There is a lot that can be pieced about the life of a public figure from the media. But like pieces to a puzzle, most of that work is left to the interested individual. You have to discern between the tabloid material, fake news masquerading as factoids and the reality. It is an engaging endeavor figuring out the life of persons casted in the limelight when they themselves go to crazy extents shielding the minutiae of it from the public. But once they themselves put pen to paper, the work of the interested observer is reduced tremendously and all that needs to be done is to read.
The distinction between an autobiography and a memoir is blurry. Both narrate the stories of the main character in first person pronouns, ergo it is written by the lead character. However, an autobiography chronologically details the life of the character from the cradle to whatever stage she or he was at the time of writing. A memoir on the other hand focuses on some specific event. John Dramani Mahama’s memoir is about the 1966 coup d’état and the ensuing realities he faced in his formative years.
Reviews of this book are extremely favorable of the author. From the manner in which JM adeptly tells the story of his childhood all through the time before he ventured into politics, to the history lessons interspersed throughout the book. This memoir further asserts JM as the master communicator all Ghanaians know him to be.
My First Coup D’état takes the reader through the life of a kid who had a privileged upbringing but with a rocked transition through life due to his positioning at the center of Ghanaian politics. Schooled in one of the most preeminent primary institutions and fathered by a Minister of State, John Dramani Mahama did not have an ordinary childhood. You get a glimpse into how the upper class, not bourgeoisies, lived during post-independence Ghana. From travelling to and from Tamale by air, something still a luxury in 2017 Ghana, to the perks of being shielded from the famine and scarcity of the 70s, John Dramani Mahama is able to convey anecdotes in a manner that gets you empathizing with him as though he was one of the underprivileged. He surely was affected by the changing times as his father was detained once and force into exile the next time but he was no victim in the same sense as the kids of executed generals and the market women stripped naked and lashed for kalabule.
The stories presented in the memoir do not necessarily connect to the next one. Even in some chapters, they are in a dualistic manner told side by side but with little connection. It challenges you to find the connection between these disparate stories. But in every story you find something symbolic, something JM makes accessible to readers to make us understand the man he is today. Like when he stood up to his class bully who extorted snacks from him and his friends.
The memoir stops just short of giving readers an insight into JM’s days as a politician. With Mahama having recently gone out of office, we should be expecting another book detailing his political years, his rapid ascension to the vice presidential position, subsequent enthroning as president and one term tenure as president. That would definitely be a more exciting memoir than one centered on how young Mahama was trying to woo his neighbor Alice or mundane episodes like his bus trip Nigeria.