LETTER TO MANASSEH – “THE GOOD IS OFT INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES”

Manasseh Azure Awuni
Manasseh Azure Awuni

Dear Manasseh,
I know how you feel, ……well, so I think. In what appears to be almost half a decade now, you have been a major source of news for many a news consumer. You cooked and served us the GYEEDA dish, the SADA dish, the Ali Gabass dish, and the Ford Expedition dish, and many others. And you even entertained us by giving us a peek into your bedroom to see what happens between the sheets between you and your imaginary future wife “Serwaa” when the sun goes to sleep in the West.

It appears however, that in the last couple of days, instead of feeding us with the news, you have yourself become the news. We have consumed you extensively on social media. And on traditional media, you came in handy as our dessert. And as we gulped down beer and sobolobo, you were the entertainment factor that climaxed our pleasure. And why not? The newsman had become the news!

Anytime you brought us the news, you were always bound to end up pleasing some people and displeasing many others. There were those who were happy with you only because you had “gossiped” about their enemies. There was the other group of people who were excited only because, your gossip brought them something to also gossip about. There was that other group who were not in the least enthused about the kind of things you chose to gossip about. To them, that kind of gossip was a direct threat to the acquisition of the daily bread about which they may have probably asked for from the Lord in the Lord’s prayer.

You are human and therefore you certainly cannot be perfect. On many occasions, I vehemently disagreed with either some of the facts you presented in your stories, or your modus operandi in coming by some of those stories. There were times I even questioned you concerning the motive behind some of those stories and what you hoped to achieve by doing those stories.

However, I have never been in doubt concerning your integrity, truthfulness, incorruptibility and desire to see our nation counted among the league of prosperous nations. There is no doubt that you have through your stories saved the lives of innocent, helpless and unsuspecting Ghanaians. There is no denying the fact that through your stories, this country has been saved millions of Ghana cedis, a penny of which never found its way into your private purse.

It is obvious and loud enough even to any man in coma, and the ones feigning deafness that your works have spoken so loudly that you have inspired others to take up journalism as a profession even though the take home pay for journalists, cannot take any journalist home. You have been recognized by the GJA, first, as the most promising journalist in Ghana, and later as the best Journalist in the country. Many are those individuals who have “celebrated” you and praised you and made you feel “big”. But in there, right there lay the trap – and still lies the trap. And when you appeared to have slipped, we all suddenly forgot about the “wonderful works” you have been doing. We suddenly remembered all the evil ones.

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Antonio was indeed right when he said in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones” “So let it be with Manasseh, for one Nana Kwame has said so. And Nana Kwame is an honorable man”

My Family and I have often marveled that the stories we tell over and over about our childhood tend to focus on what went wrong. We talk about the time my older sister got her finger crushed by the kitchen door, about how four very young members of the family passed on in quick succession and we often recount the times we were either sent home for not paying school fees, or the times things we generally difficult for the whole family.

The good news is that, fortunately, as a family, we have had many more pleasant experiences than unhappy ones. I assumed therefore that by constantly remembering only the bad or sad stories, that we were an unusual family. But it turns out we are just like any other family. Everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.”

The physiologists Professor Nass, who co-authored the book titled “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop” tells us that the brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres. He says “Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones”. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events and use stronger words to describe them than happy ones. Put another way, you are more upset about losing GHC50 than you are happy about gaining GHC50,”

So you see, it is not our fault that we have suddenly forgotten about all your good works. We are just being human. We will forget the good and remember the bad. It is that Simple!

When during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final match against Uruguay, Asamoah Gyan missed that crucial penalty after Suarez had handled the ball on the goal line, many had forgotten that it was the same Asamoah Gyan who ensured Ghana’s qualification to that stage by scoring the second crucial goal against USA.

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I have been there before. I have felt it. I know it. Despite the many live TV interviews I have had, with very many high profile people both nationally and internationally, despite the many times I have had to sacrifice, almost at the risk of losing my life sometimes, in order to get to some of the remotest hamlets in our country to bring their stories to national and international attention, despite being the only Ghanaian journalist to have been to war torn Syria in the midst of potential suicide bombers, despite being one of only 3 Ghanaian journalists to have reported from the war front in Somalia at the risk of losing my life, despite the many awards and nominations for awards that have come my way and continue to come my way, all that many remember about me is that I am so “inept” and “incompetent”, that I interviewed a fraudster.

In February last year, while at the cemetery burying my brother who had passed away just a few hours earlier, I reluctantly answered my phone when I got a call from this number 0203985219. I could hear about three or more male voices in the background simultaneously hurling all manner of insults at me. My crime was that I had interviewed a fraudster two years earlier. Even when I politely told the main voice on the line that I was at the cemetery to bury my brother and that I could explain everything to them later, the person on the other end of the line said “you can even bury yourself, we don’t care” and they continued to laugh. I hung up. And for the first time in more than 15 years, I shed tears.

But that experience taught me to move on and become a better journalist, a better TV presenter and a better person. I did move on. I have moved on. I am a better person, much better than all those who insulted me. I am better because, instead of being bitter that people I admire such as Francis Doku, Nana Aba Anamoah and Kwame Gyan, teased and wrote negative things about me, I drew inspiration from their comments. I have learned never to make mistakes again. I have learned to be extra vigilant. You too can do same.
Manasseh, tell our colleague journalists that our world is like the world of the chameleon. If we walk fast, we will go and meet trouble and if we walk slowly, trouble will come and meet us. It is a lonely world.

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Our type of loneliness is unique it slowly enters your body through your toes, and works its way up to the pit of your stomach, coursing its way through the veins in your arms to your neck, until it reaches your eyes, ready to pour out in heavy streams of tears, running into your mouth and nose, choking you with its velocity.

Our type of loneliness comes in moments, fleeting and unknown, yet as painful and surreal as that time- that painful moment you are told by your lover that you are no longer loved. Manasseh, your tens of thousands of “followers” on Facebook – apparently, they loved you not- maybe not as much as you thought.

My good friend, let’s admit that you too have in the past stepped on toes and teased and “trolled” people on Facebook. You have made statements which some may have interpreted as cheeky and sometimes undisguised insults. You have also made comments that offended the personality of others. So, if today, you are being given a dosage of your own herbal concoction, please, squeeze your face like a constipated man attempting to gently release fecal matter from his rear end in the home of his mother-in-law, and pretend that all is well. This loneliness, insults and chaos is your home. This emptiness, this is your life. It is called professional journalism. You can’t always get it right. You are not always right.

Without these feeling of insecurity and loneliness, we wouldn’t make the effort to change. Because you can’t start building a better life for yourself if you already have one, and you can’t work on feeling better if you’ve never felt bad.

Once I was at rock bottom, the only place to go was up. So I got up and went up. Though it may hurt to be alone, forced in a corner with your worst thoughts and fears, it’s those thoughts and those feelings that make you stronger.
It turns out that a strategy I started years ago apparently can be effective. I have a “congratulations” file in which I put all the praise I have ever received, along with e-mails from friends or family that make me feel good. Anytime I feel bad, I refer to my “congratulations” file
Excuse me now. I’m off to read my “congratulations” file. And to pray against any potential “Nana Kwame”. Seen?

The writer, Abdul Hayi-Moomen, is a presenter with the state-owned Ghana Television.

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