Of Nyamnding and professorial morons

That the regime in Etoudi corrupts almost everything it touches may now sound like a hackneyed song. But every passing day unfolds the proof thereof. Be it formally through its failed policies or informally through the daily deeds and utterances of its apologists, the regime never fails to demonstrate that if there is anything like the direct opposite of the Midas touch, they have it. The bestiality with which they have been prosecuting this hateful war against Southern Cameroons shows beyond a shred of doubt that they have no dram of respect for life, let alone the human values that form the bedrock of any civilised society.
The one plausible diagnosis of all the symptoms we see is systemic brain damage which has now reached epidemic proportions.
What else would prompt a parliamentarian to declare in session, and on camera, that he asked his son who is a colonel in the army to “kill at least 30 Anglophones”? How else would a member of Government go on record as saying that Anglophones had been dissolved like two cubes of sugar in a basin of water? Or that a population of some eight million is an insignificant minority in a country of about 25 million. The list of such senseless utterances is long, and the unfolding of things on the ground has so proven their emptiness that all they deserve is a dismissive smile.
The latest in the series is a certain Professor Nyamnding‘s hogwash about Anglophones being ungrateful and dull. According to him Southern Cameroonians have always been undeservedly admitted to the regime’s so-called “Grandes Ecoles” thanks to a special derogation ordered by Biya.
Normally, Nyamnding and his claptrap don’t deserve to be dignified with a single comment. But we learn that he teaches International Relations, meaning he is in a position to propagate this falsehood even beyond the frontiers of Cameroon.
For starters though, he has demonstrated that he is indeed a professor – he has professed his emptiness – his ignorance of facts and lack of tact – which is an indictment of a system that produced him and his likes. Elsewhere he is reminded of the many Southern Cameroons students in these schools who, taking their notes in French, very often end up topping their classes. We have nothing to prove in this respect.
Don’t ask him why Yaounde is sacrificing so many soldiers in the fight to keep them, if they are nothing but a bunch of ne’er-do-wells? What has Yaounde got to lose in the departure of a tribe of morons when it is left with so many more intelligent tribes (Beti, Douala, Bassa and Bami)? They should be celebrating the happy riddance. Or are they needed as cheap hewers of wood and drawers of water?
But those who can read between the lines would know that it is more the abusive groom’s fear of losing the dowry the unwilling bride brought with her into the marriage.
Nyamnding’s definition of intelligence can only reflect what obtains in the intellectual bubble in which he was raised. Yaoundé’s system of education was designed to produce, not genuine intellectuals with demonstrable probity, but local robots programmed to think, say and do what the designer wants.
It is a garbage-in-garbage-out system that has reduced a university degree to a piece of paper, a robe and a mortarboard, all obtained as a reward for reproducing some trainer’s plagiarisms. We speak here of the general rule, recognising that there are a few genuine intellectuals lost, like gold rings, in these trusses of hay.
That is why in Cameroon we have so many uneducated professors, incapable of thinking, let alone teaching anyone to think, out of the box.That, in consequence, is the reason most Southern Cameroonians who go through these system schools always get into trouble when they insist on understanding and analysing concepts – as part of Anglo-Saxon scholarship practice – instead of just reproducing notes to pass exams.
Admission into and graduation from the schools he cites are controlled by a gatekeeping system that favours the programmable and, of course, those who can buy their way through. The corrupt mind-set cultivated in these schools is one of Cameroon’s biggest curses.
One wonder’s if, for people like Nyamnding, the real fear is not that if these so-called Anglos are allowed to slip away, they could produce a real system of education that would expose the vacuity of the present one.
In that case he and his likes must be having nightmares watching the number of French speaking parents already scrambling to send their children to English speaking schools, and feeling so proud when they succeed in getting admission. You can’t compare one thing, you know.
But to better grasp where people like Nyamnding are coming from, here are two accounts from two Southern Cameroonians in the University of Yaounde.
“In the Grande Ecole where I was teaching it was decided that each student’s script be marked by two or more lecturers, ostensibly to avoid lecturers awarding undeserved marks to students. A francophone colleague marking some francophone scripts after me, suddenly became uncontrollably furious with the students on realising that I had corrected their French as well. “Your French is so bad that even an Anglophone can correct you. I can’t believe it,” he said, really upset.
In the second case an Anglophone student doing a bilingual degree had written a paper in French, and a French female lecturer decided to fail him because it was too good to have been written by an Anglo.
For her, either he had copied it, or he was a Francophone pretending to be Anglo. She must have had on her Nyamnding tinted glasses.

Hitch free FSLC written in Southwest

Amid insecurity characterised by abductions and gunfire exchanges that had cast dark clouds on the successful holding of end of year examinations in the Southwest Region in particular, the 2018 session of the First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC was written Monday June 12, hitchfree.
Following a visit to some accommodation centres in the Region, Benoit Ndong Soumhet, Secretary of state for Basic Education, stated that he was out to check and ensure that the exams were going on well. “We started in Tiko, Buea and Limbe and have visited 42 centres and we have ascertained that things are going on well in all the centres.” Ndong Soumhet added that it is the role or duty of the Government is to ensure that in spite of the insecurity in this part of the country, the examination exercise should move on without hindrance.
After visiting the centres, he said “The message I will reiterate to candidates is that which authorities of the land have always been saying since the start of the crisis; children must go to school for the a better Cameroon tomorrow and the parents must be aware of that because education is of utmost importance throughout the country in order for development to take place.”
The many threats here and there notwithstanding, he stated that throughout his working visit to centres, the exercise went on hitch free as they did not face any resistance of whatever from anybody.
In the Region however, 13,400 pupils were present for FSLC in 63 accommodation centres while for Certificat D’etudes Premier, 669 pupils took part in 17 Centres. Due to the upheavals which have heavily hit Muyuka, candidate from here were made to write from Buea.
By Relindise Ebune

