Bohemian Reactivated

Many have nursed dreams-dreams about a clutch of presidents and assorted diplomats watching from the stands as an extravagant ceremony unfolds. One in which a man or woman raises the right hand above a mammoth book on which he or she places the left hand while repeating words offered by a presiding official, it could be someone from the clergy, the judiciary or the legislative arm.

True, a frightened animal at bay can turn violent, but this particular monster appears to have been manufactured by a kidult. Something seems to have gone wrong somewhere, to the point of throwing this monster’s body out of kilter.

Yet, the street people are talking, and the chattering classes are spreading the word, while the new prophets have no message from God but mark you; they have a message for you. The one you like to hear. Everyone advertizes his scam with great razzmatazz.

Someone says we are citizens of shithole countries, but who’s sh**hole suspends over our fatherland? This someone has all the obscurity of Harry Potter’s quid ditch and none of the charm. Even those who do not know the meaning of the word “cliché”, recognize one when they hear it from a politician. There is need for one to spend the rest of the year melting down their entire vocabulary and then re-minting it.

The street people want a voice; they want those vested with the power, to genuinely reform the public services; but when it appears those with authority had not thought through the task and when it looks like the project proves too big for them, you notice it when they shift from substance to spin.

So, I, the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in the land of the proud people, under the sign of the rising sun, this day declare; some things are best left unsaid. The slogans in the shadows maybe spend more-deliver less, but brothers and sisters, there are no new levers to pull. Some people have lost faith in the current political elite; they merely conclude that all politicians are the same. So why not stick with this lot? Keep your ears to the ground, the Bohemian has been reactivated.

By Winston Lebga

The depth of generosity

Like monstrous apes, drunkards reel by, chattering to themselves and cursing. The day is moving towards the twilight. Two green-and–white butterflies flutter past them. A graceful young man watches with a look of fear in his eyes such as people have when they are suddenly awakened.

“Some people take love as if it is a business transaction…” The bigger drunk muttered.

 “… You will hear a girl question when talked to about a man, has he got money?”

The smaller drunk who had been gathering phlegm in his throat while staggering towards the gutter dumped his mucus which was carried away by the running water. “Some men say they’re not like other men…,” he said, putting his thumb to his forefinger and raising his hand to emphasize the point he was making. “…that they would never bring misery upon anyone, that their nature is too fine for that.”

 “The only way a woman can ever reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life.”

Bystanders were well-entertained by the two who were zig-zagging their way, jaywalking nearby the kerb. Their pronouncements point to their profound knowledge of Oscar Wilde’s book The Picture Of Dorian Gray. Passers-by did a double take especially those who recognized any of the drunk-as-a-lord men of high learning.

Come to think of it, nowadays in Bamenda, many are in need of escaping from the reality of an agonizing existence. Some try to drown their sorrows, but sorrows have seemingly found a life jacket. From one man to two men, civilians and military people appear to fraternize in several watering holes where it is not forbidden to exchange punches and throw oneself into a free-for-all fight. So, at any moment of our sorry existence, we are either drunk and disorderly, drunk with power, drunk and raucous, or drunk as a lord.

Many observe the current events with amused bewilderment. There is the look of contempt in the steady searching gaze that the populace turns on the uniform men. “Na war?”  Someone questioned loudly. No response.

“Man go die oh!” He concluded and then quaffed two big bottles of the legendary beverage from St. James Gate in Dublin, before leaving with a bouncy gait: an unmistakable confident swagger.

Oscar Wilde says when a woman finds out about her husband, she either becomes dreadfully dowdy or wears very smart bonnets that some other woman’s husband has to pay for. What about the woman whose philandering husband is remorseless, yet not willing to let go of the lady?  He would neglect her, at times testing his fist on her face, paying attention to a new conquest, but would not let her go. Take this wife beater for example.  He gave his spouse regular snake beatings in the presence of the children. When his son had come of age and was about to get married, his piece of advice was this; “Son, if you want this marriage to work, treat your woman with loving care and never raise your voice nor your hand…” There are people who are getting tough with their requests and are refusing to listen to any voice of dissuasion, arguing that it’s a little too late. Their response to any piece of advice is back to sender.

So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in the land of the proud people, along the shores of the Atlantic this day declare; my considered opinion with regard to those who are always eager to give good advice is that people are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. This is what I call the depth of generosity.

By Winston Lebga

Important tourist attractions

She was the rock to which my life was moored. With her around me, it was pretty hard to think there is much wrong with the world. Sometimes I would be wayward and probably insane but her quiet manner would compel me to never give up on her and in spite of my weaknesses, I remained much attached.

