Meet Nana Awere Damoah: The Ghanaian Voice of Objectivity and Reason

Nana Awere Damoah is my guest post for today. He is a man with brains and an objective voice. I can say he is the writer with the voice of reason in Ghana. His words “Ghanamonosyncratic nsempiisims” stuck with me from his book, I speak of Ghana where he presented all things as they seem in Ghana. I am very glad to have the honour of this interview with a true Ghanaian patriot.

NANA AWERE DAMOAH
NANA AWERE DAMOAH

 

AMOAFOWAA:

Nana, please tell us about you, from birth to now in summary.

NANA:

Thanks for this opportunity, Mum C. I was born 39 years ago in a taxi on its way from Kotobabi to Korle-bu. My brother remembers the registration number of the taxi and says someone (I can’t remember who) won the lottery with the numbers the week after I was born! My family were staying in a compound house at Abavanna Down in Kotobabi and that is where I was brought up, spending the first twenty-five years of my life. From the local preparatory school – Providence Preparatory – I moved on to Ghana National College in Cape Coast, where I spent seven eventful years, and where my passion for writing first emerged. I then had my first degree at University of Science and Technology in Kumasi (I am old school, see? It is KNUST now) where I got my training in Chemical Engineering, further proceeding to the UK for a year’s Masters at Nottingham University. I am married with three lovely children, mothered by a great wife. I have been a published author since 2008, with four books and two compilations which I edited for fun. I have also contributed to two anthologies.

AMOAFOWAA:

Aside from being a writer, what else do you do as a profession? I ask this because it is a fact that writing is not lucrative in Africa.

NANA:

My day’s job is currently as a Technical Manager with a manufacturing company. I oversee Quality Assurance, Health, Safety & Environment and New Product Development amongst others. I am also responsible for Safety across our Africa operations, which covers seven countries. I have indicated in the past that we have very few full-time writers in Africa and so you are right. For me, having a day’s job helps for me to express myself mainly as a writer not primarily focused on the monetary aspects, which then become more of a bonus rather than the objective for my writing.

AMOAFOWAA:

Was writing something you always wanted to do?

NANA:

You know, it is not a question I have really reflected on in the past. I found writing to be a good way of expressing my thoughts. And for affecting my society. I found writing as a good tool for follow-up when the ministry I was part of – Joyful Way Incorporated – came back from outreaches. From the preparatory school, through secondary school and to the University, I engaged with literary groups and honed my craft, from short story writing, to poems and then articles. In 1997, I won first prize for a Step Magazine story writing competition. Having my short stories published in The Mirror enhanced my confidence. In 2004 when I started sharing my thoughts on my observations, via emails in what I called Empower Series (the main materials for my first two books Excursions in my Mind and Through the Gates of Thought), I realised that the feedback was great and the thoughts resonated with my friends who also forwarded them. So was writing something I always wanted to do? I dunno, really. All I can say is that my love for literature has always been there, and writing evolved as a part of this passion.

AMOAFOWAA:

The older generation and this new generation, comparing their reading abilities, which is better?

NANA:

What has changed a lot is the exposure to audio-visuals, versus what we experienced growing up when, say in our compound house in Kotobabi, only one tenant had a television! So there were more opportunities to read. And we had libraries working well. These days, many gadgets compete for our attention and if you sat in trotro from Odorkor to Circle, most of the passengers would be browsing on their phones rather than reading a book. Progressively, also, we have people gravitating towards more succinct and shorter text to read, and this affects our reading abilities.

AMOAFOWAA:

Gadgets are necessary devils huh? What can be done to salvage the deteriorating habit of reading in our young generation?

NANA:

Get our kids exposed to books. Let them love books right from infancy. We also need more indigenous writers, writing about our experiences that readers can identify with. My pet beef is that generally when we talk about arts and entertainment in Ghana, we mean music and dance. Take any newspaper and check out the entertainment pages and you will see what I am talking about. So as a nation, we are paying only lip service to our desire to encourage a reading culture. We are developing our arts and culture only on one leg. Our libraries need to be re-activated. We have to move to digital platforms also and embrace technology, so that even those on phones can have access to good reading materials.

