He taught me that you could romance with the mighty and still be lowly
When I entered the school of Mass Communication in the 80s, Zachary was already a star. The first day I saw Zachary Nkwo in the early 80s with Muema Muembo because they were sharing the same building, I met him reading ravenously and I knew from the onset that to be a good journalist you have to read extensively. This is what I saw; he had a pile of magazines by him and he was rummaging through those magazines.
A few years after he came to Buea, after he had reached the peak of his stardom, look, somebody who was at that peak to leave the national station and come to a Regional station and work with just any kind of person was a lesson to me. That you can romance with the high and mighty in society and still be yourself and come down to the level of the common man. This is somebody who made this blend between fame and humility. He was heroic, iconic in his art and yet, he was down to earth. He was a very sociable character; everywhere you saw Zach, he was cheerful and he was generous. He will not expect you to give, he will give you first. Most of the times, I hardly received from people. Most of the times he was only giving so, he gave himself, he gave his art and he gave his life. This to me is a very important lesson and I remember him very vividly for that and I wish him well as he goes.
In the area of sports, he gave a special touch to the profession like no one else had ever had in Africa. And I think there are only three of them; himself, Denis Lewewe and Ernest Okonkwo in Nigeria. They were the top in their art in the continent of Africa. For that, I think we are losing somebody who for many years is a legend and it might be difficult to replace him, to say the least.
Bernard Eko, Former CRTV Journalist
He made the world know Cameroon through football
You can see my eyes are filled with tears. Zach was a wonderful friend; he made the world to know Cameroon through football. He was a professional icon and his demise is an irreparable loss.
Nkemayang Paul Foanyi, Publisher of ‘The Star’ newspaper
He was a sports reporter that comes once in a lifetime
He was a sports reporter that comes once in a lifetime. These kinds of people come once in a lifetime like Jesus Christ, Mohammed. Zachary Nkwo was a sports reporter that lived and will continue to live even though he is dead. He had a command of the Queen’s language. He could convert an action the pitch from audio to visual. There was a little bit of exaggeration which was very necessary at the time because the game of football comes with action. He had this passion that was added to his ability to run commentaries. If you are running sports commentaries, you must do it with passion because football is fanfare, passion and there must be a way that a goal is scored and a way that you announce it.
He also succeeded in making English a superior language in dual commentary. You see, when commentaries are run by an Anglophone and a Francophone, the Francophone always dominates; but in Zach’s days, he was the domineering partner; even the Francophones wanted to listen to him in English. Even the Francophones commentators wanted him to comment on what they had commented. They had the belief that if he says it, it will be more interesting than even if they said it in French.
He read a lot and so he could take anecdotes and fit it in football situations. For instance, he described Kalusha Bwalya as a formidable player that could play in African selection, World selection and even in God’s football team in Heaven. He also had statistics. Before Zachary Nkwo got into a match, he had statistics, information about players, countries, about competitions; he did a lot of research which we don’t do today.
Kange Williams Wasaloko, CRTV Southwest Station Manager
I am very sad the way they left Uncle Zach
When in 1985, I started playing with the national team Uncle Zach was there as a reporter. Before then, as a young student, I used to listen to Uncle Zach when he was in Australia in 1981 with the junior national team and giving commentaries which were very interesting. You cannot imagine when I entered the national team and I met Uncle Zach; he reported my matches right up to 1990. But I am very sad the way they left Uncle Zach. You know, some of us have done great things in our nation and we are not recognized. Today he is no more; the talent, the voice, are all gone. So we are here today just to pay tribute to a legend that is gone.
Give something to a person who is alive. Don’t think that today they will come and give him… it is late. They should have built a statue of him with a microphone to show that he is a legend so that even Nigerians, Ghanaians coming here, would know that Zachary Nkwo lived just like Ernest Okonkwo and Denis Lewewe in their countries for instance.
Ndip Akem Victor, Former national team player
He gave me the title Mr. Sinkot in football
I will always remember his way of reporting. Before the coming of the television, he was able to make his radio audience see the action in the pitch. He is the one who introduced the appellation Mr. Sinkot in football and till date, I am being referred to as Mr. Sinkot and this is why I could not fail to come lay him to rest.
Sinkot Isaac, Former national football team player
He left memories of hard work
Zach was an epitome of excellence in his journalistic style. He didn’t only master the Queen’s language; he made sure his descriptions were vivid. You didn’t need a television set; if you were following commentaries by Zach, you were in the field yourself. He is one of those journalists I am sure many others will love to emulate. He did his work because it was enrobing in his veins like the blood in our veins.