War triggers foodstuff price hikes

The festering internecine war pitting Southern Cameroon separatists against the Biya regime has triggered a pernicious fixture in the livelihoods of many inhabitants of the affected Northwest and Southwest Regions reflected in foodstuff price hikes.
Food stuff including plantains, cocoyams, tapioca aka garri, tomatoes and melons have witnessed a steady price increase especially, in Kumba, the economic hub of the Southwest Region.
Kumba, Meme Divisional headquarters and junction town linking all other Divisions to Buea, Southwest Regional headquarters has been known for abundance in food supply to other markets.
However, since the escalation of hostilities at the beginning of this year characterized by routine gun battles, incineration of whole villages, destitution of their inhabitants and eventual desertion, business persons say food supply from villages to the urban markets has drastically reduced, thereby making the little that is available very expensive.
Ma Manyi, food stuff vendor at the Kumba main market told The Rambler that “it’s not our making that food is expensive. We know that but, there is nothing we can do. At first we bought plantains at cheaper rates from farmers but today most of those farmers are in the bushes and these plantains remain their major food.”
She explained further that the number of control posts they have to “settle” for both the military and ‘Amba boys’ before reaching Kumba all add to the increase in prices.
Also, one of such commodities which has witnessed a sharp increase in the market is melon commonly known as egusi. As at Saturday, June 9, 2018, when this reporter visited the market, a glass of unpeeled melon sold at FCFA200, a price which consumers say is twice for the same quantity which sold at a FCFA100 or less during the same month in previous years. Traders say this is so because what is being supplied now is old stock for last year and warn that if the fighting persists the prices might even triple because farmers who ought to be working are hiding in the forests.
Traders also attribute the high prices of food to the inaccessible nature of major highways to Kumba because of frequent gun attacks recently. Some say the fact that the railway in Kumba for some time now is not functioning due to security reasons has affected the large quantity of food which came in from the Littoral Region.
Apart from foodstuff, drinks of some targeted brewing companies have had FCFA 100 added to the normal prices. These retailers say there is a high risk involved in buying and stocking the drinks even when the breweries manage to effect some distribution mostly, in urban vicinities.

UB Science Faculty celebrates silver

Though with enormous challenges on their way to drumming 25 years of existence in the University of Buea, especially with the fast pace evolution of science in the developed and emerging countries, coupled with the complexity of nature and Cameroon’s feet dragging in the third world, the Faculty of Science still promises to hit emergence hard, by the year 2035.
This determination was showcased during events marking its 25th anniversary recently, under the theme: ‘25 years of Service to Humanity and Perspectives for Emergence.’
During the celebrations on the university campus, graced by the Vice chancellor of the University of Buea, UB, Professor Horace Manga, former Vice Cchancellor of the University of Buea Professor Vincent Titanji, and other bigwigs, the Faculty of Science boasted being one of the best Faculties to have produced excellent graduates who can defend their certificates wherever they are needed.
However, the Faculty officials complained of lack of infrastructure and equipment to carry out research, experiments and analyses. During an interview with the Vice Chancellor Professor Horace Manga, he never denied the grumbles of the Faculty but, instead went further to admit that most of the equipment in the Faculty of Science are rewards to personal dynamism of the professors at that Faculty, through which they have been able to have research and analytical equipment, “but this is not to say that Government has not been equipping the Faculty; Government has always provided funds, even built a laboratory and equipped it,” he noted.
He stressed that he expects the Faculty to be at the forefront to match its evolution of science. “We don’t want them to be derailed. The Faculty of Science should translate their theory into practice, to benefit the environment.”
Professor Titanji Vincent, Emeritus Vice Chancellor on his part, warned students and all scientists not to try to bend facts, to suit their opinions. “I just observed that many female scientists are very humble and generous. To follow their footsteps you must think of Intellectual humility,” he noted. He also made known the fact that, nature knows better than human, and advised if one has an idea but observations are showing that that idea isn’t very good, one has to abandon it.
By Atembeh Ngewung Lordfred

