*By Nzo Esther Nzo, Enongene Lerise Mbulle & Melvine Welisanes
Badmouthing says it is good riddance while those whose interests he served whether at the party or individual level, see in his demise the crumbling of an inimitable bulwark against lawlessness in the city of Buea, in particular and, the Southwest region in general.
Whatever the perspective from which it is viewed, maverick mayor of Buea, Ekema Patrick Esunge’s death last Sunday, January 27, 2019, at a Douala health facility has sent tongues wagging as to the real cause of his sudden death. While some including family members, insist even with yet to be verified evidence, on the thesis that he died of poisoning, the official verdict has pegged instead his unceremonious exit from this sinful world on a cardiac arrest.
As the shock occasioned by his abrupt exit persists, a condolence message purportedly written by the Minister of Decentralization and Local Development has heightened the controversy surrounding the deceased mayor as the date of the ministerial condolence memo ignites the possibility of advance knowledge of the eventual passing away to eternity of the mayor. The minister’s condolence message is dated October 24 while Mayor Ekema died on October 27.
Another pungent controversy is the mode of succession championed by Fako Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, Emmanuel Engamba who has allegedly upheld the late mayor’s outlaw approach to even as his unlawful exit from the council was yet to be looked into.
Some of his controversial edicts while alive include banning of the circulation of commercial motorbikes within the Buea municipality. This he justified by claiming that armed separatists and other criminals relied on some unscrupulous riders of these commercial motorbikes to inflict loses in property and human lives on innocent citizens. Unfortunately, his supposedly well intentioned edict has instead pushed many of these riders into armed robbery and hostage taking as sources of livelihood.
Moreover his valiant attempts to induce businesses to operate during ‘ghost towns’ and lockdowns boomeranged into unprecedented arsons and banditry as houses are constantly incinerated and others broken into by men of the underworld allegedly at the behest of separatist militias as warning to “traitors.” Shops were sealed by the mayor, and only opened at his will, sometimes leading to contrary actions from his collaborators whom he accused of corrupt practices. This degenerated to the point where two of his immediate collaborators were suspended a few weeks before his death. According to our source Elvis Tome who is one of the bike riders in Sandpit (Buea) despite the banning of bike riding in Buea municipality, bike riders still continue to ply the road of Sandpit because they work only within the neighbourhood and had never been disturbed by the mayor except for some council workers, policemen and soldiers who disturb them occasionally. Nevertheless, this did not stop them from doing their job. However, in neighbourhoods like Bonduma, Checkpoint, Malingo and other places bikers are in a dilemma whether to start work or not since the ban placed on biking has not been revoked. They are upbeat that Ekema’s successor will change the policy in their favour.
On the order hand the policy to combat shutdown in Buea by sealing shops of individuals who out of fear refuse to open was welcomed with mixed feelings because some businessmen were scared of risking their lives due to fear of separatist fighters while a handful of individuals were excited because it was seen as a means to make more sales which will help them to cater for their families and other expenses.
Even after the mayor’s death, some business premises he had sealed remain padlocked till date, leaving the owners in total confusion whether their shops will be opened or not. On Monday the October 28, few shops were seen open while a large number of businesses refused to open their shops due to the absence of the mayor and fear in their hearts since the mayor is no longer around to protect them. Despite that few council men stepped out to ensure that the policy to combat shutdown stands but were humiliated by the public and had to retire. Some individuals pointed out that these policies implemented by the late mayor can only be operational when another mayor re-implements them.
*UB Journalism students on internship