• Ekow Manuar

The Fire that Burnt the Patriarchy

Updated: Mar 31

Chapter 1

“See. This thing we de do, we go fit collect all the people dema money, you understand. Then put some money here, some there, for the business inside. You understand. Then when people see that de money work, we go slide am into some hot soup for we to chop. You understand! Goat pepper soup!”

“Aye goat pepper soup! Uncle you be senior plus! Aye, but see-see. If de people no give us all the money how we go do am?”

“Ah! Dat is why there is risk, dat is why we are using Shareefa. She is the key. When they hear her name sef, dem all go put down. See-see, right now the situation is very bad. People are on the streets protesting! The rain that fall yestee, it no be tomorrow when de go come collect am ohhhh. I beg! All we for do is give them something small, you understand, then we take the rest for the soup!”

“See you be senior!”

“Nor, you be the senior.”

Shareefa eavesdropped as the two pigs, Baba and Uncle Fatal, oiled each other up for another minute before she decided to turn away from their rancid conversation, retiring to her quarters where she did not expect to be disturbed for the rest of the night. Already, Baba, the sheep of a man that was her husband, had dragged her through all of Nima, having her introduce herself to every chief and alhaji this side of Accra. The men had sat silently nodding their heads and waving their hands giving their blessings to Shareefa’s campaign to become the assembly member of Nima — Makola constituency, which had now become the most populous district in Accra.

As if she needed their blessings. Their blessings were worthless. Less than worthless. They were dirty, these men, waving their hands, and tossing their heads like rag dolls. She didn’t know them. But she knew of them. She had been told by the sisters who cooed at her side whispering to her stories of them and what bedrock of oppression they derived their power and wealth.

One from sakawa, sacrificing little girls as a rite of passage into the cult of internet fraud. One from hoarding water supplied through the shambolic plumbing network. While his partner coordinated price hikes of sachet water, the only other affordable water source.

Some others, through government contracts that they would simply take the money and not do the work. Slavemasters! And Shareefa had sat, nodded and waved her head and hands along with them. As comrade. God forgive her. She thought desperately. God should forgive her. If her father were to see her now! Hmmm. Her father, the famous Abdul Aboubakar, who had ridden with little Shareefa sitting on his lap zooming through traffic on his scooter so many years ago.

In that life, Shareefa wasn’t buried as she was now. Back then she was free. Free to laugh, and play and walk on the streets of Accra in the evening times. Laughing at policemen attempt to untangle the knots of traffic during rush hour. Watching the street vendors weaving in between the lanes. Singing their own distinct songs. Advertising their products delicately balanced on top of their heads. But that was suddenly torn from her when her father died and she was tossed back to the village to live with her mama.

Then she was married to Baba, an unknown oaf of a man, who came stumbling into her household promising gold and silver from his tongue, but offering hot water and stale bread with his hands. Mama was ready to offload her as soon as he came forth, and of course, Shareefa did not have a say. She just nodded and accepted, as was expected of her. Then she produced three children for the man, as was expected. Then accepted when they all left her to go live in the burgeoning cities. And now, in keeping with what was expected, she nodded and smiled in front of those men who held the keys to a gate she was being rammed through. Sending her to a place she didn’t want to go.

Laying in her bed contemplating the conversation she had just eavesdropped, she wondered where it was all going. Once she was accepted and got on the podium to talk, what would she say? What was she expected to say? Baba had told her nothing and would tell her nothing. Only command and expect. Fool! She hated it. But didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was the un-remorseful abuse of her father’s respected name to gain political clout. Or the assumption by her husband and uncle Fatal that she would simply go along with everything they willed without her resisting.

Deep in thoughts, and digging further into the pit in which her deepest desires were buried, she failed to notice a little girl enter her room. The room was dark, and the little girl’s big round eyes bounced the light from outside into the room. Startled, she recognized the girl.

“Fayrouza, why are you here?”

“Ma’am.” She swallowed hard and hesitated a little. Shareefa leaned forward and beckoned the little girl to come closer.

“Come now, little one.”

“Ma’am, the sisters, Amina, and Beera, they are calling for you.”

“Ok, I will see them tomorrow in the market-“

“No. Tonight.”


“They said the waterhole. Midnight.”

And she was off. Gone with the answers, leaving Shareefa with only questions.

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