Exotic dancers

You see a wench pass by on a busy street, and as she sashays down the lane, the men and boys with the instinct of hunting dogs will stare, with a snarl fantasizing about chunks of luscious flesh, packaged in a small delicate piece of cloth. Yeah! I am talking about the miniskirt, the short skirt or simply put the mini.
Some are so short that as clothing, it is a paradox that they reveal rather than conceal sacred body parts, but, is that not attractive in the manner of an exotic dancer? The miniskirt could at times be so tight that the wench has difficulties bending or stooping to pick up an item and will have to drift slowly down like a schoolgirl who is about to curtsy. Some bum sides are protruding like gigantic protuberances, everything bursting at the seams and it appears the whole thing would snowball into an avalanche of moist flesh.
Society says girls and women who dress in minis are calling for attention and attracting the prowling animals with a human face who take women without bothering about whether they are consenting partners or not and whether the victim is a baby, minor, adult or granny does not matter.
My friend Vicky says associating rape to short skirts is like considering that the dress code of a community determines the number of twisted minds that could be found there. Whatever men might say, except the miniskirt is wrapped is a pile of s**t, few if any are not aroused. Brethren, one can’t live against one’s reputation forever. Sooner or later, you become what other people think you are.
The Bohemian noticed only recently that June 6 is world miniskirt day. It was planned in 2015 by RACHID BEN OTHMAN and feminist activist NAJET BAYOUDH. Their call to Tunisian women to participate in a miniskirt rally on June 6 is seen as a sign of solidarity with oppressed women. They were moved to act, by stories about women being punished for not covering the entire body. In Algeria, a girl is said to have been sent out of the exam room for wearing a short skirt.
Men and people will call you names; prostitute, witch and what have you? But see them cough, delivering themselves of some sepulchral mucus just to get the attention of the passing mini.
So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month, by the shores of the Atlantic in the land of the proud people, this day declare; whether a designer skirt or a cheap imitation one, a miniskirt is a mini-skirt. Those who wear it enjoy how much flesh they expose; a firm elegant thigh and voluptuous body. There are women who dismiss the point that miniskirts attract rapists saying their dress code cannot be blamed by acts carried out by a twisted mind. Is there any adult who has not played the exotic dancer, even as a solo performance, just once, at least? The miniskirt fascinates with the same appeal of a lap dance and it is a statement to the hypocrites; “if you are shy enough to conceal your well sculpted features, we are proud enough to let you see our Know what?” We are all thrilled by the type of performance that can only be given by exotic dancers. It is not difficult to become one – put on a miniskirt and you will become an exotic dancer, and it means you can dance even when there is no music.
By Winston Lebga

Kumba ‘beer refugees’ flood other towns

Just as the Southern Cameroon crisis has affected trade, free flow of business and education, it may also, end up a slap on the face to most beer lovers in Kumba who now go for days without a sip, as the seething political upheaval seeps into the drinking economy of K-town. This seems to be the outcome of a war pledged against a particular brewery’s products by so called Ambazonian fighters, who have reportedly set a number of trucks ablaze, and promised torture and death, to any unfortunate vendors caught selling what they classify as taboo products.
Beer counters in Kumba are now scanty, prices increasing with beer lovers unable to drink to their satisfaction, or to drunkenness as it had been the case in the numerous drinking spots that had flooded the town. Many denizens in the town have gone to the extent of spending over FCFA3000 each in a day, driving or using public transport, to neighboring towns like Buea just to quench their thirst for beer.
Many who come to Buea, for drinking sake, drink irresponsibly to the point of drunkenness nudged by the reality of not having a glance at a beer bottle when they return home. Some few weeks back, a severe accident occurred along the Mile 2 road and reports held that, the victims were inhabitants of Kumba who drove up to Buea to drink, and were returning heavily drunk.
According to a commercial bus driver who identified himself as Black Jack, he has witnessed instances in which, passengers plead with him and pay him hard cash, to smuggle beer into Kumba.
Kumba, popularly known as K-town has witnessed serious fighting and exchange of gunshots in previous days. Kumba is not the first to experience such beer scarcity as other towns like Muyenge have been suffering serious beer shortages, due to the beer “ban” resulting from the crisis. Peace still remains farfetched in most Anglophone localities, as killing, kidnapping and gunshots still remain the order of the day.
By Atemebeh Ngewung Lordfred

