He hurtled downhill from the administration block. It was an unusual sight to see after prep; a cyclist going at it. He weaved between us with ease. Just then ahead of us was a car also moving uphill, presumably a teacher on his way back from town. He blew his horn and we gave way. The startled cyclist looked up a little too late. He veered sharply away from the vehicle and faced a mass of white shirts. He moved again and his progress was halted cruelly by the storm gutter on the shoulders of the road. His head smashed on the gutter lip. His arm and leg were similarly pinned against the wreck of his bicycle. He lay prone. The whole incident was like a scene in a movie. Such a grisly scene will not be forgotten so easily.

To this day I dislike riding my bicycle on roads with open gutters. Sad because that means they are practically everywhere. About a week ago I witnessed a gutter being constructed on my street. The whole incident from that prep night from years back played itself in my head. I have pondered on countless occasions what would have happened if the gutter was covered. As it was an isolated event I looked at the bigger picture. Aside from the obvious reason that people dumped their rubbish into open drains which eventually blocked them there are other reasons why open drains are not good for the Ghanaian. My topmost priority is the unavailability of sidewalks on most roads for the Ghanaian pedestrian. Many roads in residential areas and even some commercial areas are narrow. The gutters which flank these roads are often quite large. This predisposes pedestrians and cyclists to careless motorists who feel they have a larger right of way. The situation worsens when there are instances of parking on such roads. It becomes one way and a pedestrian has to strafe past the car and hope any advancing motorist would be patient enough for him or her to pass. You can imagine what a child would do in such a situation. The child would attempt to run by quickly.
When you take a look at most of Tema (the established communities) and some parts of Accra you notice that most of the gutters are covered with concrete slabs leaving holes in the covers for rain to pass through in case of a storm. Such a design provides a natural sidewalk for pedestrians to walk on. Sadly they are deteriorating as some motorists park their vehicles on them, notably truck drivers or those operating heavy machines. Age is also a contributor and we can see this type of drain design quickly disappearing.
As a pedestrian and occasional cyclist I believe adding a sidewalk by covering drains and gutters by roads would be most beneficial. It would also curb the primordial practice of pouring rubbish into open drains in the belief rain water would carry it away.


Unknown Soldier’s Commentary

I flew backwards
The shrapnel tearing into me
Pin pricks
And I feel the dreaded knife stabs in my knee and foot.
My ears are ringing,
They say it’s cos some fluid in them gets shaken up.
Fucking wrong time to think of biology 101.
Anyway I think
“I have to move”
The barbed wire is just ahead.
Feel for fingers and toes.
Left fingers – check
Right fingers – check
Left toes – check.
Right toes –
I’m a leg short.
Then I think
“Military crawl”
Well then suck it up and crawl.
Left hand forward
The ground burns and trembles. 
Like holding a live coal.
Right hand forward.
I can do this.
Left knee forward  
Right knee – fuck!
The pain of a thousand nut crackers overwhelms me.
A tear trickles down my dirt encrusted face.  
I grit my teeth.
Upper body strength it is.
Push and pull.
Nice and easy.
“Yeah” I say to myself 
Like dragging a broken body is easy.
Everyday of the week stuff.
Push and pull.
Across puddles of drying blood
And what’s left of soldiers.
Friend and enemy alike.
I feel like retching.
Some dude wasn’t so lucky.
Bloody guts spread all over the place.
Well I’m almost there.
Barbed wired safety. 
Then a few yards ahead of me
I see Joe a friend of mine
Well he ain’t no friend
Bully from school.
But he damn near looked friendly to me now
At least until he steps on a mine
And starts raining all over me.
Now I have Joe all over me.
A few yards more.
Push, pull
Man this is some hard shit. 
My helmet scrapes the wire.
I heave a sigh of relief.
Each step brings me home now.
If you can call a trench home.
I push harder.
I can taste Joe’s gray matter in my mouth.
Nasty stuff really.
My stomach finally heaves.
Even in death Joe manages to make me retch.
Real beautiful.
Just as I pull clear of the barbed wire
Ready to fall into the darkness below
I hear a shout.
Then a pimply youth jabs a bayonet at my right leg.
Or he thinks I got a right leg.
Can’t help myself from guffawing.
Then I heave myself
Then I start falling.
That’s till my bootstraps fall in love with the barbed wire.
Now I’m hanging like a bat.
I almost grin
Then I remember pimple face.
Now I start crying.
Each tear drop a waterfall.
“I want to live.”
It’s all I want to do.
I’m bleeding like a stuck pig.
Blistered fingers

All my strength spent.
When he finally finds me.
A morbid grin lights up his face.
Then he sticks his bayonet in my lungs.
The sucking rattle of the knife sliding over my ribs.

It doesn’t hurt funny enough.
“Sounds like a car tyre losing air.”
I try to chuckle.
Damn barbed wire did me good.
Vision slows to a crawl.
Last thoughts?
© Sena Kodjokuma 2014