Manasseh Azure Awuni is unique. That’s not news to anyone who knows the young man who was crowned the nation’s best journalist at the 2011 Ghana Journalists Association awards. He won this laurel at a time he was not working full-time at any media house and was juggling between national service (and at a later time, graduate school) and freelancing.
In his latest book, he talks about the fact that to be able to unpack a man’s thought and give meaning to complex pictures he paints with words, one needs a glimpse of his background to understand what forms the basis of his imagery. This, to Manasseh, helps a great deal to appreciate the person’s work. Manasseh speaks of a humble background, starting from Bongo and taking shape in Kete Krachi in the Upper East and Oti Regions respectively. He, however, does not hesitate to add that this lowly background did not prevent him from excelling at the things he committed himself to. This is evident in the work he has done as a journalist since 2010 (when he graduated from GIJ). He recently resigned from his job at the Multimedia Group where he spent seven years of his working life.
According to the press release that announced his resignation, he said, “I will continue to serve Ghana as a freelance investigative journalist and dedicate more time to the writing of books”. Four short months after that resignation, last Wednesday, Manasseh released a book – his third.
Manasseh’s latest book is unique. Titled The Fourth John: Reign, Rejection & Rebound, the book captures the life and presidency of the immediate past president of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama. Having won the 2012 presidential elections, Mr. Mahama became the fourth successive person named John to be the first gentleman of Ghana. Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufour and John Evans Atta-Mills were his predecessors.
Explaining why he wrote about the current flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress and not any of the other Johns, Manasseh said his political consciousness was most awake at the time of this John. When John Rawlings was in office, he was not born and at the time he was born to see part of the administration, he was too young to comprehend things. During the reign of John Kufour, he was in Junior Secondary School (now Junior High School, thanks to educational reforms by John Kufour). He had no electricity at his home and his watchman dad was over-protective of radio hence access to information about happenings in the political arena was limited. Manasseh was at the Ghana Institute of Journalism when John Atta-Mills became president. His school schedule and perhaps naivety at the time did not make him an active participant in the space he is now an authority. John Mahama was fortunate (or maybe otherwise, depending on how cynical you are) that Manasseh was barely a month into his working life when he ascended the highest throne of leadership in Ghana. Manasseh would become one of his harshest critics, exposing several scandals that riddled the ex-president’s administration. He has gone on to write this book about the man he described as his political idol at some point.
I am reading The Fourth John. It’s such a beautiful read. At the time of writing this article, 208 out of 396 pages in and I’m loving every piece of it. Do not take my word for it though. Here is the account of what a person more qualified than me said at the launch on Wednesday. Prof. Henry Kwasi Prempeh, the Executive Director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) who read a review of the book at the Wednesday launch described the book as a novelty in the Ghanaian political, media and literary space. Never in the history of this country had anyone written a book about an administration, going into the depths Manasseh went putting forth the volume and value of the information he put out there in the book. The venerable professor described Manasseh’s decision to write the book as daring. “It takes a Manasseh”, he said. Analyzing what he describes as the costs of writing this book, Prof. Prempeh named three. Namely, political, cultural and professional. Finally, he noted that the book was not only a political biography of John Mahama but that of Ghana in general and the times we live in as the book explains to a very large extent how politics since the fourth republic has failed to put people first. The professor was full of praise and congratulated Manasseh for adding this to the collection of materials on Ghana’s politics and the players therein.
John Mahama is unique. Before the start of the event on Wednesday, in a conversation with my good friend, Gabriel Myers Hansen, we wondered how the ex-president felt about the book, whether he would make it to the launch and whether he was the reason for the hold up for the start of the event. Our questions did not go unanswered. John Mahama was not at the event. However, Manasseh spoke about the fact that they met ahead of the production of the book. The author reported that the ex-president said though he disagreed with some of the things in the book, he was not going to be a blockade of the author’s right to write and publish. In the book, too, Manasseh was full of praise for Mr. Mahama on how he promoted media and press freedom in Ghana during his tenure as president.
Manasseh said about himself on Wednesday that he strives to be excellent but he will never call himself perfect. And that’s true on so many fronts. The book launch was not quite unique. It had the features of almost every book launch you will attend in Ghana. The commonest characteristic being that the event started an hour and fifteen minutes later than the stipulated time. Other than the preceding, the launch of The Fourth John: Reign, Rejection & Rebound was hugely successful. It was graced by the likes of Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe, Hon. Alban Bagbin, Nana Kobina Nketsia V, H.E. Haruna Attah and Nana Akomea. Mrs Matilda Amissah Arthur, a former second lady, was also present. Friends and colleagues from the journalism fraternity were also there to support. Three of them – Serwaa Amihere, Araba Koomson and Selikem Acolatse-Apaloo – read chapters from the book while Abdul Hayi-Moomen was the master of ceremony.
Manasseh deserves all the commendations due for this great work of literature. Cheers to many more works like this.
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