“The thing wey Jollof go kos for this world, even Jollof sef no go fit handle am,” I found myself muttering under my breath, as I took another look at my empty plate, which minutes ago, had been the habitat of a mountainous heap of Jollof rice, which I had without fear relocated every grain into the waiting arms of my able bowel, leaving no space for an additional grain or water. Yet, the desire for more makes Oliver Twist look like an apprentice. This is the way I still crave Amaka, the bell I married a decade and two years ago.
“Nigerian jollof is better and tastier than Ghanaian jollof. Not only Ghana but the whole wide world. No country can beat Nigeria when it comes to the jollof rice delicacy,” I could still hear that voice, lovely, bold and clearly, debating aggressively in favour of Nigeria owning the copyright to the best jollof. It was this very voice, that led me to where I am today; it was a clarion call to possess my destiny.
Amaka was winning the jollof rice debate over her Ghanaian counterpart, while I was then relaxing in bed after a 3-0 football defeat from the Nigerian community on campus. Our university, the famous Kwame Nkrumah University campus has been lively, the desire of most wannabe students especially foreigners. The Brunei Hostel is the most expensive hostel on campus. It hosts foreigners and wards of prominent and powerful men in the country. And that is where Amaka stays. Amaka winning the jollof debate would have been a double slap in my face. I stepped out of bed to the defence of my Nation, but immediately I stepped at the porter’s lodge of her hostel, all the debaters including Amaka dispersed and left, leaving me out in the cold, as there was no one, absolutely nothing left to sustain the heat that moments ago was threatening to bring down the roof. This triggered me into soliloquy asking myself why?
Hours turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months. I loved the woman I saw in Amaka; brilliant, bold and possessive. She would defend whatever is hers jealously. It sparked an inexplicable desire in me to keep her for life. But how? What could the hindrance be? Because of the embarrassment that greeted me the last time I tried approaching her through a debate, fear had gripped me in getting close to her again. “Could this be the way love creeps in on you and entwines like a strangulating constrictor; or just my way of getting even after sustaining a bruised ego at the hands of ‘the great Nefertiti’? I hatched another plan of getting closer, the power of social media appealed to me. I searched for her name on Facebook, saw her and started liking and commenting on her photos. A few days later, I realised she had blocked me. For what reason?
I felt Amaka was being rude towards me. On the other hand, I tried defending her actions with the individual differences and choices excuse. As an Asante guy, her actions could have sparked a court proceeding in the Chief’s palace to explain her actions for being rude and selective. But here we are in an institution of higher learning where most patrons here give recognition to culture on the low.
My heart nearly sank anytime thoughts of Amaka flashed through my mind. The whole world would come to a standstill and would see human beings like trees.
It was 6:00pm one evening while having one of my familiar bouts of day-dreaming about Amaka, I heard a knock at my door. To my utter surprise as I answered to see who was at the door, it was Kofi, my roommate. He had come to take his lecture notes. I banged the door in his face in total frustration as I went back inside angrily.
As a guy coming from a cultural setting, I hatched another plan. This time, it was about going to find a way to propose to Amaka officially before I lose my mind. The hustle and bustle were cumbersome but finally, I had my queen with the help of Chinedu my Nigerian friend who was very close to Amaka. It all happened like a dream. I was walking around the Brunei Hostel one sunny afternoon when I saw a jeep veered past me. An aged woman driving the car called me and asked for directions to flat C. I boarded the car to lead her.
‘’I hatched another plan of getting closer, the power of social media appealed to me. I searched for her name on Facebook, saw her and started liking and commenting on her photos. A few days later, I realised she had blocked me’’
To my surprise, who did I see? Amaka was the one the woman was looking for. Amaka was a bit disturbed because of her earlier reactions towards me, but I felt okay. Amaka thanked me for leading her mother to her flat. I left the scene and bid them bye, Amaka through Chinedu my friend sent an apology over her earlier actions towards me. I accepted the apology in a blink and arranged a meeting for the three of us to sip some drinks one weekend at the UST poolside.