AMOAFOWAA:

Let’s move to agriculture. Do you think food production in Ghana is enough to feed this country in an emergency?

NANA:

No, we are net importers of food. Take a look at your meals today and reflect on where each of the ingredients comes from. We may have some good stock of some of our foods just after the harvesting periods but not across the year.

AMOAFOWAA:

You are the man whose voice resonates across the land, I need you to tell us about the political system of Ghana with emphasis on whether or not it is helping the nation.

NANA:

Politics is to help the country transform, progressively. I believe in baby steps, in a nation making progress daily. Our politics today is full of noise, not vision and planning. Our politicians have taken over even the institutions that should outlive their 4 year cycle, institutions that should be apolitical and help us plan decades ahead. So what we have is a 4 year cycle that is full of campaigning for a good two years and we are left with only two years of work, based on at most a four-year development plan. I ask: who is thinking for Ghana? Who is planning for Ghana? Do you know the agenda for Ghana for 2054? At best, it sits in a manifesto that has no broad-based input and support.

AMOAFOWAA:

Lol. I love the personification you give it, “sit in a manifesto”. My next question, can you tell us about your most disgusting trait in politicians?

NANA:

NATO – No Action, Talk Only. It is easy to be a politician in Ghana today – you only need to know how to apportion blame and to talk. Too much talk. We talk too much.

AMOAFOWAA:

NATO. What an acronym! Aside all the things you do, recently, your Facebook group refurbished a school for the Apagya Community. What was your inspiration?

NANA:

Allow me to talk about the inspiration for the group DGG in our outreaches, because it is not about me; it is about the collective that I am only honoured to lead. We have been in existence for about three years and when we turned two years, we decided that we will do an outreach to a community outside Accra. Incidentally, our first outreach was to Apagya where we donated books and stationery. Since then, we have been to two schools in the Volta region, where we donated literature books per their syllabus and this year, we reached out to inmates in Nsawam Prison who are studying at various levels of education; here again, we donated textbooks and stationery. As you can see, we have been focused on supporting education and giving back to society in deprived communities. This year’s Apagya project was our biggest so far and we got a lot of support from our friends across the world, some who just believed in us and donated via Facebook, and the inspiration remained the same: we feel blessed and Ghana has made us, so we have to give back. This aligns with my personal inspiration. The Apagya project was so fulfilling and seeing the smiles on the faces of the children is an experience that will remain with me forever.

NANA AWERE DAMOAH WITH SOME BENEFICIARIES OF THE DGG OUTREACH
NANA AWERE DAMOAH WITH SOME BENEFICIARIES OF THE DGG OUTREACH

AMOAFOWAA:

We have so many Non-Governmental Organizations in Ghana, yet there are so many communities suffering. What do you think is the cause of this?

NANA:

It is a failure of leadership. Our development agenda is not encompassing enough and we are doing so little in a situation where much is needed to be done fast. Again, specifically for NGOs, check where the bulk of their income is spent on and you will understand why most of them have no impact. Development aid can only be an aid, development must come from the communities and support should ultimately help to make the communities self-supporting, for them to own their own development agenda. Ask yourself why the northern part of Ghana has the highest number of NGOs and yet is so underdeveloped. By the way, that is a microcosm of what African is. 

AMOAFOWAA:

I need you to grade our presidents from Former President Rawlings to President Mahama.

NANA:

Each of them has done his bit. Allow me to focus on the fourth republic alone, especially with President Rawlings. My best grade goes to President Kufuor; the worst is President Mahama.

AMOAFOWAA:

What impressed you about Former President Kufour and what are the flaws of President Mahama?

