In her memoir “On All Fronts”, published last April, Cable News Network (CNN) Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward said if as a Journalist you fully embed or immerse yourself in the local community you cover, “it makes reporting richer”.
Ward spent time living with U.S. troops, the Taliban and local families around the world acting as a communicator between worlds.
I have spent five years in Dormaa-Ahenkro as the Ghana News Agency (GNA) Correspondent doing general news reporting. Like Clarissa Ward, immersing myself in the community or operational area where I base has been a fundamental working principle, process and normal part of daily routine in my journalism career.
In the quest to discharge duties effectively, I have familiarised, liaised, collaborated, related and managed to build a solid rapport with newsmakers and people from all walks life in and around the area.
Unlike Ward, the only thing I have not yet done and perhaps might want to do if the opportunity presented itself is the chance to live intimately and closely like a single family closely-knit together, with the newsmakers like Clarissa Ward did with the U.S. troops and the Taliban forces.
For a Journalist, that could only happen if they would ever open up and be willing, allowing a reporter they didn’t know so well and much about, even though they might be slightly or quite familiar with, to dwell amongst them under one roof.
In deciding to observe, compose, compile and report on Mr. Agyeman-Manu from a distance, I had run into all sorts of problems. First, I contemplated much about generating the right ideas that fits perfectly and reflect the character of this personality I wanted to write about.
Secondly I grappled a lot with which catchy, attention grabbing headline I could adopt to suit or match the feature article I have plotted in mind when my superior prompted me to plan a piece about him following his re-nomination as the Health Minister designate. These were pre-planning battles I had to contend with, in coming up with this article.
Stephen Sackur, a BBC Journalist, once said aside their public life, there are lots of things politicians and newsmakers do privately we know nothing about. What journalists often do is to cover activities mostly happening in their public life.
Telling the story of someone you know intimately, closely privately and public could be in sharp contrast as opposed to a personality you could often see, observe and report at a distance or from afar.
A totally different narrative, account and picture of these two scenarios and individuals would surely emerge in this scheme of things. So context is key, vital and paramount in reaching this type of article writing goals.
I cannot say much, judge, measure up, calculate, reveal more about the level of exposure and closeness I have had with Mr. Agyeman-Manu, the Health Minister Designate, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Dormaa Central, and a politician who have had to constantly battle splitting and sharing time between his tight ministerial schedules working in Accra and coming down to fraternise once a while, with his constituents at the local level in Dormaa-Ahenkro.
A reporter meets his MP for the first time
The first time I met Mr. Agyeman-Manu on a face to face level was at the District Police Office in Dormaa-Ahenkro some three years ago. Incidentally, burglars had stormed his residence. When I had introduced myself as a reporter with the GNA and requested he granted me an interview on the matter, he sharply declined, “I don’t want to be in the news,” he replied briefly.
That response left me wondering if he was not that media friendly. While I held on to that view, I was at the same time very cautious and hoped that my judgement was fair, not overly overriding and the general public’s perception and assumption.
He proved me wrong. For as time passed by Mr. Agyeman-Manu has carried himself decently, diligently and creditably as a high ranking government official, who also held Deputy Ministerial portfolios during former President Kufour’s regime and later served as the MP for Dormaa Central Constituency till now.
Personally, he negates the anti-media stance and viewpoint I had about him as I began to sense and picked he frequented the three radio stations at Dormaa-Ahenkro to talk, one of the strategies he deployed to catch base with his supporters, particularly those at the rural communities of the Dormaa Central Municipality, if he was not physically embarking on community visits.
The Health Minister designate have usually used such media platforms to tout his immense and significant achievements during his tenure as an MP as well as the policies of his government anytime he was in town.
Popularly known as Kwaku ‘Anoteewa’, to wit, Kwaku the eloquent one, he never fails to make his presence known and felt in any public event, not even less at funerals. He would rise and dance to funeral dirges, while receiving cheers and greetings from the crowd at the least opportunity.
Others call him Dormaa Mugabe for his long standing occupancy of the Dormaa Central Constituency seat, after being elected for the fourth consecutive time in the Election 2020.
His tenure as the former Health Minister in President Akufo-Addo’s first term noticeably saw him win the heart of President Akufo-Addo who described him as “a pillar in his government”.
