About this writer
In the land of plains and low plateaus covered by rain forests in the west and Lake Volta in the east, Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, was thriving, thanks to its natural resources, including gold, bauxite, aluminum, timber, cocoa and oil.
It was July 1974. Brilliant sunshine and the refreshing sea breeze made the weather pleasantly warm. Workers hurried along the busy streets of Accra while tourists lay lazily on the beaches tanning their skin. Children run around merrily building sandcastles and playing on the canoes.
Kamil had been in the office since 6 am. As one of the country’s top barristers and an adviser to the president his workload had increased drastically, but he loved serving his motherland and carried on diligently. The long hours and assignments around the world at very short notice were irritating his wife, Araba. Even his daughter, Zhara, had started complaining that he was always working. He loved them dearly but he was passionate about his work and hoped to make it up to them.
At exactly 6 pm Kamil left the office and made his way home. It was much earlier than usual but he’d vowed to have dinner with his daughter while her mother was away on business, and he was determined to keep that promise.
Kamil was reading the Ghanaian Times when Zhara came down the spiral staircase. She looked adorable in a frilly white nightgown, with dark curly hair all over her cute little face. She’d left after dinner to finish her latest book, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and he assumed she had fallen asleep.
“Daddy, I forgot to give you this.” She handed him a letter.
He kissed her. “Good night princess, sweet dreams.”
She rubbed her sleepy eyes. “Good night, daddy.”
Kamil opened the letter, read it and decided to call Araba. It was 9:15 pm in Accra and around 4:15 pm in New York.
“Room 137, please” he said when the receptionist answered the phone.
“One moment, sir.”
“Hi darling, it’s so good to hear your voice.”
“Yes honey. I’m so glad you answered. I thought you might still be at the conference.”
“We wrapped up at 3 pm. Is everything OK?”
“Oh yes! Zhara has done it again. She has been promoted from Class 5 to Upper 6, but that is not all. She has been awarded a prize for gaining top marks in English Language, European and African History and English Literature.”
“Really! Is she there?”
“No honey, she’s gone to bed.”
“Aaaahhhh! How has she been?”
“Fine, but I can tell she is missing you.”
“I miss her too. When will she receive the prize?”
“Hold on, let me check. The prize-giving ceremony is on Friday. Can you make it?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We’re nearly done here. I’ll book the night flight home. I miss you so much.”
“Me too, my dear.”
“I love you.”
“I love you more!”
Kamil hung up the phone. He was delighted that Araba would be home in four days.
Kamil left home at 6:30 am on Thursday morning. He was in high spirits and couldn’t wait to pick up Araba from the airport that evening.
He had just returned to the office from the High Court when his assistant put the call through to him.
“Sir, the operator is on the line. You have a call from London.”
“I have your wife on the line.”
“Thank you. Put her through.”
“Hi honey, are you all right?”
“Can you believe it? The flight from New York was delayed by two hours and by the time I reached here it was too late to make the connecting flight to Accra. Damn!”
“It is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. When’s the next flight?”
“Tomorrow morning. But it means I will be stuck here for 24 hours when I could have been home with you. Most importantly, I will miss my baby’s prize-giving ceremony. Oh no!” she cried. “I really, really, really wanted to be there!”
“Don’t worry my dear, I’ll be here and she will understand that it could not be helped. Take a deep breath and hit the shops. I am sure the retail therapy will do you lots of good. We shall tell you all about the ceremony when we pick you up on Saturday. I miss you honey.”
“I miss you too, terribly.”
“See you soon.” He hung up the phone and stared blankly at the wall.
Kamil put the papers he’d been working on in his briefcase. It was just after six o’clock in the evening. He was about to shut the door behind him when he heard the phone. Wondering who might be calling, he turned around and went back in.
“Hello?” He said.
“Good evening sir.”
He recognized the high-pitched, authoritative voice instantly. It was none other than the president’s private secretary.
“Good evening, Winifred. How are you?” he said, hoping she would be quick.
“I am very well, sir. A United Nations delegation has just arrived from Geneva and all senior members of the cabinet are to attend a briefing with the President tomorrow morning at 8 am prompt. A meeting with the delegates is scheduled for 10 am at Osu Castle. This will be followed by a press conference at noon and lunch at the Ambassador Hotel. I hope you can make it.” It was an order, not a question. She paused for a response.
“Of course, Winifred, I will be there.”
He hung up the phone and hurried out of the building.
How could he be in two places at the same time, he thought. He could not afford to miss any of the meetings but then Zhara’s prize giving ceremony was equally important.
That night, after much tossing and turning, Kamil came up with a plan which he hoped would solve his dilemma.