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Opinions of Sunday, 10 May 2015

Columnist: Herrmann-Condobrey, Antoinette

Sebitically Speaking: How it Strikes Me

By Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey

In an information-saturated age where Skimming through pages has virtually become the standard for reading, you know you got something unique when you find your head willingly buried in a book checking out every line and with a smile. That is what Nana Awere Damoah gives you in Sebitically Speaking.

Inspired by Damoah's late uncle, nicknamed Wofa Kapokyikyi, who was known for speaking his mind like nobody's business, Sebitically Speaking is set around responsible citizenship and nation building.

The 24-chapter read, which focuses mainly on Ghana with references to neighboring Nigeria and Africa as a whole, exposes the country's vulnerabilities and highlights her prospects.

With the economy, energy, health care, education, political process; even family, faith and morals forming the bulk of the contents, the subjects in this book aren't what strike you as unique. It is how Damoah drums them home in a manner that transcends mere commentary to provoke action.

One key observation that cuts through this pool of personal accounts is how incredibly the individual's lackadaisical attitude toward professional obligation mirrors what happens at the level of government. Why should an employee categorize the delivery of his child as an emergency when he had known for nine months that this child is on its way?

Why should a government that had four years to prepare for a World Cup tournament term its obligation to pay members of the national team an emergency?

Just as the old man seen struggling to finish a load of meat he set aside for himself while eating with others, government-led projects are dotted all over the place, many of them virtually abandoned, with hardly anything completed on time. "Rome was not built in a day," Damoah agrees, but "it was built every day," he argues.

As case after case rolls out in this book, character and responsibility is underscored, and these are linked effectively to the very foundations on which we are brought up as individuals.

Damoah's own upbringing, narrated in chapter 10 with incredibly humbling details, points to the sacrifices of hardworking parents, the eagle eye of a teacher who saw the potential of his student far beyond the walls of elementary education, and later in life, a professional head with an extraordinary sense of duty.

The style of expression in this casually-narrated but provocative read, which gets funny sometimes and emotional occasionally, is distinct. A chunk of the narrative comes as veiled expressions with obvious meanings.

Yet, the bluntness that characterizes the bulk reminds you of the one person whose name runs through every chapter, the uncle to whom this book is dedicated. Evidently, Kapokyikyi's piercingly candid vocalizations – helped habitually by booze – have found well-deserved credit in Damoah's own intellectual freedom, growth and sense of humor.

"We are a people steeped in gullibility, combined with superstition; a very deadly mixture," he writes in chapter 5. This chapter laments Ghana and Africa's weaknesses in emergency preparedness and response, using Ebola as an example. It emphasizes the void left for myths and lies when our leaderships fail us.

But the depiction of the citizenry who so easily get taken in by deceit draws a mixed reaction of humor and embarrassment. Who drinks medicine handed him or her by a stranger in a bus without questioning what's in the concoction? Yet, how many times haven't we seen this happening around us – if we are not ourselves the drinkers of this strange mixture.

In the end, Sebitically Speaking provokes our thoughts about who we are and our priorities as a people. It reminds us of what we have, how we've managed these things and why we cannot afford to continue in the direction we've been heading.

It may seem like so much was given out in this review, but that's not the case at all: Nigeria and the okada experience got no mention; neither did Kotobabi and the latrine situation. One thing that makes this read interesting is how the different pieces of narratives blend into a coherent whole with a unifying message of responsible citizenship and nation building.

Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey is a freelance journalist based in New Jersey, USA and a columnist for The Africa report.

Sebitically Speaking is Nana Awere Damoah's 5th book. The ebook version was published in March 2015 and is available on Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Azabiabooks and other online ebook platforms. It is due for launch as paperback in the second quarter of 2015.