I couldn’t believe it. My passport was now lost in an African Administrative system. I went back to UST totally dejected. My struggle with Kumasi was near an end but I was being thwarted on my way out. I had four days left (a busy time with several demonstrations to give and final reports to write) and I had to try and get back my passport.
I went back the next day as bid. The place was an administrative unit for a lot of different ministries, and the immigration office was on the third floor. My driver parked next to a puddle and proceeded to busy himself with a cigarette. I walked up the three flights of steps, trying to look as bouncy and unconcerned as possible. I walked along, sure that they would hand over the passport. However, I was concerned that I hadn’t even got a receipt out of them. How had I been that stupid? I kept asking. I can never be sure why I didn’t get a receipt. I assumed when I handed over the passport that I would have had a small stamp put in the right page and that would be it. I never assumed they would have to take the passport away. Still, here I was, I had to leave for Accra in three days, they couldn’t possibly leave it another day?
“Come back tomorrow”, I was told. I said I was leaving in three days for Accra and really would like to have my passport back. “There is nothing I can do, the district commissioner is out of town and he has to sign the documents.”
“When will he be back”
“In four days time”
My heart raced “But I am leaving in three days. I cannot stay in Kumasi another day”(I didn’t say why I couldn’t stay).
“The commissioner has to sign the papers”
“Is there no-one who can sign the papers when he is out of town”
“Only the District Commissioner can sign the papers”
“What am I to do ?”
“Come back tomorrow”
“But will you be able to give me the passport tomorrow, if the district Commissioner is not back till Friday?”
“Come back tomorrow”
I passed a woman on the stairs in uniform. She was large and bored, but was very well presented in her green starched uniform. I asked her whether she could help. I said about my passport. She said she would have a word with the officer, and that I was to come back tomorrow.
I went and talked to Quashi Sam. I persuaded him that I needed his personal presence there. He was after all about six foot five and built like a small army tank. He was also a well respected member of Kumasi life, and I hoped he could give the necessary leverage.
I still felt ashamed that I couldn’t have dealt with this on my own, but glad that I hadn’t had to resort to “being British” and asking Nina to help out. I’m sure she would have laughed me off the face of the earth for not being able to deal with the Ghanaian system. Never mind. Quashi Sam and I drove down early next morning to the office and went upstairs. I let him do all the talking. He asked about my passport. The guard recognised me and knew my case inside out. The official was sitting in a near empty room behind a small desk. There was nothing on it apart from something looking like a budget sheet. The guy was so outsize for the desk that he looked faintly comical behind it. Of course I would never had said anything about it when my freedom from Ghana was at stake.
“I can’t release the papers and passport until the District Commissioner has seen everything.
“When is the District Commissioner coming back”
“In two days”
“But this guy leaves in two days, how does he know he can get his passport back”
“What can I do? The District Commissioner must see all the papers”
Quashi Sam started to use his influence and wile.
“My friend, this guy is here working on an important project for Kumasi” (I still wonder how true this is, and even how much QS thought this true) “and he is our guest. You know, if you help me now, we can have you up at UST soon.” I didn’t understand this at the time at all, but QS explained to me later that it was a fairly heavy threat. It was meant to show that he was being offered co-operation from the university, but if things didn’t happen they could make his life extremely uncomfortable. I also found out later that QS was using the most offensive, aggressive definition of the word friend that has ever been known to man, but this huge man did it with such subtly that I completely missed the point.
The man sat there thoughtfully for a second or two. He then reached to his left, opened the small drawer and slapped my passport on the table. He then reached inside it for a chitty which he made me sign for receipt. It was already stamped and the receipt was made out three days earlier.