This lady remained true to her word and always supported my efforts at being a better person. On several occasions I woke up to a blur of swollen eyes, cobwebbed thoughts, a seared mouth, an arid tongue, bitter breath and the great daily question of “why did I do it?” I’ve vomited in the shower, sometimes inducing it myself to get it over with “…I am not one of those who are too proud to argue and too strong to beg…” I would tell her while requesting for her comprehension and forgiveness.

My woman was smart, petite, good in the kitchen, the living and matrimonial executive rooms, with her beautifully sculptured features, as well as a razor sharp wit bursting forth a refined intellect. Now, my woman is gone, yes, she is gone…

She has left behind several drafts mapping out plans to achieve her ambitions. She was not one of those who spent time sloganeering, mouthing empty nothings, stupid enough to steal billions from the public till with outright arrogance. People who are so unremorseful as to feel morally superior to those who vandalize public and private property and burn the flag.

Whenever I go astray she would scream, “Get back into the saddle, that’s what you did when you’d fallen off a horse.”

Then her health suffered a blow, whose devastating impact has given me that type of drubbing that awakens a man to the bitter fact that life doesn’t always turn out as you expected it to be. She died after months writhing in excruciating pain. Doctors couldn’t save her from the ailment. I still remember her agonizing struggle to hold on, from dawn to dusk and from dusk to dawn.

She used to indulge my passion for enlightenment through conversation, dwelling on people who have no sense of public service. Sometimes, we wondered why competitive exams to elite institutes of higher learning, limited candidates to competitors in a game called WHO IS MORE CONNECTED. We talked about the white collar murderers who brought the economy to its knees, and ruining development plans by their greed and addiction to ill-gotten wealth. They flaunt their booty without remorse so, why are they afraid to get medical attention from the country’s hospitals, they who have the power and means to fix the broken healthcare system.

So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in the land of the proud people this day declare; if you see me crying, it is because my woman is gone and if you need advice for your proud arrogant brother tell him to take time off his show- show schedule and visit places that remind one that he is nothing but one of the creatures living on earth. Visit the hospital and the mortuaries, for they are important touristic attractions.

By Winston Lebga

Sleepless slumber

On both sides of the political spectrum, it will be appropriate to call the attitude of the key actors as a churlish piece of hypocrisy. We seem to be quarrelling like market women, and the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. Promises are so cheap nowadays; self-styled revolutionaries are talking about collective sacrifice, assuring sympathizers of a sun whose scorching heat shall hang above a new nation, in the morning announcing the dawn of a new day, “we are winning the war…” They say. On the other side, announcements are made with regard to projects requiring exorbitant sums of money. Road construction works here, medical facilities there. The truth is, arguing whether “this or that” can be done, it seems, will achieve as much as debating how many devils can dance on the head of a pin.

Some say do not be afraid, but have moved their children to more stable villages, others enquire what are you scared of, and move with a brigade of bodyguards. The teachers are in school ready to teach, but their own kids are left at home. The poor man was very hardworking, producing goods and services, now he has become a beggar because of the crushing weight of the ghost town phenomenon. God, help us, we are praying.

The poor people are now feeling like a locked grey bag that is still going round the carousel while the other passengers had long left the airport. Many people now legendarily quaff numerous litres of various potent brews and it is clear, such a person’s liver is bound to rebel. Push is rapidly approaching shove and many bear grudges against the news media outlets, each insulting any newspaper, radio or TV station that does not see things through his or her eyes. To me, if you consider a news outlet to be a propaganda machine, churning out lies and fabricated stories, then stop getting the latest from that channel.

How many can stand up and be counted among the brethren who have kept the faith? Sam Nuvalla Fonkem says “… error and crime against humanity are wholly the fault of man’s social, political and economic environment. And no worthy journalist can give mere verbal homage to human dignity.”

I agree with General De Gaulle who said, “What separates the men from the boys in politics is that the boys want high offices to be somebody, the men want high offices to do something.” Now, if I ask you why people want appointments in to what some call juicy positions in this country, what would your reply be? Look at our elected officials, they seem well aware of their image of being overpaid and underworked and are taking public relations very seriously.

So, I, the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in the land of the proud people, by the shores of the Atlantic, this day declare; it is time for us to dare to invent the future, as Sankara once said. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. We have to be one of those madmen. Not by being arsonists, anarchists or assassins. No. Sankara says this madness comes from non conformity and the courage to turn your back on old formulae. I know he who feeds you controls you and painfully, I wake up from my sleepless slumber.

By Winston Lebga

Gambling debts

I see a man going through his pastoral duties with the listlessness of a lost dog; on the streets people are making deafening noise to demand justice for those who are mostly rendered voiceless. In the bar, an innocent looking man with a sad dog face passes lewd comments on a snobbish woman’s anatomic details with embarrassing accuracy and the night bird is wearing ridiculously thick make-up. The chattering classes are speaking of a feeling of moral and spiritual malaise, the lack of the will to do anything.

