating with gratitude, sir. ‘Ape na wo,’ ‘ape na wo,’ she crooned in my ear. I promptly fell back to sleep. I must have slept for about five minutes when my brother came to hustle me out of the place saying that we have to go and fix some car, sir. And now here I am.” He rubbed his eyes sleepily.

Some stories. He told it matter-of-factly. I did not doubt the veracity of his tale, I was only surprised that such a kid could be having such escapades. “How old are you?” I asked him.

He appraised me before answering. “I am seventeen, sir. Thanks for the fan-ice.”

He spotted a banana seller and, naturally, beckoned. He ruminated through his pockets, discovered more coins in the socks but still came up short. I bought some bananas for him.

“You’re becoming quite an expensive collateral!” I told him.

He merely gave me a rustic smile. “Ain’t you too young for that sort of things?” I asked him.

He looked astonished, “What sorts of things?”

“The story you just related, if it is true. Don’t you think that you’re rather too young?”

He pantomimed a grimace, “That’s the whole trouble. Oldies think that they are the only people doing IT.”

I asked him, “You don’t consider me an oldie, do you?”

“You are no longer a youngster, are you? By the way, there gonna be some rumblings the week after, are you game?”

I gape at him in astonishment, “Can you speak English?” It seems like centuries ago when, at school, I was a member of the English Manufacturing Society – an elite club of those students whose stock in trade is to speak English that exist in no dictionary.

He explained that he was inviting me to a party that is happening in a week’s time. I politely declined. I have no doubt that I’ll feel like a dinosaur among those who speak like him. “Why don’t you ask your brother, is he your real brother?”

“All men are brothers,” He smiled. “I read that somewhere, long time ago,” he said with a boyish grin. “No, he’s not my real brother if you meant to ask if we’re from the same parents. He’s not even my half-brother. We’re from the same area, Alavanyo, in the Volta Region. Alavanyo comprises seven villages. He’s from the second, I am from the fifth. Kpeme, that’s the name of my village. That’s all there’s to our relationship. But he takes me like his own brother and I gotta reciprocate, you know.”

“Why won’t you take him to your party.” I was beginning to like the way he talks. There was not much to do, anyway.

“Him, he won’t go. He doesn’t like parties.”

“No,” I exclaimed.

“He’s as straight as a needle, sir. No parties for him.” The boy said, ruefully. Shaking his head as though he was sad for his brother. He continued: “Let’s put it down to that Nigerian church he joined recently. He beckoned a bread-seller. They haggled over the price. He bought himself a few slices. The seller, a poor, comely woman with a face that had known hard times generously buttered the bread for him. He flung open the passenger’s door and perched himself like a monarch. He offered me a slice of his bread. I declined. He ate like a famished victim of starvation. His mouth made noises. A cyclist peddling fruit-juices happened by. I bought two and gave one to him.

“Money fighting in your pocket, sir?” He said, smiling at me. He took a sip.

“I am beginning to like your racket. You don’t think that your brother had gone to the Volta region with my money, do you?”

He almost chokes on his drink. “You think sey na forty-five thousand cedis dem dey take go Volta Region?” He asked with a snort of derision. The ‘trouble’ with Pidgin English is that it is so irreverent. I guessed he was a making a point by lapsing into it. “I think that he will come back. Don’t worry.” He placated me.

“Why aren’t you in school?” I was genuinely curious. He was obviously a very intelligent lad and undoubtedly street-wise.

“Am I not in school, sort of?”

“I meant why you’re not acquiring a formal education?”

“And do what with it, sir? I don’t believe that education should be the acquisition of knowledge for knowledge sake. I went through that rote road. Acquiring book knowledge that has little or no relevance to everyday’s reality is, to me, a waste of time and of money. At the end of the day, they throw a diploma in your face and you still don’t know your shit from your brain. Pardon my choice of language, sir.”

“Couldn’t you cope?”

“If you meant getting the good grades, I could cope all right. But I guess the whole gamut is a waste of everybody’s time. The amoral things that went on in what we call dormitories will sicken a whorehouse. We dabbled into every chemical known to science, yet we cannot pass our chemistry. We know all the theories, yet we cannot do anything with them. I have nothing against formal education, per se. But its advantages have been over-hyped. I won’t tell you a tale that my parents cannot afford the fee. My parents, although poor, could have managed if I’d wanted to continue -parents have a way of conjuring money when the future of their children depended upon it. But I have to consider my future. What do I do with a diploma – trampling around Accra, chasing non-existing job? You’ll agree that nothing beats being your own master. In another year and a half, I’ll be the master of my own destiny, Amina Yarabi. Come to think of it, sir, don’t you think that mechanics is the neat thing? The world itself is based on mechanics. Nature was built on pure mechanics. Everything in nature comes down to mechanics. I’m doing fine, thank you, sir. Don’t let my tattered look distressed you.”