I entreat younger journalists to remain focused like he was. Whatever desk you’re occupying; not necessarily sports, put it to heart and do it as part of your system and not because of any emolument. You can see that Zach was more than his weight in gold. The only thing that will remain is how much you will be remembered when you’re gone like he is being remembered now.
Ekema Humphrey Monono, Registrar, CGCE Board
Zach elevated me to the high office of 2nd Vice President Besides a community member, I am someone closely associated to him because we came from the same neighbourhood in Likoko Membea. Some fond memories I have of him are in football where I happen to be an administrator. Zach gave me so much encouragement and guided me in the administration of football. We got to the pinnacle of football at the level of our Regional performances. Today, we have moved up to the national level and I want to pay homage to the contribution Zach made for me to be elevated to the high office of second vice president at the national level.
At a time when we are taking our football out of troubled waters, he would have been there to enable us benefit from his world of experience. We share in the loss; our hearts are with the family. The only contribution we can give for now is to stand by the family and accompany Zach to his final resting place. Above all, we have the responsibility and duty to uphold his legacy and ensure that what he stood for; those principles that guided his contribution to the game of football should be upheld. It is a great loss to football in Cameroon, Africa and the world. His voice will resonate in years to come. Icons like Zach never die and so we shall be comforted with that.
Mbella Moki Charles, 2nd Vice President of FECAFOOT
It will be difficult for a new edition of Zach to rule the airwaves in this country again
I think Zack would have lived further if we had the attitude of being one’s brother’s keeper. Zach was great when he lived his youthful life in broadcasting, in sports casting but when he retired and had his issues, the rest of the communication family and society at large said ok, we are done and dusted with him so we just allowed him to wither, to peter out.
I think we have the tendency in Cameroon of laying more emphasis in death than in life. Look at the huge the turn out of people here at his funeral; but when Zach was like desperate, when he could barely food on the table as the saying goes, few of us noticed him; his apparent predicament that was draining him quicker than the football commentaries he was identified with; few went beyond hailing ‘Uncle Zach’s past exploits’ to drop the most needed coin in his palm; but now that he is dead, he is dead. A library has been advertently burnt by us to ashes, by sheer dint of our hesitancy to be our brother’s keeper. However, the fortunate thing is that he lives in our hearts and it will be difficult for a new edition of Zachary Nkwo to rule the airwaves again in this country. His legacy is what is what remains permanently etched on the crystal walls of our hearts; of every perceiving Cameroonian heart. Zack’s story is like that of the musician who prints an album and then dies. But the music keeps being played in nightclubs, radio and in the subconscious mind. That is Zach for you and for me.
Charlie Ndi Chia, Publisher of ‘The Rambler’ newspaper
We interacted a lot, even when he was on retirement
When I came into Form One in Sasse College, Zach was a Form Four student and they were running a club. There were several clubs and among them ‘Journalism Club.’ They put up notices that we should register in any club we will wanted to belong and coincidentally, six of us in the same class registered; myself, Asonglefac Nkemleke, Chief Maurice Nkendem Forbinake, John Mbame, Raph Yonga and seven of us ended up being journalists. As at Form Two when they had gone to Form Five and Epie Ngome was in Form Four at the time, they had identified me for commentary, and started doing more commentaries when there were inter-class matches.
When Zach left Sasse College, I kept trailing him. When I went to Yaounde in the early 70s to the University, he was already first year in the school of journalism. We interacted a lot, even when he went on retirement.
Njomo Kevin, Former CRTV Journalist
It is not an easy job fitting in the shoes of Zachary Nkwo
I am tempted to say at 69, his sunset is coming virtually at noon. What is left for us to do as journalists who are in the world of sports is to work in his line and even try to do better because in the context in which we live, much of his career was when there was monopoly, today, with the plurality of the media, the challenge is even enormous; even more challenging for those of us working with the national radio which is an obligation and a call to duty. It is not an easy job, I must tell you, fitting in the shoes of Zachary Nkwo. Interestingly, some of us love radio than television because radio is not only an exciting media, it is also very intriguing; having to explain to people what they do not see was difficult for them but it is even more difficult for us now commenting something that people are seeing. Zach going at this point in time is so disheartening because we needed him for advice, inspiration and encouragement.
