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.