We became a bit closer after that meeting. Occasionally, she could call me to meet her outside my hall of residence because she didn’t like the hostile attitude of “Continental Hall” guys. “Conti” as popularly called is the biggest male hall on campus and noted for “charging” a term given to singing and drumming among ourselves whenever any cute looking girl walks past. The hall has been nicknamed twin tower due to the structure of its building. One day, I made my feelings towards Amaka known to Chinedu. He promised to step in on my behalf, and he sure did a great job, for Lo and behold, it worked.
For a long time, I have often wondered how Chinedu found it so easy to get across to Amaka. I was to later find out that they are cousins who grew up together as mothers of both of them are twins. We fell intimately for each other. Our relationship was a delight to watch. We took time off lectures to visit the city aquarium. It became a talk on our campus. To our surprise, the campus lens magazine once captured us in an editorial with the headline “GHANA MEETS NAIJA”, with our pictures generously splashed on the front page. Jealous friends and lovers encouraged and discouraged us at a point.
How time flies, college moments ended. The saddest and painful moment came. Saying goodbye to Amaka as she left for her home country was a bullet in my heart. The day came. “Steve, Nigeria is calling,” Amaka said one evening. I placed my head in my palms and wept like a baby. On the eve of her departure, we couldn’t sleep. We stared at each other, held each other very close and wept our eyes out.
It was around 5.30am when she picked up her phone to take a photo with me. An object of remembrance. Immediately the camera lens captured us, I heard a knock on the door. I opened to see Chinedu and an elderly woman between the ages of 65 and 70 standing there. She was the one driving the Jeep the last time. She is Amaka’s mother. “I’ve loved and married a Ghanaian. I followed him to Ghana and got married to him. It’s unfortunate I lost him to the icy hands of death, that man was Amaka’s Dad. I remember you very well with your hospitality towards me some time ago when I came looking for my daughter. We’ve lived here in Ghana ever since I came in with her late Dad, but she has to go to Nigeria to familiarise herself with my people. Amaka has talked a lot about you to me. I welcome you into our family “. She held our hands together as she smiled. Wow, I have the blessing of my in-law-to-be.
I hugged Amaka and unashamedly before her mum, kissed her uncontrollably. I informed my parents about our plans to get married. Their only problem was my wife leaving me here for Nigeria. Aside that, I won their endorsement. Plans of our customary rites began, we had already sent the “kokooko” to Amaka’s family. “Kokooko” is an amount of money and drinks used to alert a particular family of a man’s intention to pick a woman out of their family for marriage. If it was to be in the olden days, bragoro, thus puberty rites ushering a girl into womanhood would have been observed for Amaka before the “kokooko”.
We blended the beautiful Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures in one pot. It was beautiful. Cladded in kente, my father was there to support me. Chinedu was there to collect “akontagyesekan”, thus money collected by the bride’s brother to secure and protect his sister from other men. I paid “danta” her bride price to a man who stood in for Amaka’s father, her mother also received her pieces of clothes and money called “tamboba” to thank her for giving birth and training Amaka into a beautiful woman. Drinks were also presented to Amaka’s family to be shared among the elders to serve as witnesses for our marriage. “Nsaguo” thus pouring of libation which is performed in all traditional gatherings of the Asantes was performed to thank our ancestors for giving us such a beautiful ceremony and requested “nhyira” thus blessing for our marriage.
A few hours later, my bride entered the kitchen to prepare “aduanekese” thus her first traditional meal for my whole family. That was to test how good she is in the kitchen. Guess what she cooked. Amaka’s rendition of her jollof rice has no name. I don’t know whether to call it Ghanaian, Nigerian or just plain superb, as that was the exact delicacy she prepared to the enjoyment of all. Anytime she cooks jollof, it reminds me of how we met and how far we have come. Indeed love is a wonderful thing that knows no boundaries.