Albert Njie Mbonde, CRTV Sports Reporter
Compiled by Nester Asonganyi & Relindise Ebune
Tear drop for the veteran sportscaster, Nkwo Tokoto Zachary (Uncle Zac)
Well, fellow Cameroonians, from Makari to Garoua, Limbe to Isokolo, Bafoussam to Dschang, Oyomabang to Nkolndongo, Fiango to Bokwaongo, and from Bokwaongo to Molyko, this is the moment… Against a backdrop of the galvanization of energies and pre-burial rituals, it is a packed-full mourning chaplaincy, with thousands and thousands of pairs of eyes, an Avogadro’s number of mourners are present here where the raindrops don’t seem to want to fade…
Twenty one years ago to the minute, a young aspiring sports journalist who had taken the pains to come all the way from the nation’s capital, Yaounde to put together what he described at the time as a portrait of his idol, he asked me the question how I had become a sports journalist. I told him on that occasion that God gave each one an assignment on earth and that I was only trying to accomplish mine…and that it was possible for all those who had the industry and vocation to seize every passing opportunity to take off from where someday I’d be gone off on a lonely journey to some lonesome graveyard.
I have trudged on the landscape of planet earth. From the now skeletal Mbapelepe stadium in Akwa Douala, to the Independence Stadium in Lusaka, Zambia; From the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in the nation’s capital, Yaounde, to the May the 20th Stadium in Kinshasa, in the then Zaire; From the Prince Stadium in Taef, Saudi Arabia to the Rufaro Stadium in the then Salisbury, Zimbabwe; From the National Sports Stadium in Surulere, Lagos-Nigeria to the Harvard Stadium in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States of America; from the National Stadium in Cairo, Egypt to the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan; and from the Kasarani Sports Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya to the KAC field in Kumba, Cameroon. I have seen great clubs, talented players, magical moments; and I have worked with likeable professionals in the milieu; but, I have also had to shed tears of frustration and outright and condescending dejection.
I saw the players of the Industrial Investment Credit Corporation, IICC, Shooting Stars of Ibadan; I saw Chairman Christian Chukwu; and I took a snapshot with the mathematical Segun Odegbami. I commented the aesthetic moves of the mesmerizer, Kenyan forward, Ambrose Ayoyi, who, by the way, qualified to spot the colours of the Royal Team of the Kingdom of Heaven. I had just tested positive for broadcast journalism when Roger Milla flew into Yaounde from France, and upon touching down at the former main and then only airport, promised to score 3 goals the next day to qualify Cameroon for the 10th African Cup of Nations. He delivered on promise but failed to have the eyes of an eagle when he shot the ultimate penalty wide, engineering Cameroon’s elimination by Guinea Conakry. My spirits, I saw him breakdown in tears, as the entire nation chorused in lamentations beyond compare.
I remember, just like yesterday, the antics of durable football clubs like: Asante Kotoko of Kumasi, Ghana; Hafia Football Club of Conakry, Guinea; Rangers International of Enugu, and, Bendel Insurance of Benin City, both of Nigeria; and the shabbily dressed Yoruba boy who once told me minutes before an international football thriller that “ogah, today na fire.” Being a former goalkeeper, myself, I concluded that between the two late former goalkeeping prodigies who graced the then Southwest provincial league, Charles Ajebe and Manga Alabinda, the difference was only at the level of the approach to the game.
Meantime, Thomas Nkono remained my all-time best Indomitable Lions goalkeeper. Fellow Cameroonians, barely 75 seconds after the Italians scored the curtain raiser through a cajoling header by Graziani, at the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain, it is now at the Baladose Stadium in Virgo, Cameroon 1, Italy 1, thanks to the equalizer by Mbida Gregoire Arantes alias the Equalizer…The Italians are attacking againnnnn, goalkeeper Thomas Nkono, aie aie aie aie aie…Daniel Anicet Noah…oui oui Zac c est un vraie aie aie … Abel Mbengue you want to weep but you want to weep for joy.
And then, my fellow countrymen, and as the Super Eagles fly higher and higher, Ndoumbe Lea Francois, Ndjeya Rene, Mbom Ephriam and Michel Kaham are falling backward now, as midfielders Emmanuel Kunde, Theophile Abega, Gregoire Mbida and Ibrahim Aoudou are standing hands akimbo like traffic policemen. But the Nigerians are coming again, they are coming…thanks be to God goalkeeper Thomas Nkono went into the air like a cat and silenced that ball for a safe. Fair is foul and foul is fair; what an agile goalkeeper, he does things we see only once in our life-time! Abel Mbengue, any comment … non non non je suis fatigué.
