Third letter to Commander Ebube (1)

By Sammy Oke Akombi

Dear Commander Ebube,

Having written a second letter to you and obtained no reaction from either you or your gang, I considered it a waste of time to continue writing. Unfortunately, a gruesome event which occurred in Ndebaya, Manyu Division in the morning of Monday, May 27, 2019, has warranted this third letter to you and of course your gang. You murdered my relation and contacted a member of the family to collect the corpse at a given junction. This was duly done and the corpse was taken and kept in a mortuary in neighbouring Nigeria. You imposed sanctions on the family in order for the funeral of the man you murdered to be effected in his native Ndebaya. Despite resistance, somehow the family succumbed to some of your shameless demands. Your threats deprived many members of the family from paying their last respects to their beloved brother, uncle and father. I on the other hand conquered the fear that your threats generated, thanks to my personal conviction that it is a great honour when one dies, carrying out a good cause.

On Thursday, June 20, 2019, I left Yaounde where I am resident to Ndebaya. I travelled on a night bus that got to Bamenda in the Morning of June 21. I then took a mini bus from Bamenda to Eyumojock. It was a smooth ride going through military or gendarme checkpoints until the descent out of Bali where for the first time I was asked to identify myself at gunpoint. As I wondered at the scene, someone who sat by me said, ‘nawi pa o-o wuna no woriyi. Onli ask yifoyi own support.’

‘Alright pa your support’, the trigger-happy-ragtag-eighteen-year-old said.

‘My pikin, put that gun down first na.’ I said softly.

He looked at me menacingly and then lowered the gun. The man who sat by me said with much urgency ‘pa shake skin na.’ I understood what he meant and so I took out my wallet and took out a five thousand francs note and dropped on the ground for them to pick up. The others dropped lesser notes of one thousand francs and five hundred francs. They were better prepared for the dangerous journey. I wondered how I was going to cope with such demands in case there were more of such scoundrels on the way. And indeed they were – three on the Batibo-Widikum stretch and two on the Kendem- Bachuo-Akagbe stretch.

At one of the Kendem holdups – I’ll prefer not to call them checkpoints or controls, the minibus was hijacked and taken off the highway, by two of the boys who exaggerated their zealousness. They took us into an in-road about two kilometres away from the highway. There, they started the process of identification of people whom they considered pro- government. They told us their camp was three kilometres from where we were. After the identification the culprits would be taken to their camp. At this point, I gave up my goal of going to pay my last respects to my relation. However, I prayed silently for God’s protection. In the process, they identified a student, a young girl of about nineteen. They shouted at her and said, she was one of the criminals to be taken to the camp. Her crime was that she had crossed over to Douala to go to school whereas they (the boys) were in the bushes fighting for freedom. Another criminal was a retired teacher who was accused of having abandoned the struggle which they and lawyers had started. When they got to me, I thought of the story of mutilation of identity cards and so I simply said I had no identity card but I could show them my passport. When I took out the passport booklet, one of the boys surprisingly said ‘papa that one na plenty book. Putam back’. I kept back my passport and waited for their verdict. They asked the ‘criminals’ to each give them fifty thousand francs otherwise they would be taken to their camp for proper treatment. The retired teacher pleaded to give them twenty-five thousand francs and the student said she had nothing. I pleaded to bail the girl out with five thousand francs and they accepted, provided I added another five thousand for support. I agreed. This time the money was handed directly, not by dropping it on the ground. Our bus was thus released and the journey to Eyumojock continued.

The driver told us the experience he had had with the boys (your boys). They had abducted and taken him to their camp. After beating him with a machete on his soles, they had requested him to say his last prayers. Wittingly he had shouted ‘ Oh God of the Ambazonia Republic, descend on my fellow Ambazonians to set me free so that together we can fight for our freedom’. At this point they set him free. So despite their recklessness, the boys can be manipulated.

