Review of Nana Awere Damoah’s Sebitically Speaking

BY SETH J. BOKPE

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Prof H Kwasi Prempeh launching the book

When I received a call from Nana Awere Damoah on a hot sunny afternoon in August about having a free copy of his latest book (a biennial ritual), little did I know I will be reviewing what my colleague Samuel Obour described as a literary tigernut today. But fact is, Nana’s latest masterpiece is more than a dry nut that leaves chaff in your mouth after chewing it.

No, Nana is more than that. Rather, Nana Damoah is a three-star chef with no kitchen, plate or cutlery, but he serves menus on your literary table with the expertise of a waiter and the experience of a story teller.
In his latest book, Sebitically Speaking, Nana seats you at the dining table and gives you morsels of meaty, dramatic tales spiced with humour, sharp memory, sarcasm and a compendium of proverbs and inspiration.

Sebitically Speaking is a 26-course meal with a dessert at the end. Each chapter is so delicious that you forget your dietary advice not to over indulge.

Each chapter of the 200-page book opens with well garnished platitudes, greetings and proverbs in the name of Wofa Kapokyikyi, Nana’s uncle—a friend of the bottle— who speaks his mind damn the consequences.

In person, Nana is a very diplomatic person but in Sebitically Speaking he wears the aprons of Wofa Kapokykyi and his doses of sarcasm on issues of national importance may taste bitter to those the cap fit but are healthy for a nation crippled with little sense of planning, pregnant with failed promises and held down by hopelessness.

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Seth Bokpe reviewing the book at the launch

The author superbly did the job of a good diplomat who tells you to go to hell and you look forward to it—the title of the book says it all.

In chapter one, Nana introduces you to one of his many mentors, Wofa Kapokyikyi. He questions our fallback excuse that Rome was not built in a day. He concludes that although Ghana will not be built in a day, it was built, and we all have our civic responsibility to ensure it happens.

He sends us to Brazil in Chapter two to provide an adequate coverage of our day of shame and with the patience of a jealous woman, you find that one thing led to another that led to another and eventually culminates in our collective moment of shame—flying of $4 million to Brazil. Forget the fact that there were committees that sat to drink tea and planned this monumental failure.

Motorway or narrow way? By the time you finish reading the metaphor of Tema Motorway and Saga of Sikaman, you will be left cringing with anger and frustration. Nana drives you on the motorway and walks you down memory lane, taking you as far as Nkrumah’s vision for a road that is now nothing more than a patched busy street clothed in darkness at night. The author also puts his engineering acumen at work, suggesting how to fix the patches.

Each year, with depressing consistency, project deadlines are rescheduled.—a rather sad reflection of the proverbial Ghana man time. In Deadline on Wheels the issue of time management takes the attention of the writer and in the end, he concludes “days should be counted as days, and no, no Ghana metric time”—the meaning of Ghana metric time will intrigue you. Biting (off) what you can chew and messing it up, reveals the author as a Catholic who loves cat meat—a theme he cleverly links with how successive governments have notoriety for starting projects with no end in sight.

Who said a law without enforcement is just an advice? And what has that got to do with the sad state of waste management in Accra? You will find the answers in chapter six.

Nana’s narrative is made more concrete with his authoritative sources – from such notable names as his good old father Bombay, CNN multiple award-winner, Kofi Akpabli; President of the Ghana Writers Association, Mr Kwesi Gyan-Apenteng; Managing Director of Unilever, Nigeria, Mr Yaw Nsarkoh; multiple award GJA winner, Manaseh Azure Awuni, playwright, Uncle Ebo Whyte and institutions including my own Daily Graphic, Myjoyonline and Ghana News Agency.

Three chapters kept me awake on two straight nights while my father in-law’s daughter was in the arms of sleep—Chapters 9, 10 and 11.

You just need to read these three chapters to appreciate the deep insight the author shares on the value of education and why education is a much better legacy to leave your children than even wealth—a point well illustrated by Nana’s family background—a lesson of humble beginnings and a lesson of hope.

In chapter 14, you will find out how we acquired the Never Expect Power Always syndrome from Nigeria.

When he removes his apron, Nana wears many hats including that of a marriage counselor, motivational speaker and a man of the cassock. You will find his tips on marriage in Chapter 15 very helpful, his fusion of motivational speaking and a spiritual revival in chapters 18 and 19 very refreshing.

Nana untangles the rot and deception in public procurement in Ghana in an incredible manner. By the time you finish reading ‘Eggnomics and the rape of the state’, you’re likely to ask yourself why a public toilet, a school block and even urinal built by the state costs more than those built by private individuals.

The book contains a rich mix and priceless collection of proven nuggets of success—one such example is that preparation begot success (Chapter 17).

Although Sebitically Speaking is witty and laced with tonnes humour, one moment that stood out and made me laugh so hard that I had to find a handkerchief to mop the flood of tears goes like this:

“For several years, the toilet in this compound house, the pan latrine type, was not functional. Eish, those were the days when the latrine man was the worse person to come across at dawn. A wrong word when you meet him around 3 a.m. or 4a.m. with the symbol of his trade on the top of his head, and you could get a sprinkling of his load administered by the short broom he always had in his hand, in a manner in which holy water is sprinkled during mass.”

Folks, now hold your lungs. Nana continues: “When nature called, we had to walk either Kotobabi Down or Pig Farm to use the public places of convenience, a very inconvenient journey especially when the package awaiting download also had the attribute of impatience. In such a situation, the steps one took were measured. A false move and a catastrophe ensued.”

In a book in which the author kept the language simple but captivating, his style of stitching historical material of different points into one tight tapestry that makes a perfect whole is worth celebrating.

The interesting thing about this book is that, like a good doctor, the author did not just diagnose the ailments of this country but also offered good prescriptions.

If you worry about Ghana and its big brother, Nigeria, and terrified for their future, baffled by their complexity and astonished by the resilience of their people, read Sebitically Speaking and you will not only get well fed but also crave for a dessert of hope even it does not cook cocoyam.

Humanity and flaws are bedfellows. My eyes could not detect grammatical errors nor spelling mistakes but I found the absence of cartoons in this hilarious book a glitch.

However, there is no arguing that the book is un-put-down-able. It is greatly entertaining and informative, with the author’s fine infusion of literary elements primarily humour and a story teller’s magic. A brilliant piece of and travel writing, Sebitically Speaking looks into the Ghanaian abyss and comes away with insight, profound conclusions, and even some hope.

This book comes highly recommended to all but may be a precious asset for people hoping to be inspired, journalists, politicians of any breed, the religious, actors in civil society and anyone who have Ghana and Nigeria at heart.

04.12.15

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