The Ghanaian chief driving a taxi in America who got everyone talking

January 08, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

January 08, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Isaac Osei is a chief in Ghana and owns a taxi company in Manhattan, New York City

When Isaac Osei’s story grabbed headlines about six years ago, it reignited talks on how many immigrants in New York lead double lives.

Despite fears of consequences on mental health, most immigrants who move abroad in hopes of a better life find themselves washing bathrooms, scrubbing the sinks and toilets even though many are well respected or leaders back home.

Osei’s double life began in 2006 after his brother died and he had to inherit the throne.

Known as Nana Gyensare V, Osei is a chief of the Akwamu people, who oversees the residents of five towns across the Eastern Region, settling family and property disputes.

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Isaac Osei is a chief in Ghana

But in America, the taxi driver owns a taxi company in Manhattan, New York City and he has to move back and forth between Ghana and New York to be able to do his duties as chief.

“I prefer to be in Ghana, people come to me and treat me with respect.

“When I’m here in New York, it’s a different thing. No one knows me,” Osei said.

One of 19 children, Osei had moved to New York in 1977 to make a better living for himself. He began driving a taxi and soon bought a medallion in 1982.

The taxi driver later got married, had two children and opened a restaurant in Harlem, but things didn’t turn out as he expected, and he soon got into a financial mess while divorced.

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Osei became a taxi driver in the 1980s. Photo: New York Times

His second wife, Elizabeth Otolizz, whom he met when she came over to his restaurant to eat in the late 1980s, would later save him from his financial troubles.

Having moved to New York in 1986, Otolizz was a home health nurse, a newspaper deliverywoman and a taxi driver when she met Osei.

“We first met at the restaurant he owned in Harlem. He asked me out but I told him I wasn’t interested at first!

“Every time I saw his cab at the airport, we would talk and became friends.

“Eventually I gave in, and I feel very privileged to be married to him,” she said.

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Osei and his wife. Photo: Daily Mail

The two have since built a taxi fleet called Napasei Taxi Management Corporation and the couple usually travel from their home in New Jersey to manage the number of taxis dispatched all over New York City, according to the Daily Mail.

As the New York Times reported, Osei’s wife is the president of the taxi empire while he is the vice president.

On a normal day, they prepare for the next hours “of fighting parking tickets, getting taxis inspected and helping drivers who came in to pick up their cash,” the New York Times report added.

But in Ghana, their roles change as the man becomes the boss.

Man of many talents: As chief of the Akwamu people, Mr Osei oversees five towns in Ghana - settling family and property disputes and acting as a judge.
In Ghana, Osei moves with crowds of people following him everywhere. Photo: Daily Mail

Donning a delicate gold crown and seated on a throne, he adjudicates cases out of his 10-room palace and usually steps out with a crowd.

“I didn’t want it from the beginning because I know it’s going to complicate our lives. We love it anyway.

“It’s a privilege -knowing you are helping a soul means the world,” said Osei’s wife.

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