Once upon a time,it was a rather sunny June afternoon. Onyankopon, the giver of rain, had decided to take a break from His usual activities. Theirs was a love-hate affair. When Onyankopon decided to show up, everyone in Breman scurried into their homes for shelter and everyone showed up in town when Onyankopon was away. Interestingly, they prayed for rain every night before bed so their crops would grow. Such was the life in Breman. In Ntiamoah’s house however, was no happy affair. Out there in his living room were two robust-looking young men who, you could tell by their muscular build, had no blood of compassion flowing through their veins. One had his fists clenched, ready to take a swing if provoked. He looked towards the door intermittently as if anticipating another party, a third. Maybe he was just being on the watch for the other. The other, the one doing all the talking, had a finger pointed at Ntiamoah. Any closer and he would have been poking his forehead like a little boy. He looked anxious too, occasionally stealing glances at the door.
Maame Pokua could feel the strain on her thighs and knees as she crouched behind the door in fear. She was looking through the keyhole. She could not afford to be seen of course, because she could not fight. Her atrophied muscles could not even fight an ant! Her only strength was her tongue which was sharper than a two-edged sword but she knew her tongue could provide little resistance against these macho men. Her feet had become numb from the awkward position so she decided to shift support from one foot to the other. Pokua ended up kicking the door with a bang, losing her balance and tumbling to the ground with a loud cry, Agyeii! The two men exchanged looks and dashed out of the house. The sound they heard startled them. Maame Pokua tried to laugh but instead, out came a wince due to the excruciating pain. Ntiamoah rushed into the room.
“Maame Pokua, what happened?” he asked, attempting to help her up by the arm. She grimaced and he noticed his wife had added on weight. Surely, this must not be the same weight he scooped into his arms gleefully on their wedding night. She looked up at him, propped herself up on her own arm and smiled.
“Never mind, Ntiamoah. I wanted to scare them away and my plan worked!” she said, out of sheer bravado. That was how Maame Pokua saved the day,as always. Maybe not entirely by her own effort, but she always did.
“What did they want, Ntiamoah?”
“The usual threats, my dear, the usual.” he replied nonchalantly, dismissing the issue. Ntiamoah was next in line to be chief of Breman after the death of his uncle, Nana Brebour. The politics of chieftaincy however, did not allow a smooth transition. His cousin, Yamoah, Nana’s first son also claimed Nana Brebour trained him for chieftaincy while Ntiamoah was ‘busy whiling away time in the city’. He even presented a ring given to him by Nana Brebour attesting to the claim that he was supposed to be the chief. But customary laws did not allow such modes of succession. The chief was to be succeeded by his nephew and not his son. The ahenie was rightfully Ntiamoah’s and surprisingly, some elders who were supposed to be custodians of the rich customs and traditions of Breman were rallying behind Yamoah. They desperately needed to come to a unanimous stand, an agyinasie -like they called it- to put to rest the issue that threatened to place the whole town in a pretty pickle if left unchecked. So a date was set for the agyinasie.
Since then, Maame Pokua had not been able to sleep. She tossed and turned in bed every night. Even Ntiamoah’s gentle snores, as lulling as they were in times past, could not do the trick again. She knew she had a stake in his victory. Only she didn’t know how. Perhaps not yet.
The days hurried by incident-free. She was almost deluded to think all was well until one Friday evening, Ntiamoah barged through the door. He was not in the mood for trivialities and even rejected supper though it was his favourite meal being served. He darted in and out of the bedroom as though in search of something and finally locked himself up. Maame Pokua was worried. Good thing the children were in the boarding school. She would not have wanted them to be privy to this scene. She wondered what had come over Ntiamoah and why he did not want to share his woes. She even began doubting her value to him as wife if he could not share such pertinent issues with her. The two were one, weren’t they? Could there be another?These and many other thoughts roamed freely on the lonely streets of her mind. She braved her fears and knocked lightly on the door.
“Ntiamoah?” she called out. No response was heard.
“Me do?” still, no response.
