CODE 233: Compound house, compounded troubles

Ghana Figure 3 File photo

Tue, 26 Mar 2019 Source: Joshua Ansah

Once upon a time (a really, really long time), electricity was an ‘overflowing’ commodity in this country (apparently we had so much of the stuff that we could even afford to export some of it); those were the heyday of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), long before it stopped covering itself in glory and ushered an entire nation into the gloom of the ‘Dumsor’ era.

The downward spiral has reached such embarrassing depths that ECG has now been taken over — more like saved — by private management, Power Distribution Services (PDS) Ghana Ltd. Thus far, with PDS the value of electricity supply (or lack thereof) has been the same – so opines a friend, anyway — and, while that’s hard to argue, I do digress a little.

See, these lighting problems alone can create some of the worst stress situations imaginable — trust me, I’m just recovering from one which I’ll soon tell you about — but it’s made even worse by another stress-inducing factor: the Ghanaian ‘compound house’ syndrome.

Charley, the stories you hear about compound houses will be enough to power a 10-season sitcom — and that wouldn’t be the half of it. In the compound house where I live – as in most others — tenants split electricity costs, and the latter-day introduction of prepaid meters demands we purchase electricity in turns. Now that hadn’t been a problem for us — until last Friday.

Around 2:00 am, we ran out of prepaid credit and the nightmare began. As is often the case, the ensuing darkness was followed almost immediately by searing heat — the kind that chases you out of your room as though it wielded red-hot pitchforks.

Still, ‘man no bore’.

I endured the heat till daybreak when I quickly visited the co-tenant who, in possession of the card, was also responsible for acquiring the next installment of electricity. But no — dude was nowhere to be found, his door locked. That was bad enough, but it wasn’t until a series of calls made to his phone failed to go through that I went into full panic mode.

Though thoroughly disappointed, I quickly prepared for work in the hope that, on my return in the evening, all will be sorted out. Boy, was I even more disappointed!

Another bout of heat and darkness struck that night and, by the next day, I was forced to find an unaffected neighbor’s place where I could ‘perch’ and charge my devices. Saturday evening concluded the 3-day, all-night heat-and-darkness service and, not unreasonably, Sunday morning had us all fuming — even typically cool me!

If looks could kill, my ‘guilty’ co-tenant would have dropped dead the very minute he returned to the house, his case worsened by a confession that the lights had gone off earlier on Thursday and he’d loaded up the scanty reserve but then forgot to purchase fresh stock before embarking on an unannounced weekend’s trip. Despite the anger, we were all relieved he had finally arrived to save us from our distress.

Ah, and to think we actually felt indebted to him for that!

Happy ending, right?

Well, not from the script PDS were reading from. Five minutes after lights were restored by my ‘neighborly Samaritan’, PDS decided they would be silly not to get in on the act and cast us right back into the pool of misery we’d just been rescued from.

So here I sit, ‘de-lighted’ and not delighted, pounding away my frustrations as I reel from the truly horrible Ghanaian weekend produced by the combined powers of the country’s two most stressful phenomena.


Columnist: Joshua Ansah