Inside Aso Rock: The Day Abacha Died

Friday June 5, 1998, was a cool bright day. Before we left the Villa, the Press Corps was informed that the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, would be making a brief stop-over at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, en route to Morocco. And he was expected to hold a brief discussion with the General, Sani Abacha.
We were therefore expected to be at the airport to cover the event on Sunday, June 7. It was a topical assignment in view of Nigeria’s neutral position in the Middle East conflict. Besides, the rest of us were keen to meet Mr. Arafat, the man at the centre of the storm.
That Sunday morning, the Press Corps headed for the airport to await the arrival of Yasser Arafat. We did not have to wait for too long before the Palestinian leader arrived, accompanied by a very modest delegation. President Arafat and General Abacha immediately went into private discussion at the VIP lounge of the Presidential wing of the airport. The Press outside waited curiously for the possible outcome of the talks between the two leaders, a kind of joint press conference, on all issues involved in the Nigeria-Palestine relations.
After the meeting, which was very brief, there was no press conference. Rather, Yasser Arafat inspected a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the 3 Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army, and departed for Morocco. The whole airport ceremony lasted about two hours and we all returned to the Villa (Aso Rock).
Before leaving the Villa, I decided to cross-check with protocol officials if the Head of State would still be traveling to Burkina Faso to attend the OAU Summit, which was already at the Ministerial Session in Ouagadougou. The advance team of the Head of State’s entourage had already left on Friday night. I was to be in the main entourage expected to leave for Burkina Faso on Monday morning, after Abacha would have declared open an International Information Conference expected to begin in Abuja Monday June 8. The Federal Ministry of Information organized the conference. It was normal during General Abacha’s regime, that his movement was always kept topmost secret. As a matter of fact, those of us who used to travel with him would not know until few hours to our departure. So was our trip to Burkina Faso. They told me it was still on course.
With that assurance, I drove straight to NICON Hilton, Abuja where I had passed the previous night as a member of the Organizing Committee of the Information Conference. Six o’clock in the morning, Monday June 8, I 1eft for the Villa, with my luggage to join the delegation to Burkina Faso for the OAU Summit. General Abacha was to head the Nigerian delegation. At the time I got to the Villa everything appeared quite normal. I met some of my colleagues who were also to be in the Head of State’s entourage to Burkina Faso. At 7 a.m. that fateful day, we all assembled at the Press Centre waiting for the necessary directives. However, when it got to eight o’clock, and no signal was forthcoming about our movement, we decided to go and have our breakfast and reconvene in the next one hour. At that point everything in the Villa still appeared normal. Various officials were seen in their duty posts doing their routine jobs.
From the Villa, I drove straight to my house, had a quick breakfast, and decided to go through NICON Hilton hotel to inform my colleagues in the Organizing Committee about the uncertainty of our trip. On getting to the hotel, I saw people standing in groups, discussing. But I did not give a thought to their attention. I imagined that some of them were delegates or participants at the conference. So I quickly dashed into my room, returned immediately to the Villa to join my colleagues, to wait for further developments.
On driving to the Villa gate, a new atmosphere had taken over. The first gate had been taken over by new set of security operatives. I was not familiar with virtually all of them, except one Major whose name I could not remember immediately. The Major knew me by name. He was fully in charge of the new security arrangement, dishing out instructions in a very uncompromising manner. Initially, I did not take it as anything very serious. As a well known person in the Villa, I was confident that my entrance was just a matter of time more so when I was hanging my State House identity card around my neck. All my expectations were wrong as I was bluntly ordered to go back. All explanations and introductions on my mission to the Villa were helpless. The instruction was clear: ‘go back! go back!’ they shouted at all visitors. At that delay many cars had formed long queues. My immediate reaction was to seek the assistance of the Major, whom I had identified earlier, to save me from the tyranny of his men. Before I could approach him he shouted, “Ogbonnaya go back!” While I was still battling to wriggle out of what was seemingly a hopeless situation, I noticed a woman right behind me, almost hysterically screaming, that she had an early morning appointment with the First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Abacha. The woman apparently must be coming from the National Council of Women Societies from her dressing. My shock was the way she was instantly assaulted by those stern looking security operatives. At that point, I quickly got the message; I drove away from the scene as quickly as possible. Though my mind was everywhere but my immediate conclusion was that there was a coup because I could not imagine any other thing that could have caused such a high level of security alert. I therefore decided to drive straight to the International Conference Centre to alert my Director General on the latest development. He was attending the conference as a participant.
At the International Conference Centre, I saw some Ministers standing at the lobby in anticipation of the arrival of Abacha and his team. Immediately they saw me, they became very agitated, and almost simultaneously asked me, “is the C-ln-C already on his way?” I said, “no, I am not really sure he is coming. But let us hope he will still make it.” I knew, as a matter of fact, that I had not really provided them with the desired answer, but that was the much I could tell them. While they were still pondering on the uncertainty of my reply, I left and quickly walked into the hall where I met my Director-General, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Michika. He was already seated with other participants. I called him aside. “Sir, I don’t really know what is happening in the Villa. I suggest that you leave this place now!” Without betraying any emotion, he quickly asked me what was the situation in the Villa like, I told him all that I saw. I repeated my advice and that I had not been able to confirm what exactly was happening. I then made it clear to him that it was no longer safe for him to continue staying in the conference, and so should quietly take his leave. Alhaji Michika immediately went back to his table, took his pen and papers and followed me out of the hall.
The moment we were outside, I asked him if he came with his car. He said yes, but because of the extraordinary security arrangement put in place in anticipation of the arrival of the Head of State, it was difficult locating his driver. I then suggested that we should use my car which he obliged. I drove him straight to his house instead of the office. Both of us agreed that he should remain at home for the time being, while I promised to keep him informed about the development. This panic measure was as a result of the usual trauma which Radio Nigeria Management Staff often pass through each time there was a military coup d’état in Nigeria. The first target usually is the FRCN Broadcasting House. The management and staff on duty usually pass through hell in the hands of the military boys in their desperate effort to gain entrance into the studios at record time for the usual “Fellow Nigerians” broadcast.
From my Director-General’s residence I decided to get to NICON Hilton Hotel to assess the situation there before heading back to the Villa. At the hotel the atmosphere was rather sombre. There were a few clusters of people; some of them who recognized me, rushed and demanded to know what was happening at the Villa. “Orji, is it true that there is a coup at the Villa?” they asked. I said, “Well I don’t know”. At that time, the BBC, CNN and International Media had begun to speculate on the confused situation.
From their countenance I could see they were not satisfied with my answer. They thought probably that I was withholding some information. But they never knew I had none. I felt very uncomfortable. As a reporter covering the State House, I was equally restless that I could not give a valid answer on what was happening on my beat. I recognized too that it was utterly wrong to depend on others for information about events unfolding in my beat. I instantly felt challenged to get back to the Villa. I was equally aware that such an adventure was fraught with a lot of risk. But that is the other side of journalism as a profession.
