Book review: Derailed: When Common Sense Eludes a Nation


Book review

Title:                                                    Derailed: When Common Sense Eludes a Nation

Author:                                               Solomon Mensah

Publisher(s):                                       Wrenco Publications

Year of Publication:                           2022               

Number of Pages:                              196                 

Reviewer:                                           Ralph Dinko (Writer & Assistant PRO, Ghana Maritime Authority)

Like Putin, I possess a black belt to my name with regards to books, and this title cannot be withdrawn by any international standardisation body because ‘I am not fighting any war’. Ever since my eyes could glean the pages of books and my brain could connect the lines and dots of sentences to reveal meaningful stories, I have never stopped reading books.

During my childhood in the Volta Region, I held the enviable title of the ‘finisher’. I literally devoured all the books at the children’s library before I hit adulthood. I have lost count of the books I have on my belt, but this is my official first book review and I feel privileged.

‘Derailed!’, by Solomon Mensah, is a different book. I liken this book to the weeping prophet of the Old Testament whom the Bible describes as the truth-telling prophet who does not embellish lies. Jeremiah painted the gloomy picture when he needed to. This time, Solomon possesses the paints, bristle brush and canvas to paint the picture of the state of the country Ghana in 3D, and he took inspiration from Jeremiah, the prophet. ‘Derailed!’ is the 3D artwork of Ghana which details the after-effects of ‘when common sense eludes a nation’. Appalling!

The title choice, ‘Derailed!’, quickly brings to mind a fast-moving train that comes off its rails – either through man-made error or natural cause. A perfect picture of Nkrumah’s Ghana.

In his maiden book, Mr. Mensah took a complete look into the affairs of the nation; that’s why I termed it as a 3D artwork. He touches all areas of national discourse such as politics, sanitation, the media, health and security. But the constant nationalistic threads of red, gold and green that weave and bind his words and sentences together contain elements of the truest Ghanaian culture.

The use of common Ghanaian street language in the book is worth mentioning. For instance, the writer in ‘Toilets of shame’ (Part 1), uses a line which excitingly caught my attention, “She says when one enters the facility in question, the first half of a minute, one stands still like Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s statue at the Independence Square due to the darkness in it”.  His style of writing reminds me of the most respected PAV Ansah’s ‘Going to Town’. Poignant. Straightforward and natural.

‘Derailed!’ is a full starter pack of common Ghanaian English usage, and the author used simple English language to convey his sentiments and thoughts to the reader – making this book difficult to categorise. Young adults can purchase and read this book; even children of the lower primary stage could make a lot of sense and meaning from reading this book.

In chapter one, the writer chronicles the infamous Montie 3 conundrum which many analysts claim was the quicksand that sank the NDC party in the 2016 elections. Mr. Mensah reminds us in a humorous recap of the disqualification of Ghana’s Edwuma-wura, PPP’s Papa Kwesi Nduom, the coughing Hassan Ayariga and the vocal Akua Donkor in the run-up to the 2016 elections. As detailed as it looks, it is covered with comical avowals capable of relieving one’s stress from Accra’s thick traffic.

The entire chapter under Politics paints a clear picture of the current state of affairs while giving a vivid background of the past. Solomon Mensah has a knack for comparing accurately behaviours, characters and nations. He compares the frugality of Magufuli with the current leaders in West Africa in the other chapters, and the revelations are obviously stark.

Events that characterised the advent of the NPP in the 2018 economic downsides received a mention in ‘Derailed!’. Ras Mubarak’s bicycle ride to parliament episode could make a lot of meaning in today’s petrol politics as many saw his attempt in 2018 as premature. Ras Mubarak swore to ride his ‘Busanga Volvo’ bike to the parliament house in protest of harsh economic conditions. His argument was in protest of the high fuel hike in Ghana. Sad to say, but it was expected, that the former Member of Parliament for Kumbungu couldn’t resist being chauffeured in his luxurious Toyota V8.

‘Derailed!’ is a complete amplifier for the man speaking for the voiceless; it touches the core matters of the masses, and it is not surprising that this writer is the champion of this cause. Solomon Mensah has been a foot soldier for community journalism during his days at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. His nose is sharp to topics that prick the skin of the local folks and it shouldn’t amaze readers that the author goes deep down to villages that journalists ordinarily would not visit. The book carries stories from ordinary Ghanaians too.

Mr. Mensah’s respect for the use of African proverbs can give a reader multiple orgasmic laughter. Without exaggeration, he places every single proverb exactly where it is supposed to be placed, like the way a mason lays bricks and mortar carefully with the aid of a standard torpedo level. For example, the chapter titled ‘Are we watching GBC’s ‘drama’?’, he deployed from his repertoire of proverbs one powerful wise saying which elicited an ear-to-ear smile from me: “Our elders say a man does not wander far from where his corn is roasting” – to wit, “a man puts his money where his heart is”. These and many other powerful proverbs are littered across the book like bullet shells on the streets of Kyiv in Ukraine.

Further, readers would discover one distinct thing that makes the writer stand out. I vividly remember one of my mentors – Manasseh Azure Awuni, in his days at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, who often told us that the best journalists are storytellers. Solomon Mensah is a storyteller. He opens each chapter with anecdotes, giving background stories to the topic and painting a collage of characters till they breathe the air of life.

Derailed!’ has put forth Mr. Mensah in the limelight, and many will not be surprised to see this book win awards and book contests. This book is an elixir that will heal the wounds of this country. This book will change the perspectives of the rulers of nations and bring their hearts to the troubles and problems of the commoners.

Many things will definitely change because of this book.

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