So Mr Commander, you see what the people, you claim you want to liberate, go through? By the time you would have squeezed all of them of the little resources they have, and subjected them to the torture you mete out recklessly, on a daily basis, they would be pushed to the wall and hell will break loose. I had tried in my previous letters to make you understand that this struggle you seem to hold dearly to heart is only a dream of the ego-centric, who understandably hate sharing. Already, you can observe what is happening among your leaders in the diaspora who are in disarray because of a dire want of this sterling virtue-sharing (the booty they have swindled from the gullible crowd). If the struggle is for freedom as you claim, then you and the rest of us urgently need to understand what freedom or liberation is all about. By God’s infinite mercy and grace, I was on time for my relation’s funeral mass at the Roman Catholic Church, Eyumojock, where as a tribute to him, I presented the paper below which I would like you and your gang to read and digest. (To be continued)

The man died in the hands of freedom

Freedom and liberty are near exact synonyms, especially in terms of content. The former is defined in standard dictionaries as the state of being able to do what you want, without anything stopping you. The latter is defined as the freedom to live as you choose without too many restrictions from government or authority. These two words are therefore used interchangeably. Many great minds have pondered over them. I would like to consider some of their pondering here. Jean Jacques Rousseau said in The Social Contract, “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” and Franz  Kafka in The Trial said, “it’s often safer to be in chains than to be free”. Another great mind Jean Paul Sartre affirmed that “man is condemned to be free. An American president Franklin D. Roosevelt who was in power during the turbulent times of the Second World War in one of his speeches pondered over freedom in the following words: “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression –everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, – everywhere in the world.” Understandably, Roosevelt found the entire world lacking in the four pillars of freedom – freedom from want and fear, freedom of worship and expression. This same lack made Rousseau to talk about man having been born free and everywhere they are in chains. Kafka in his pessimism thought that it was even better to be in chains than to be free. They all sound confusing and that is why the concept of freedom and liberty should be given utmost consideration. In this regard I would like to bring to focus the words of Baron de Montesquieu who wrote in De l’esprit des lois that “liberty is the right to do whatever the laws permit.” In other words, every human community is free to have its dos and don’ts and every member of the community is free to do whatever they like, provided they respect these dos and don’ts.

It is a don’t in the Ndebaya community for anyone to prevent a catechist from carrying out morning prayers. It is a don’tto abduct another human being. It is a don’t to steal, kill, lie etc. So those who abducted and murdered Mr. Anthony Obi Asundep were not exercising their freedom. If they are free and going about their businesses then the community has descended into anarchy. Freedoms and laws should be the benchmarks of every human community. It is against this background that The man died in the hands of Freedom has been written.

In February 1959, a baby boy was born in the peaceful community of Ndebaya. This baby was welcome and was given the name Anthony. He grew up in the tradition of his people and went to school when his age was ripe. School and home gave him the education he needed to face the world. He was exactly two years old when the geographic area he belonged to became a nation. He grew up to understand that for his country, Cameroon to stand on its feet as a nation, it had passed through thick and thin. Some of his kith and kin belonged to an entirely different country, Nigeria. This country had won his admiration, for each time he crossed the border to visit his relations, he saw that roads were tarred and life was pleasantly different. But Anthony vowed that so long as the Almighty God in His infinite mercy had placed him on that piece of land which he could call his own, he would continue to pay allegiance to it and personally ensure its prosperity. When he left school, he traded for some time and then got married and started his own family. He easily became one of the most dependable persons in the community. He participated in the development of Ndebaya as it quickly became a home for many people working in the Sub-divisional headquarters, Eyumojock. Anthony was easily identified as a devoted Christian and he rose to become the shepherd of the Catholic Christians in the community. He opened farms and started a small business, taking advantage of Ndebaya’s nearness to the Nigerian border town of Ikom. Then bang the tarred road from Mamfe properly linked Cameroon with Nigeria, opening up lots of business opportunities for him and other enterprising young people in the community. He took advantage of the new developments and improved himself socially, culturally and spiritually. He believed in hard work and would tell anyone who cared to listen that total freedom is derived from working hard. Hard work he would insist gives you access to the means of survival. With such means, you can express yourself confidently in the knowledge that you are free to worship your God, free from want and fear. Unfortunately, in many of our communities, people like Anthony are rather envied than admired and emulated.

