In April, Mutala met with 31-year old, John Ayaba from Namoo, a village near Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region. He is one of four children. Unfortunately, his father has passed.
John expressed himself with the local pidgin English. I have provided “translations” for clarity. My friend explained that “dey” is used for present continuous tense or present perfect while “wey” is past continuous tense or past perfect tense.
I dey farm millet ground nut and rice. On market days, I dey go market to buy goat and sheep at cheap price and sell ’em to get 2 cedis or 5 cedis profit.
What did you do in Cote d’ Ivoire?
E be farming work wey I go do for der, my first time I go der I go farm cocoa and coffee but the second time I go town go sell Nescafe. My first time was 2002 and second 2006.
Translation: “I was farming there. My first I went there I worked on a cocoa and coffee farm but the second time I went to town to sell Nescafe…”
Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana where do your prefer?
Cote d’ Ivoire people dem be wicked you go fit work for them wey them no go pay you but Ghana no body dey wey you go work give am wey e no go pay you but Cote d’ Ivoire you go fit work give somebody 1 year self e no go give you money. E go talk say oh go come go come ego do wey you go vex then go leave the money ,but in Ghana dem dey fear God.
Translation: Ivoirians are wicked. You could work and not get paid. But in Ghana, there’s nobody you would work for and not get paid. In Ivory Coast you could work for a year and not get any money. In Ivory Coast they’ll tell you to keep coming without paying you until you get irritated and give up the money owed you. But Ghanaians fear God.
So why did you leave the farming for Accra?
Because the farming I go fit farm but the money I no go get am like the way I dey want wey north if you no get money you no go fit stay there, sometimes you go farm but the crops no go come well, that be why I dey come hustle small. Make I get money go back.
Translation: With farming you don’t get as much as you need or want. In the North, there’s no money so he couldn’t stay there. Sometimes you could farm but the crops do not turn out well. That’s why I came to Accra to hustle a bit. So I could get some money and return.
What was the reaction of your mother when she heard you were coming to Accra?
If you dey come travel your mother she no go be happy because the place you dey travel go she no know what go happen. She go be happy only if you go wey you bring money.
Translation: If you travelling, your mother’s not going to be happy because she doesn’t know what’s going to hapen. She’ll only be happy if you go and come back with money.
What was your expectations before you came to Accra ?
My uncle dey Accra wey in name be Mr.Abu so I talk am say I dey come in der wey. I know say if I come I go get job do and I go keep money small small to build house for my mother.
Translation:My uncle is in Accra. His name is Mr. Abu. So I told him that I’m coming there. I know that if I come I’ll get a job and save and eventually build a house for my mom.
What work does your uncle do?
Khebab work wey in too dey do.
Why did you come to Accra?
I come to find job. There are jobs [in Bolgatanga] but not plenty like Accra.
Have you been duped before since you came to Accra?
Yes, at Circle around Odorner. I went to Circle to sell my phone wey some two guys be say dey go buy am but make we go ordorna make them take money give me. On our way the other guy run away plus my phone leavin me with the other guy wey the guy ask me say I dey want my life or phone. Looking at the guy ebi tall and stronger than me so I no talk wey I let him go, wey I shout, “Thief, thief!” no one mind me self.
Translation: I went to Circle to sell my phone and met two guys who said they wanted to buy it. They asked me to go to Odorna with them. On our way, one guy ran away with my phone leaving me with the other guy who asked, “Do you want your life or your phone?” Looking at the guy, he was stronger and taller than me so I let him go. After which I shouted, “Thief, thief!” but no one minded me.
Since you came to Accra what work have you been doing?
I’m a gardener. I dey do garden work. I dey do more jobs because am a hustler. I dey do here small then do here small. I dey do khebab job, I dey load goods for town and garden work.
You alone three jobs how do you combine them?
Hmmm… if I wake up early in the morning I go the garden side and close like 9am. I go the loading side I go work till 3pm and come the khebab side and I go close like 11 pm to 3 am midnight depending on the day. Because if you dey come hustle wey you no make wild you no go fit go back to your home town.
You said you have a brother in Bolga, how old is he?
Oh, ebi like 18 years. He dey school.
After school if he decides to come to Accra what will be your advice to him?
He come to Accra before. Dey vacate wey he too he come hustle small, he come do khebab work small so that if school open he go get small money to buy his books so that me too I go help am.
After school, if he say he dey come Accra come hustle what you go tell him?
Hmmm I go tell am say make he no come Accra but make he stay der wey me I go do what I go fit do to find money make e find job for der.
E go fit be teacher or doctor or something because we the work wey we dey work for Accra we no know book that be why we dey do that work.
Translation: So I’ll tell him not to come to Accra. He should stay in Bolga. I’ll find something to do to send him money so he could find a job in Bolga.
He could be teacher or doctor or something because the work I do is because I have not gone to school.
So your brother e dey Accra what work he dey do?
Oh, him e dey sew bags African wear.
Translation: He makes bags with African fabric.
Accra and Bolgatanga where would you prefer living?
Me I want go stay north but I no get money. If I get the money I go go stay north and I go do business and farm.
Why not stay and do business in Accra?
Accra here if we grow we can’t fit stay here if stay here we go suffer. Watch man self they no go take you so better to go Northern region.
Translation: It’s hard in Accra. You can’t even get a night guard’s job so it’s better to be in the North.
Which means you will not advise anybody to leave Bolga for Accra?
Ok, Accra if you tell somebody make e come and if e come wey e get job fine but if he come wey e no get job he go blame you so better you no advise anybody make he come Accra, because me my self I no get work dat be why I dey do 1,2 – 1,2 but if I get work I go fit make somebody come work some if you no get job wey you call somebody wey e come you then him go suffer. Now now Accra self the place wey you go sleep self be problem.
Translation: Ok, you can tell someone to come to Accra. But if he can’t find a job, he’ll blame you so better not to advise anybody to come to Accra. I couldn’t find a job that’s why I have to do many small jobs. But if I had a job, I can have someone join me. If I didn’t have a job, and someone came then he would suffer. And now Accra having a place to sleep is a problem.
For how long would you be staying in Accra?
Ok, if I get fifteen years in Accra I go dey because now the things I dey want I no get.
Does it it mean after fifteen years when you go back to Bolga you will not come to Accra again?
Oh, I go come back because am a Ghanaian so I no go say I no go come back , I go come.
Translation: I will come back to Accra because I’m Ghanaian. Thus, I won’t say I will not come back. I will return to Accra.