I watch with disguised anger, filled with disgust and I hang on listening to whispers of scandalous deals in high places, sometimes involving sums of money that I for one didn’t believe existed in this country. The conclusive report from the grapevine indicates that many politicians get away with anything because many men are swayed by their hearts and stomachs and not their heads. Truth is, promises are exceedingly cheap in this country, especially, if they fall from the mouth of a politician. They tell me strange tales about goring experiences- I listen with undivided attention, while fingering my harp and I don’t mean a musical instrument, for I am in a watering hole full of people who combine stubbornness and stupidity and are capable of taking the law into their hands.

The band is striking up strains of Toto Guillaume; I go to get some drinks. It’s a mob scene at the bar, I squeeze my way in and order two drinks as a dark girl sashays by, hair dyed blue, long to the shoulders, first name Relindis, but it’s all I can pull. Then, this guy is stumbling, vomiting and falling all over the place, smashing bottles, messing up his breeches and cursing bitterly. He is a compulsive gambler who has lost it all and has decided to part with the change by, ceaselessly, bombarding his liver.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that we are all gamblers; either at the roulette table, playing poker, at the pinball machines, doubling the stakes at horse races or football games and gambling even with the future of this land to which we’ve pledged our deep endearment forever more.

We gamble with the future of our children and gamble with their education. No school until this or that is achieved; anyone who goes against this shall be punished. We are just gambling. Even with football, the sport that put Cameroon on the world map and made Roger Milla an inter-planetary star, as the Ivoirians would say. We are gambling.

So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month, in the land of proud people this day declare; the urge to gamble is so universal, so deeply embedded in unregenerate human nature that from the earliest days the philosophers and moralists assumed it to be evil.

It is the cause perhaps of all our troubles. Yet how easy it remains to understand the burning envy, felt by those possessing little for those endowed with goods aplenty. And gambling-why? Well, gambling offers to the poor, the shinning chance of something got for nothing.

Now, we need to wake-up and live; we should be fed up with the education that doesn’t prepare children to see wisdom in the freedom of their land, but prepares them to seek admission into Masonic lodges, drinking clubs, gambling rooms and other dubious centres. In fact, we shall have to borrow billions of dollars from God-knows-where, to be able to pay off our gambling debts.

By Winston Lebga

What’s next for Jonah?

We all need to take a reality pill and focus on important issues now. What has been happening in this country, especially, in the English speaking regions has been unsettling to the populace. Peasants are seen shuffling, hopelessly, with vacant faces and empty hearts. Like the sun rising from the east, a look of incredulity climbs their faces. It reaches their eyes opening them wide.

I tell you, the chief might be a citadel of the old order but, he can be happily converted to move with the changing times. Sometimes, you can stoop to condescend, but please don’t heckle the public performer, so much that he is almost in tears. Caution warrants us to be a bit chary about highly opinionated people, those with an extremely exaggerated idea of their own importance, gifted with extraordinary mendacity. It is my considered opinion that such people are grave danger to the community they live, a tragedy to the cause of education in the country and a curse to the entire human race.

There are people pointing accusing fingers to the elite, especially, those of the private sector; victims of an old elite stuck in time-worn ways but whose grip is corrupt but strong, chaotic and brittle. And, they refer to the elite as rapacious, holding them responsible for the condition, they describe as unsatisfactory.

Many have been shell shocked by the longstanding impasse born out of the current crisis that has made life unbearable for the citizenry; ghost town calls, school boycott operations, violence, arrests accusations and counter accusations. And, then President Biya, orders the discontinuance of proceedings against those detained in connection with the unrest that sprung out of the Anglophone protest actions masterminded by common law lawyers and teachers trade unions of the English sub system of education.

This presidential move has been saluted by many people some of whom say it is worthy of a motion of support, yet, others find it belated act that is welcome and others still, have fears for the unknown. Among parents of school going age children, there is feeling heart-warming strides are being made to thaw the ice of discord. It is now time for the Government and protesters to sit around negotiating table and engage in a constructive dialogue.

The President wields lots of power in this country and careful look unveils the Government is built around him. His move indicates that he is capable of ignoring those who are quick to treat the complaining cries of genuinely disgruntled people as simple noise coming forth from a barn where thousands of cows are mooing. His supporters say old man is full of punchy wisdom, his critics hold that he has many tricks up his sleeves than any magician can conjure, and there are those strongly in the belief his taciturn approach to burning issues is effective means of presidential communication.

So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in the land of the proud people, by the shores of the Atlantic, after hearing these things wonder aloud, can schools now effectively resume in Cameroon’s English speaking regions? I see people exhibiting a cock-of-the-castle assertiveness, others proving to have gifts such as vitality, courage, leadership and a great sense of duty, as well as of honour. What about back-to-school plans, if I may enquire?