The development that had come as a result of the road had provoked the desire for a resident priest in Ndebaya and Anthony’s vision was for Ndebaya to become a religious sanctuary for Catholic Christians from both Nigeria and Cameroon and also a stopover resort for travellers of both countries. Unfortunately the evil that had been lurking reared its ugly head. The Ambazonian concept that has spiralled into a war caught up with Anthony’s vision for his much cherished community. It was Hiram Warren Johnson who said that the first casualty when a war comes is truth. And indeed propaganda has buried truth. So Anthony who had stood by truth was an unfortunate victim. The truth he believed in was that man is free to worship his God in his own way, express himself within the confines of the law and free himself from want and fear. In this firm belief he had left his home at 5.00 a.m. on Monday, May 27, 2019 to toll the Ndebaya Church bell for morning prayers. As the bell tolled to alert Christians to come and worship their God, Ambazonian warlords got up to carry out their evil deeds. They knew it was Anthony, the catechist who was behind the tolling bell and he was the same person who was going to conduct prayers. So they moved swiftly and abducted the village chief and one other person. Then they went into the house of God and confronted the man of God, abducting him too to an unknown destination. This happened in the full glare of other worshippers. They were thoroughly embarrassed as they stood speechless watching their catechist being marched away. Minutes later they found their voices and the news spread like a whirlwind to every shore that Anthony Asundep alias A.A had impacted. Hardly did anyone conjecture the reason for the abduction and so ears were on the ground to hear from the kidnappers. Minutes ticked away and then hours were gradually ticking away too. Finally, in the heat of the afternoon sun, a call came through from the commanding officer of the Eyumojock area unit of the Ambazonian Freedom Fighters, a certain General Lambert. We had kidnapped your father early this morning, but he has died in our hands. We have dumped the corpse at a given juncture, come quickly and collect it otherwise we’ll burn it up or throw it in a river. A family member was promptly dispatched and the corpse was collected and put in a morgue. It was after this that Ma Nkan, the sister and mother to the victim was called and told about the death and her reaction was “oh my God, my hope is gone! Is it the military again, who have gone on their usual rampage?” The answer was, “no mama, it isn’t the military, it is the separatist fighting for freedom.”

“So you mean my brother has died in the hands of freedom?”

“If you say so mama.”

At this point she cried out even louder, “freedom, freedom, o freedom, how your name is being misused. How the wicked use your name to commit heinous crimes? See what has befallen my kid brother in the name of freedom. When shall human beings understand that freedom before being collective is personal? Each one manages their freedom according to their circumstances.”

“I think you’re right mama. There’s so much criminality in the name of freedom. Humans if they believe in the God who created them should endeavour to understand that freedom is simply love for one another. If humans love one another there would be no reason not to be free from want, fear and self-expression. Mama if A.A’s death in the hands of freedom will ignite this understanding in people, then he would be one of the martyrs of freedom.”

“Martyr of freedom! Martyr of freedom, like our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ who died on the cross to set us free?”

“I think so mama.”

“If that be the case, then my hope is back. My kid brother has not died for nothing. I should rather thank my God for him.”

Thank God, Ma Nkan had found some sense and eventual peace in the cruel murder of her kid brother. Meanwhile the community succeeded to obtain the release of their chief and the other abductee when they paid up a whooping sum of one million seven hundred thousand francs ransom to the freedom fighters. Then the fighters heartlessly went further to ask for a two million francs ransom for A.A to be buried in the land of his ancestors.

The Ndebaya community went panicking for all homes would be razed if they failed to raise the money. In their panic they turned to Ma Nkan to raise the money if she would want her brother to be buried in Ndebaya – the land of his birth.She told them they were wasting their time for his brother had already shown the way to freedom. It no longer mattered to her where he was buried. Her only regret was that the country that all of them toil for has sat and watched very poisonous mushrooms grow on the invaluable soil of their ancestors.

