restricted access My First Coup d'État by John Dramani Mahama (review)
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Mahama, John Dramani. 2012. My First Coup d'État. New York: Bloomsbury Publishers. 318 pp.

With a lot of historicity, My First Coup D'État has been authored, as a memoir, by Ghana's current head of state, President John Dramani Mahama. It is a book that animatedly discusses several aspects of Ghana's history in the immediate postindependence period; however, Ghana, previously called [End Page 114] the Gold Coast, does not lack political leaders who have taken the time to write similar memoirs and other books that are thematically deemed useful and of similar historicity. In modern times (dating back to the 1950s), the trend was started by the late President Kwame Nkrumah, who, as leader of government business in the dying British colonial administration, had his autobiography published by a British publishing company (Thomas Nelson & Sons). His published life story, Ghana: Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, was published in the United Kingdom to much acclaim and fanfare shortly before Ghana's independence, on 6 March 1957. Later, utilizing Panaf Books Limited (also a publishing company in the United Kingdom), the first elected indigenous Ghanaian leader went on to write several other notable books, including Dark Days in Ghana, before he died in political exile in April 1972. Indeed, among Ghanaian politicians who published scholarly articles and books were the late Prime Minister K. A. Busia (The Position of the Chief in the Modern Political System of Ashanti and Ghana in Search of Democracy); J. B. Danquah, a political opposition leader (Historic Speeches and Writings on Ghana, published posthumously in 1966); A. A. Adu-Boahen, an unsuccessful presidential candidate (Topics in West African History); Alhaji Mumi Bawumia, from the former Northern Region, like President Mahama, who published his much acclaimed memoir in 2004; A. A. Afrifa (The Ghana Coup); and A. K. Ocran's 1977 military memoirs (Politics of the Sword).

In fairness to President Mahama of Ghana, he did not set out to write a book in anticipation of ascending to the Ghanaian presidency. Instead, the leadership role was placed in his lap when Ghana's President John Atta Mills, a legal scholar in his own right, suddenly passed away in Ghana on 24 July 2012. At the time, the future caretaker president, who has now successfully won his own substantive or fresh presidential term as the flag-bearer of the National Democratic Congress (or NDC Party), was visiting the United States on a book tour to launch My First Coup D'État. It was a well-organized book-signing tour, and it has been reported that a book-signing lecture at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York, was very successful, as it drew a large audience (the famous center is headed by Professor Khalil G. Muhammad, a distinguished historian, on leave from the Bloomington flagship campus of Indiana University).

The author was trained in history at the University of Ghana at the time that the Department of History there was headed by the late distinguished historian John K. Fynn, with several famous historians on hand to train young minds like that of President Mahama, who went on to complete postgraduate studies in communications. Given the foregoing admirable intellectual nuances, My First Coup D'État is written with an admirable historical touch. Divided into nineteen chapters, it has an acknowledgment and a useful introduction. The contents offer readers an intimate look at Mahama's birth circumstances (childhood and parental backgrounds); his youth, years of education, and the aftermath (after which he performed national service back at his former secondary school); embracing the work ethic locally in Ghana and externally in Nigeria; and his one-year sojourn [End Page 115] (1985-1986) in the former Soviet Union, an interlude that sometimes makes his critics see him as someone who could have socialist ideas.

In My First Coup D'État, Mahama offers his perspective on his intriguing life, as well as on the history of Ghana and other topical events of thirty years ago. He brilliantly provides anecdotes in city and rural lifestyles, as he lived in various places in the former Northern Region (similar to the life experiences of Alhaji...