I tried to change the subject. I asked the youth: “Why won’t you take him to your parties?”

He looked at me quizzically, “Who?”

“Your brother. Who else are we talking about?”

He surveyed me with sovereign calmness. “I already told you that he won’t go. Nothing interests him except nuts, bolts, grease, and cars. His utter devotion to his work, I believe, is a psychological mask he wears to hide his true state. He’s beyond redemption. I guessed it must have happened to him while he was pursuing the Jesus business. He wasn’t like that until he joined that Nigerian church. Those guys are the weirdest thing that happened to Christianity since Paul had his epiphany on his way to Damascus.”

“Jesus business?”

“Yeah, he got himself involved with some self-righteous religious freaks who believe that they are the only ones with direct authority from their phantoms of the sky. You would think that they are talking directly to HIM through their mobile phones. He got badly burnt. I doubt if he’d sufficiently recovered. I doubt even more if he ever will. Don’t tell him, sir. I feel genuinely sorry for him, don’t get me wrong, sir. He cut such a sorry sight, especially when he started chanting Psalm 23 to the exhaust of old cars.”

“I take it that you’re not religious, are you?”

“Me, hell no.” He emitted a curse and promptly apologized. “I am too young to get involved with that sort of things. Religions are for old people who are afraid to die. I am too young to start thinking of death. Anyway, I wasn’t thinking of him. I was glad that my girl was not with me yesternight. I meant my real girlfriend.” He abruptly changed the subject.

“What do you mean?” I prompted him.

He gave a quizzical look. “You don’t imagine that I’d have got that easy ride were my girl-friend to be there.”

The arrival of big-brother shut him up. He was out of the car in a run to help his brother. Big-brother beamed in my direction. “Bossman, the way I suffered to get am for you!” He declaimed. They set to work. I paced up and down, agitated like a caged Tiger. Finally, small-brother called to me: “Come start am, master.”

I sparked the car, the engine grunted and died. “Your carburetor needs servicing.” Small-brother intoned. Big-brother nodded his head in agreement. They re-opened the bonnet, removed the air-cleaner and messed with this and that. The sound was a little bit better, but still not up to par. “We for check the timing,” Small-brother suggested. He seemed to be the idea-guy around here. Big-brother concurred. They fiddled around with some systems. The sound has improved slightly. A worried look was on their faces. “Maybe, e be de plug.” Small-brother yelped, the older one nodded his head in agreement. I didn’t have plug-spanner, neither did they. Idea-guy rigged a system and they got the plugs out one by one. Finally, they got the sound right. Beaming with satisfaction, they told me that the car, “Now, e be correct car.”

“You guys sure your system will take me home?” I asked, looking at them skeptically.

“E go fit go Kumasi, sef.” Small-brother told me as though Kumasi was the end of the world.

It was too late to go to the Licensing office – it has to be tomorrow. It was also too late for them to continue on their journey. They charged me two thousand cedis. I wondered how they can make a living charging a thousand for a whole day job. I paid them and we crowded into the jalopy, made a U-turn and headed back to Madina. Just before the IPS junction, we saw a police checkpoint. “We for turn back,” Small-brother advised.

I saw no reason why. The car papers were in order. The officers, I reasoned, will understand when I tell them about the effort of the day to get the Road- Worthiness certificate. Maybe, they will not even stop me. I was wrong on both counts. With an authoritative air, a lean officer stepped into the middle of the road and waved me to a stop. God, what if the brake failed!

The officer stepped to my side of the door with that mean and embittered look only police officers seemed able to affect. “Papers.” He demanded in a gruff voice.

“Good-afternoon, officer.” I salaamed and handed the papers to him. Whether or not he heard my greeting, I’d no way of knowing; he didn’t answer me. My papers in his hand, he strolled to the back of the car. He came back and faced the windscreen. His eagle eyes zeroed on the car-worthiness sticker. He licked his lips, and his tongue came out like that of a hungry dog. He went for the kill.

“You no get road-worthy!” He boomed. For a small, lean man, he’s got a voice.

“I have.” I began but he cut me short with a savage outburst.

Frothing with indignation, he reeled off my charge sheet: “You are arguing with a police officer. Incapacitating a constituted authority on the performance of his lawful duty. Driving without correct papers. Ignoring orders to stop. Harassment of law-enforcement agents. Misdemeanor. ”

“You for give am something,” Big-brother suggested.

“Don’t give him anything.” The younger boy counter-argued.

For the second time, I overruled smart-boy. I folded a cedi bill and called out, “Aban.” Puffing like an excited adder, the officer strolled to my side. I thrust the money into his hand, expertly resting on the door. He gave the bribe a glance. “Attemptment (sic) to bribe a police officer. I’ll take you to court!” He cried. “But, nevertheless, make it two-thousand.” He whispered. I gave him the money. He gave me my paper. He pretended to write something in his clipboard and waved me off with a crooked smile. The power of money! The Yorubas are right when they say, ‘Owo ni gbongbo ese,’ (Money is the root of all sins).