My dear Commander, it is rather unfortunate that this has happened to our country. A lot of development has gone under water, especially youth development, as this crisis has made monsters out of young people who would have been the rising sun of the nation. Human blood has gone down the drain and this has implanted fear and hopelessness in those still alive. However, we shall forever be damned if we go out of the circumstances without having learnt lessons. Remember it is simplistically said that the first fool isn’t a fool but the second fool is a fool forever.

Cheers

S. Akombi

Rebellion as riposte to choked reforms

By Ngoko Monyadowa

The recent judgement sentencing of Sisikku Julius Ayuk Tabe and the Nera Hotel, Nigeria abductees in the absence of their lawyers to life imprisonment with concomitant colossal amounts running into billions as fines has lain bare the Biya regime’s inveterate inclination to abuse power and, by extension, disregard for the wellbeing of the very Cameroonians who by agency of the ballot box, even if lubricated by rigging, accord it a veneer of legitimacy.

Without recourse to casting aspersion on it since the procedural accompaniments preparatory to its pronouncement had ab initio attracted the ire of legal scholars, the feeling here is that its timing and cruelty conjure up a combination of insensitivity to the plight of suffering Anglophone youths who need to return to school in the days ahead and nullification of the much vaunted and money guzzling back to school mantra that has seen parliamentarians laugh home with FCFA15million each.

To the extent that such a very sensitive issue has vaulted into the political landscape at a time when even diehard separatists had begun eliciting support for a return to normalcy, at least in regard to schools resumption, the temptation arises to lend credence to the assertion that warmongers and moral cripples have taken the country hostage and nothing but pecuniary benefits derivable from freebooting drives such coldness. Dialogue has therefore been jettisoned!

 Admittedly, taking up arms against one’s fatherland is a heinous enterprise that requires meticulous investigation to bring out the reasons undergirding such adventurism and, if possible, proffer both commensurate punishment and solutions to the inducements advanced by perpetrators of such treasonable felony. Nevertheless, by the same token, government ought to have been more adroit in its management of the trial process to diminish the current legion of dissent. If for no other reason, the fate of children who have been away from school for three academic years and counting should inform a more civil disposition.

Indeed, at the risk of repetitiveness, there is every reason to believe that government has intentionally timed the sentencing to coincide with the back to school campaign. Unable to extricate itself from blame rooted in abhorrent misrule, it has instead embraced the scorn of local and international community by providing incontrovertible evidence of resolve to eschew dialogue in favour of military onslaught. 

This explains why one could not hold back tears for Cameroon after seeing television footages of some parliamentarians distributing school bags and a few exercise books to hired crowds of pupils and students in the name of government support to the back to school hymn. The issue here is not the fact that state money is being used and abused by people whose mandates hinge on parents of the same children being subjected to such derisory drama but more significantly, the purpose and process of making means available for pupils and students to return to school. How do we explain the fact that a category of citizens who have lost legitimacy and by that token declared persona non grata in their constituencies are the ones championing the back to school mantra? How many people among their supposed target audiences watch television in the bushes where current circumstances have compelled them to seek solace?

It reeks of presumptuousness for a cabal of turncoats that has not mustered the courage to be in their constituencies for three consecutive days in the last three years to be saddled with such an arduous project. To all intents and purposes, the feeling is that the Ministries of Basic and Secondary Education have been seriously spited by the lawmakers. These are the direct managers of schools and to that extent ought to be the handlers of the process of ensuring that schools resume effectively come September 2, 2019. Oh, no! Money is involved and such money is only good for the pockets of law makers and not school managers. A glorious wish indeed but certainly not a realistic picture of political pragmatism as it has easily crumbled under the complexities of current insurrectionary ripostes to such misrule.

Correlatively, the impression is that of a people in frenzy after being caught in a maze occasioned by illusory bravado. They are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere! Their actions depict so much antipathy for the well being of citizens to the extent that apartheid is clearly delineated between the lifestyles of the governing class and those who elected them in the hope that their interest will be primordial. No Way! There is no stopping them for the train of profligacy and callousness is in motion and any attempt to do so will suffer from the incendiary pangs of human infernos.  Yes, they operate with no qualms as if to say we are at it and so what! Indeed, our country is headed for a very dangerous precipice but surprisingly, many at the helm still lean on the fatalistic illusion of ‘all is well.’

