Walking with Akora (1977) Peter Azu...
The theme was ARISE AND BUILD, which for a health walk was a little puzzling. Yet it became a little clearer when my alarm went off at 0430hrs on AU Holiday and I got myself ready to go for a walk around the Achimota Campus, bringing back memories of the bell for morning trotting from the better part of half a century ago. There I was, after a short drive, at the offices of the OAA Secretariat at 0520hrs to see there was already activity taking place and the Shop open for last minute purchases. As we made our way to the Ad block I heard the famous Cadbury House bell (it was always the loudest bell with its unique baritone) and it raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Walking past Lugard House, Livingstone House and the Cadet Square, as dawn broke, was nostalgic and reminded me of what a privilege and an honour it was to be associated with such a great institution.
I got to the Ad Block with 10 minutes to spare and was met by a gathering of students chosen to lead the Walk, getting into formation. I took the opportunity to walk along the corridor where the school bell resided many years ago expecting at any moment to see Mr. Roberts peering at me through the window in those minus 10.00 powered spectacles. I was certainly relieved not to be in the position of being marched to Peter’s office for the wafting of his willow on my behind. Then I saw a sight that made me chuckle, the Artico board was still alive and kicking!
As I joined the Akoras standing in their various year groups, I felt the same sense of pride and determination to give something back, despite having dreaded such early morning activities when we were required to do so as students. Who could compel these accomplished old students to get out of bed and set off on a health walk without fear of sanction? It was the sense of duty that our alma mater had instilled in us which still shone through as we gathered for this symbolic walk before dawn had fully broken. Arise was the call Achimota sent out. It was captured in the gamut of emotions I had felt even before I had stepped out in anger as I reminisced through my student days where I had been compelled to follow school rules through fear of sanction, the walk down the assistant headmaster’s corridor, the empty board that had housed the one school rule that said it all -“Every breach of common-sense is a breach of school rules”, the Artico board meant to sanction those who had not striven enough to achieve the high standards set academically. The realisation dawned on me that through this process of teaching us to obey rules or face sanctions, when the call came so many years later, there was no fear of sanctions, just a sense of pride in doing something for this Grey City. Arise! Yes Indeed.
THE HEALTH WALK
The Walk commenced as commanded by tradition by a short prayer at 0620hrs followed immediately by some music being blared out from huge speakers to set the tone and everyone following the students’ lead. We headed down Fraser Avenue taking the left past Aggrey Chapel to meet a cacophony of “Way Slé” from the current cohorts of that famous girls’ House. We turned right at Slessor junction and navigated a fallen tree, perhaps planted in the early years of the School, but definitely a fully grown tree in the 70s. Making our way down past the Kingsley intersection then to the Post Office junction where the procession led us past the Maintenance Yard (I have a prize for anyone who can tell me which Ghanaian language has a word for maintenance) and the Swimming Pool and through “those gates”. On the way down to the Police Station we were given the first indication of what we could expect with the wall lining the side of the avenue next to Achimota preparatory school. We swung right onto what used to be Palm Avenue walking past the Western intersection and past the Old Hospital Road, now overgrown and past buildings and lands on our left that stood there mocking us as I remembered the school farm just beyond the Golf course. It just didn’t seem right.
As we made our way towards GIMPA, just a few yards past the Golf Course was where the ceremonial sod cutting took place, and blocks laid on a commemorative wall. There we paused to catch our breath and listen to brief speeches by the Achimota School Board Chairman, Sir Round (Akora Osei Kwame Agyeman) and the Headmistress, Akora Mrs. Beatrice Adom; this was followed by a rendition of the School Song. I marvelled at the manual dexterity in handling a mortar board and trowel as the few ceremonial blocks were laid. It was a brief ceremony but the defiance shown, especially when the rendition of Gambaga to Accra reached fever pitch gave the impression that we really meant business. We learnt that the road was to be extended into a four lane highway which would impact the positioning of the border, but we were going ahead nevertheless as we aimed to stop the encroachers in their underhanded approach to steal from us. We also learnt of the generosity of Akora Oko Nikoi Dzani’s GH¢100K donation towards our endeavours with a pledge to give more. It was indeed a poignant moment in the history of the school that had spawned heads of states and had fulfilled the original objectives of our founding fathers to produce the leaders in our society as we stood in symbolic defiance against the land encroachment. The subtlety of the build in my mind’s eye was in learning what this task was going to cost and making sure that wherever we were, Diasporans or local Akoras we had to do our bit. We had started the build and in doing so had thrown the gauntlet to all Akoras to dig deep to enable us to complete this task. We owe it to ourselves to protect our school lands from more encroachment and as such provide our share of the finance required to complete the wall.
The need for finance spawned the 90@90 campaign, brilliant in its simplicity. In our 90th year, if every Akora gave the equivalent of 90 in whatever currency they earned their income from whether GH¢, Dollars Pounds sterling or Euros (no Zimbabwean Dollars, Lira or Naira), we would be a long way to achieving the amount of $1Mrequired to complete the wall. The Build has started so let’s pull out our cash, chequebooks and dump apathy and procrastination in the bin.
Akora! Achimota School Needs You!
As I walked through Anumle for only the second time in my life, with my breath back and the music hotting up a few moves were on display as we bopped to the rhythm. I spent seven years in Achimota and yet I had only been to Anumle, once in that time? I’ll save the story of my Anumle visit for another time, but suffice it to say I was definitely aware of the northern perimeter that was out of bounds for students in my time. One sad memory was the fact that the Bus from Anumle to Opera Square doesn’t run anymore. Suffice it to say, many a passenger was a student escapee going to watch the 12.00 O’clock showing of Wang Yu and Bruce Lee films. As we passed the dining hall with Mr Affort in tow on his gleaming new bicycle, it took me back to my days in the 70s as he whizzed about the school on his bicycle, riding and negotiating all the bends at speeds akin to Tour de France speeds in my youthful eyes. As we passed McCarthy House, we noted that the old woodwork shop behind that house was no more, much to his chagrin.
So we were at the end of the walk ready to be entertained and fed. The food on display was plentiful, with cold drinks to quench our thirst. The party atmosphere was matched by the sense of relief by some who found the 6k+ walk an ordeal. The waakye, kenkey and yam fries were well received by all and sundry as breakfast/brunch was enjoyed by all.
After all of us were fed Akora Neil Mortagbe took over and entertained us with his special brand of wit and discourse as an MC. The trophy for Oldest Participant went to Akora Dr Lucy Pobee of the 1952 Year Group, who did not walk but was there to support. After keeping us in suspense the trophy was presented not to the “largest contingent” but to 1976 Year Group which had made the largest contribution to the Wall Fund. Their closest challengers were 1989 and 1994 but our MC used his editorial privilege to honour the 76 year group.
I was thoroughly entertained by the experience and would like to extend my appreciation to the 90th Organising committee for the wonderful work they’ve been doing to ensure the success of the Achimota at 90 celebrations. We are almost halfway through the year and the best is yet to come so let’s all heed the “siren call” of our Alma Mater and do our bit in our own small/big way to help us achieve all the goals we set out to achieve by the end of the celebrations.