On getting back to the Villa, I decided to avoid the main gate because of the heavy security presence there. Instead, I used the maintenance gate through the Asokoro District. I was amazed that no single security man was there at the time. There was therefore no difficulty in passing through into Aso Rock. I drove my car to the Administrative Gate and parked there, and decided to walk. Initially everything had appeared normal in some parts of the Villa until I met a Body Guard (BG). I queried, “old boy wetin happen? Why una boys full everywhere?” It is easier to obtain information from other ranks with informal English. “Ah! Na wa oh! You no know say Baba don quench?”. The boy answered also in Pidgin English. “Which Baba?” I shouted. “Baba don die, Baba don quench just like that. Na so we see am,” the boy concluded, clutching a cigarette in his left hand. I still could not understand what he was saying. “Which Baba do you mean?”, I queried further. “Abacha don die! You no hear?” He shouted at me angrily. It was a very funny way of announcing the passage of a man who was feared and dreaded by all. I was nonetheless confused by its reality. My immediate reaction was that if truly General Abacha was dead, it meant the end of an era. What future does it hold for Nigeria? I pondered over the development as I advanced further into Aso Rock. As I moved down, the reality became evident. The environment was cold, cloudy with uncertainties among the faces I met.
They confirmed it was a reality. General Abacha was truly dead. All were in groups discussing it with fear and subdued silence.
I quickly reached for a telephone to relay the sad story to my Director-General who must be anxiously waiting to hear the latest. Moreso, I was still far away from my news deadline at 4 p.m. But I was disappointed to discover that all the telephone links to the Villa had been severed. There was no call coming in or going out, the Villa at that critical moment was almost totally isolated from the rest of humanity. It was a deliberate measure. When I could not get through on telephone, I decided to drive out fast to break the news. But on reaching the gate through which I had earlier entered, I discovered that some fierce looking soldiers who told me that nobody was allowed to go out or come in had effectively barricaded it. This was happening at about 9.30 a.m. I was helplessly trapped in the Villa from that time till about 5 p.m. when we conveyed the remains of General Abacha to Kano for burial.
I felt particularly disappointed that I could not break the news to anxious Nigerians early enough. It was even more embarrassing and certainly very disheartening to learn that some foreign broadcast stations like the BBC and CNN, which had no accredited correspondents in the Villa, were the first to break the news of General Abacha’s death. It did not entirely come to me as a surprise because the system we operate in Nigeria respects the foreign media more than the local ones. It is equally a well-known fact that most foreign media subscribe to policy makers in our country, who always feed them with first-hand information about any event or issue in the country. The foreign media organizations are no magicians. They pay for news sources especially in situations where they have no correspondents. The pay is usually so attractive that the source is efficient. Thus, generally, access to information in developing countries is fraught with discrimination against local media in preference to foreign ones.
That morning, June 8, 1998, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer to General Abacha, was said to have called key members of the Provincial Ruling Council (PRC) including strategic military commanders for an emergency meeting. We learnt he refused to disclose that Abacha was dead. At about 11a.m., members of the PRC had begun to arrive at Aso Rock for an emergency meeting. Most of the members were informed only on arrival for the meeting except the very powerful ones.
That day, Major Al-Mustapha looked very sharp and smartly dressed in his Army tracksuit and white canvas. The Major was simply too busy running from pillar to post, looking confident but certainly confused about the future without his boss. He was finally in charge, distributing orders to the rank and file to get the Aso Council Chambers ready for the meeting. We watched at a distance in utter disbelief of the turn of events. For Mustapha, the situation was a bleak one. The fear was a possible fall from grace to grass for a man who was dreaded and respected by both the lowly and the mighty. But that morning, he conjured such a pitiable image as he presided over the wreckage of a collapsed regime.
Emotions took over the whole environment. One of the female Ministers worsened the situation when she arrived the Villa by shouting and weeping openly. Nobody looked her way to console her as everybody was simply on his/her own. Cigarettes were a scarce commodity that morning, the only immediate source of reducing tension and grief. Most PRC members who were informed on arrival immediately asked for cigarettes, but none was easily available. Those who had some hoarded them jealously. Elsewhere in the Villa, a gloomy atmosphere, mingled with subdued excitement and relief pervaded. Flurry of activities were taking place at breathtaking speed two crucial meetings were in progress simultaneously. One was a meeting of Principal Officers in the Presidency and the venue was Aso Rock Wing of the Chief of General Staff. The other meeting of members of the Provisional Ruling Council, PRC, was shifted to Akinola Aguda House. The two meetings later merged at Aso Council Chambers for another crucial session. The joint session began at 2 p.m. and ended at 4.45 p.m. I imagined that the items on the agenda of that meeting were:
_ Selection of a new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.
_ Arrangements for the burial of General Abacha.
While the separate meetings were in progress, we in the Press Corps were held hostage. We had all the information but no means of communication. Hunger was also a problem. However, for the first time we were free to assess the regime openly and objectively. The open discussion and arguments centred on what Abacha did and did not do.
While the meeting at Aso Council Chambers was in session, Major Al-Mustapha sat in the chair at the entrance, holding a newspaper in his hands, which he occasionally glanced at. He looked rather relaxed after ensuring that every necessary arrangement had been put in place. He occasionally responded to our discussions with selected and reserved comments. His aides quoted him as saying that nobody would leave the Council Chambers unless a new Military Head of State was selected by the meeting. His fear, I learnt, was that a vacuum was dangerous before General Abacha’s burial later the same day. Mustapha declined all efforts by the few Pressmen around to narrate how General Abacha died. All efforts to bring him fully into our discussion also failed. Insiders at the “red carpet” revealed that shortly after Abacha died, Major Al-Mustapha took some strategic decisions that were of national significance. One of such decisions was the immediate evacuation of the condemned coup plotters in Jos Prison to a more secured place. The measure was probably to pre-empt any intention to summarily execute the plotters by possible overzealous forces.
From morning till 5 p.m., no official press statement on the death of General Abacha from any quarters was issued, even when the incident was already known all over the world. It was difficult to reconcile how such a major sad event could happen in the country and up till that time, nobody deemed it necessary to issue an official statement. We then decided to mount pressure on the then Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu, to make a pronouncement. It was after much pressure that an official statement was eventually issued. The press statement was five paragraphs in all, issued at about 5.25 p.m.
The atmosphere in the Villa then was overcast. On June 8 in Aso Rock, hierarchy of command collapsed. It was a day everybody was free. Shortly after the statement was issued, people began to troop towards the Red Carpet area (official residence of the Head of State). I immediately imagined that the body of the General might be Iying in state. I quickly followed, not certain if it was going to be possible to be allowed to have a glimpse of it.
However, on getting to the house, I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity”. His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.
I returned to the Aso Council Chambers to wait for the outcome of the special session of the Provisional Ruling Council. The outcome of the meeting was all that the media was awaiting. The meeting was to answer the question “who succeeds Abacha?” But before long, the picture of who succeeds General Abacha began to emerge. Shortly after the meeting at Aso Council Chambers had ended, I saw General Abdulsalami Abubakar walk out of the meeting ahead of other senior military officers. This immediately conveyed the message that he had been chosen as the new leader. My conclusion was based on the tradition in the military, there is much respect for hierarchy and seniority. All other military officers and PRC members lined behind Abdulsalami, confirming the saying in the military that appointment supersedes rank. Besides, I watched and saw that he was dishing out orders which all complied to, even his seniors. He took control of the ad-hoc arrangement to convey the body of General Abacha to Kano for burial. He was seen giving orders to both high and low to arrange vehicles for movement to the airport.
The journey to Kano was already far behind schedule, given the fact that the burial must take place that same day in keeping with the Islamic injunction. We left Aso Rock for the airport at about 6 p.m.