Inspiration must be drawn from how he led efforts to fight the COVID-19 and through whose direction Ghana placed first in Africa and third globally in response and effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is because while performing his duties, he was once infected with COVID-19 infections, but this never deterred him in his national duties and sacrifice.
Across all spectrum of the political divide, he is well and highly respected. He loves to teach, share, listen and advise younger politicians, welcoming with open arms all who come to him for help.
One of such young politicians, Mr. Kwadjo Asare, the Dormaa Central Constituency Youth Organiser of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) once testified about Mr. Agyeman-Manu’s rich political and life experience that had built him over the years into a high profile politician today.
Mr. Asare thus admitted it was not out of place for Mr. Agyeman-Manu to voice out concerns about the need for the NDC to groom someone who might be capable of unseating him in Dormaa Central Constituency. The MP had made the remarks shortly after he had been announced the winner of the Dormaa Central Parliamentary election on December 7 last year.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu comes across as a sincere, plain and straight-forward, deeply strategic, hard-working, accommodating, humble and diplomatic, with high sense of empathy, all embracing, compassionate, loyal and committed. No wonder he has received two international awards, appointment and recognition as a Board Member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Global Alliance for Vaccination.
An astute grassroot politician with a great sense of humour
There’s no doubt Mr. Agyeman-Manu has great sense of humour. At an Annual Performance Review Meeting organised by the Dormaa Central Municipal Health Directorate at Dormaa-Ahenkro early this year, he jokingly remarked his residence had been inundated with constituents concerns and problems that even those who had health, medical challenges and conditions were calling on him for assistance to address those issues.
“My people at the grassroot who come to me, I have to open consulting rooms at my house to begin to observe and examine pregnant women too,” he comically retorted.
He had issued a stern warning to supporters shortly after he was announced winner in the last parliamentary elections that, “if you don’t stop calling me Dormaa Mugabe, I will forfeit this idea of relinquishing the Dormaa Central seat and stay forever”.
A close confidant of Mr. Agyeman-Manu acknowledges his democratic credentials and character, saying that had enabled him to contribute in solving some outstanding challenges that had faced his Party.
Notably, in times when the NPP in Dormaa Central was hit with a tsunami of Party factionalism. During such politically-perilous times, he had remained humble, allowing the Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to prevail with what was the Party’s ideas, position, philosophy and solutions over the simmering tensions that had built, strained, characterised and dogged his relationship with Mr. Drissa Ouattara, the Dormaa Central Municipal Chief Executive.
With the remarkable, monumental and unprecedented achievements he chalked as a Health Minister and an MP during President Akufo-Addo’s first term, particularly in building Community-based Health Planning and Services(CHPS) Compounds, providing boreholes for communities, building new Senior High School (SHS) classroom blocks and renovating old ones ensuring massive recruitment of the youth in the health and other sectors of the economy, donating a radiology machine to the Dormaa Presbyterian Hospital (DHP), lobbying for asphalting of Dormaa-Ahenkro town roads, there’s no questioning his competency, credibility and his ability to perform and deliver in Akufo-Addo’s second term.
To give credence and meaning to this statement implies, perhaps, he would need to open up even more to those credible media organisations he hopes to work with at the Constituency or local level, to propagate and convey his good, positive message to the constituents and Ghanaians in general in the next term.
Having been a victim of a number of disinformation campaigns, upping his game with the media, reputable ones of course, will enable Ghanaians and particularly his constituents to see the right things, through a window of his achievements what his life symbolises, and what permanent legacies generations yet unborn may come to know him for.
Kwaku Agyeman Manu is 66 years old. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Statistics, and is an Associate Chartered Management Accountant. From 1990 to 1994 he was an accountant at Mim Timber Company Limited, and was the Director of Finance at Toyota Ghana Limited. Under the government of President Kufuor, he served within the period as a Deputy Minister of State in the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Interior, Finance, Communications and Roads and Transport.
He has served on the Boards of institutions such as the Small Arms Commission of Ghana, the Ghana Revenue Authority, Bank of Ghana, and the Divestiture Implementation Committee.
He was also the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority in 2006. He was also the Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Ghana’s sixth Parliament, but now the immediate past Health Minister of the Republic of Ghana and is married with six children.