How 93-year-old man paid for his bad temper

You have every right to be angry. But the Holy Bible says do not sin when you are angry. Though a devout Christian, 93-year old Opanin Kwadwo Manu did not follow this biblical instruction. He had a misunderstanding with his wife and ended up killing her together with his brother-in-law. Opanin Manu is back from prison after 35 years trying to educate people in his hometown on the need to control their anger to avoid what he went through.

Joy New’s Seth Kwame Boateng filed the following reports:

I had spent almost my entire day inside the Tamale central prisons interviewing inmates and officers. Having inhaled that unbearable cocktail of urine and intolerable cell stench which triggered an uncontrollable headache, I was rushing out when I heard this faint fatigued voice “my son come”. I turned and it was a frail sick and extremely old man.

He was 92 then. He could barely walk and even breathe well. He had a simple message for me. He said and I quote “my son, I will soon die but please when you get to Accra, tell the President I don’t want to die here. He should let me go home and die . That was the first time I met Opanin Kwadwo Manu.

Opanin Kwadwo Manu speaks to Seth in prison
Upon my return to Accra I informed the authorities about Mr Manu’s plight and on July 1, 2015, he obtained his freedom resulting from a presidential amnesty.

Mr Manu, who is now out of prison, could not hold back his gratitude to the President.

“I am so grateful to the President for granting me this freedom. May God bless him and all the people around him. May they have sympathy for all others who need help.”

He is now 93 years and has reunited with his family for the first time in 35 years. Opanin Kwadwo Manu was jailed in 1980 at age 58 when he could not control his anger and ended up killing his wife and his brother-in-law.

“Misunderstanding in all marriages is common. My wife lied to me and when I discovered the truth, I got very angry. We tried settling the issue but that did not work. My brother-in-law worsened the problem when he gave my wife to another man at a time we had not divorced. If we had even separated, it would have been better than just giving my wife to another man. All these got me very angry and I killed them.”

He had a 14 and 9 year-old children with his wife when the incident happened. Though it has been 35 years since the incident happened, Mr. Manu wonders how as a very quiet person, he became so driven by anger that he took two lives. He fled but was later arrested in a forest. Mr. Manu recounts how he was treated as an animal before handed over to the police.

“As soon as they arrested me, they tied me to a log and left me on a park under a scorching sun. Around 7pm, it started raining and I was still on the park. From nowhere a certain man came, pulled a knife and severed part of my left ear. It would have been difficult for this person to be identified if he had even killed me. I was very lucky.”

Mr. Manu spent about 10 years on remand before he was convicted and ended up spending 35 years in jail. Prison life, he says was not easy.

“I have really suffered. Just cast your mind back to the famine that hit the country in 1983. For the prison officers to even get corn dough to prepare porridge for us was even a problem. At times we slept on an empty stomach. There was cholera outbreak at that time as well. We were not spared in the prison. I am lucky I am still alive. On a good day, you will be served porridge in the morning. Later in the day, banku would be prepared with some watery soup.”

He was stigmatized by his family who found his crime embarrassing. His younger brother Kwabena Fosu confirms no family member ever visited him during his stay in prison.

“It is true we never went to visit him. It was really difficult for us to go and see him looking at the severity of the crime he committed. At times it will just hit us that we have a relative in the prison. At times we heard rumors he was dead. This rumor on his death continued for some time but because we had not received any official report from the prison, we did not believe.”

Opanin Kwadwo Manu found God whiles he was in prison, and sought forgiveness. His fellow inmates became the family which had shunned him.

In July, Mr. Manu was released and sent to his village in the company of a prison officer. His brother Kwabena Fosu says scores of people flocked to the Chief’s palace to catch a glimpse of him.

“I was really shocked to see him after so many years. We had no hope he would ever be freed. I was very sad when I saw him so I broke down. But I made sure my excitement overshadowed my grief. When I got to the chief’s palace, I saw hundreds of people who had come to also see him. Most of them did not know him and some had mixed feelings. There were those who were making some comments like, the murderer is back and we must be careful in this village. These comments made me sad.”

When I first met him in the Tamale prison, it appeared he was not going to survive another week or two. But it appears his release has given him some renewed strength. Mr. Manu says he is healthier enough to even start farming.

“I have no land to farm on now because my siblings sold all my lands when I was in prison. I can farm if I get a parcel of land. At least I can grow cassava and pepper which could fetch me some income”

Getting the people of Tweapease to accept Mr. Manu back has not been easy. Though many in the town were not born when the incident happened, they don’t want to associate with him. But that is not his worry now. He is back sharing his life experiences with the townsfolk on how they must manage their anger and tolerate each other. Mr. Manu does not want any of them to ever face what he went through.

“Patience is good in all things. Through patience you can win all your battles. It is even said that if you patiently dissect an ant, you see its intestines. I am a quiet person by nature so people were really shocked when they heard I had killed my wife and her brother. If I had been patient, this would not have happened so I want to tell the world that patience is a virtue. No matter what, please be patient.”

Freedom, Mr. Manu admits must never be taken for granted. He is hopeful his cellmates who are still in the prison will also have their freedom soon.

Opanin Kwadwo Manu says when this happens, their sins must be forgiven and assisted to integrate into society.

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