There’s no need to ask you. I know that you did not read the story, the story of how a woman in Kokomlemle, Ghana, feigned madness in order to avoid paying taxi fare. It happened last Wednesday.
The taxi driver had, on agreed sum, dropped the woman at her destination. On getting there, she reportedly borrowed some money from a neighbour, to pay the driver. But rather than do so, she suddenly had a brainwave and started behaving strangely like a mad person.
Trust Africans, you can never beat them in this kind of game. The curious driver got mad and brought out a cane from his car to deal with the spirit that supposedly afflicted the woman with strange madness, right before his eyes! But for the quick intervention of bystanders who witnessed the scene, another story would have developed from that incident.
From whichever angle you look at the matter, it is a good strategy to adopt in this country, isn’t it? So? It is time we all started to act mad, to behave like a madman or woman. In fact, right from this moment, I am going to start acting like a madman. That’s the only way to survive in this country now, people!
You go to the ATM point to withdraw some money and meet a large crowd of people you never imagined would be there, all standing on the queue and waiting for their turns, what do you do? You become a madman or woman immediately, depending on your sex. First, you let out a loud cry as if somebody had suddenly hit you on the head.
Then you fold your fingers and try to engage the imaginary enemy in a fisticuff. You box the air around the queue, once, twice, thrice, then step back as if you are trying to dodge an imaginary blow about to land on your head or cheek. Next, you bend a little to deliver an uppercut on the imaginary foe. Never mind if the blow eventually ends up landing on the body of someone waiting for his or her turn on the queue. Remember, you are fighting the battle of your life.
As the fellow you hit gets angry and tries to come after you, you let out a louder cry of pain as you leave him or her and continue to pursue and box the phantom of an enemy. You will discover that at this point, some people on the queue, especially women, would begin to beg on your behalf, telling the fellow that you seem not to be well upstairs. And, for that, he or she should leave you alone. At this point, let out another cry, in a seemingly apparent confirmation of their words or statement.
But, please, don’t give up hope at this stage. Still, continue with your boxing abracadabra, but make sure you move towards the front while exchanging blows with your unseen enemy. You would see that at this point, the queue would scatter; even those who are already at the dispensing point could leave their ATM cards and money at the place and run for their lives. Still continue with your shadow-boxing until you get to the machine. Then deliver one or two punches in the air before letting out another cry. Having done so, it is time to slot in your ATM card in one of the abandoned money dispensing machines.
Having perfected the art, next you move to any voters’ registration point nearest to you. Warning: you need to be careful here because both the registration officers and people waiting on the queue are likely to become irritable from the effect of the baking sun blazing away in the sky above them. So, the idea of just coming from nowhere and pretending to be mad in order to displace people is likely not going to work. What do you do? You change style or strategy.
My advice: stay a while longer on the queue before starting your abracadabra. But as you do, start with shaking as if you are suffering from convulsion. That will be the first indication to people around you that something is wrong somewhere. As you do so, break away from the queue and move towards the front, still shaking, this time more vigorously as if you are suffering from serious cold. But the moment you get to the registration point, you will, definitely, need a change of strategy. So? You move to the left as if you are about to fall, next to the right and back to the centre, still shaking. Then you move forward, hover a little as if you are about to faint, gesture to the officials that you need water, before falling headlong on the papers they are working with. I bet, after attending to your thirst/water need, and, apparently reviving you, you will be next person to be attended to. Nobody needs to argue this one.
From there, you move to the market. But don’t go there, well-dressed before starting your madness fit; otherwise a lot of people are going to see you as fake. Before you go, make sure you kit yourself in rags. Then carry basket full of rotten tomatoes and sachet water. Depending on what part of the market you want to raid – garri, rice, yam, plantain, fruits and vegetables departments/section, you will need to begin to manifest evidence of madness before you get to the place.
Pick some of the rotten tomatoes and throw into the air. Next, you open some of the water and pour it on yourself. Then, you put some in your mouth and spew it out and use it to scatter the market. As traders run helter-skelter, you head to the area where you want to pillage. Who said you can’t get some things done for you in life, even for free, in this country by pretending to be mad? The inscription on a plaque in one of the newspaper newsrooms reads: “you don’t have to be mad in order to work here but it will help a lot if you are.” Similarly, you don’t have to be mad to survive in this country. But it will help a great deal if you are. So? I say, be mad, for once. Or, better still, pretend to be!