Tribute to Opanyin Manu

DADYesterday was our family get-together, we took the opportunity to go down memory lane. My brother Michael spoke about Papa’s medals and bravery in World War II. My sister-in-law spoke about Grace, and I about Papa’s faithfulness.

My vivid recollection of Papa goes back to my early school days, when I would want to read anything I wrote to his hearing.

As a child who always wanted to be on the side of a diligent parent, Papa’s approval was a quintessential part of my character molding as it was to shape my confidence in my academic and working life. Of course, Papa, as usual, did not fail in encouraging his children.

Even when you were wrong his maturity, astuteness and assurance were prominent and you would not be left in despair but with the appetite to strive for excellence.

Later in my adult life when I began to appreciate the travails of life, the full comprehension of Papa’s qualities dawned on me. He had the onerous duty of fathering two sets of twins.

Yet I was told that when we were born (myself and my twin sister), Papa, who already had one set of twins with my mum, danced a little jig of joy at the hospital when the nurse told him that he has become a proud father of another set of twins.

Opanin Kofi Manu Asamoah was born in 1917 and saw the best part of Ghana’s turbulent history. He himself being a veteran of the World War, Papa Manu as he was popularly called was old enough to witness the pre-Independence era that was largely characterized by the nationalist movement and the transition to Ghana’s Independence era.

He saw enough action, fighting for the whiteman during the war and the battle for the liberation of Gold Coast against the colonial administration. He survived that chaotic moment of national agitation towards independence, a period when opportunities for the indigenous black were limited and the aspirations of many young men of the era were truncated.

But not, Opanin Manu! He managed to take a leaf from the positives of colonial administration and that was the commercial value of cocoa. Even though farming was a family passion, it was barely on the scale of subsistence.

Papa invigorated it among his peers with his concept of large scale farming and as a Royal of the famous Agona Clan of Akim-Oda which controlled large hectres of land, Papa and some few others became the catalyst for cocoa production which made the Eastern Region one of the leading cocoa growing areas in Ghana.

His appetite for commercialization and business translated into project management and soon became a contractor.

As a popular contractor based at Akim-Oda, Papa was a key part of the early infrastructure development in the area and its adjoining towns. His sublime display of native intelligence, zeal, diligence and beyond all his integrity which he inculcated from his strong religious background distinguished him from his peers who were sometimes confounded by his success.

And for a long time, he remained an opinion leader   within his royal kindred and the Akim-Oda Community at large. Growing up at Akim-Oda I managed to witness Opanin-Manu’s unique diligence to life at close range.

He was the father who, despite the sheer numbers of his offspring, took to the buckling of my shoes Sunday as I accompanied him the church. Sitting between Maame and Papa in the pew, I played with his hands, looked through his Bible, and often fell asleep or pretended to have fallen asleep on him.

What a blessing to have had fond memories of my life with that of a Godly father who was already demonstrating faithfulness. I felt completely secured throughout my childhood in his commitment to God, to Maame, and us. In fact, “faithful” might just be the best adjective to use to honour Papa.

I sat by his bed, during his last days in Accra and sang hymns together. His voice was weak, but he was still carrying a tune and affirming his faith by singing: “Love Lifted Me,” “Trust and Obey,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and “When We All Get to Heaven.” This moment I will cherish the rest of my life.

Another way Papa demonstrated faithfulness was that he spent years serving God and the people in his church as a servant leader. To this day, people I come into contact with seem very intent about sharing the impact Papa had on their lives. He was a quiet man, but his influence was far-reaching and meaningful to many.

I see the pictures of him in his young years, and I saw why Maame fell for him-soo handsome, especially in that uniform! But by the time I was born, he already had quite a bit of gray hair.

His appearance made him stand out in a crowd, not just because of his height but also because of the quiet dignity that seemed to draw your attention.

He had certain phrases he repeated throughout life. For instance you asked him “How are you?” he would often answer, “Fine, fine, fine.” Even till his last days when his health was failing he still displayed resilience and held to that response when asked about his state of health.

Opanin Manu’s strong devotion to his Christian values and his upbringing from the turbulent moments of Ghana’s political history have made him a resolute character with the capacity to overcome great odds, He was never bitter about his circumstances.

He was averse to conflict and always envisaged a world that exuded peace; and that was profoundly exemplified in the way he passed on to eternity.

 By George Asamoah

Fare thee well, Papa

Opanin Manu,

Due ne ama ne hu

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