NANA: Kufour espoused a vision right from the beginning, was structured, had tried and tested ministers and his achievements were tangible. I can’t say much of same for the current President.

AMOAFOWAA:

Nana do you think some Members of Parliaments are stooges instead of the mouthpiece of their constituencies?

NANA:

One of the questions that has engaged my mind is by what criteria we elect our MPs. What exactly do we expect them to do for our constituencies? When we have fully analysed that question, we better assess their performance in respect of their obligations towards their constituencies. So I can only assess them based on their role as law makers and for arguing the cause of the citizens in terms of law-making and running the country. In this respect, I would say most of them are not independent of the direction of their parties at any point in time. That is why there is a Whip, right? The party system is one of the reasons why we are where we are, the parties have become too powerful and affects our development as a country. So, they are stooges of their parties and not true representatives of the people.

AMOAFOWAA:

Let’s move to our health concerns. This year Africa shakes with buzzing news of the dreadful ebola flagging our continent. Although a few countries were affected, do you think Africa has suffered or is likely to suffer future consequences of this canker?

NANA:

The consequences are already here with us. Ebola affected business badly, tourism was affected across the continent, even in my work, some projects were delayed because of restrictions in travel. The economies of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will need a lot of support to bounce back.

AMOAFOWAA:

Did Africa manage this outbreak well?

NANA:

We didn’t manage it. Did we? Did you see any concerted African leadership? Where was the African Union? ECOWAS mostly talked and created traffic in Accra at the peak of the crisis. We are not prepared even for the next big epidemic! This is a subject I treated in my Sebitically Speaking column: http://www.infoboxdaily.com/your-world/sebitically-speaking/item/1861-sebiticals-chapter-3-ebola-gullibility-and-the-impotent-entity-called-african-union

AMOAFOWAA:

Let’s talk about the Ghana Association of Writers. Are you a member?

NANA:

Yes I am, though not very active because I am not based here. The current leadership has revitalised the association and it can only get better.

NANA AWERE DAMOAH
NANA AWERE DAMOAH

AMOAFOWAA:

Are Ghanaian writers united if not what can they do to be united?

NANA:

We need more activation. I wouldn’t use the word ‘united’, sound a bit cliché for me. It is about coordination. A friend asked me recently whether there is a listing of all books published by Ghanaians and a list of writers online that he could assess. I couldn’t think of one. We need that. We have to engage more. I wish to see GAW and writers getting more involved in book launches, in supporting one another, in getting our books to schools and other distribution routes, having more book readings. The Writers Project of Ghana is doing great work too, with their monthly readings, book clubs and their program on Citi FM on Sunday evenings. There should be collaborations between all such associations, linking up with the poetry groups around such as Ehalakasa. I wish to see writers becoming a voice that speak to current issues in the country.

AMOAFOWAA:

Let’s move on to role models. Who are your role models?

NANA:

In writing or in life generally? In writing, I have been influenced greatly by Dale Carnegie, Chinua Achebe, Uncle Ebo Whyte and Kofi Akpabli. In life generally, my parents have influenced me a lot by their belief in creating a better life for me, my grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, Ace Ankomah and Yaw Nsarkoh; there are many others I learn from by just observing and reading about them.

AMOAFOWAA:

Do the right role models get to be in the limelight where many children search?

NANA:

I don’t like to romanticise role models and see them as some far-away personalities. Role models are around us all the time and the first role models children should have are the parents. Believe me, children try to become like their parents even before they understand what role models are. But I understand your question to mean the people we project in the media. Again, it is for parents to teach their children how to sift and appreciate the right role models, and yes, the children will find them if they have the right specifications.

AMOAFOWAA:

Let’s talk journalism. Do we have flawless journalism in Ghana?

