This short story was set ibn Ghana, but could easily have been written about a small village in any part of west Africa.
Not having much development in our village, we all agreed when the Government Agent told us that we should do something about it. I remember the occasion very well. It was towards the end of march when the cocoa was all in, packed and sent to the coast, and Kwesi Manu had started his house again. Every year he would buy cement, engage a couple of labourers, lay out the blocks, and then run out of money. The walls had been built two years back; last year, he had managed to get the roof on, only to have it flung off again by the great Easter storm which did so much damage. The corrugated iron sheets were flung like a handful of stones across the street, knocking down Ama Serwah’s stall. The old lady put Kwesi before the Native Authority Court for failing to pay for the loss, and this caused a big quarrel which lasted us all through the rains.
The village certainly needed to be improved. The roads were laterite tracks from which the dust rose like thunder clouds whenever a lorry went through the place. Goats,chickens and sheep wandered about its narrow streets and slept in the doorways. We were always compaining of the difficulty of getting supplies from the nearby town, and the women grumbled because they had to walk a mile or so to fetch water from the stream. Still,we accept3ed the life; it had been lived a long time , as we all knew, and if there had been nothing to complain of we might have quarrelled much more often among ourselves than we do now.
But when the Government Agent asked us whether we agreed to anything, we always said yes. It was easier in the long run to agree and never did any harm. And as a matter of fact, on this occasion, we forgot all about the idea of development until one Wednesday morning when the chief beat ‘ gong gong’ to call us together. When we reached the palace there was our Chief, Nana, and an educated clerk sitting in the compound. I call him ‘ educated’ because we could see from his appearance that he was a town man. He was in neat city clothes, with a black book under his arm pencils sticking in his hair. It turned out that he was a new clerk in the Government Agent’s office and had been sent to talk to us.
We listend to what he had to say , although we had heard most of it before: how we should think again about forming a local council, how we should pay the levy on time, why didn’t we help the local teacher and send our children to the mission school, did we not know tha the Government had forbidden the making of akpeteshie because it was dangerous to drink, why had we not cleared the bush right down to the river. It was much like the regular routine visit, which kept the Government satisfied and left us alone, with the local Native Authority policeman standing there ready to walk round the village looking for akpetesjie, and having a quite drink of it with the clerk behind the court-house- until the clerk suddenly tolde us that the Government Agent had been so pleased when we had asked for his help that he was sending a Development Officer the following week to make a start.
We didn’t quite know what to make of this, and we soon forget all about it – the next day being Thursday when we don’t farm, and a week’s supply of liquor is ready for use. I had business to do in Kumasi the followinng week-end and did not get nback until late on Wednesday morning. The first thing I saw in the village was a large black car loaded with pick-axes. The whole village had turned out to see what it was all about, and as I came up a tall thin European in blue shorts and shirt was standing in front of the crowd lecturing them. He couldn’t speak our language Twi of course, but you could have told just by the way he waved his arms that he was determined to to get something done. The Chief looked as pleased as he could, but I could se that he was worried, and the elders sat in silent disapproval.