His best friend was an Ewe. My paternal uncle, like myself, was a Fante but he had come to love this friend of his like his blood brother. To him, he was that friend he never had. He spoke so highly of him. We knew him as Uncle Edem. He had stuck closer to our uncle more than even his brothers; from their secondary school days right through to university.
All was well with our uncle and his inseparable friend until the unthinkable happened— Uncle Edem bolted with the profit of a business dealing. We knew they shared a lot in common but didn’t know they had a business together. It seemed this profit was the biggest the business had ever realized since its inception.
Initially, it seemed like a dream. My uncle thought his friend with whom he shared everything was only playing a prank on him. Even though Uncle Edem had packed out of his residence around the same time the incident occurred, he thought his Ewe friend was too honest to actually think of absconding with what wasn’t his.
Indeed, Uncle Edem did the unthinkable. As the days went by, it was no more a joke. His phone was not reachable. His brothers did not know his whereabouts. They combed his village and never found him. They searched everywhere he could probably go hiding but all was in vain. Uncle Edem was gone with all the money!
My uncle was shattered. He fell ill from his brokenheartedness. The trust he had for a friend had been crushed into pieces. He recuperated from his illness after a while but thereafter, his perception about life changed. His views about people began to be defined by the experiences of his past— especially the bad ones. That was when he arrived at his damning philosophy— all Ewes were demons!
Our uncle will sit us down and advise us passionately about how wicked Ewes were. He will use his experience to explain to us how ungrateful they were and how we should never dare to make friends of such. He corroborated his experience with those of others he had heard of— how Ewes had mistreated their benefactors and even bewitched them to steal what didn’t belong to them.
We all thought his pieces of advice were a morsel of joke until he stood vehemently against the marriage of a distant cousin to an Ewe. He swore to never make it happen as long as he was alive. Fortunately or unfortunately, he was still alive… and the planned marriage died.
The next time, one of his sisters who had been single for God knows how long was about to get married, too. This uncle started waging his war against Ewes again. This time, he had been able to convert others into his religion of hate and they were convinced as well that Ewes were demons. Some had even recounted how some Ewes they knew had used voodoo to kill their own blood. It sounded quite convincing that it was better this aunt of ours remained single than get married to a man who had been condemned even before standing trial.
Not too long after, our anti-Ewe uncle embarked on a trip for one of his usual businesses. We had a call that he had been rushed to the hospital. He was one of the few who survived after their bus was involved in a fatal accident.
On reaching there, the nurses narrated to us how he would have lost his life if they had brought him in late. He asked us to thank a young man who brought them. He had called on an ambulance and made sure he came to the hospital with them. As though that was not enough, he had helped to donate blood to our uncle who needed it badly because he had lost so much of it after the accident.
We were absolutely delighted about the turn of events. We thanked this angel of a young man so profusely. We were sad that our uncle had been involved in such an incident but, on the flip side, we were shocked such human angels still existed.
Our uncle regained consciousness a few minutes after 12noon. The doctor came in to tell us. We had arrived at 10am. All this while, we had not bothered to ask our angel his name. We fretted about the state of our uncle while he sat in a somber mood on a slab outside the OPD (outpatients department) with a bag at his back.
He walked into the ward with us. When he noticed our uncle was fully awake now, he handed over the bag at his back to us. It was our uncle’s bag of money for his business trip. We were lost for words. We gaped, “What did you say your name was again!?”
“My name is Edem. I am an Ewe,” he whispered and left. Our heads gradually tilted towards our uncle as he cringed in pain. It was not pain from his wounds. It was regret for a needless war he had waged against a tribe for what just one of them did to him. And… that is how he renamed himself Edem to signify his renewal of heart.
Until today, one lesson that has been etched on the depths of our hearts is that it is unfair to mistreat a people because one of them mistreated you. One may have been your demon but another may be your angel. Our perception about life should be defined by the content of people’s character, not their tribe.
People do what they do not because of where they come from but because of who they are. If people do right, it is because of their character, not tribe. When they do wrong, blame their character, not tribe. Life must be looked at beyond tribes, races and other labels.
When people from a particular tribe do you wrong, remember those from that same tribe who did you right. When you remember the demons from a tribe, don’t forget the angels. If one person from a tribe does you wrong, don’t blacklist everyone from that tribe. Everybody shouldn’t pay for the sins one person committed.
Those who hurt you may have the same name as those who will help you. Be measured in how you treat people. Your helper may come from among the same people who hurt you!
By Kobina Ansah
The writer is a Ghanaian playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications (www.scribecommltd.com), an Accra-based writing firm. Connect with him via firstname.lastname@example.org.