The landscaper who will be king: B.C. man to lead Ghana tribe
'I said are you kidding me please?!' Eric Manu on being chosen king of the Akan tribe in Ghana
Career changes don't come any crazier than this.
In two months Langley, B.C., landscaper Eric Manu will trade his rake for a crown when he is acclaimed king of the 6,000-member Akan tribe in the village of Adansi Aboabo No. 2 in southern Ghana in West Africa.
He inherits the position from his uncle, who died at age 67.
"I had a call in July that the whole community — the elders of the land and my extended family — had appointed me to take the next role of chief of the community, and I said, 'Are you kidding me please," laughed Manu, speaking from a truck in Langley.
"I thought I was dreaming and did not believe it myself."
Right man for the job?
Manu said he had to think long and hard about whether he was the right man for the job.
"This is not a political appointment, you understand. This is an inheritance, something that your ancestors and forefathers worked for and you have to continue. So you really have to be passionate." he said.
"Some corrupt leaders want the people to serve them, but as a humble leader you have to know how to serve the people."
The January coronation will trigger a seismic shift in the life of Manu, 32, who is married to a Canadian, has lived in British Columbia for three years and is the father of a 10-month-old son.
His area of control in Ghana is the main village of Adansi Aboabo No. 2 and a larger surrounding area — hinterlands and cottages in the bush, as he describes it.
Some don't have electricity
"We have four government schools … but some village schools don't have a laptop, they've never seen a computer before. Some don't even have electricity … or access to a library."
That's where his boss, Susan Watson, is stepping up.
Watson, owner of The Landscape Consultants, will not only attend the coronation, she's arriving with a giant gift in the form of a shipping container packed with computers, sewing machines, clothes, shoes, books, bicycles and seeds.
The donations were a gathered in the last few months through Watson's personal and professional networks, and a foundation called To the Moon and Back.
"We were working on a hot sunny day during the July heat wave and Eric all of sudden says, 'Sue, I'm going to become king,'" Watson recalled. "We had thought it was four or five years away but he said I'm doing this next year. I didn't want to show up empty handed."
Once established, Manu said, he will focus on youth education and trying to change the perception many Africans have that "money grows on trees when you come to Europe or Canada." He's already posted a number of Facebook videos to show friends and family how hard he works to make a living in Langley.
"I video myself shovelling mulch, shovelling soil, planting and mowing the lawn, he said. "I tell my people whatever you are doing in Africa, do it and do it good. Because life here is not what you think."
Manu's shovelling days will soon to be behind him — "you'll have people to serve you," he said, sounding a little incredulous.
And that's only the beginning of the changes.
"My biggest challenge is [at] my youthful age to mingle with elderly people," Manu said. "All the people directing and advising me, and they're not even my age mates." he said. "My dress code has to change, the way I talk has to change, I can't sit outside and eat, I can't sit outside and talk to people.
"It's a new role, it's a new life."