On the morning of June 4, 2015, I had just one objective in mind: to make it in time to the VIP Bus station so that we could arrive in Sunyani in good time. It had rained the whole night and when we woke up in the early hours of the morning with the lights out I felt, rather than saw, how inky dark it was. It was miserable to pack and dress in the darkness. But it had to be done. We had a bus to catch.
So we loaded our things in the car and off we went. The fact that it had rained all night did not particularly warrant any feelings of alarm. After all, we live at Pokuase Hills, where it rains and rains and the worst is that it all flows down into the river valley. We have problems with erosion but not with flooding. But then as we climbed the hill and worked our way slowly out of the rough patch of ground that we call road, something in me flicked the radio channel from soothing gospel music to the news channel. I usually do not like to take in too much in the morning. I am what I hear in the morning. But somehow, I felt I needed to know what was going on. And there it was.
People calling in to say that so and so person had not arrived home. That so and so place was still inches in water. That the water was everywhere. And that people had died. Okay, I have to admit, it was a bit like hearing that Boko Haram had struck again. A sense of sadness, resignation and sadly, a sense of familiarity. But as we kept listening, I realized that this was not your usual “Accra has flooded again”. This had come with an explosion and sparks. And a lot more misery.
And we were driving into the heart of it. Very soon, I did not have to rely on the radio to tell me what was happening. By the time we were at Achimota, I could see lorries stuck deep in mud. I began to question the wisdom of driving to Circle, where the worst of it had gone down, and where we were to catch our bus. But on we plodded, because we had an important family obligation to fulfill northwards in Sunyani and well, we could see other people driving towards Circle…so maybe there was a way. There was a way, but only up to a point. But we had to figure it out ourselves. The police were not giving any directions. They looked as lost as we did.
But we had a bus to catch, didn’t we? So we stepped out of the car into the gooey dirty Accra mud. I regretted wearing slippers on that day. I wish I had worn something that covered my whole feet. My brother was to wait for us until we were sure we could make it to the station and catch a bus. Every step was treacherous. But then what do I do? I take out my camera, not my phone, a real tidy Kodak camera and begin taking pictures of the mess. That is what it was. One huge mess. Everything looked brown and soggy and miserable. And there we were, walking through it all. On a day like this, why won’t people just stay in their beds and let the emergency services work? And leave those of us who had to catch a bus to do so in peace?
Anyway, I was mistaken for a reporter. I didn’t disabuse them. But my travelling partner was impatient and a bit upset with me because instead of focusing on where we were going, I was snapping away. Again, I felt, rather than saw the disgust all around me. And I wondered what road had led us all as a country to this one point in time where our history will be forever tainted by rain.
Kwame Nkrumah Circle. A landmark named after the man who made Ghana. A landmark which epitomizes everything that makes us Ghanaian. We beautified the Circle, we built overhead walkways around it, we put concrete barriers and barbed wire to prevent unruly pedestrians from crossing the street at odd places. But no matter what we did, the traffic still remained. And like Ghanaians, we coped with it, we managed it until we got used to complaining about just how bad the traffic at Circle was. It was a like a thermometer to check the temperature of things in Accra. Anything happening at Circle was worthy of note. I wonder what the man it is named after would think of all the drama that accompanies this small area. Would he cringe when he sees the dirt scattered all around and big bold signage proudly proclaiming Accra to be a Millennium City? I don’t understand these things.
But as I sat in the bus waiting for it to fill up (we found it but it took forever to set off because of the chaos) I tried to make sense of it all. Silently I watched school children, crisply dressed office workers, hawkers, all walking in the mud. Someone lost his breakfast of hot koko (porridge) to the mud. I felt his pain as he gave it one last glance before walking away. Nothing could be salvaged from the goo. A military helicopter hovered around in the air. I wondered what for? Weren’t the people already dead? I could only come up with this: that we were here could be traced to a string of cowardly leaders, a string of bad decisions, a history of inaction and a tradition of empty words.
We made it to Sunyani. And there it was in the news, on the BBC. That was how bad it was. Rain had put us in the news.