Mr Kofi is a proud man at the age of 72. Having travelled all over the Western Region (including a stint in Cote D’Ivoire where he started a now-estranged family), he worked as a night watchman on the beach in Busua. Among his daily duties, Mr Kofi could be seen smoking, drinking, terrifying his pet dog, and relaying tall tales in exchange for petty cash.
On our first encounter, I asked the apparently misleading question “so, Mr Kofi, what is the village gossip?” and was regaled with a unique history of Ghana; from the first white man to arrive in the 1600s, to Queen Elizabeth’s take-over in 1942, and many other inaccuracies that followed.
A few weeks later, I found him climbing on to a roof via a perilous stone stairwell, beckoning me to join him. Once I clambered up there, he sparked up a spliff and started telling me about the plantation he owned further down the coast, inviting me to go with him one day, and take home some of his homegrown bananas.
This later turned out to be (kind of) true; land is actually incredibly cheap here, so it’s not uncommon to buy up a small amount for agricultural use. And one day I really did go to a small farm in the hills, accompanied by Aussie Craig, where we found Mr Kofi was growing decent amounts of plantains and kassava. What really impressed me, however, was the commute.
The site was quite a distance from the village – a journey over treacherous rocks and long stretches of uneven sand. I saw Kofi many times over the months performing this old man’s odyssey, waving cheerfully whenever he saw a friend along the way. He’d reappear nightly in the bars, playing up with the young drummers and dancers by the light of the bonfire, supping a sachet of whiskey and laughing his bellowing laugh over the music.
One day Mr Kofi was having a heated argument with a local business owner. The old man, visibly hurt, sought me out to more or less translate the fracas, and see if I could weigh in on the debate.
“Mr Toby, have you ever seen me asleep on the job?”
“Yes. Every day.”
“No, no, no. I take my security job very seriously, but now they say the won’t increase my pay unless I work harder. I am an old man, and now I can’t afford medicine or food to eat.”
“I’m sorry Kofi. Would some soup help?”
From that day on, I saw less and less of Kofi. Out of his own stubborn pride, he refused to come back to the bars which he associated with the people who had wronged him. For me, that just left chance encounters on the street in-between bars. He would openly request money for medicine and food, and I would openly oblige out of pity, expecting to see him later on buying cannabis.
One afternoon I was returning to my rented room, and there was a bunch of bananas left on the porch. I offered them up to my landlord.
“These for me?”
“I didn’t see. But you have to know the person before you take them.”
Oh I knew the person alright. I knew him.