Five Questions with Kofi A. Amoako:
1. When were you last in Accra? Have you found the traffic to be getting better or worse with each visit?
I was in Accra last October, and also the summer before that. I think the intensity of Accra traffic doesn't allow much room for comparison - it was simply terrible both times. But major road constructions at the time had a lot to do with it. I'm told that the construction is speeding up so I'm hoping this translates into decreased traffic.
2. Do you have any particularly harrowing experiences with "heavy footed" drivers? Was this poem inspired by one of those experiences, or was it an amalgamation of many experiences?
After work one evening when there were no trotros available, I got into a taxi with a couple of people because it was getting late. The driver said he needed to get back to the station before a certain time, however the traffic was bumper to bumper. This driver did the unthinkable thing of driving on the opposite side of the road at top speed. All he said was "you said you were in a hurry so this is no time to be afraid". I thought that was going to be my death day.
This incident stands out for me but Accra is notorious for heavy footed drivers and horrible road safety precautions.
3. Do you think of some of Ghana's leaders as sometimes having a "heavy right foot", pushing the country in a certain direction too quickly or dangerously? Are there areas of Ghana's development that you think could use a "lighter foot"?
I'd say that any heavy footed push in certain directions is usually a result of neglect on the part of previous administrations. Also, politics has become such that government is working in the interest of the 4 year election cycle instead of the long term. So we hope, for instance, that the dance with China is a well-calculated one or even that the oil wealth is a well-measured blessing. If anything, the concern lies in the light-footed approach to some key areas of the nation's development. For example, primary education, health, security and sanitation issues, the urban explosion, infrastructural deficiencies, and so forth are all in need of heavy footing.
4. You recently contributed a poem to our series of memorial poems for John Atta Mills. How did his death affect you? How was the news of his death received in Toronto's Ghanaian community?
The President's passing was a hurtful one because I felt a connection with and admired his temperament. I was curious about the transition process but that went about smoothly enough. I believe that many within the Ghanaian community in Toronto had similar curiosities as I did. His passing was certainly shocking and if nothing else, it got people interested in Ghana's affairs again.
5. How is your writing coming these days? Can we look forward to more poems of yours coming down the pipe in the near future?
The writing is moving along well. I find myself making time to write, which is important. Definitely, I look forward to sharing more.