In order to work towards national healing as a people, we need to do some soul searching to understand the illness thoroughly. And no other doctor gives you a better diagnosis of the chronic national ailment Ghana is reeling from than author Nana Awere Damoah, in his thought-provoking and insightful book, Sebitically Speaking.
The distinctive mouth with a wagged tongue and teeth on its kaleidoscopic cover is even more telling of how laughable Ghana’s leadership and outlook has been over the years. The highly artistic pages of Sebitically Speaking is aesthetically pleasant but its content slaps you with a caustic situational analysis of Ghana, with references to Nigeria and the African continent.
Nana Awere Damoah densely explores several facets of the Ghanaian society including governance, health, politics, energy, economy, faith, education and time management in the 26-chapter read. One cannot help but relate with almost every single situation Nana puts across such that you find yourself buried within the book’s pages, without an iota of internal distraction.
Each chapter is in the form of a letter, heavily inspired by Nana’s unabashedly outspoken late uncle Kapokyikyi, who is the break-out star of the book. He deserves a honourary award for his witty and metaphorical tongue. With proverbs and traditions, Nana takes us on an ancestral journey through his family’s lineage in bits across chapters. That’s what makes it unique. Chapter after chapter Nana signs off with the subscription “Sebitically yours, Kapokyikyiwofaase,”
Nana’s style of writing is simple, relaxed and casual. It is just like been served a bitter pill in a chocolate coating. Filled with unwavering humour and sarcasm, Nana paints a truthful picture of Ghana with remarkable clarity and bluntness. This is what we need as a nation. Facing the reality of the situation at hand and taking action to change it, rather than be latently hopeful and euphemistic about the status-quo.
In the chapter, A Live Coverage of Ghana’s Shame, Nana speaks my mind. I felt I had co-written this chapter, which exposes Ghana’s “ineptitude, indecision and plain foolishness” on a “grand scale on a world stage” at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Ghana became the butt of a joke when it jetted hard cash running into millions of dollars across the Atlantic into Rio de Janeiro to appease the Black Stars and persuade them to play for the nation.
The Brazil government took USD2.3 million of the three million US dollars as tax percentage, in line with their economic laws. That was money that could have resolved the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) strike at the time. That money could have built many schools and hospitals to boost the nation’s infrastructure.
With Hollywood set to create a movie around the dramatic episode of the Black Stars in Brazil, our shame will be documented in indelible ink for generations to come. We could have prevented all these mishaps if due diligence and proper planning had been made.
Who said we have learnt lessons? Just this September, the Black Queens were in a standoff with government over outstanding bonuses, refusing to depart the hotel they were lodging if government does not settle them. The Black Queens had lifted the flag of Ghana high by winning our historic-first gold medal at the 2015 All Africa Games in Brazaville, Congo. This issue was prolonged until President Mahama ordered for the payment. Indeed, we have not learnt.
“Are you too focused on what denomination you are in and not looking for the common basis of our faith? How are we using our collective faith to affect our societies, to give solace to the poor and succor to the needy?” Nana asks in Chapter 15. It seems the church is losing its way rapidly. The core functions of the church is to preach salvation, win souls for Christ and help alleviate the sufferings of the poor.
Instead, many churches are springing up with innovative strategies of extorting monies from people who are desperately seeking life-changing prophecies. Christianity has become a brutal business, in which the economic, commercial relationship has become more important than the teachings of our Savior.
Nana also portrays the dilemma he finds himself in when it comes to denomination. Christianity has several denominations which causes some form of division and confusion with differences in way of worship and set of beliefs. Nana urges the reader to “see beyond the silos we have put ourselves in and build His Church.”
Sebiticals Chapter 3 clearly proves beyond doubt that Ghana does not deem it important to protect and maintain its infrastructure since independence. The industrial revolution envisioned by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah with the establishment of the landmark Tema Motorway to link the capital to the harbour city is gradually fading.
Fifty-eight years since Independence, Tema Motorway remains the nation’s biggest motorway yet parts of the carriage way are falling off, unapproved routes are emerging and consistent functioning of the street lights remains a challenge. How so? Apathy and bad leadership are our problems.
A nation’s continual growth and development is largely dependent on the proper maintenance of its structures. Ghana is bereft of the culture of maintenance, which is evident in almost every part of the country. The saying, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ makes no meaning to this country. We prefer to build and neglect, rebuild and neglect and re-rebuild and neglect. Roads, libraries, hospitals, schools and offices are left to decay completely, before action is taken.
Nana is a writer on steroids. He beautifully unpacks the ills of our society through a blizzard of real-life experiences both in Ghana and Nigeria. Both absorbing and troubling, Sebitically Speaking is right on target in assessing the deplorable state of our country’s infrastructural and cultural malaise crippling our rapid progress. Nana Awere Damoah leaves you both optimistic and pessimistic about Ghana’s future.
It is an interesting read which aims to galvanize the efforts of the reader into serious thought and action about nation building and sustainability.
By Henry Derben