It was indeed a big tragedy for the members of former first family as they packed their belongings to join the convoy which took the corpse of the once powerful General home. I wept when I saw Madam, Mrs. Abacha being helped into the waiting car. She stared at Aso Rock in tears, a most difficult and tragic way to say good-bye. Tears rolled freely from all gathered as Madam was driven out of the Villa with her husband’s corpse in front of her in a moving ambulance. The ambulance is normally one of the last vehicles in the usually long Presidential convoy. But on June 8, 1998, the ambulance was in the front with General Abacha’s corpse. All other vehicles lined behind in a day-light reversal of history. The ambulance drove through the IBB bye-pass connecting the airport link road as the entourage made its way to Nnamdi Azikiwe airport. I was surprised that there was instant jubilation by passersby. Taxi drivers lined up at major junctions shouting shame! shame!! as the convoy drove past. Men and women ran after the convoy in utter disbelief of the turn of events. Some other people formed queues in groups with green leaves in their hands singing solidarity songs in a loud tone that suggested liberation from bondage. It was a day in which my biro refused to write and the lines in my jotter went blank. The journalist in me was overtaken by emotions as most of us in the convoy found it difficult to speak to one another. We simply lacked the words or the topic for discussion as our minds went blank and our brains went asleep.
On our arrival at the airport, the body of General Abacha, which was still wrapped in white cloth was carried into the hold of the presidential aircraft, zero-zero one. There was no particular arrangement on who should be in the aircraft, except that members of the first family and some PRC members were given priority. I however noticed that most PRC members at the airport were not even keen in accompanying the corpse of the late General to Kano.
While the aircraft was being positioned, Madam and her children waited at the Presidential lounge with a cluster of relatives and very few associates. The usual crowd around the first family had begun to disappear. That day, it was as though the Abacha family was for the first time in many years on a lonely journey to an unknown destination, even though the aircraft was heading for Kano. It was incredible to imagine the Abachas without General Sani Abacha. As the saying goes, “when the big tree falls, all the birds will fly away”.
The aircraft ready, Madam and her children left the lounge with the heavy burden of making their last flight on the presidential jet, with the corpse of the former Head of State on board. Mrs. Abacha climbed into the aircraft in tears with measured steps. Her children joined too, then some few friends and relations.
Inside, the plane was taken over by grief, tears and open weeping. We had already boarded the aircraft and almost getting set to take-off when General Abubakar curiously asked, “where is the corpse?” He was told that it was kept in the hold. “No, no, no, bring it inside!” the General commanded. And it was brought in and kept few seats away from where I sat. As the journey progressed, whenever there was turbulence, the body would shake, exposing the legs, which were partially covered. I sat in that aircraft speechless. My reflections were on life, death, power, influence and the vanity of human desires.
Our flight to Kano was barely thirty minutes, but I felt it was more than two hours. The usual conversation and jokes in zero-zero one was overtaken by subdued silence, grief, pain and weeping. Everybody on board was on their own. I could imagine how other people’s mind worked at that sober period. But mine went into a comprehensive review of the Abacha era beginning from the night of November 16, 1993 when the General took over. Within my reflections, my mind was everywhere, the good, the bad, the very bad and the ugly. My mood was interrupted by a sudden announcement from the cockpit that we were few minutes away from Aminu Kano International Airport.
The situation on our arrival at Aminu Kano International Airport was rather chaotic. There was no precise arrangement to receive the corpse on arrival. Apparently, our arrival caught Kano and the people unaware. Apart from the first family, and few officials, everybody was expected to sort out his/her own transport arrangement out of the airport. Eventually I had to arrange for an airport taxi to convey me and two others to the private residence of the late Head of State. Unfortunately, there were few taxis at the airport. While this arrangement was on, the main convoy had left with the corpse. We therefore quickly hired a taxi at a high fare dictated by the driver, who was very rude and uncooperative. We were shocked that the driver showed little or no sympathy, but was rather quick to explain that he never benefited anything from the Abacha regime. In his view, his condition had even worsened. We discontinued the discussion as it was becoming volatile.
The Abacha family house on Gidado street, GRA, Kano is a modest twin duplex located in a rather small compound. By the time we arrived there, the place was already besieged by a large number of sympathizers struggling to gain entry. As there was no time to start identifying who was who, we were all being pushed by the security officials who had a very hectic time trying to contain the rapidly surging crowd. In the midst of the pushing and kicking, I suddenly realised that the person who was being pushed against me was the highly respected Governor of Lagos State, Col. Buba Marwa. It therefore became clear to me that at that moment, everybody was regarded as equal, courtesy of the security at the gate. I was then encouraged to continue pushing, until I finally managed to squeeze myself inside the compound.
Inside the compound, I observed scanty presence of newsmen, because security was deadly. I also discovered that the grave was still being prepared, an indication that no proper arrangement was made. Earlier, the body of General Abacha was taken to Kano Central Mosque for prayers. From the Central Mosque, the body was laid on the floor of his private mosque just by the gate with two soldiers standing on guard. I peeped several times to assure myself that it was actually the former powerful Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that was on the bare floor. One was expecting a more dignified presidential burial, with due respect to the modest way the Muslims conduct their burials. Even at a point, a soldier asked, “Why is there no burial party here?” I immediately wanted to know what burial party was all about. I was told that it was the usual twenty-one gun salute line-up of soldiers will give to a fallen officer as his last military respect. But before any of such arrangement could be made, the body of General Abacha had been lowered into the grave. There was certainly no fanfare in the burial, it was simple and brisk. In simple comparison, I had accompanied General Abacha himself to the burial of a top military officer and member of the Provisional Ruling Councils who had died sometime ago and was buried in Minna during his regime. I observed that all the procedures at that burial in all consideration was better managed, more respectful and dignified than that of the former Head of State, their difference in rank and position notwithstanding.
There were quite a number of very important personalities who witnessed the burial. But I particularly took notice of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida and his wife Mariam, who were seen talking with Mrs. Abacha, probably trying to console her. There were also some Emirs and other top Northern leaders who were able to make the trip at such short notice. At about 9.48 p.m. when Abacha’s grave was being covered with sand, a powerful businessman from one of the South Eastern States who was very prominent in Abacha’s campaign for self succession arrived and broke down weeping and wailing openly. Some faithful Muslims who dominated the burial reacted negatively to such an un-lslamic approach to the dead. They threatened to whisk the man out of the premises if he failed to comport himself. The businessman was among those who threatened to proceed on exile or commit suicide if General Abacha failed to become President.
As the burial ended at about 10.05p.m., we hurriedly left for Abuja. I expected that there could probably be some other ceremonies. But I was wrong as we left barely 20 minutes after the body had been interred. We arrived Abuja a few minutes to 12 midnight and drove straight to Aso Council Chambers in the Villa for the swearing-in of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the new Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces.
The swearing-in ceremony was rather brief. It was preceded by a formal announcement by the Principal Secretary to the former Head of State, that General Abubakar had been appointed to succeed the late General Sani Abacha. General Abubakar was then invited to step forward and take the oath of office and allegiance at about 1.43 a.m. on June 9, 1998. That ceremony marked the end of the Abacha era.
After the oath-taking, General Abubakar signed the register to herald the beginning of the new era. That era ushered in a new dawn, a brighter future and hope for a sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The rest is now history. Back to the newsroom at 3 a.m., June 9, with series of events that had taken place in the past 24 hours, my diary was full. It was difficult to decide a headline for the 7 a.m. news bulletin. I do remember that, that morning, at the FRCN Network News studio there was a problem over which of the two important stories should come first; that Abacha was dead or Abubakar has been sworn-in as the new Head of State. Coverage of the events of that day without food and water was among my most challenging assignment.

