Prime News Ghana

Opinion: 'My triangular Ghanaian love affair' by Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng

By PrimeNewsGhana
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Back in the 1970s, I would travel with my parents to Accra from Prestea or Tarkwa, where I grew up, to visit my maternal grandmother at Teshie-Nungua Estates.

I was awed by grand, imposing buildings such as the Osu Castle, the Ghana Commercial Bank building on the Accra High Street, or the Kingsway stores on the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue.

I was wide-eyed over the vast avenues, the many cars, the fountain at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, lunch at Continental Hotel (now Golden Tulip Hotel), the rolling waves at the beach and a night life that only a capital city or a large city can offer.

But after a short while I would yearn for the quiet, rolling hills of Tarkwa and Prestea, where life proceeded at a much more sedate pace, where everyone knew everyone and where I had many friends I could go with to the staff club house to watch tennis, drink some Muscatella or simply splash in the swimming pool without a care in the world.

The triangle

In 1982, I had to relocate to live with my grandmother, and over the next five years, all my Opoku Ware School holidays were spent in Accra.

I did not go out much beyond the estates during the holidays and so did not get much of an opportunity to explore Accra beyond vacation classes at the Labone Secondary School or the odd visit to friends.

Since I hardly left campus during term time, I did not get to know Kumasi much either. I did not even know Rex or Roxy cinemas, The Pink Panther or The Shrine nightclubs, all favourite haunts of many teenagers.

Thus I was left suspended, unable to discover either city’s nooks and crannies or its heartbeat and character, go with its flow and allow it to grow on me.

I was no longer a Tarkwa boy, but I was neither an Accra Boy nor a ‘Kumasiano’, as some like to refer to inhabitants of Ghana’s second largest city.

I completed secondary school in 1987 and immediately relocated to Tarkwa. I was back home to familiar territory, but the following year I was out again. This time it was to the University of Ghana, Legon.

Again, I hardly ventured out of campus. I only knew a few landmarks from my earlier forays into the capital, so while I was in Accra, Accra was not in me.

Flying out

For someone who had grown up away from bright city lights and appreciated the quiet country life better, one would have thought that when I decided to relocate to the UK, I would opt for the quiet shires or far-flung places such as Devon or Cornwall.

But then, perhaps subconsciously I felt it was time to explore a large city and gain an experience I had missed out in my childhood, so I settled for London, which I loved and discovered and explored for 19 long years before growing tired of it all and returning home.

At the time, it never occurred to me to try country life and I felt itchy whenever I visited friends who lived in the countryside, where hardly a soul was on the streets beyond 7p.m. and pubs closed by 9p.m.

Back home

Back home I initially settled in Accra because, well, it is the place to be, where things happen.

My parents still lived in Tarkwa, but suddenly the place felt almost alien whenever I visited, even though it still had its iconic landmarks such as the railway station, that evoked many happy childhood memories.

Perhaps it was because many of my contemporaries had left town, or because I had simply outgrown the place.

However, Accra failed to grow on me once again, beyond the bare necessities of what needed to be done.

‘Accra stay by plan’, they call it. Several things grated – the traffic, the noise, the sprawling vastness of the city, such that one was not quite sure where it began and ended.

Eventually, I escaped to Kumasi in 2014 and almost immediately bonded and fell in love, as if I had been born and bred on its vibrant streets.

The subculture grew on me – the ‘obligatory’ funerals, the Sunday ‘omotuo’ sessions, the famous fufu joints, the charming central market, the unique lingo, the compactness of central Kumasi – somehow, they came together beautifully to straddle the space between an almost chaotic Accra and a quaint, quiet and semi-rural Tarkwa, and in that space I found my level.

Trips to Accra became almost a chore and I could not wait to get back to Oseikrom, as Kumasi has become known by many.

When I had to move to Accra in March 2017 to work, it was as if one of my teeth was being extracted without the benefit of anaesthesia.

I fled Accra most Fridays just to soak in the Kumasi ambience that had entered my bloodstream, even if there was no funeral or event to attend. It just felt refreshing.

The Kumasiano blood still pumped in my veins.

Strange turn

In recent times, something strange has been happening. I am able to remain in Accra for up to one six weeks without a visit to Kumasi.

If someone had made this prophecy when I first moved to Accra, I would have called him or her a charlatan, no less.

It began gradually. I would miss a week, then after a while, two weeks, and then before I realised, I had been away from Oseikrom for one full month.

I suppose I had to resign myself to the fact that I am in Accra for quite some time and therefore have to learn to love the city, warts and all.

After all, for how long can one do the same, rather exhausting round trip every weekend? Just as with London, my first love, Tarkwa, is now a distant, fond memory as I have no business there any longer.

I have not been to Kumasi this month. Next month, I have four funerals to attend in Oseikrom. This means four fufu weekends there. I cannot wait to throw myself giddily into her arms like a prodigal lover.

Accra still has some work to do to win me over completely in a tug-of-war with Kumasi for my affections.