It’s 4 AM on a Monday morning in Accra, Ghana. A young man walks into his room to meet the seemingly lifeless body of his lover. The young man, Nii Tackie, is overwhelmed by panic and fear at the thought that Massa has stopped breathing. His screams attract the attention of his neighbours. In between the tension, he remembers the doctor’s words on Massa’s ailment. The doctor had told him Massa has only a few months to live more. Weeks before, a friend had suggested he consult an herbalist; having in mind, Odeefo Nkansah’s “God is beyond Science” at Gomoa Dago. Massa’s ailment is a very serious one:
“within the six months that the sickness had run, she had become a third of her size”.
Nii Tackie is relieved when he realises that Massa still breathes. The ailing lady tries to smile in spite of her pain. She is concerned about the expenses incurred on her treatment. Nii Tackie tries to conceal his indebtedness from her despite owing outstanding debts in the bank where he works. He informs her of his friend’s suggestion on going to an herbalist.
Nii Tackie goes out to empty Massa’s chamber pot into an open drain. On the street, there are sounds of gunshot; a sign of insecurity in the streets of Accra. Worried of being hit by stray bullets, he hurries back into the room after disposing Massa’s excrement. He sits by the table beside Massa’s bed and sleeps off.
It’s 8 AM that same morning in Illera, Nigeria. Mama Orojo and Ibuk are on an evangelical mission in the town. The two women are both members of the Amen Kristi Church. Mama Orojo becomes nostalgic at the sight of an immigration officer. When asked by Ibuk on why she keeps staring at the immigration officer, she says:
‘anytime I see an immigration officer, I’m reminded of my past’.
Then, Mama Orojo tells Ibuk about the past she is reminded of. Fifteen years before, Mama Orojo came to Lagos from Ghana when the Ghanaian government passed a law that all aliens without resident permits should leave. This was sometimes during the Nigerian civil war. Her grandparents had migrated to Ghana many years before. Mama Orojo left Ghana with her parents leaving behind her grandmother and brother. On the way to Nigeria, her parents died. She was left with no family. In Nigeria, she struggled with the little money on her to make a name for herself; a thriving construction industry and a confectionary store being what she has to show for it.
Their evangelical mission in the town is not as fruitful as they want. Many people show little interest for fear of the Sahm brotherhood.
Mama and Ibuk move to Tom Monday’s house, an elderly man to whom they’ve preached the gospel. Tom Monday is a widower with two children. His daughter, a twenty-eight years old lady, holds contrary views to him. He claims she has been influenced by her husband, a man of the Sahm (a politico-religious brotherhood). Mama flips through the pages of her bible as she prepares for a session with Tom.
This chapter shuffles between Lagos and Accra. In Lagos, the authorities are deliberate on their expulsion of aliens from Nigeria. The government of the day has also embarked on a TOTAL WAR AGAINST WAYWARDNESS. It’s five days to the 25th deadline given to every alien to leave the country. Movements on the street are evident of the compliance to this deadline. The aliens are leaving with their belongings.
The setting changes to Ghana where Massa and Nii Tackie are in the middle of a chit-chat. Massa is obviously lively and better than her sickly version portrayed in the first chapter. Massa asks Nii Tackie how many cocktail parties he had attended. The reader learns of how the two lovers had first met in a cocktail party. Massa calls him by the sobriquet she had given him, “my young banker”.
Nii Tackie tells Massa of another cocktail they are having at the moment; one he describes as “SPECIAL” and has just the two of them in attendance, away from the world.
It is evident that the duo loves each other passionately. Nii Tackie feeds her with porridge made from the corn dough given to him by Linda, a junior colleague at work. Nii Tackie wishes Massa could keep up with her new mood and strength.
It’s 10 AM on Tuesday morning in Accra, Ghana. The reader learns of Nii Tackie’s everyday working schedule and the dearth of experienced and competent hands in Ghanaian various sectors (education, banking, etc.) owing to the exodus of many citizens to other countries.
This chapter chronicles the experiences of the early days of Jerry Rawlings’ revolutionary government and its various reforms. It also bores into Nii Tackie’s everyday activities; his work at the bank, his part-time teaching job and his job as a credit collector for Susu Credit Union. He does these part-time jobs to supplement his salary and offset Massa’s hospital bills.
Despite his young age and little experience, Moses Nii Tackie has risen to the post of the Assistant Manager of Expense Bank.
At Expense Bank, he and the Bank Manager examine some applications submitted for loan grants. Among these applications is Aaron Tsuru’s Ant Hill Project. Nii Tackie roots out for Aaron’s Ant Hill Project because of its creativity and capacity to solve the high building cost in the country. But his profit-oriented boss dismisses the project with the claim that the bank policy does not support such projects. Nii Tackie tries to make his boss see the benefits in the project but the Manager refuses to yield. Linda, a typist in the bank, brings in the newspapers. Right in the news is the expulsion of aliens happening in Nigeria; about three million of them, out of which two million were Ghanaians. The bank manager swears (in a way that suggests he has Nii Tackie in mind) that if he has his way, he would sack all aliens in the bank in reprisal.
Nii Tackie fears the repetition of what happened in Ghana fifteen years back. Nii Tackie fears he would one day be expelled from Ghana. Though he was born in Ghana, given a Ga name and bred in Ghana, he is still considered an alien by virtue of his tribal marks and Nigerian parentage.
Due to the harsh economic realities, Nii Tackie has always longed to go Lagos but Massa disapproves of such decision. Nii Tackie hopes Massa’s get better so they can reach a consensus.
Linda pesters Nii Tackie to come to her place. But Nii Tackie tells her he is not ready at the moment.
Nii Tackie hurriedly leaves the bank before closure for a three-storeyed remedial school where he teaches students Economics in preparation for their G.C.E. examination. He walks some five kilometres to the place. He gets there late. The headmaster complains about his lateness and his breach of contract he signed to teach the students. Nii Tackie requests for the rescheduling of his classes to late afternoons for convenience.
Nii Tackie proceeds to the market to collect ten cedis per trader as susu for Susu Credit Union. The market is near empty and a drought is setting in. There is scarcity of petrol and the roads are bad. The government’s withdrawal of fifty cedi denomination from circulation is taking its toll on the market women. A particular woman whines, at the sight of Nii Tackie, of loosing ten thousand cedis as a result. Another trader, Auntie Joe, died of heart attack from loosing forty thousand cedis.
Nii Tackie goes to the house of Susu Credit Union leader. He learns that the boss has absconded to Nigeria in search of greener pasture; after he has embezzled the Union’s money. The escapee leaves no money for his family to survive on. Nii Tackie is also informed the Secretary of the Union is gone too which automatically puts Nii Tackie as the only one of the union left. Out of pity fior the forsaken family, Nii Tackie gives the only ten cedis he had in his pocket to the wife of the chairman.
Nii Tackie returns home to find Massa moaning. She has vomited onher cloth. He starts to clean her mess.
Back in Lagos, Mama Orojo and Ibuk are still in a session with Tom Monday. The elderly man seems to have interest in Mama Orojo. The conversation has become interesting. It has shifted from gospel to business talk. Both Mama Orojo and Tom Monday talk about their business empires. Had Mama Orojo not come to him as an evangelist, Tom Monday would have proposed to her immediately.
Ibuk wades into the conversation and brings them back to the reason for their gathering. They discuss death and its causes, and eternity. At the tail end of their conversation, Tom Monday tells Mama Orojo he would be in Lagos that week while the latter says she would do the best she can to meet him on his visit.