* Excerpts from the book, Inside Aso Rock, written by respected broadcast journalist, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji who for seven years covered the State House for Radio Nigeria. Published by Spectrum Books Ltd. It is available in major bookshops.
By Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Sani Abacha: Anatomy of a sadist, dictator

“I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity.” His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.”
Ogbonaya Orji, a seasoned broadcast journalist who covered ‘Aso Rock,’ Nigeria’s Presidential Palace summarises the ephemeral nature of power in the above statement after he watched the lifeless body of the tin god being exposed like the cadaver of a disease-ridden animal declared unfit for human consumption by veterinarians.
Like Abacha, other “natural leaders” in Egypt, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia refused to come to terms with the transient nature of power and fell from it like overripe, nay, rotten mangoes. The lure of power and perks that surround the authority it generates derailed them into the erroneous belief that such reverie could last for eternity.
Abacha incarnated the very essence of power. He participated in several coups d’état before he actually ascended the Supreme Commandership of the Nigerian Armed forces in 1993. His stay in the army up to the time of his swearing in as Head of state was a product of serendipity. Like other cunning, sneaky political spiders elsewhere in Africa, the not so brainy Abacha schemed, bided his time.
Sheer bravery and commitment to purpose endeared him to his superiors and, in particular General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, then Army Chief of Staff, who, through a special dispensation permitted him to ascend the rungs of senior officer. As head of state, Abacha looted billions of dollars from the state treasury. He hanged human rights activists and jailed everyone with a dissenting voice for life. Obasanjo, who became first civilian head of state following his demise, served time in Abacha’s gulag.
His reign of terror will remain indelible in the minds of several generations who saw in him an unrepentant and irredeemable autocratic dinosaur.
When he died, Nigerians mourned him on dry cheeks; in fact, they poured into the streets in celebration. The story told in our inner pages reads like the “anatomy or framework of a sadistic dictator.” It is a collector’s item.

