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« Crossing the River Mungo | Main | SONARA Staff Probed Over Missing FCFA 20Million Cheque »

Monday, 26 July 2004


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Ekinneh Agbaw-Ebai

Albert Mukong: Gone But Not Forgotten

Not all truly great personages go around with a loud haler and tam-tam drummer heralding their approach. Yet their greatness remains no secret, especially to those who think. One of such men finally said goodbye recently. Albert Womah Mukong, iconoclastic icon and symbol of the Anglophone cause, finally succumbed to death that had challenged him for a decade.

The first thing that struck me at the news of his transition was a comment by Lord Maynard Keynes about the place of economists. Keynes had in his memoir on Alfred Marshal written 'Economist, must leave to Adam Smith alone the glory of the Quarto, must pluck the day, fling pamphlets into the wind, write always sub specie temporis, and achieve immortality by accident, if at all”. This may run opposite to my often expressed view that the written word is a clear path to immortality, but Albert Mukong seemed to believe in those words of Keynes.

Mukong in many ways laid no claim to the immortality within his grasp, from the prodigious intellect he had, the great sense of service he possessed, and the spirit he displayed even in the most difficult of times. It is even as such that he could be much misunderstood by those not thoughtful enough or who did not really know him.

There are not too many people I know who have spent time listening to Mukong in a relaxed atmosphere that fail to acknowledge the sage-like deployment of his intellect. My personal path was to corner Mukong at any drinking spot, "tune" him with a question and sit back for hours soaking up knowledge from the fountain, a range that ran from the classics to the contemporary. What I never could figure out was why he chose not to be either publicly active or to do more academic type of work after his release from political bondage by French speaking Cameroonian authorities, with whom he died bearing no grudge!

For all the power of his intellect, and the generosity of his humanity, the greatest profits I have from knowing Mukong well is not what I soaked up about the Anglophone struggle from someone who incarnated it, nor on the controversy surrounding his role as SDF founding father (recognized publicly by Fru Ndi only after Mukong’s death). The great lesson I took from him was the power of simplicity. No one can miss Mukong in the crowd. It did not matter how the man looked. Nothing could take away from who the man was; the ideas and the accomplishments. He was Albert Mukong.

My conclusion then was simple: a man is not what he has, he is who he is. Many of my contemporaries will find this philosophical disposition of mine a paradox given my own personal disposition and passionate inclination for epicurean antiques. They missed the point. It is about how to live a fulfilled life and not about fixation with the material. It was watching Mukong that led me to a certain understanding of where wealth belonged before I read the inspiring word of Henry Ward Becher: “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has”.

Another lesson I learnt back then that has come to serve me well as I took on a career which brought me under public scrutiny, is the ease with which calumny can be manufactured in our society. The very obviously modest means of this man about which public gossip ascribed heroic stories of his showdown with the late enigmatic President Ahmadou Ahidjo helped me prepare for some of the things I sometimes hear about myself. Reflecting on what I got to know of Mukong and how wildly and widely it varied from folklore I have come to expect that it is in the nature of the idle that cannot explain some things to use the yardstick of their own values and what they would do in certain circumstances, to ascribe the way it must have been with some other person in that context they imagine them functioning in. To be with it they have to give their story the authority of being in on the source. It goes from the mundane, like someone saying you speak regularly on the phone with a person they know, yet you probably do not know that person exists, to estimates of the size of your bank accounts, and the number of wives and wivelets you aspire to get.

It is gratifying to know that invariably the truth becomes available to history for those who care to explore. Fortunately, goodwill remains among some people for those who in good conscience take a position and choose to serve their people whole heartedly from that position even if such a position be unpopular at the time. Mukong as the voice of marginalized Anglophones in the Francophone dominated Cameroon played a role that only the distance of history can allow a full celebration of. He brought to the essence of Anglophone nationalism the best and brightest and carried out many social experiments with an eye for history. Not all those social experiments worked, but it built him goodwill in the heart of those who knew him well even when his sense of humor resulted in some misrepresented comments that have become folklore. I certainly will miss his sharp throated laughter and the ease he felt with the younger generation.

