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The world will probably never know the Bawku I have known: Oppong was a native of the Brong Ahafo Region who built the first one-storey block in the commercial heart of Bawku town in the late 1950s. The ground floor housed the then famous Oppong Store which sold everything from Horlicks and toiletries to condensed milk and Heinekens beer.

Heinekens came in wooden crates stuffed with factory straw to prevent breakage of the lager bottles. Dr. Nkrumah’s representative, the District Commissioner, was just the slightest bit close to an immortal. Bawku was enjoying its historic immediate post-independence economic boom, thanks to its location on the border.

First, it was we the Kusasis, the Mamprushies and small populations of Moshies and Busangas savouring the good times, then from nowhere, economic invaders came trooping in: Nigerians, Malians, Upper Voltarians (Burkinabes), Niger nationals, Ivorians and Togolese traders. For every native of Bawku, there appeared to be two or three Nigerians, invariably Yoruba.

Bawku was the transit point for a booming trade in cola nuts, salt, cattle and grain between Ghana and many Francophone countries. Caravans of donkeys came on treks lasting weeks to months from the Sahel region through Bawku to Ashanti to sell and buy commodities.

Later, trucks took over transporting livestock to Ghana and transporting commodities from Ghana’s forest industry through Bawku to their dry and land-locked part of the sub-region.

The cargo handling needs of this brisk trade spawned an army of lorry park workers and traditional freight forwarders at Bawku, called the Congo Station Boys.

The vicinity of the famous Congo Station used to echo with the choicest swear and curse words from the Hausa language. They were a hardy breed of heavily built young men with chests like petroleum drums and arms like baobab tree stumps.

As they loaded and offloaded cargo onto and from trucks, they engaged in fierce fist fights over cargo loading and unloading rights, their bodies glistening with sweat as they punched toe to toe in the hot sun.

The era also spawned a breed of well-to-do gangsters who made fairly large fortunes by the standards of the time, from smuggling along and across the borders at Sankasi, Bugri, Werekambo and Kognogo.

They were a law unto themselves, and went by names like Boy London, Django and Zingaro.  Zingaro made a pastime of beating up policemen and was frequently under arrest for assaulting The Law.

Alabaraka Cinema, the only cinema house in Bawku, screened mostly Wild West movies. The latter often starred Roy Rogers and John Wayne, and young people picked up from the movies, such strange words and expressions like “girarahee!” (get out of here!), “sanofabich” (son of a bitch), “mesuran” (mess around), “hanzzop!” (hands up!) etc.

Then the Kusasi-Mamprushe ethnic conflict picked up post-colonial venom  and steam and while desertification launched an attack on agriculture. Development became so stunted that visitors could hardly believe what great times we had had, and what hope for prosperity there had once been.

With the recent return of relative peace, calm and a conscious determination of the people to reunite, there are great hopes that the people are well on their way to restoring this great Ghanaian town to its past glory.