NANA:

No. And the standards keep dropping. Indeed, what is journalism as practised in Ghana? Who do we call a journalist? The definition is so loose that it affects the standards as assessed because we have a lot of people who call themselves so who don’t deserve the categorisation. My wish is to have the journalists setting agenda and asking serious questions. Questioning and questioning. In a way, like what Chinua Achebe said a writer should do: ask questions and create headaches; he asserted that “it is the duty of a writer to give headaches” and to “write to make people uncomfortable.” In Anthills of the Savannah, he stated: “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches!” That is the sort of journalism we need for it to qualify as the fourth estate of the realm and to keep our authorities on their toes. To follow up on issues which are discussed. I asked a question in my book I Speak of Ghana and I still reflect on same: “When will our media in Ghana stop discussing events and petty squabbles and start discussing ideas and thoughts?”

AMOAFOWAA: Yes, that question resonates with me. Nana, please what do you think about modern religious men of God?

NANA:

Again, that is a loose description. There are many people parading themselves as men of God just because they quote the Bible. Christianity for me is more than a religion, it is an experience. It is a personal relationship that should affect the character of the person and how connected the person is to God, should show in his deeds. The Bible talks about fruits defining the tree and same applies. Many of them need to be exemplary.

AMOAFOWAA:

If you had your own way, which two bills passed into laws in Africa would you revoke without thinking and why?

NANA:

Unfortunately, I haven’t followed any bills recently (hehe).

AMOAFOWAA:

Okay, our educational system, are we in the right direction?

NANA:

Another pet subject of mine. I wrote two articles on this recently. I have issues with the current educational system, never agreed with the direction we took by moving from the O/A Levels to the JSS/SHS system. The middle schools we converted into JSS for preparation to the SHS was shaky and totally unfit for the expectations. So we have created in many communities a system with a very weak middle. My solution then was that we could have asked students to be in the established schools for form one to three, and if they couldn’t move on to the purely academic routes after the BECE, they could transfer to the vocational aspects in the same environment. Ask yourself where we are with the reforms. We are based to not just square one, but worst. To confirm my feelings, ask why most of those who can afford it are sending their children to schools that run the O/A Levels. Did you know that some Universities in the UK don’t accept our SSCE certificates as entry requirements anymore?

For more on my reflections on education, see: http://www.infoboxdaily.com/your-world/sebitically-speaking/item/2134-sebiticals-chapter-8-state-of-sikaman-education-and-effect-on-social-mobility-epistle-i and http://www.infoboxdaily.com/your-world/sebitically-speaking/item/2230-sebiticals-chapter-8-state-of-sikaman-education-and-effect-on-social-mobility-epistle-ii

AMOAFOWAA:

Now many girls fall out of school because of teenage pregnancy. The code of conduct says let those who get pregnant go home, deliver, come back for transfer, those who commit crimes of abortion must be dismissed. Many girls find themselves wanting where this clause is concerned. Do you think sex education should still center on abstinence instead of use of preventive measures? Any advice for the Ministry of Education?

NANA:

First of all, I disagree with any view that affects one’s future based on past mistakes. I disagree with the dismissal of girls who commit abortion. I trained as a quality auditor and we were taught that you never penalise twice for the same offence. I believe in preaching abstinence but not everyone believes that so there should be a pragmatic approach in combining prescriptions.

AMOAFOWAA:

Is women empowerment the cause of “dum s) dum s)” in Ghana?

NANA:

Hahahahaha, who said that! Dumsor-dumsor is a reflection of how far we have come as a country.

AMOAFOWAA:

Let’s release tension. What are your hobbies?

NANA:

I love watching movies when I have time; surfing the net and goofing with my friends on social media, visiting friends, reading and travelling, especially to the countryside.

 

NANA AWERE DAMOAH
NANA AWERE DAMOAH

AMOAFOWAA:

Who do you listen to music wise?

NANA:

I love, love, love highlife. Give me old-time highlife and I can smile all day. I love afro-jazz, African music generally and gospel song. I sound old school, eh? I am sure you are eager to hear which of the hiplife stars I listen to. Obrafour speaks to me, and Kwadei. I love stories and poetry so songs such as theirs appeal to me. Then TH for Kwagees and their Takoradi stuff too.