“Kwadwo, please open the door.” she cried, “Remember that a problem shared is a problem almost solved. No matter the issue, I believe we can find a proper solution. Please?” Minutes later, after a long silence,the key turned in the lock and Ntiamoah allowed Maame Pokua in. She wrapped her arms around him and he broke out into sobs immediately.She held on till she felt him soften against her before letting go. He then heaved a sigh of relief and narrated his ordeal to her. Apparently, he had been falsely accused of selling some customary lands that were not supposed to be sold. Those lands were initially under his care but before he knew it, an uncle of his had taken over their administration. Out of respect, he let him handle it. After all, he was older and well versed in issues of that nature.
“But Maame, I didn’t do it! I have no idea whatsoever about it.” he said, teary-eyed, “This is just a plot by those unscrupulous, conniving men! They will stop at nothing to see that I do not become chief.” The awkward wave of emotion that swept over him subsided. He suddenly seemed to remember the all-important lesson of manhood, obarima nsu and swifter than the cheetah, wiped the tears with the back of his hand. He sat on the bed, scooted over and gestured for her to join him. She tried consoling him and in no time, he was at the receiving end of a pep talk that could rival that of Coach Jones Attuquayefio to the lads of Accra Hearts of Oak before an all-important soccer encounter with archrivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko. By the time she was done, he could manage a smile and even requested for his supper. Once again, Maame Pokua’s magic had come to play. Not just to play, but to win convincingly. She knew the next day was the day for the agyinasie and Ntiamoah needed to be in high spirits. There was no time to be moping around. No, not when she was present.
She woke up the next day in a pensive mood. As much as she had no direct hand in deciding the outcome of the agyinasie, Maame Pokua couldn’t help being anxious. However that day, before Ntiamoah left for the chiefs and elders’ meeting, Maame Pokua served him a grand meal. She couldn’t resist shredding some of the herbs Timaa gave her into the food. She ground and squeezed a little of its juice into his drinking water, unbeknownst to him. Timaa, her childhood bestfriend, had told her it could supply good luck and she was sure Ntiamoah needed all the luck in the world that day. Before he set off, he asked that she wished him luck but with a knowing smile she replied, “You have all the luck you need.” That answer left him unsettled in his thoughts though he decided not to probe further.
* * *
Maame Pokua took a quick spin in front of the mirror and her lips curled into a smile at the sight of her own reflection. Had the room been spacious enough, she would have given in to an insistent urge to strut down an invisible runway. She tried to take a step but the seams at her knee almost gave way.
“Auntie Sab, please the kaba is beautiful but the slit is a bit tight at the knee…” she said, her brow furrowing in concern. Auntie Sab smiled at her, exposing perfectly arranged teeth that had built up plaque along the gum line and said, “Don’t worry dear. I’ll fix this for you and tomorrow, you will be the talk of town. Give me five?”, gesturing for a high five.
“That must surely be the story!” she replied, laughing like a giddy teenager and slapped Auntie Sab’s palm high up in the air. “Let me leave this for you then and I will return later for it.” She gently placed the clothes on her worktable and left.
“Goodbye Auntie Sab! Nyame mma wo dwa o!” she called out her parting greetings as she descended the stairs. Auntie Sab was the best seamstress in town and the occasion warranted the best oufit. That kente cloth was a gift from her husband for her thirty-fifth birthday, five years ago. It just came in handy and she could not wait for the next day to show it off.
“Oh tomorrow!” she sighed dreamily. It was the grand durbar and her husband was to be enstooled chief of Breman. It was quite hard to believe. After several weeks of litigation, amidst accusations and near-death experiences, it had finally happened. Her dream had come true. His dream actually, but as loyal as she was, her dream too.
Frankly, Maame Pokua thought she was more deserving of a seat at the chief’s side on that grand stage, adorned in all royal regalia, than everyone up there. Unfortunately, customs did not allow the chief’s wife such privileges. She stayed content however, with receiving praise that came with being nanayere. That itself was an honour but a nudging voice kept telling her it was not enough.
All she needed was time. In due time, everyone would come to appreciate her contributions. Till then, she was ready to feign modesty. “Oh, Odomankoma deserves all the praise!” she would say sweetly with a smile and lifted hands for emphasis. But, in the silence of her heart, the loudest praise was hers and maybe, to the potency of Timaa’s herbs.