The Day I Was Nearly Murdered By Thugs

Tue, 28 Aug 2007 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

This is a true story, although the writer has chosen to employ pseudonyms in the article. A motivation for this piece has come from the dastardly attacks on Ghanaians by men of the underworld in recent times. The security agencies need to employ all of their resources to halt the activities of armed robbers before Ghana becomes a no-go region for would-be investors. If anyone has been through an incident ? inside or outside Ghana ? similar to the one described below, please share it in this forum. Not unlike his last article, published August 15, 2007, the writer has chosen yet another topic that he hopes will bring together all Ghanaians against a common nemesis ? crime.

September 11, 1989. The events of this day are etched in my memory as unambiguously as the epitaph over the tomb of a great man. It was the day I was nearly killed by a gang of carjackers.

There was nothing unusual about this warm and breezy Monday morning when I got out of bed at about five-thirty a.m., except that I had a plane to catch later that morning. I had been offered a scholarship to study in a unique college program in a sister African country. Although I was looking forward to the next chapter of my life, I was nervous and apprehensive because I was leaving my family ? and country of birth ? for the first time and did not know what to expect.

Kotoka International Airport was very busy as usual when I arrived, with passengers and cab drivers haggling over fares. Two cabbies could be heard screaming at each other with profanity of the worst kind, as one was upset with the other for “stealing” his passenger. Their bizarre behavior attracted little attention, however. We finally boarded Ghana Airways Flight GH420 at nine-thirty a.m. The aircraft was an older model Fokker 28. The journey was smooth the first twenty minutes, but became very frightening due to turbulence, perhaps a premonition of the events that would unfold later that day. Fortunately, however, we landed a few hours later in Capitalville, the capital city of this sister African nation.

I was met at the airport by two officials from a particular agency responsible for my welfare. While I was discussing further travel options with these officials, a middle-aged gentleman ? apparently eavesdropping, who later identified himself as Mr. Ogyakrom, a Ghanaian domiciled in that country ? informed me he was heading to the same city as I and would be happy to take me there. Relieved, I parted company with these officials; I was now on my own.

The bus left the terminal at two-thirty that afternoon for the seven-hour ride to Providenceville, my final destination. As we headed for the Central Highway leading out of Capitalville, I was impressed by the architectural designs of the very large office buildings that lined the streets of the city. Soon after, I fell asleep. I had missed a golden opportunity to see the countryside. A nudge by Mr. Ogyakrom several hours later awakened me. I stretched out my cramping legs. We were on the outskirts of Providenceville. We pulled into the terminal at about nine-thirty p.m. and then hailed a taxicab to Mr. Ogyakrom’s residence, which was in an affluent part of town. I soon found out that most government officials lived in that part of the city.

John, Mr. Ogyakrom’s housekeeper, was visibly elated to see his boss. Our suitcases were unloaded, a quick dinner served, and I was shown my room for the night. But before I could retire for the night, my host asked if I wanted to accompany him to the city right away. I wondered why but did not refuse the invitation. I would later find out in an agonizing fashion why he could not wait until the next day to go out!

We drove to town in Mr. Ogyakrom’s official car, arriving in what appeared to be a poor neighborhood. Mr. Ogyakrom, before I could ask him where he was going, quipped, “I’ll be right back, Daniel.” Obviously he intended to return quickly, since the engine of the car was still running when he left. Tired from the day’s journeys and already nostalgic, I pulled back my seat and closed my eyes. I missed my family and country already! No sooner had I shut my eyes than I heard a thump on the front passenger door. Thinking it was Mr. Ogyakrom, I hesitantly opened my eyes. It took a full fifteen seconds before I realized I was face to face with three strangers. I tried to stay calm. In the shadow, I observed that the men were unkempt and appeared to be inebriated.

It immediately dawned on me that they wanted the car, Mr. Ogyakrom’s official car! Two of the men quickly proceeded to the front passenger door, forced it open, and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. To quell any resistance from me, one of them brandished a large knife with a jagged edge and threatened to stab me if I raised an alarm. The glistening blade of the knife paralyzed me with fear; I could hear my heart pounding as though it would leap right out of my chest! They then threw me out of the car with such force and ferocity, I dislocated my right wrist trying to avoid slamming headlong into another parked car. Simultaneously, the third man opened the driver’s door and got in. With the engine already running, they drove off at such speed, the screeching noise from the tires would have been heard hundreds of yards away! Almost immediately, Mr. Ogyakrom appeared on the scene. Seeing me writhing in pain on the ground, he instantly knew what had happened. All he could do was wail, “This car belongs to the government. I am dead!”

We arrived at the city’s police headquarters shortly before midnight to file a report. After submitting separate incident reports, the corporal on duty instructed us to wait for his commanding officer. At that ungodly hour, I could not call the admissions officers on campus to inform them of my plight. I would have to wait until morning, if I survived the night at all. A harbinger of events that will soon follow, a second officer absurdly remarked, “You men from Ghana came to steal our government cars, right?” I was incensed but powerless to fight back.

The commanding officer finally arrived at two a.m., and immediately asked the officer on duty to throw us into the cell! I was traumatized! I threatened that the matter will go all the way to the highest levels of government ? his and mine ? but I was ignored. Temporarily seizing our belts, shoes, and shirts, the officer on duty escorted us into a filthy cell. I had never felt so much rage and humiliation in my life! My anger will, however, exacerbate shortly after one of the police officers secretly informed me that Mr. Ogyakrom was visiting his lover when the incident occurred. I was now very, very upset with Mr. Ogyakrom for putting me through such an ordeal. As far as I was concerned, this philanderer was the only one who had to be locked up in that malodorous cell!

We were led out of the cell about six hours later. Somehow, one of the police officers had called my school’s admissions office that Tuesday morning, and a tough-talking, gangly woman, with responsibility for foreign students, had come to personally fetch me. By now, I had gone without sleep for twenty-seven hours! The officer from campus expressed worry about our countries’ diplomatic relations and the likelihood of my spending several years in her country thinking her people were all malevolent. I told her I would be fine.

Three months after my ordeal, the stolen vehicle was found abandoned in another city, five hundred miles north of Providenceville. The police later sent me a written apology, after someone in authority had taken up the matter with them. As I would later hear from friends on campus in Providenceville, the brazen act of carjacking was usually not without violence in that country. I was fortunate my life was spared, they insisted. Perhaps, my escape was providential (I still thank God for showing me mercy) and I am alive today to share the experience with my readers.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, in addition to two undergraduate degrees, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. Please send your questions or comments to dpryce@gmu.edu.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.