AMOAFOWAA:

Nana, have you done anything you have never been proud of?

NANA:

I am generally someone who acts after a lot of deliberation but, yes, I have and continue to do things I am not proud of. We all, like Paul, have issues that are thorns in our flesh.

AMOAFOWAA:

Which teams do you support here in Ghana and elsewhere?

NANA:

Chelsea (not the Berekum one ) and Kotoko.

AMOAFOWAA:

Many problems with the Ministry of Sports this year. What were your most shocked moments?

NANA:

The flying of the money to Brazil; actually, the announcement that we were going to fly that amount and the media circus that resulted. I am passionately proud as a Ghanaian but that was the very first time I felt embarrassed as a Ghanaian. I still feel the shame of that moment.

AMOAFOWAA:

What were your most amusing moments watching the sports channel?

NANA:

When Manchester United or Liverpool lose. And the comments on social media!

AMOAFOWAA:

In the Ghanaian National Anthem, which words prompt you to do more?

NANA:

“Bold to defend forever, the cause of freedom and of right”.

AMOAFOWAA:

For the angry person reading this today, seething with revenge, what will be your advice?

NANA:

Life is too short to be angry. Get over it and move on. Smell the flowers.

AMOAFOWAA:

And to those having suicidal thoughts, what will be your words?

NANA:

I read the autobiography of Sidney Sheldon. Do you know that he wanted to commit suicide at a point? His father chanced on him and they went out for a walk. What his father told him was that I will tell anyone having suicidal thoughts: “Keep turning the pages”. There is more to life than what you are seeing today.

AMOAFOWAA:

To those surfing the net looking for who to dupe in sakawa, what will be your words?

NANA:

Drop that yam! Sorry, drop that idea.

AMOAFOWAA:

Hahahahahahaha! Now to the women who are looking for burgers to marry or looking for men as their wallets?

NANA:

A man is not an ATM.

AMOAFOWAA:

Thank you very much Nana Awere Damoah for your precious time. Blessings.

NANA:

I enjoyed it, Mum C. Keep up the good work!

AMOAFOWAA:

Thank you.

END OF INTERVIEW.

Truly an inspirational man. His inspiration came in this form

A BAG OF WISDOM: NANA AWERE DAMOAH

In the midst of the mud

There is the lotus to disinfect

Like the sweetest thing for the sad

It does its job to reflect

Nana is the lotus

In the midst of muddy Ghana

His surroundings are unwelcoming

But he gives healing and sweet scents

To attract

Many prayers are said in his words

Much hope is reflected through his whipping words

He bleeds for his nation

But stands like a soldier;

Bold to defend and at post always

His satirical wordy mirror is never vacant

He indirectly says;

Look in there,

Laugh at yourselves

See yourselves

And like the wise, behave yourselves

No need to be told

Nana Awere Damoah

Katawere with worthy words

Writers write to live forever

And forever you will live!

Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia (c) 2014

21 thoughts on “Meet Nana Awere Damoah: The Ghanaian Voice of Objectivity and Reason

  1. Beautiful post. I enjoyed the interview, and it does show that everyone is plagued by the same problems around the world. BTW, although I’m not homeless, I am 72 now, and living on very meager Social Security that gets me from one month to the next if I have no extra expenses, like new glasses, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol. You are fortunate dear. Many are homeless at 72 and wish for death elsewhere. And yes, the whole world has problems, take us country by country and there will be problems, town by town and there’ll still be problems right to the individual. Thank you for reading. Blessings.

      Like

  2. What an amazing interview and an amazing man. Many of the issues you are facing in Ghana are also being faced here in America. We certainly as countries are more alike than different. I really enjoyed this piece Mum C. and look forward to your next one.

    Liked by 1 person

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