The metal door clanged shut with a thud. The atmosphere was the natural one. Torrential tears flooded eyes. The driver revved and honked hard, almost simultaneously, then the diesel air chamber squirted. Everybody around was just sad, extra sad.
But there stood that young girl, Jumoka, unperturbed. An 18 year old, jailed 25 years for dealing in narcotics. She smiled and sniffed mischievously; she picked and rubbed her nose almost in quick succession. She waved at the sad crowd when the gaol transit truck took off. Her parents were so shocked their daughter was happy going to jail at 18. She indeed said she was.
She completed JHS at a tender age, clocking aggregate 07, the best in her class. She was sent to the most prestigious school in Accra to read Science but she had a different mind. She wanted to read either Visual Arts or Home Economics. She said she wanted to exhibit her creativity by either becoming a fashion designer, a sculptor or an architect, but her parents would have none of that. No dressmaker in her home is wanted as an only daughter. Jumoka’s mother was the matron of the university hospital while her father was a reverend minster of the local church and doubles as the Head of Department for one of the Science disciplines in the university. Their first born child who happened to be a female must in fact go into the sciences.
Jumoka was registered as a Science student but she attended Visual Art classes. In the end, her termly reports from her Science classes got to her parents. She managed some above-average passes in Biology but learnt Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry with all the sinews within her.
When her WASSCE results came, the whole family was shocked to learn that Jumoka did not seat her Biology paper. She, when pestered, managed to produce a backdated report which said she was hospitalized during the paper. Case closed.
Jumoka was a footballer in her school. She was almost always seen in either Ramires or Rooney replica jerseys. Everything about her pointed to the fact that she should have been a boy. She was the boy in girls’ uniform, one who played with boys, argued with them, fought with them. She enjoyed the company of boys more than she did girls’. Her greatest pride was to play football with boys and to dribble the ball past three male defenders and a goalkeeper. This she did several times, staying on her feet even in the face of the hardest tackles. If the referee did not favour her, she was resolute to retaliate.
When her school thrashed another in a football match under her captainship, the match officials were shocked how she could score eleven goals in a single match. The cause for concern was not the cricket score but the gender of the most prolific scorer in the tournament. So she was taken to the washroom by an angry sports official who striped her naked only to realize that she was a girl. That was her school life.
Eventually, Jumoka was registered for a Biology remedial class officially, but she went ahead and registered for Visual Art electives. Secret number one.
While attending remedial classes, she perfected the art of swimming, painting and driving. It so happened that her parents returned home one evening looking for a daughter and a VW Jetta. Hours later, the 17 year old drove in, lurched the car into the yard, squelching and screeching hard. Then she, with dexterity, eased the car into the car park reversing. It was excellently parked. She got to the sitting room, threw a salute, dropped the car key and her driver’s licence,… and case closed.
Her remedial results came and she passed Biology with the top grade. Then she told her parents that she did Science to satisfy them. They must now satisfy her by allowing her to read Visual Arts specifically Architecture at KNUST. That was the day daughter and family fell apart. And that was the day her journey to jail began.
The more parents tried to let daughter see wisdom in studying Science, the more they alienated her. Eventually, she stopped going to church because she learnt that even God does not force man. So she left for the village.
At the village, she was the star in the local church choir because she was extremely good at all instruments. Finally, she settled with the drum set. Esther Awo Mensah was lost on her. Everybody now called her Jumoka. Jumoka was a star.
She went one evening to her usual bush-base: the palm wine tappers’ factory. She was busy blowing at the torch which was thrust into the little hole in the felled palm tree when she felt a tap on her left shoulder. She ignored the trouble seeker with closed eyes for two counts. The third drew her usual interjection: “Abi, you dey craze? You no see say I dey job?” Those words were going to the head pastor of the local Charismatic church where she fellowshipped. The pastor went there to catch her upon a tipoff.
Pastor led Jumoka to a stream nearby to baptize her at once but Jumoka had a different plan. As Pastor immersed his Daughter of Zion into the water, the girl just lay low and swam away after some time.
A search party contracted to search for her on the third unsuccessful day had to abort their plan because Jumoka was in a front page banner headline. She was caught trafficking bags of dried leaves later confirmed to be weed. Her parents and well-wishers tried hard but could not wrestle her from the jaws of the national anti-narcotics prosecutor, ACP Yakubu.
Reading the facts of the case, ACP Yakubu told the court presided over by Justice Delight Hope Anyam that Jumoka was hitch-hiking from a village near Lume Kpodoave to Ho, both in the Volta Region. Whilst they were approaching the Dzolo Gbogame -Matse barrier, the police on duty stopped the mummy truck with registration number QR 8986 A. Sensing danger, the driver and his mates absconded leaving Jumoka behind. Jumoka foolishly claimed the truckload of banana on board the vehicle belonged to her aunt but could not tell who owned the seven bags of dried weeds. She again failed to mention the name of the aunty who owned both the truck and the banana on board. She thought she was playing one of her pranks again, without envisaging any form of danger.
Jumoka did not want to prolong issues. She pleaded guilty much to the expectation of everyone and was thus convicted on her own plea. Later, she confessed that she did not know there were sacks under the banana bunches. Then she said she would learn dressmaking in jail, stressing that was a good opportunity.
So the gaol truck drove away. Jumoka blew a theatrical kiss to her parents saying: “Try me next time.” Her parents were disturbed. Their first daughter was jailed. Church, work, neighbourhood, friends…… everyone asked where their daughter was. They could not answer but the Daily Graphic blew their cover with another banner headline, with Jumoka’s picture beside it: “A Pastor’s Teenage Daughter Goes to Jail for Dealing in Narcotics!”