In these parts of the world, being born a man is a life sentence. Patriarchy has had its toll on women but men were equally if not a tad more victims of this system. From the moment a boy is weaned, he is encumbered with demanding standards to keep up with. Once he is able to grasp stuff, the machete is his toy. And the moment his is able to crouch without tipping over, he is entrusted with a hoe. The advent of Arab and Russian oil billionaires into the soccer industry switched the goal posts of virility to being able to dribble a ball with the feet. And so in Zongo, manhood was gradually being equated to athleticism.
Unfortunately for Kwabena, he found himself on the weak end of the athleticism spectrum. He could not run up a 3 story building without losing his breath and when he tries to run up a field with a soccer ball, he trips and falls like a sprinter on heels. Soccer was not his ticket to his daily meal.
They only way to a 3 square meal was schooling and Kwabena excelled at it. In primary school he eased through and even skipped a couple of classes. In junior high, Aki Ola series felt like reading a Dr Seuss book. And when he sat for the national exams to gain entrance into secondary school, he was one of the top 10 students from the district. High school calculus was child’s play and GDP calculations were never ready for him. So like a feather flying in the wind, Kwabena breezed into the university.
The prospects of a university degree holder were massive. Or so it seemed. It might have held true years back when the British had just left the Gold Coast. When a hairline receding Nkrumah was sliding in and a huge human resource gap was present. But now, there was an overdrive of degree earners streaming out from the public universities and a host of funny, sometimes clichéd sounding universities springing up all around the country. To make matters worse, the “who knows you” syndrome was fast gaining foot. It was not enough to know someone. That knowledge had to be replicated by the one you knew. As a boy from the slums with a network spanning the koko seller and the local MP who only came into town when elections were approaching, the odds seemed stacked against Kwabena. And so despite graduating magna cum laude, or what was called a first class over here, getting a good job on merit was like going a full month without Dumsor.
And that was when the Obamaland Dreams started creeping in. Or at least it started materializing itself.
The genesis of it all was Kwabena’s senior year. The semester was in its nascent stages and people were still reporting. It was around that time when campus was plastered with “Welcome” messages from SRC aspirants, advertisement from phone sellers and most importantly, promises of greener pastures during the summer. The “Work Abroad” agencies were as usual, busy selling dreams to victims of Hollywood’s propaganda machinery. Jumping from room to room with fliers glistening with New York’s skyline at night, they chanced on Kwabena and sold him a lifeline. Of a land where even the janitor could rise to head the corporation where he did his graveyard shift. A land where an hour of work paid at least 8 dollars, which was in excess of 30 cedis. Where drinks at fast food restaurants where free. It all sounded a lot like a place Kwabena believed he was destined to make his fortunes.
That was how the grass on the other side came to remain greener for the remainder of Kwabena’s senior year!