Chicken country or what?

Chicken country or what?

Policemen and journalists have never been good bedfellows. Fact is that they’ve never trusted each other. Policemen have been accused of withholding information from journal­ists when they need them for their hot front-page stories. “Please, we are still investigating the case and cannot give you any information until it is com­pleted,” a police detective-inspector would tell a journalist who wants to hit the head- lines.

On the other hand, policemen also accuse journalists of allegedly misquot­ing them, such that when the police­man, for instance, tells the journalist that the thief stole a black goat with a beard, the journalist would add a little colour and write that the thief stole a goat with a moustache.

According to Detective-Sergeant Mensah, the thief was very athletic and smart. He scaled the wall and stole the black goat which had a thick mous­tache. It was not immediately known whether the moustache resembled that of Saddam Hussein or not”.

The point of controversy here is whether the policeman really men­tioned that the poor goat had mous­tache or a beard or both.

Anyhow, the journalist can defend himself. “It is impossible for any living thing to have a beard without a mous­tache. So, certainly the goat really did have a moustache that has never been trimmed, according to reliable sourc­es.”

I wonder what the marriage be­tween a policeman and a journalist would be. If the policeman snores too much, the angry journalist would threaten, “Tomorrow, I am going to do a feature on you for snoring dan­gerously at midnight without seeking permission from the Inspector General of Police (IGP). I’ll also ask the IGP to reduce the size of your nose, so that when you snore the room does not shake again”

And the policeman would counter, “I am going to lock you in the mon­key-house for sneezing like a stubborn goat. It is a breach of public peace and you’ll be prosecuted. See me at the charge office immediately you’ve finished preparing breakfast.”

This kind of marriage does not easily dissolve. On the contrary it lasts forever. They understand themselves, after all. If for anything at all, aren’t they in similar professions? The jour­nalist stays the night to get a piece of news into the following day’s paper. A policeman also patrols the night.

And aren’t both of them poorly paid? Both also have the same likes and dislikes. The journalist is permissive to gifts called ‘Soli’. Some policemen are also addicted to receiving gifts. I don’t know how they call theirs. In any case, blessed are those who receiveth but giveth not.

But who says the police do not give? In recent times, the police have become magnanimous, especially to journalists. It is surprising because they do not quite trust themselves.

For some years now, the police have, once in a year, invited journalists from the various press houses to wine and dine together. It is often like a wedding ceremony for two somewhat incompatible eligibles. Whether the police are the groom and journalists the bride is yet to be ascertained.

Such yearly get-together at the ex­pense of the police is very healthful to the relationship between the press and the police. The police have the oppor­tunity to discuss their problems with journalists and vice versa and each un­derstands the other to make for a good marriage. For better or for worse.

This year’s get-together took place last week Friday. The police were well-prepared but alas, it turned out to be a disaster.

The police hosted some journalists of New Times Corporation at Country Kitchen, a popular Accra restaurant. But tragically enough, Country Kitchen was a big disappointment.

The Police Public Relations Officer set the ball rolling: “Ladies and gentle­men we’ve invited you here today like we did last year to sit over lunch and get to know ourselves better. We will tell you our problems and you’ll tell us yours… We want the relationship be­tween us to be very cordial so that we can co-operate and rely on each other during the course of our duties…”

A waiter was supposed to be serving drinks to about fifteen policemen and journalists.

A whole Country Kitchen had only one waiter at the time. A smallish-look­ing chap, probably a recent JSS grad­uate, finely attired in white top and black trousers, looked a bit punkish and obviously over-worked.

He took our orders for drinks and it took almost an hour for some of us to get ours. When my Editor had his, I asked him whether there was only one waiter in such a well-known restaurant.

“I don’t know what is happening here,” he said. He was sipping his beer; he’d had his quite early and my throat was parched. I wanted to ask him whether I could pour a glassful of his beer and reimburse when mine came, but others were looking my way so I shut Police my beak.

Many of us were hanging on and the chatting continued. My editor spoke extensively on the ways the police and the press could work hand in hand.

Meanwhile, the drinks were not coming. Then the 3.00 pm waiter, sweating now gave me my beer, more than forty minutes after he took the orders. He now took orders for the food.

Earlier, the top policeman had an­nounced that everybody could choose any dish from the menu, irrespective of the cost. Quite generous of policemen, isn’t it?

It took more than an hour-and-a-half to get one of us a plate of fufu and light soup. Many ate rice and chicken with chips and salad, and practically everybody was starving before the meal came. The police boss was all the time apologising “Ladies and gentle­men, there is a little hitch, please bear with us.”

Of course, we had to bear with our hosts because they were policemen and not cooks. When after two hours my Editor had still not had his food, he asked whether this was Country Kitchen which advertises that you could just ring from anywhere and you’d be served immediately.

Someone commented rather ironically that they could serve you immediately you rang. However, when you come to their premises you’ll have to wait for more than two hours. That was COUNTRY KITCHEN with that same tired boy serving the food, no one to help him.

I looked at his face and reckoned that he himself was very hungry. Per­haps he’d taken only koko and bofrot in the morning. He was clearly tired, over-worked, over-exploited. Custom­ers were indeed getting impatient.

“We hold your foot sir,” my editor told the police boss. “What is actually happening?” “Please, bear with us.”

Yeah, it was a Friday and the editor wanted to go to the bank, otherwise the week-end would be wahalla for him. We had arrived and got seated at about 12.35 p.m. and he had to get to the bank latest 3:00 p.m. By 2.50 p.m. his order had still not come

He couldn’t tell his hosts to go to hell and that he was leaving. It would have spoiled the marriage and the hon­eymoon. So by 3.00 p.m., the editor had long completed his beer and was still waiting for the food while the bank doors were being locked.

I wonder how he survived the week-end. I will ask him. At last, everybody was served, me last. It took more than two hours to serve me just rice and mutton. I don’t know whether they now have to grow the rice at the restaurant before cooking it for the guests while they wait.

Yes, the food did come, but Harry Reynolds, a colleague of mine was shocked to see something in his. What! What he saw is unprintable. When you see him ask him. The food had to be replaced.

All through the meal, no water was served, not even ordinary water. After the meal, no water was served either. It was such an embarrassment to the Police. The proprietor, I must say is actually messing the place.

Some of us who couldn’t eat there required takeaways, and that took an extra hour to organise, with the same boy at it, almost out of breath now.

As we filed away from the place to board the bus back to our workplaces, the journalists looked into the eyes of the police and police looked back into our eyes wondering whether this indeed was the legendary Country Kitchen.

Probably it wasn’t but sure it was written there. I looked at the inscrip­tion and I thought I read COUNTRY KITCHEN. I began to feel dizzy. I read it again. I saw CHICKEN COUNTRY after all, but the letters kept changing

I asked Harry Reynolds. Is this Country Kitchen or Kitchen Country or Chicken Country? Or What? “Go and ask your friend Kwame Korkorti,” he said.

By Merari Alomele

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