Two angels on the Nkawkaw bypass

Last week, I travelled to Accra from Kumasi after a long, lovely weekend away from the capital.

My younger brother who we all call Junior, and whose juniors back at Opoku Ware School loved to call ‘Senior Junior’, very much to his annoyance, was driving.

The beautiful thing about long distance travelling by private car is the flexibility of stopping at will to stretch one’s legs, buy some fresh produce or linger over a meal of fufu at one of the many eateries dotted along the road. I had travelled from Accra by bus.

Of course, if I had deeper pockets, I would have been cruising among the clouds instead, at an altitude of about 14,000 feet above sea level on a 30-minute hop each way. But then local flights do not come cheap these days so I am forced to keep my eyes on the road.

Gearbox issues

The first sign of trouble on the road reared its head when we got to Asankare and the dashboard lighted up with a warning about gearbox malfunction. We managed to get some gearbox fluid to attempt to fix the problem and then continued the journey.

Eventually, on the part of the dual carriageway from Kumasi leading towards the Nkawkaw bypass, the vehicle started to jerk sporadically, then gave up the ghost and came to a shuddering standstill.

This was around 8 in the evening. It was pitch black, with no soul, vehicle or streetlight in sight. We pushed the vehicle off the road to safety as we tried to figure out our next move, trying not to panic.

Good Samaritans

A few minutes later, a flatbed articulated truck pulled into view and stopped, its two occupants obviously having noticed our desperate situation. After a short chat and grave warnings about the risk of attack by highway robbers, they offered to pull our vehicle into the much safer Nkawkaw bypass where various vendors run a 24-hour operation.

This was such a relief. We managed to find a safe berth at the bypass for the vehicle. After a couple of failed negotiations with taxi drivers over their ridiculously high charges to take us to Accra, our new friends stepped in to offer us a ride in the cabin of their truck if we did not mind, warning us it was not airconditioned.

We smirked. Who needs air-conditioning when you are stranded?

Truck cabin fun

I have never been up the cabin of an articulated truck, and getting in was quite an experience as I hauled my rather ample girth up the steep steps and settled in. There was quite some good, comfortable space for all four of us to fit in together with our luggage. Then we set off.

The driver, Halidu, and his mate, Ibrahim, regaled us with stories about life on the highways, with occasional bouts of silence as each was lost in his thoughts while the engine hummed and we bounced along. They had been travelling from Yendi and were on their way to Tema harbour to load some goods and then head back up north.

It was such an eye-opening conversation about the challenges and the escapist joys of literally living one’s life on the roads. They had been doing this for several years, crisscrossing literally every corner of the country. These guys loved their jobs.

Sometime after midnight, we pulled wearily into Pokuase, where I delicately manoeuvred my way down from the high cabin to catch a cab home. They went on to drop Junior off close to his home on their way to Tema. It had been a tiring, but interesting experience of a ride.

Beyond our effusive expressions of appreciation, it took quite some effort to persuade them to accept a token from us in appreciation. We exchanged telephone numbers with promises to stay in touch. We have not reneged on our promise.

Simple humanity

Today, selfishness, obsession with money and individualism seem to be commonplace. The recent sad story of an elderly lady patient of Winneba Government Hospital who was dumped in the bush over her inability to pay for her care and left to die a lonely, miserable death after four days in the open without anybody stepping up to help was indicative of a possibly broken society.

Our Good Samaritans owed us no obligation. Indeed, many others would have sped by, probably understandably, given where we were and the time of day. Having towed us to the safety of the bypass, they could have just left us there and continued their journey.

Our gratitude would still have been immeasurable. That they went out of their way to help further without any monetary considerations spoke volumes to us.

Yes, out there, in this vicious, materialistic world, there are pockets of humanity that give hope of the prospect of a compassionate society that we should strive to build. Throughout our engagement, our respective ethnicities, religions, social standing, political affiliations or economic status never came up or mattered – just two kind gentlemen helping out two stranded men and subsequently bonding, sharing jokes and learning from each other. Life can be that simple.

Junior and I salute Hamidu and Ibrahim, our gallant angels on the Nkawkaw bypass. May Allah continue to bless them in abundance.

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