MINHDU in search of prudent urbanization strategies

The fast developing rate of the Southwest Region and attendant problems that the phenomenon is likely to pose subsequently, is what prompted the Southwest Regional Delegation of Housing and Urban Development to organize a one day Regional consultations for the elaboration of the national urban policy for Cameroon aimed. It was aimed at carrying out a diagnostic report that should formulate the fundamental streamlines and instruments of national urban policy.
Speaking in Buea Monday, June 4, Diang Jude Abungwo of 2e and Partners Consultancy firm charged with the responsibility of coming forth with an urban national policy for Cameroon revealed that as of now there is no existing national urban policy for Cameroon. He said even though some Regions do have certain development urban plans, there isn’t any that is national urban. It was their responsibility at the level of the consultancy firm, he said, to bring in their technical knowhow and expertise to be able to come forth with it.
He said that the national urban policy is going to contain the methodology which they are to use at various levels with various stakeholders in a bid to see how the Region can become urbanized.
Asked why some buildings in Buea are erected on marshy terrain, Diang stated that it is at the level of non respect of rules and regulations. He said denizens are the first to be blamed. He said the issue of slums is a terrible one plaguing the country as they are seen almost everywhere with some neighbourhoods emanating from it.
He added that Cameroonian cities are extending vastly and that under normal circumstances, such cities are supposed to extend vertically and not horizontally. Consequently, to be control is required if only to avert bigger problems in the future. He said that urbanization in 2010 stood at 52 percent and wondered what would happen if it jumps to 80 percent. Cameroon, he advised, must be able to control that in order to become emergent in 2035, since prudent urbanization is such a key aspect which cannot be circumvented.
Emile-Moise Endene Kotto, Southwest Regional Delegate of Housing and Urban Development, noted that urbanization is speedily growing in the Southwest Region. The Region’s demographic landscape has changed, due to the high urban growth rate with which towns are expanding alongside drastic change of social, cultural and economic structures.
Endene Kotto pointed out that urbanization in the Region is still to bring inclusive growth which in turn has resulted in proliferation of slums, urban poverty, rising inequality and insecurity. Hence, consultation is a step in a long process, enabling both the Government of Cameroon and UN-HABITAT to come out with a consensual diagnosis on urban issues, and which process is expected to take them to an adequate and reliable urban policy.
Bernard Okalia Bilai, Southwest Governor, said Cameroon, like many other developing countries experiences rampant urbanization with a demography explosion. According to him, since 2008, more than half of the world’s population lives in camps. In 2050 about 70 percent of the world’s population would be living in urban areas, he revealed. Narrowing down to Cameroon, he stated that according to the National Institute of Statistics, urbanization rate was at 52 percent in 2010 while demographic growth stood at 2.5 percent in 2014.
“Many challenges remain to be faced in the country, reason why Mr. Biya, through various stakeholders has embarked on mastering the development of towns to transforming them into production and consumption centres necessary to boost industries, promote the development of intermediary or secondary camps, while endeavouring to structure economic activities in urban areas and contribute to the development of surrounding rural areas.
By Relindise Ebune

More ‘Anglophone terrorists’ to face military tribunal today

Just over a week after the Yaounde military court slammed heavy jail terms on seven Anglophone suspects, another batch of them is expected in court today.
Five of them are being charged with secession, actions of terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, revolution and insurrection, amongst others.
Abeng Gerald Ndam, Tamina Terence , Ignatius MbendeWenda, Braidnard Fongoh alias Fiango and Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe were all arrested in Bamenda at the start of the year and ferried to Yaounde where they will be appearing before the court for the second time since their detention.
Each of the five was arrested under different circumstances but that of Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe has left many wondering.
The lady in her late 20s, married and a mother of one, was reportedly arrested in Bamenda as she was visiting her sister’s fiancé, Tamina Terence who had been arrested for illegal possession of arms, one of the defence counsel, Barrister Honoratus Ndi Shey said.
Sources say she was caught filming the detainee she was visiting before being bundled into the cell and later accused of complicity in acts of terrorism.
After spending over a month at the judicial police in Bamenda, she and the other four were moved to various cells in Yaounde where she will be later assaulted at the Judicial Police at Elig-Essono, a family friend told The Rambler.
Though her lawyer claims not to be aware of any assaults carried out on his client, he has vowed to thoroughly investigate the matter and prosecute the perpetrators if the allegations are proven.
Kelly and the four others will be appearing in court for the second time after their case was adjourned on May 8, by the judge for a proper constitution of the file by the State prosecutor.
On June 6, it will be the turn of the trio of Ade Kenneth Chi, Anyangwei Lelly Anyangwei and Fonyuy Terence who will be appearing before the Yaounde military court for the eighteenth time as the court is yet to establish any clear charge against them.
For the moment, the military court has taken just under two years to sentence about a dozen Anglophone activists arrested within the ongoing crisis with over two hundred detained at the Kondengui maximum security prison.
By Francis Ajumane