The ordeal lasted about three minutes. I remembered a trick I learned in Lagos and decided to make the officer earn his pay. Connecting to the highway, I touched a few things and the car died. Horns hooted, drivers cursed, policemen raved. I looked beseeching at the officer, “Please help me pushed it out of the road.” I begged him.

He cursed silently. I have blockaded the road, the hold-up was lengthening, he’d no choice but to help. He threw a ferocious glance in my direction. I looked my most innocent. Helped by a colleague, they tried to push the car. It refused to bulge: The gear was engaged. The new officer came around and saw that it was in gear, “Put am for neutral!” He bellowed. I looked confused. I disengaged the gear. They could move it. Instead of turning off the road, I continued. They pushed, sweated, panted and railed.

“Push it off the road!” Bribe-takers voice invaded my ears. I pretended not to hear him. I looked bewildered, but continue to occupy the road like some royalty. He banged on the car. His face glistened with sweat. Has he earned his pay? Like magic, I kicked the car to life and gathered speed. A few meters away, I remembered to wave to them.

Like most colonial office-buildings, the Licensing-office was a lunatic pile of a building. The old building was nondescript with an ancient roof and a winding corridor covered with dust. A new building had sprung up – it looked like it was designed by an architect with no taste for the aesthetics. Both buildings were bursting with chaotic activities. I wondered how anything got accomplished in the bedlam. People were milling around. Hawkers peddled their wares beside the corridor. A youth with a burger-trousers accosted me, smiled and said: “Road-worthy or new plate?”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s your prob?” He wanted to know.

“Do I looked troubled to you?”

He smiled. “I can get you anything you want here, very fast.” He said, pushing a card into my hand. “Road-worthy. New plates, Plate-number, Registration. Insurance.” He rattled.

“You work here?”

“No,” He stopped himself. “Yes. I mean, not really.”

Party is getting confused. I don’t like the smell. “I won’t need your help if you don’t work here. Thank you.” I strolled purposefully towards the offices. The tout followed me. “If you want road-worthy, go to room 3. If na new-plates, you for go to the new building.” I followed his advise.

I located room 3 and went in. The smell of sweat from unwashed bodies pervaded the air. Room 3 is a small affair with three desks piled with forms, receipt books, files and a jumble of papers. An ancient fan groaned on the ceiling. How do people locate anything among these fine messes? Behind the desks sat three harassed bureaucrats. I pushed my way to one of them. He’s an elderly man with a beefy face that looked like putty thrown to a wall in great anger. Except for a parchment of gray hair here and there, he was bald. His large nose looked like it was pressed to his face. A stubby finger roamed a nostril. His pongoid head gave him the savage look of an angry buffalo. He looked like a man who doesn’t smile often. Hordes of people swarmed around him, thrusting paper and money in his eager hand. The former is put unceremoniously atop a pile; the latter disappear into his open drawer.

I approached him. “I’d look to renew my road-worthiness certificate,” I said.

He gave me a belligerent look, twitched his large nose. “Where is your receipt?” He hissed.

“Receipt!” I was askance.

The tout was still hanging around. He glowed at my ignorance. The man has returned to scribbling his signature on some forms.

“You have to get a receipt in room 5.” The tout told me. He then outlined for me a semblance of the system. I must go and pay and collect the receipt in room 5. Come back to room 3, where an officer will accompany me to inspect the car; IF I pass, the inspecting officer will append its signature to some papers, that is what I’ll take to room 6, that’s where the certificate will finally be given. Do I get back my money if the car cannot be certified? No, the tout told me.

I began to realize why I might need a helper, after all. None of the systems here made sense to me. I guess any child could figure out how to simplify the system. But bureaucrats are not renown for simplifying systems: Simplicity threatens their very existence. I thanked the tout. The cashier’s office was another pure madhouse. You fight your way to the window. When your turn came, you thrust your money to him through some hole cut into some walls. The cashier checks your papers, took ages to find his pen, then writes a receipt for you. While he’s busy doing it, lackeys and touts are squeezing money into his hand for past, present and future favours. Behind the cashiers were pile upon pile of dated files. My technical mind was racing:

How long will it take to computerize this system: 6 – 12 months What machines would be required: A 386 system (even an ancient SX will do ) with 8 megabytes of RAM and about 500Mb hard-disk (no, let’s make it 1Gb. They are damned too cheap nowadays, anyway). Programming Language: Dbase III will do the job, so will any versions of Foxpro. But, let’s settle for Clipper. We don’t need any fancy Windows pull-down menus. Programming time: Maximum 8 hours – including coding, testing and debugging. Cost: If they get the machine, I can give the program to them for free. Data Entry: The rest of the time

I sweated for the receipt. Pongoid man was not on his seat when I came back to room three. I told one of his colleagues my problem. He’s younger and his smiles were more personable. He collected the car papers, cross-checked it with the receipt and discovered that I’ve overpaid by two thousand cedis. The tout was on me. Commercial vehicles, he explained, pay six thousand cedis, while private cars pay four.