Three years have come and gone like yesterday without any concrete solution to the political inferno that has bogged down governance. What began as a seemingly innocuous bubble has through inattention been allowed to degenerate into a festering sore that needs specialist attention. Its ramifications have reached a point where piecemeal handouts will not do the trick. The process of seeking solution to its malignant character must be holistic and drastic at the same time. In the circumstance, the feeling keeps cropping up that the intellectual repository that Cameroon seems to have represented is illusory and on that score wanting in intensity and reality. Otherwise, how can an issue whose character inheres in constitutional reform play foul on us to the extent that we are now killing ourselves? Greed, some may say while others posit that the explanation instead has root in uncertified lunacy that has afflicted many within our governing class.

Three years truly seem like yesterday but the repercussions have been ghastly and bestial. Roadside corpses have become mundane issues adorning conversations among travelers on major highways of Anglophone Cameroon. We seem incapable of properly calibrating the impact of the avoidable orgy of bloodletting that has sent most of us into trances from which we are still to regain consciousness. From premature deaths on both sides of the dichotomy between government and Anglophone separatists, we are now saddled with widows, orphans and prospects of famine judging by the business as usual approach adopted by government in distributing donations from the United Nations and other friendly donor organizations. As for handouts from government, they are already finding their way into local markets making it difficult for the intended beneficiaries to reap from such philanthropy.

Unfortunately, the time to sway public opinion is long past and gone. Blustering on television sets cannot and will not do the trick. Indeed, one would have imagined that there would be more ingenious ways of attempting to cajole Cameroonians like institutionalization of federalism but in a system operated by mobsters, money launderers and other people of doubtful credibility even the ordinarily intelligent get afflicted by indefensible callousness. This easily comes into play because of the unceasing and remorseless quest to be seen among the most obsequious of the emperor’s court jesters. And, since the emperor relies on such psychedelics to make decisions, the upshot is anti-people edicts that serve to implant apathy within the citizenry. Moreover, such civil sickness resultant from loss of national integrity engenders a credibility gap between government and the people owing to variance of interests.

Who wants Fru Ndi’s head?

By Ngoko Monyadowa

Today’s epistle is an offshoot of the recent calamities visited on the person of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi and, by extension the already dwindling prominence of the party. Interest here inheres not so much in the newsworthiness of the party as the issue of their contemporaneity with political upheavals in the country. The fact that his recent abduction comes on the heels of other public relations fiasco emanating from the Chairman’s unreasoned visit to SONARA and the unfortunate aftermath of being muddied by a low cadre administrator fit to be his grandson is quite telling and, raises the spectre of a man at the helm of a party that acts on impulse instead of laid down strategy. Indeed, the pendulum swings of fate have not been kind to the SDF and its maverick Chairman in the recent past as epitomized also, by the saga of key to Limbe metropolis handed to him by the John Elufa Manga Williams, first class chief in waiting of the OPEC city.

Contrary to the perspective many have leaned on-that is Fru Ndi deserved the loathsome treatment showered on him during his botched attempt to show concern for the incendiary occurrence in Cameroon’s lone refinery, the contention here is that we must always make a distinction between political correctness and simple rules of decorum or etiquette. While admitting that Fru Ndi’s idiosyncrasy might have induced him not to exhibit concern much earlier for the more than 14,000 workers unceremoniously driven into penury by the activities of separatist militias, such a slip in diligence has nevertheless, impacted negatively on the viewpoint many Cameroonians hold on his person and the party he incarnates. Is he telling the public that he did not hear about chopped off fingers from the hands of workers who attempted to dare the separatists by going to work? Did the inferno at SONARA have to sprout for him to be jolted to sanity?

Oh no, Mr. Chairman while not pandering to the objectionable behavior of the officials at Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, headquarters who ensured that a low-keyed, if not, snobbery reception was reserved for you during your almost afterthought visit to their premises, conventional wisdom would have impelled a more civil approach to issues of protocol and administrative niceties by ensuring that your visit is duly programmed.

