I should’ve had banku and tilapia for lunch. Instead of this miserable plate of rice and beans that was a reflection of the food Ebenezer Scrooge offered to his visitors the day before Christmas.
For 5 cedis you’d think we would be provided a decent enough meal. I could’ve bought beside-the-gutter waakye from the junction for much less and dozed off right away with a satisfied grunt.
“Ansah why? The chow no dey be?” Akuffo interrupted my thoughts.
“I swear chale, the food be yawa too moch”
“Da be why I always dey chop banku, at least that one she dey do am fine” He said amidst guffaws.
I gulped down the bottle of voltic to push down the toxic waste I had just devoured. A loud belch that sounded like an erupting volcano filled the room.
He must have felt the scorch from my piercing eyes because Derrick looked up from the newspaper he was reading and laughed.
I shook my head at him.
“Ghana is not a serious country, instead of discussing what happens next, we’re still crying over these fires.”
He threw the newspaper on the table facing upwards. There was a picture of the burnt down parliament house drowned in water hose on the cover page, with “WHAT CAUSED THE FIRE?” as the headline. My 6 year old nephew was more creative than all the media houses in this country.
It had been three weeks since the parliament house caught fire.
I was dozing off after a heavy meal when Akuffo burst into my office asking if I had heard the news of the fire.
“Again? Another fire again?” My drowsy voice carried across
There had been 3 market fires in the past 3 months. Each one had been presumably accidental. Each one had eaten up the wares of the market woman. Each market was NOT going to be restored to its original state. Each once previously occupied marketplace was going to be rebuilt into an industrial hub. I wondered if another market was on fire
“Yeah chale. This time it’s the parliament house”
“What??” His answer jolted me from my slumber.
I hurriedly logged on to the major news sites just in time to see a live coverage of the parliament building on fire on InDifferentNews.com
There it was, the once majestic parliament house, standing in a ball of flame.
Fireball, smoke and chaos.
Nobody knew how it started. It took the firemen 69 minutes to arrive at the scene. (No surprise there, the real function of the fire service in this country is to arrive hours after anything has gone ablaze) The fire was too widespread by then.
The whole sky had turned orange, fading to a dingy black smoke-cloud that hung over the whole city before drifting off toward the east. The fire crew spent two hours drowning it with hose-water; it was after sunset before they were done and by morning the whole country knew.
In throngs and in ones, everybody came out to stare at the ruins. They parked on the sidewalk and stood shoulder to shoulder, staring at the soggy mess the fire crew left behind.
It was in all the papers’ by morning. In all of the columns even the pornography inspired ones. Morning-talk shows, late-night talk shows, there was nothing else on radio and TV than the news of burnt down parliament house. All everybody talked about was the fact that there had been 4 consistent fires in 4 months
Everyone wanted to know which direction the government was headed now that it seemed evident the fires were not accidental.
Aside from wanting to know what caused the fires, the members of parliament couldn’t agree on much. Some wanted to rebuild, which was about a quarter of the building, and even that was mostly char made soggy and starting to mold already from the soaking that had put out the fire. Some others wanted to plow the whole site under and move on with being just another godforsaken African country. One newspaper even said it was rumored it was going to be rebuilt as a presidential palace.
This had been going on for weeks.
Agatha, who was cross-eyed with anger over the parliament house being gone, joined us after lunch.
“I think it’s someone from the opposition party,” said Agatha. “I think this is purely political.”
“Nah, that is too ridiculous an accusation Agatha,” Akuffo cut her. “I think these fires are the result of poor management.” Akuffo was six foot four with a voice box that came along with an attached microphone. His wife was three times smaller than him. It was always a challenge keeping my vivid imagination from picturing a love-making scene between the two whenever I saw them together.
“One thing’s for sure,” Derrick bellowed. “We have to rebuild the parliament house.
“I think it was an anarchist,” I said. They stared at me.
“What’s an anarchist?” Derrick asked
“Anarchists believe society should be reshaped without a hierarchy of authority,” I said with a toothpick in my mouth. “They believe all government institutions are evil, and that destruction of the current status quo is the best way to achieve a stateless society.”
The room was silent for a second.
“Oh,” said Agatha. She rolled her eyes back to think for a second.
“Chale Ansah you’ve been reading too much science fiction” Derrick looked at me sideways.
I looked back at him with a look I hoped translated exactly what I was thinking. Derrick was the dumb one. Always trying too hard to sound smart. How the hell did the explanation of anarchy I just gave translate to science fiction? SCIENCE FICTION?!
“So why burn down the parliament house?” Akuffo asked?
“Because it’s a useless entity,” I answered. “Housing and feeding the egos of men who are slowing sucking out the life of the people.”
“And the market places?”
“Well, I guess if you wanted to wipe the people out the best place to start would be their source of food” I scratched my head.
“That makes no sense” Akuffo said. “I understand wiping out anything that represents the system but the markets? Nah, doesn’t make sense”
“Conspiracy theories!” Derrick spat out, looking in my direction
I could feel my face flushing in anger. I wanted to punch him.
The new intern burst into the room suddenly
“Guys, put on the radio, AintshitFm. There’s another fire” She said in between breaths
“You’ve got to be kidding me”
What the hell is happening?”
“The presidential palace”