Kweku Atta (not real name) was a very strong man who lived in a village near Gomoa Abonyi, not far from Winneba. His strength was found in his height, and his well-built size. There were two Asafo companies in that village – Asafo number one, and Asafo number two. Kweku Atta was installed the Tufuhen (commander) of the two Asafo companies.
In the Akan tradition, Asafo companies are the equivalent of modern-day military battalions. As the leader of the two Asafo companies, you are effectively an equivalent of Chief of Defense Staff, and effectively a titled chief in a traditional sense.
For some reason, Kweku Atta became extremely unpopular with his people, virtually unable to function as Tufuhen. The Asafo companies refused to recognize him in any of their activities, removing every form of legitimacy from him.
But Kweku Atta himself, had, under the circumstances, become extremely a humble person, staying calm throughout the period of his exclusion, knowing that power resided with the people, and hoping to return to legitimacy, with the very few loyal people who stood by him.
For several years of Kweku Atta’s dysfunctional reign, he never worked, depending on the benevolence of the few people who loved him. A number of the poor farmers thought Kweku was being treated unfairly, and so had sympathized with him, with a number of the village men deciding to share with him the proceeds from the sale of their goats, cassava, and plantains, so that he too could live a decent life.
One woman, Maame Akosua, actually used the money meant for her daughter’s secondary school fees, to buy a clothe for Kweku Atta, for a major funeral in a nearby village where he (Kweku Atta) was specifically obliged to attend. Otherwise he would have ended up disgraced. That year, the woman’s daughter dropped out of school, and has since never recovered.
At one point Kweku Atta’s life was in danger, as people accused him of suffering from a strange infectious disease, and threatened to banish him from the village. In the midst of these death threats, Kobena Akyen, the village’s corn miller, risked his life, to become his body guard whenever Kweku Atta was leaving his house.
At one point, in the midst of an attack, Kobena Akyen, the self-elbodyguard guard, was violently pushed, to the ground, hitting his head against the wall of the village pusuba (the village deity’s room wall). Kobena Akyen never recovered until he died, leaving behind his wife, two daughters, and a son.
Suddenly a British investor, Felix Philips, came to settle in the village, bringing several companies and farms to the people, creating several thousands of employment. The investor, Felix Philips, decided to recognize Kweku Atta as the leader of the Asafo Companies, effectively handing power back to him (Kweku Atta), in such a dramatic fashion.
The village had a tradition of respect for parents whose daughters were virgins at age 18. No family qualified for a chieftaincy title, if there was any young female who had known a man before turning 18. The parents of defiled girls could neither own lands, nor become landlords, even if they built their own houses. Such families were usually made to carry coffins during funerals, as a display of shame. But such disgraced families did not qualify to carry the coffins of any titled chief who died.
It was therefore a family pride, and every young girl vowed, to protect their families against such indignation.
Felix Philips’ recognition of Kweku Atta, gave him the natural protection to function as the Tufuhen. And as a Tufuhen, it was expected that he would take steps to earn legitimacy, and to earn popular support.
Kweku Atta rather redrafted himself into power, and began to show it. It started with the raping of young teenagers of his opponents, effectively depriving them of owning houses, owning lands, and making such opponents carriers of coffins, and shame.
He then transformed himself into a terror. He laid ambush, in waiting for the men and women returning from their farms, snatching their farm wares, taking away the best of their tomatoes, cassava, yam, and so on. He will seize the grasscutters, the squires, and the plantains from returning farmers, and sell same for money, sending the rest home, to his wives, to feed his family – he had regained power, absolute power.
Kweku Atta never worked. He never employed anyone. All he did was to deprive others of what they had suffered for, and made it his – drawing his strength from the protection he enjoyed from Felix Philips, and his new found terrorism of those who resisted his rented might.
Kweku Atta told Felix Philips such defaming stories, stories about those who loved him when he was excluded and poor. Felix Philips was fed with so much disaffectionate stories of people who were supposed to be praised, just to create monsters out of them. For instance, Kweku Atta told Felix Philips, about Maame Akosua (the woman who used his daughter’s school fees to buy clothe to save him from shame)’s penchant for stealing from foreigners, a reason Felix Philips should never associate himself with her.
Kweku Atta now began to take over other peoples’ wives, and in some classical audacious display of power, he would occasionally ask his son to rape other young girls, in his presence, and in the presence of the parents of those young girls. For instance, he ordered his son to rape the daughter of the late Kobena Akyen (the corn miller who risked his life to serve as his body guard, and died as a result), in the presence of Kobena Akyen’s wife.
In one such audacious instance, Kweku Atta actually poached a woman from her husband, in the middle of the night. Kweku had woke up disappointed, that Madam Nkaba (the beautiful wife of the village gong gong beater) had failed to show up in his (Kweku Atta’s) room, even though he had ordered her to spend the night with him. He walked straight to the house, knocked aggressively on Kojo Nyarko (the gong gong beater)’s door, and forcefully took away Madam Nkaba, to his house, depriving the gong gong beater of the warmth of his wife that night.
A few months after Kweku Atta has had a piece of the Gong Gong beater’s wife, a small bush spider stung him. The sting looked like nothing, but a few days later Kweku Atta died. The story of Kweku Atta’s death sounded like a story – a harmless spider’s sting killing a tall, stoutly built terrorist whose might knew no bounds.
At the mortuary Kweku Atta’s lifeless body laid on the floor, bare, like all the other dead bodies, as the mortuary man, Anchofi, wheeled, one body after the other, and dumped them into the open. He brought out a small plastic bucket, full of mixed embalmment liquid solution. He pulled out a huge needle, like the size of a matured screw driver, dipped it into the solution, and pulled all the content up, from the bucket, to fill the belly of the needle.
The mortuary man took a knife, pierced it into Kweku’s lifeless thigh, and cut him, deep into his veins, from the boxers line, through to the knee edge. The flesh looked like red meat, with blood hardly oozing. The mortuary man, a diminutive young drunk who hardly respected any of the dead persons loitering in the cold, then pierced the oversized needle into Kweku’s opened thigh, and began to pump the solution into the dead body, as the body of the former terrorist began to balloon itself, and tightened up, with every available opening pumping up, eyes, nose, anus, everywhere took from the mortuary man’s preservation pressure.
As I stood empathizing the pain of the dead, and as Kweku’s body transfigured into decomposable balloon, and as the mortuary man dumped the body carelessly into the darkest side of the freezing mortuary, little showed that the man whose lifeless body is now a subject of indignation, was once a store of power, a sad reflection of life’s nothingness.
On the day when the burial was supposed to take place, the village witnessed only a very few people turning out for the funeral. Nearly every parent had become unqualified to attend Kweku Atta’s funeral, for they have all had their daughters devirginized before 18, and therefore been rendered unqualified to attend a Tufuhen’s funeral.
The few men and women who were compelled by humanity to attend the funeral were themselves largely unqualified to carry the coffin, as they were all victims of false convictions, victims of false witness, victims of public shame, and victims of Kweku Atta’s brute power.
One after the other, the few who turned up for the funeral also left, helplessly. A man who sat by me continued to shed tears, in silence, occasionally stealing glances at me, as I hid my tears from him; tears not because we loved Kweku Atta, but because he betrayed the love we gave him.
It was 5:30pm, and Tutuhen Kweku Atta’s body still lied in state, with no one qualified to lift it up for burial, for all those who loved him became victims of his power. And when the stench began to emanate from the rapidly decomposing body, we knew it was time for the two of us, too, to go…
Author: James Kofi Annan