I thanked him and made my way back to room 5. The corridor was jam-packed. “Excuse me, ‘xcuse me.” I curtsied through the crowd. It was a different cashier that manned (in her case, ‘womanned’) the foyer. I explained the problem to her. She made a face, rectified the problem. Back to room 3. Young face was not on his seat, vulture-head was. He collected my papers from me as though the effort will kill him. He wrote something on a log and got up. About seven people got up with him.

“Let’s go see this car of yours.”

He led the way. We followed him. It looks as though Pongoid-head is held in awe around here. He cut through the crowd like a hot knife cut through butter. He marched majestically, followed by a posse of favor-seekers. He condemned two cars before my turn came. He took a long look at my jalopy, his big nose twitched as though he was going to cry.

“That your ca..r” He sniffed. It looked like he forced himself to say the word.

“Yes, sir,” I replied

“You ride in thaaat.” He regarded me disdainfully.

“What were you expecting, a Cadillac? It is no Porsche, but it carries me around.” I was feeling embarrassed by his put-downs.

“You sure this heap of scraps can move?” He snorted.

“I didn’t push it here.” I was belligerent. He moved around the car, kicked a tire or two. The look on his face suggested that there was no way he was going to ‘pass’ the car.

“Open the bonnet.” He bawled.

I complied.

He peered inside.

“Start the engine.” He shouted.

I started the engine. The stars must be smiling on me, the engine started without a hitch. It purred to life, as it has never done in ages. Big-nose cocked his head over the engine, listening to the sound. “At least, we get some good engine here.” He sneered. He peered over the engine, he clouded his face, twitched his large nose, and rubbed a finger over the engine. “Come down, here.” He yelled

I switched off the engine

“No, don’t kill the engine. Just come here.”

I was beginning to hate the racket here as well. Perhaps, I should have succumbed to the entreaties of the tout.

“Why is your engine number different from the one on this paper?” He shouted at me.

“No mystery there, sir, I bought a new engine.”

“Is this new engine?” He wanted to know.

“Not really new. It is a second-hand,” I explained. “I bought it at Abossay- Okai,” I added.

The tout had materialized and he came to my rescue, once again. “E be home- used.” He explained.

I wanted to laugh. What would the English think of the way West-Africans are mangling their language? What, to an English English (tautology) professor is ‘home-used,’ ‘home-second-hand?’ I winked at the tout. Big-nose seemed placated.

“Switched on your light.” With a voice like his, he will make a good parade- ground Sergeant Major. I rushed back to the car and switched the light on. “Dim.”

I dimmed the light.

“Trafficator, left.”

I obeyed.


I complied.

He walked to the rear.


I braked.


I conformed.

I watched him from the mirror. He was to coming back to the front when something caught his eyes. He made a face. A malicious smile appeared on his face.

“Come down.” There was some glee in his voice.

I knew I’ve had it.

“One of your plate-number light is not working. Go and fix it and come back.”

He thrust my car papers back into my hand, he was already marching off, followed by his omnipresent posse.

“Next.” His tyrant voice tormented my ear.

The tout materialized, a sympathetic look on his face. I thanked him, fished out the two thousand I got back from the cashier and gave it to him. “Thanks, for your help.”

He looked at the money and shook his head sadly, “That’s what I’d have charged to do the job for you!”



About the Author  

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

  1. Freedom Bookshop, near Apollo Theatre, Accra.
  2. WEB Dubois Pan-African Centre, Accra
  3. Ghana Writers Association office, PAWA House, Roman Ridge, Accra.
  4. Afia Beach Hotel, Accra

Where to buy them online:

On Lulu Books:

18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories

Ghana: Basic Facts + More:

Africa: Destroyed by the gods:

Africa: It shall be well:


Africa: it shall be well

on Kindle books:

on Amazon books:

on Lulu Books:

Africa: Destroyed by the gods

on Kindle books:


18 African Fables & Short Stories:


on Amazon books:

on Lulu Books:

 My Lulu Books page:


Get free promotional materials here:

  1. Africa: it shall be well:

A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: It shall be well’ can be downloaded here:

  1. Africa: Destroyed by the gods (How religiosity destroyed Africa)

A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: Destroyed by the gods’ can be downloaded here:

Read a review here

Femi’s Blog:
Websites: ;
Femi on Amazon
Femi Akomolafe’s Lulu Books page:
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