Pablo Escobar is one of the most famous drug kingpins of all time. He is the subject of the critically acclaimed Netflix series Narcos, and as drug lords go, he amassed a staggering fortune for himself off the backs and misery of countless people. To fully understand the irony of the story about to be told, you must understand just how powerful and wealthy this man Escobar was. Pablo Escobar became the leader of the Medellín cartel, which was responsible for an estimated 80% of the global cocaine market. Estimates of his wealth run up as high as $420 million – a week. Yep.
His wealth is pegged at $30 billion, though it is hard to be sure because, well, drug money. But one thing we can be sure of is that Pablo Escobar was rolling in the deep.

A couple of years ago, on my way to Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Escobar asked me for some money. Let me explain how this happened. I was on my way to the aforementioned hospital, and I was waiting at Adum for a taxi to Bantama, when I was approached by this particularly scruffy looking fellow. At first I thought he might be a trotro mate but upon consideration, I decided maybe he wasn’t. I figured he just wanted money when he tried to draw my attention so I looked away, and tried to turn away. That’s when he said something that really
got my attention and made me do a double take. He said something like, “Oh Okatakyie, aden na merefere wo a ase wonnim me sei.” Old boys of Opoku Ware School are known as Akatakyie, and this guy was trying to tell me that he was trying to holler at a fellow Okatakyie but I wouldn’t give him the time of day. He got my attention.

Opoku Ware School Kumasi Gates and Compound

Did Escobar really walk through these gates?

For the next few minutes, this guy spun a yarn that held me almost spellbound. He said he was Escobar, my senior back in school, didn’t I remember him? He said he used to hang with Xzibit and some other names I didn’t quite get. With a slight affectation to his voice, he said he had lost his mom and had fallen on hard times subsequently. Escobar told a really sad story and Escobar’s story touched my heart. I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. But only after I had parted with a crisp GHC20 note and, at his annoying insistence, all the coins on me, did I discover the apparently obvious: Pablo Escobar did not attend Opoku Ware School.

A TWIST IN THE TALE

They say ignorance is bliss, and blissful would I have remained had I not discovered the truth, almost accidentally. When I finally got to KATH, I met a friend of mine there, and as we walked along I happened to mention in conversation that it turns out Escobar went to Opoku Ware School, had fallen on hard times, and it had fallen to me to bail him out. It was just one of those things, and we soon moved on to other topics. A few months later, I was in Accra for the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival when my friend called me. Then she asked me if I remembered the Escobar story I had told her. I was like, yes of course, one does not forget Escobar on a whim. Then the bombshell came. She told me something that had not crossed my mind till then. Pablo Escobar did not attend Opoku Ware School. Here’s how she knew apparently a colleague of hers at work had, like me, fallen prey to this charismatic charlatan and, again like me, happened to mention the incident. Another colleague of theirs at work then chimed in to inform him that the guy was a well-known trickster, and that was his M.O.

MODUS OPERANDI

He would play you and make you believe he was an old school mate of yours that you had somehow forgotten. When you think about it, it’s a brilliant scam. We all have people we used to know in school that we have absolutely forgotten. To make matters worse, there are even more people who knew you but were not known to you. So when someone meets you in town and tells you he’s your old school mate, you’ll probably believe him, no matter how scruffy he looks. And believe you me, this guy was scruffy. The ‘my mother passed away’ line was a particularly convincing one, tidily eliciting your compassion so that you’d give him more money eventually, while conveniently explaining how and why an old boy of an elite Ghanaian school would be wandering the streets of Adum looking all out of sorts. I don’t know how he decided on the name Escobar, but I have to admit it was a good choice. It’s just one of those nicknames that seem to be in every boy school, so it instantly sounds familiar. His story has many moving parts that fit together quite nicely.

HOW DOES HE DO IT?

If you’re perceptive, though, the question you’re probably asking yourself is, how did he know? How did he know that I went to OWASS? How does he know the school of any of his other victims? Because from what I hear, he has correctly identified the alma mater of other people who went to schools other than
Opoku Ware. This guy must be some kind of mentalist or parlour psychologist. I can only guess at his
method. Maybe everyday he picks one school to run with, and approaches his marks pretending to be
an old boy of the school he chose for the day. If the school is a popular one he is bound to have a good
success rate. That’s just my guess. He could have a much more sophisticated operation going on. He is, after all, the
great Escobar. And no, he did not attend Opoku Ware School in Kumasi, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. Consider yourself well informed.

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