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How to enter Burma Camp without face masks

Mawuli Zogbenu1.jpeg Mawuli Zogbenu

Fri, 15 Jan 2021 Source: Mawuli Zogbenu

I read somewhere that ‘if you close your eyes to the truth, you would learn through accidents’. I hope that is not the kind of accidents anyone of us would want to find ourselves in as far as COVID-19 is concerned. Just wear your face masks and wash your hand with soap under running water. Is this too difficult to do?

It was one of the days in early January 2020. Oh sorry I mean 2021. Forgive me, you know around this time of the year, you are likely to still be writing January 15, 2020 instead of 2021. Though many of us want to quickly forget about year 2020, there were some advantages as well.

I got personally closer to my children as I had more time with them. Guest houses didn’t get my money again so I saved money. I was closer to my wife because there was no ‘alternative’ and so no more fake Friday all night services that didn’t exist. I reduced my attendance to funerals and weddings and parties and so saved money by not driving unnecessarily in town with its accompanying risks.

Ehern as I was saying we were entering Burma Camp in trotro from 37 station. Only 2 passengers wore face masks. As we branched off at Congo junction into Burma Camp, all of us the passengers saw some men in green green apparel standing at the gate in face masks.

The driver didn’t know whether to proceed or not so he slowed down. Apparently, he was a spare driver who was not used to the Burma Camp terrain where the ‘sons of men’ are.

Then the driver started searching for his face mask. Come and see the helter-skelter with which everyone started wearing their face masks which they pulled from their pockets. Others used handkerchiefs and polythene bags! The driver couldn’t find even a handkerchief or a polythene bag and so he used his dirty duster to cover his face looking very funny. For me, I personally removed my socks and tied it around my nose.

He drove closer to the soldiers thinking he had satisfied all righteousness with his improvised face mask. None of the soldiers laughed even though I was laughing in my stomach. Me? laugh before a soldier?

Hmmm! This COVID-19 thing er, lets fear it o. A friend who used to disregard almost all the safety protocols in respect of COVID-19 is currently battling with the condition. He made mockery of the virus until one evening when he started feeling some way. The thing became severer. He explained to me how the feeling was, for him.

According to him, the feeling was like that feeling when during a keep-fit exercise, the instructor asks you to breathe innnnnn….ooouuuut! innnnnn----ouuutttt! At some point, the instructor asks you to breathe innnnnn and you keep breathing in and expecting him or her to ask you to breathe out and he is not saying anything in spite of the discomfort. Ehern that is how it was for him and at some point he said he wished he should just die and go. ‘COVID is serious o, my brother!’, was his final warning to me on phone.

Worse of all he’d had to isolate himself from his wife and kids. Those of us joking with it and reluctantly wear the mask as if we are doing someone else a favour….yooo!

‘Comrades Ahooo’… and the response: ‘Ahoyaaaa’ tells you the zone in which you are. Not a place to joke with oo! If you like try entering Burma Camp without face masks.

How I loved and still love the green uniform with black beret to match. You remember my experience? Being a Soldier had been my childhood dream and I wasted no time to join the school’s cadet corps. I wanted to join soldier so that my cousins would fear me.

I told you before that after school I got the opportunity to be enlisted after undergoing series of processes including medical examination and started training. In fact at the Military Academy, all I wanted was the green green uniform and camouflage. The one which has now become a fashion for some pastors when they want to attack the devil face to face.

Anything short of the green green, I won’t accept. They said Navy and Air Force were also available but I wanted to be a ‘green soldier’. In fact, I got to know later that they were all the same except that they operate at different environments – Navy for sea, Air Force (‘witches and wizards’ who fly) and the green green for the ground pipos.

I was so excited about the way people would be saluting me and how KK, that girl who denied me the ‘something’ before would start fearing me and give in. I loved to see the mowag, peace-goer vehicles but strangely I never liked seeing guns; neither did I like the sight of blood. I didn’t know why but being a soldier was what mattered to me.

The first day of reporting was the beginning of the rapture. Nothing like welcome address. Everything was hei, hei, hei, kla kla kla, grim, grim, grim, run, run, run, double, double! I started feeling dizzy! Ei, soldier, e be so e dey?

My muscles begun to give signs of being at the wrong place. I was to eat everything hot within seconds. One could simply not have access to panadol extra to ease muscle pains.

For the where? ‘Oh, why was it that nobody told me about all of this ‘trouble?’, I bemoaned. You are permitted to sleep just like 20 minutes out of 24 hours! Sometimes in the middle of the night, you are asked to come and sing Methodist hymns!

I said well, I can manage till we got over so I can become a military officer too.

After 4 days of training, during one of the dawn training sessions, I stealthily went into the bush and succeeded in getting on board a trotro heading for home.

Sadly, for me, one of the physical instructors was also on board the trotro. This ‘devil’ of an instructor immediately picked me up and prayed over me as if he didn’t know why I had to run away. Casting demons, I pleaded with him to let me go with the excuse that I said I wanted it but now I don’t want it again.

Haba why, Na by force? ‘No pain, no gain were his words’ but none of these made me change my mind.

I got the impression entering the Armed Forces is like joining a cult – no turning back oo. Kai!

My conduct was reported to the Academy’s high-ranking officials. That was the beginning of my woes. Every drill that my colleagues were subjected to, I did four times that for my punishment.

So at this stage, it was clear I was no longer a ‘human being’ but something else. I asked some of my colleagues if they had no regrets and everybody did have one regret or the other apart from one lady from Legon Medical School. She could carry logs and run with them as though carrying exercise books. Ei. But for me, I didn’t think I belonged there. Kai! Wey kan job be this!

I started misbehaving deliberately so they could sack me. Unfortunately for me, these ‘hard-hearted’ training instructors got excited by my bad behaviour and were not perturbed at all.

Where from this wahala I put on myself to become a soldier at all! I kept asking myself.

It got to a point they gave up on me, somehow. Their reason was that there was no way I could become a soldier and kill even a fly. I was ‘afraid man’ first class! In fact it got to a point where I have only two options left either to die in the heat of training or run away.

Fortunately, my good friend Ahmed, who encouraged me to join also came to me crying maaaamaa like a kid at this stage. Why? ‘Soldier is not for me’, he lamented. Together we devised a plan to get ourselves injured. I got a sprained ankle that would never heal. I was happy I was excused.

Ahmed feigned epilepsy and was withdrawn even though medical examinations proved otherwise because he believed it was spiritual!

What kind of work is this – everything hei hei, hei! Too hard! But one thing still remains with me as part of the discipline from the few days of military training – TIME CONSCIOUSNESS; you can’t spend a night at the military training school and still lose this! Who born dawg! May his soul rest in peace!

Me, join Army again? Maybe Salvation Army…some day!

Today is January 24th, 2021 and the ‘endurance march’ continues to January 60th! I wish you happy ‘school fees festival’ next week. May I please have your permission to fall out Sa! Yesa!

Remember COVID-19 is deadly! Wear your masks! Ahua!

Columnist: Mawuli Zogbenu
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