Bongo Borborbor: How Manasseh Azure danced his way to fame


He appears calmer than he writes and is far younger than the issues he writes about. All he needs is a rhythmic sound of borborbor, a local Ghanaian music garnished with an imaginary sight of women wiggling their backside in a dance and he will, with his pen, bring down even the most powerful corrupt politician.

If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings, so says an old African Proverb.

At 29, Manasseh Azuri Awuni is one of the kings in his chosen field and can be described as a veteran watchdog of the profession he belatedly chose, a profession he is ready to die for.

Unassuming, with a fairly gaunt voice, the 2012 Journalist of the Year picked his words slowly, carefully, as if each word was of equal importance. And it was. He did not want listeners of Bola Ray’s Personality Profile programme to miss out on the crumbs of his life, a life punctuated with poverty, suffering, disappointment and hardships; a life lived with passion, hope and determination to surmount all formidable odds.

In a stimulating, thoroughly engaging interview session, Manasseh dotted each small story of his life with emotion and clothed his successes, achievements with modesty, went numb on his relationship with women because there was hardly any, a performance quite typical of the little man born in Bongo in 1985.

Inspiration triggered by poverty
For many in his generation, poverty is a perfect excuse for failure but he made it an incubator for success.

His father, then a peasant farmer at Bongo, in the Upper East Region, moved a little southwards to Kete Krachi and carried along with him his children, some of whom would become farm hands. Manasseh picked groundnuts at a very tender age in what many described as child labour. He called it service to a father willing to give the best of everything but had little to give anything. The father soon got a new job. He became the security man at Krachi Government Hospital and dozed off many nights on benches. It was not a dream job for any father but it provided a stable income, albeit little, to pay school fees for Manasseh who may well pass for the goal keeper and his ten other siblings, a perfect football team for Krachi XI, I guess.

In a Krachi house that had no electricity, with television nothing more than a luxury, Awuni became friends with God and his books. Reading, writing and serving God came to be the searchlight that illuminated the dark nights of pain and poverty and eventually set him up onto the path of fame.

Career Choice
His art of writing notwithstanding, journalism was never an option for Awuni. He wanted to be a Bank Manager.  The Krachi branch manager of Commercial Bank was to him and at the time the symbol of success. He followed his dream with a pursuit of Accounting at Krachi Secondary. Manasseh could not cheat destiny as he ended up writing-love letters, plays for his school and other schools. He did more writing than he did adding algebra or solving equations.

The idea of journalism was tossed into his mind like an impulse of thought by one Fredoline Empeh and he has since not turned back.

The premier journalism institution-GIJ-was in Accra and Accra was to him like a Muslim’s first pilgrimage to Mecca.

In 2006 he enrolled in GIJ and felt like a fish out of water. With a huge inferiority complex, compounded by a humongous aristocratic lifestyle by students in the institute, life on campus was like a test that had to be written and passed. He passed each one with distinction. He funded, edited and published his own newspaper, the Secondary Times, and became the Institute’s SRC President in 2008.

If student politics was the breeding ground for the country’s future corrupt leaders, it served also as a breeding ground for future incorruptible journalists who would expose selfish power drunk leaders and their allies in business.

With his famous Tom and Jerry SRC article on an A4 sheet in 2008 which brought down a confused and incompetent SRC leadership, Manasseh has since learnt not to pull punches back. When he feels strongly about issues, he expresses them strongly sometimes with venom. It doesn’t matter who is involved or how powerful the person is, once you are suspected of corruption or bad mouthing, he brings you down. The tale of GYEEDA and SUBHA are stinking examples of how Manasseh’s steely determination exposed some of the biggest corruption scandals in Ghana’s history.

Manasseh confirmed to Bola Ray how cowards threatened him with death; how powerful men attempted to bribe him with cars to stop his GYEEDA investigations but he preferred his rickety motorbike with the smoky exhaust; he preferred a conscience free from guilt. He had conscience.

Path to fame
And who says hardwork doesn’t pay? Like Napoleon Hill said in his book Think and Grow Rich -Opportunity has spread its wares before you. Step up to the front, create your plan; put your plan into action and follow through with persistence, God and capitalist America, in this case Ghana, will do the rest.

Manasseh found the opportunity in corrupt officials; he found the opportunity in a country that espouses freedom of speech yet its citizens are cowed into submission for fear of being tagged; he found the opportunity of being himself-Manasseh Awuni Azuri the boy from Bongo, raised in Krachi who loves the natural beauty in women and cherishes his borborbor and would protest to Bola why he adulterated his borborbor music. He had a plan. His plan was to write; write with passion. He persevered and persisted. That has paid off in many ways- awards, recognition and a space on Joy FM’s personality profile with Bola Ray. I am reliably informed that he will soon park his motor bike and outdoor his four wheeler which has been ready for weeks now but Manasseh is worshipping it at the garage.

I doff my hat to the once caretaker of a guest house who swept and cleaned to pay his fees but who remained focused not on the indignities and difficulties of life but on the opportunities life gave to change his destiny. He later became the best TV News Reporter, the Best Human Rights Reporter, the Most Promising Journalist of the year the Journalist of the Years and most importantly the one and only Bongo Boy with the borborbor swag.

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