 Even more embarrassing is the fact that a prominent personality like Fru Ndi, at least, considering antecedents relating to the restoration of multi-party politics in Cameroon and other sacrifices bearing on chivalry and erstwhile charisma, was reduced to a mere pauper by the agency of an upstart administrator passing off for Sub Divisional Officer for Limbe II who barred him from achieving his public relations stunt of visiting the charred remains of the once vibrant SONARA.

This incident readily brings to mind the impertinence of administrative officials especially, those sent to function in the English speaking part of the country. With a pigeon-holed mentality or mindset that predicates every issue on state authority leaving no room in its wake for personal initiatives infused unto them while in ENAM, there can be no gainsaying the fact that wet-nose administrators will be prone to unleashing abominable acts of indecency even to evidently respectable citizens. And, this is precisely the case with Fru Ndi, who advertently or inadvertently, opened his flanks to the exuberance of a “one and indivisible Cameroon” fanatic.

With the current situation of descent to free for all and his sometimes unguarded statements that exude indictment of the government for incompetence in handling the Anglophone crisis, it is not surprising that even without orders from above, fanatical Biya apologists could seize any available opportunity to drag the iota of honour he still possesses into opprobrium.

Coming back to the Key to Limbe metropolis issue, the wonder here is that the very chiefs who are unrepentant about Fru Ndi being disrobed of the honour of being in possession of the Key to the OPEC city are the very ones who had championed an earlier move that materialized in the bestowal of the same honour on the Senior Divisional Officer for Fako, Engamba Emmanuel. When chiefs reduce themselves to serfs and poodles of administrators and illegitimate politicians, the upshot is not surprisingly, the condescending posturing akin to what the governor of the Southwest region Bernard Okalia Bilai indulged in the advent to this year’s May 20 celebrations.  Moreover, if it is true as has been postulated that the persona dramatis John Manga Williams, had been summoned to Yaounde by a regime top brass and forced to recant his previous act of civility to Fru Ndi, then the issue is one of premature obsession with being seen to be in the good books of the paymaster-in this case Emperor Paul Biya.

As for the abduction of the SDF chairman, it is taken here with a pinch of salt. While condemning such an action that projects nothing short of moral depravity, there is every reason to believe that in a country that has exhibited undisguised signs of descent into a failed state, given that even known armed robbery gang leaders, money launderers, and all sorts of mobsters find their places within the governing class, nothing comes as surprise. While Fru Ndi’s post release narrative evokes clear signs linking his abduction to Ambazonian separatists, there is also the possibility of an unseen hand from the lunatic fringe of government that may want to affix an image of extremism on Anglophone separatists that is stalling the much desired inclusive dialogue. Fru Ndi, deposed that the crux of his abduction is his inability or refusal to withdraw SDF parliamentarians and senators from the current national assembly. This assertion is brought to naught by the fact that the concerned lawmakers, or is it breakers, won election in different constituencies and their stay or withdrawal from the national assembly does not depend on the Chairman. It has to be an individual decision.

What is certain is that whoever is behind the abduction of the SDF Chairman does not have a firm grasp of the issues at stake. Fru Ndi, is not a separatist and so whatever he does with the Biya regime should be of no interest to the Ambazonian cause. In fact, if as Fru Ndi claims, his abductors are from the Ambazonia fringe of separatists, then, such a lunatic clime is doing a disservice to their struggle. How then can they exculpate themselves from the stigma of extremism that has hung on the throat of president Biya like a sword of Damocles? On the other hand, if the hand of Jacob is impersonating that of Esau then we are in for an endless struggle because there are hawks even within the “one and invisible Cameroon” fringe of the political arena who do not want the war to end and by that token come up with antics that postpone meaningful dialogue. Whatever turns out to be the verdict, these are very trying moments for the SDF and its national Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi. A more mature vision and communication strategy is sorely needed to erode the recent gaffes by the Chairman and the party if at all there is hope for rejuvenation in the pip