During my years in active service, I severally formed reporting duos with great microphone dons like, Daniel Anicet Noah, Abel Mbengue and the late Abednedo Messang and Joseph Eloundou Ndzie. I also admired sports reporting boulder rocks like Ernest Okwonkwo of Lagos, Nigeria; Mohammed Lafti of Cairo, Egypt; Denis Liwewe of Ndola, Zambia; and Peter Essoka of Yaounde, Cameroon.
I acknowledge the book ZACHARY NKWO’s ULTIMATE COMMENTARY written in my honour by one of my disciples…but I also have had time to observe that human beings are particularly deceitful for, not only did multitudes boycott my events in Yaounde, Buea, Kumba and Bamenda, but they ignored procuring copies of what has been the most complete publication yet of the life of me, your unworthy servant.
At the moment of my demise, more than a year after the copies hit the stands, I confirm only 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 copies had been bought from bookshops in Buea, Limbe, Kumba, Bamenda and Yaounde, leaving behind more than eight cartons of a hundred copies each from the initial 10 on premier launch, to wither away in abject financial loss; I hear we have a curious way of celebrating our so-called heroes…I forgive you who even sent away errand boys I dared commission to present copies to you as a recognition of the moral support I had wrongfully thought came from your hearts when at the end of games you gave me seeming handshakes of encouragement. Some were even told by their secretaries that the boss was too busy to receive them… A demonstration that one’s praises are sung sincerely or not when we still have breath, but promptly evaporate with the illusions as soon as we turn our back…To say the least, I felt the whistling and blowing intrigues straining every nerve of mine like Simon & Garfunkel’s Roving Gambler’s pretty little gal when parting with her beloved was quite imminent… As I gradually come to the end of the monumental mission of pronouncing my own nunc dimittis by proxy, still permit me to forgive those who took upon themselves without the knowledge of the hierarchy to kick me out of the studio, depriving me of what I loved doing best: giving you, my beloved audience, spontaneous auditory orgasm… It was an exactitude of the unassailable tenet once posited by a renowned statesman who ruled the world’s greatest nation that foolish, stupid and unintelligent are they who continue to believe that it is possible that you can strengthen the weak by weakening the strong…More often than not, either by commission or omission, I could count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 in a forest of heads and ocean of eyes, who, like in the Bridge Over Troubled Waters, lay down on my behalf when true and sincere friends couldn’t just be found…
My word, I am on my way on this deep, dark, long journey to the world here beyond, where waiting anxiously for me, unto my right, my immediate follower, Fabian, the first girl in my family, Lucy, my beloved daughter, Regina, my Good father, and mum, my sweet mother; and unto my left, a battle ready squad waiting for me to take my position at the goal as I once did for PWD Bamenda, and Kilo Club, forerunners in this unenviable journey, led by head coach Sam Nuvalla Fonkem O’Sam, that squad of the endangered species ready to swing into action: Mark Niboh, Shu Fontem, Luke Ananga, Akawanka Joe Ndifor, Ebssiy Ngum, Ben Berka Njovens, George Tanni, Charles Landze, Anne Nsang, Becky Ndive, George Fon Tamo, all of the English desk, who travelled much earlier on.
My spirits, this afternoon, as I continue on my lonesome journey with the sole regret of having been born too early, the will of God continues to remind us , my brethren, that no one knows the time, the day nor the hour. In my good old days, I could sometimes predict the scores of matches just by looking at the movement of the moon and the stars, or by gazing at the firmament of Buea Mountain, but on Pentecost Sunday, 2017 in the year of our Lord , the wisdom of God that surpasses human understanding prevented me from having fore-knowledge that the Holy Spirit would descend on the hospitable dwelling of Mount Mary with an urgent summons for me…a summons with an overwhelming dichotomy with the one I was handed decades ago for prompt report at what would evolve into today’s SED after a junior staff had described a football pitch in the Head of State’s village as a pigsty. That would earn me an unspeakable sojourn in a cold cell.
Confronted with this inevitability therefore, yours sincerely, and with my summons in both hands, shivering, and no calculus scientifically sound enough to silence the radioactive bells of the world here beyond, which keep chiming and knelling my earthly sojourn to a close, I dare buckle with Cherubim and Seraphim set to stretcher me home…in perfect reaffirmation that although going through the valley of the shadow of death, the presence of my Maker forbids me to fear any evil, I can only say, like His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi, that for me, ultimately, dear friends, the Mass is ended…ITE… MISSA… EST.
Fon Echekiye, senior sportscaster at CRTV