While the musician says after the reggae play the blues; I ask, after the whale vomits Jonah out of its belly what’s next for Jonah?

By Wiston Lebga

Sometimes I cry

There was a time, when I used to fall asleep, to a pleasant, dreamless, dark depth, totally at peace, but not anymore. Nowadays, I feel an intense bitterness welling up in my mouth; I am a grief-stricken man. Cries of caution and shouts of discomfort with the current socio-political crisis rocking the English-speaking parts of the country seem to be like water off a duck’s back.

Some people appear to be snaffling the peace and their attitude has snagged Cameroon’s much advertised unity in diversity.This nation has become a black hole where any lunacy can thrive and there is a black smudge on the national sense of wellbeing. One is tempted to wonder aloud, when all the chaos will come to an end. Schools in the country are to be reopened on Monday, September 4, after the long holidays and in the Northwest, the burning question is: “shall they effectively resume?”

Many have joined the fracas over the school resumption issue in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Some parents shudder at the thought of their progeny being maimed, kidnapped or killed, following threats from self–styled revolutionaries, who have dubbed the school boycott operation a collective sacrifice.

Who indeed is making the sacrifice? It appears to me that the school attending children and students are taking the brunt of this so-called Anglophone struggle. The ghost town situations increase the number of sacrificial lambs with business people and petty traders losing a lot of money, and what about teachers of the private sector?

Where is the love, peace and unity? On both sides of the political spectrum, everyone is in favour of dialogue, but no one appears to be willing to take a seat at the negotiating table. There is need to thrash out this Anglophone problem as I hear it being called, to wipe the slate clean, to start afresh. The burning, threats and chaos have to stop, the children are innocent and even ignorant about what has made hell to break lose.

Nelson Mandela preached love and forgiveness and taught by example.

Do these words mean anything to those vested with the power to preside over the destiny of this nation-amnesty, pardon, good faith, dialogue? And to those advocating a spilt; what have the children done to you? Honestly, there are many preposterous vicissitudes in this life than any philosophy can conjure.

So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in the land of the people, this day declare: when I hear that the football in the country of the African champions needs to be made normal, and the children in some parts are running the risk of missing out on yet another school year; I cry. Some times I agree with who says big boys don’t, but I tell you, sometimes I cry.

By Winston Lebga

Willful self-deception

“What is going on?” One is tempted to ask. The threat of disaster begins to loom very large in my mind. News of strange happenings hitherto considered by many in these parts to be meant for faraway places, seem likely to be happening here, anytime soon. That is, if the body politic does not stop playing the game of accusations and counter-accusations.

The truth might offend some, but speaking the truth can never be a sin. We seem at times, to be a ‘dog eat dog society’ and at other times, we appear to be a ‘man eat nothing society.’ The questions keep pouring in, ‘who are we?’ or ‘where are we?’ as Patrick Tataw Obenson a.k.a Ako-Aya would have asked.

I was reading about a man called John Pombe Magufuli, who was elected Tanzania’s president in 2015. I never cease to marvel at his moves towards righting the wrongs that have crept into that East African country’s body politic. I wonder whether those moves could make sense in our fatherland.

This is a man who, as member Government, tended to keep a low profile, eschewing acclaim for successful projects, shunning foreign visits, unlike most of his peers and on occasion, speaking out clearly and bluntly. Here are some of his moves:

  • Cancelled Independence Day celebrations and all the extravagant expenses Government traditionally splurged out. Instead, he wanted the day spent on street cleaning and enthusiastically participated.

 

  • Slashed the budget for the usually opulent opening of parliament by almost 90% and demanded that the money saved be spent on purchasing hospital beds and road works.
  • Cancelled foreign travel for Government officials and put a stop to the purchase of first class tickets. He decreed that henceforth, Government meetings would be held in state buildings rather than in expensive hotels.
  • Trimmed down a delegation of 50 set to tour commonwealth countries to four.
  • Rooted out 10 thousand ‘ghost workers’ from various Government departments and fired more than 10 thousand civil servants, after an investigation into the use of forged certificates among Government employees.

 

  • He appointed a 19 ministry cabinet and publicly warned those selected as ministers and other Government functionaries that he would not tolerate corruption, laziness or excessive bureaucracy. He told them to expect nothing more than to work tirelessly to serve the people of the country alongside him.

 

So, I, the Bohemian of Abakwa, born on the last day of the month in land of proud people, after hearing about these things, this day declare, if it becomes clear in this our fatherland that the gravy train has come to an end – that Government posting no longer means a life of ease, privilege and the opportunity to make money, would that not be a wonderful prospect. Government posting should mean hard work, motivated by nothing more than a fierce desire to serve the public. That could move the country a notch or two, but, I know what you are thinking; that I am either guilty of wishful thinking or willful self-deception.

By Winston Lebga