When SDF Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi made the crack in his obituary that Mukong could have protested even against himself, he was paying a most profound and befitting tribute to a patriot and revolutionary. He was extolling a mental and practical identification, so complete and uncompromising that it could not be subverted, not even by the deadening blandishments of the highest office in the land. For it was indeed true that if for any reason, Mukong discovered along the line that he had joined the ranks of the oppressors, he would promptly and openly renounce his position and wage war on himself.

This goodwill for Mukong is seen in the friends who sacrificed to keep him in good care when he fell ill and ultimately in the statesmanlike magnanimity of what remains of the present day Anglophone activists to give him a befitting burial. For those who did not know Mukong well, the prisoner without a crime is wrapped up in myths and calumny. For those who knew him well, Cameroon has just lost a great patriot and statesman, a scholar and thinker that wanted to give his best but indeed gave just a fraction of the great gift he was endowed with. To have known him was to value him. Good Nite Albert Mukong…

Ekinneh Agbaw-Ebai

Boston, Massachusetts


Colinza Coolman

My Brothers!!!
Where are we heading to at this crucial moment when the world has become a global village? My fellow countrymen have become refugees in their own country I must say I'm inconvenient and uncomfortable about the present state of affairs in my mother country. What's really wrong with the big wigs in our society? They have virtually taken control of the country's resources leaving the needy masses in the cold. A large number of the country's population lives below the poverty line. As if this isn't enough, they still go around committing crimes and evading justice.
I’ve heard so much of that unworthy 'son of a bitch' called Fon Doh! What does he think he is? Lifting his immunity from prosecution sounds great. But the big question is; would justice take its course? If justice takes it course, would it at the end of the day seen to have been done? We’re all living witnesses of the general outcry of injustices in Cameroon. Would this Fon Doh’s case be an exception? Take the case of Late Barrister Eseme…justice suffered, its course was constantly being punctured by letters from Yaounde; Their Lordships presiding hands were being tied together preventing them from acting conscionably. The trial suffered uncountable adjournments. It’s awful to hear the executive determines when justice should take it course. I know, this task is placed under the control of the judiciary. Fon Doh or what you call him should be stripped off his parliamentary immunity and should face trial, as any other Cameroonian in his position would have. He thinks he’s above the law and can do what Napoleon left undone. The time has come, all eyes on Cameroon, the Eseme case was an eye-opener. May I say something…why did parliament in the first place grant immunity from prosecution to parliamentarians? Was it an over-sight or done with malicious intents? Or was it politically motivated?
We’d like all the other criminals of the CPDM regime brought to book for the untold hardship they have caused Cameroonians. We’re here coz, of the bad policies they are implementing. While here, the bad regime put in place is still a nightmare to us. We have to pay much money for our stay amounting to US$155 after 3 months while other people from other African countries pay less than US$50. We also face many problems at the immigration coz, of the quality of our passports. It’s of inferior quality compared to Mali’s, Ghana’s Benin’s, Togo’s etc; easy to be forged since the photo is attached not scanned. I was amazed when I looked at a friend’s passport from Mali I was traveling with. The quality of his passport is superior more than ours. The photo scanned and well formed but sad to say our authorities still attach photos with stapler, meanwhile, lots of money is extracted from us for passport. Biya should know that ‘Tough time never last but tough men do…’ There comes a time when he and his clique will face the consequences of their misconduct. I pray and hope for that! Most people think that Africans aren’t free. A friend and colleague over here asked me this question and many other questions but, I lied to her coz, we’re not free at all. Tyranny still reigns in Africa.
This is not all! I have got many things to say but time…
Colinza Coolman, Thailand (Asia)

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