mardi 11 août 2009


Hi Rev Awasom,

I have been thinking. Are you the same Rev Awasom who used to be pastor of the Baforkum Presbyterian Church in Tubah Sub Division, Mezam Division, or is this a coincidence? If you are, then why do you hardly ever talk of Baforkum, let alone the Presbyterian Church, on this forum of which you are indisputably one of the most regular cotributors?

Are you aware that Baforkum has sprung back into the limelight, although this time for another reason, which is that its young and energetic pastor, the Rev Wara has been pulling crowds because of his faith healing sessions? People travel from far and wide just to meet the pastor for healing and/or cleansing. Suddenly, our little village has become something of a fovourite "tourist" destination. We thank God.

I am concerned because I am a son of Baforkum and I am writing at a time when we of Baforkum are determined to give the place a new lease of life. We count you as one of us. That's where you come in.



The present posting has been motivated by the one posted on the Camnet forum recently by Rexon Nting. In the piece, Nting affirms: "SDF Chairman declares his wealth on Cameroon Voice". He also quotes the Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi, wondering loudly what the Diaspora has done for the advancement of democracy in Cameroon . Now, that is exactly where I come in.

And I do so to point out that we of the Diaspora, far from being active participants, have become ardent critics. We spend our time criticizing and looking for more things to criticize. Hardly do we stop and ask ourselves: "What am I doing personally to improve the situation?” In a way, the situation is reminiscent of the famous American writer who once complained that everybody complains about the weather but, nobody does anything about it. However, I do not solely blame the Diaspora for this negative attitude, for even those at home have now made it a habit to always announce deaths as many times as possible, to the detriment of births about which one hears nothing at all, as if Cameroonians were only dying and not being born.
I agree that there is a lot wrong with our country: blatant and unbridled corruption, laissez faire, etc. But there are other areas for which we deserve the thumbs up. Better still, there are many areas in which we can make a positive contribution and thereby create jobs for some Cameroonians and put smiles on faces. Here is an example: some years ago, a Cameroonian who had lived in the States for years returned home and opened a microfinance institution. With time, the structure grew into a fully fledged high street bank on the same footing as any other major bank in the country. The man in question, Awanga Zachariah, has handed the day-to-day running of affairs to other professionals (while remaining CEO) and branched off to run an insurance company as which he has opened. I understand he is also constructing a top notch hotel.
But then it doesn’t have to be only Awanga. Surely, there are other success stories that abound. What is important is that there is room in the country for everyone, even those who are permanently overseas and seem to believe that Cameroon is finished. Lucrative areas in which those out there might want to get involved include, microfinance, hotel and catering, the opening of (bilingual) nursery and primary schools as well as colleges, and of course real estate. For the latter, bear in mind that houses are always in demand in Cameroon, whether for private residence or business. Think about it.


The mad Cow

Balemba village was blessed in the sense that it had the only high school in the province. By high school I mean an institution where students were prepared for the G.C.E. Advanced Levels. Because the high school was the lone one, students who obtained the G.C.E. Ordinary Level from the many secondary schools in the province vied for places at the Bangara college of Education, as it was known. It was called a college because the government intended to upgrade it to an institution that could then award HNDs. But that has never really happened. You know how it is with bureaucracy. Anyway, that is another story.
Bangara College was an entirely boarding school whose students were adults (aged over 18) and treated as such. For instance, they were served fish three days a week, chicken two days and meat two days. They ate well with their meals being varied and rich. Each of the three items had a supplier. For example, chicken was supplied on Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays, chicken on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Meat, and that is what our story is about, was provided on Fridays and Sundays. The incident I am about to recount happened on a Friday and concerns a cow that went mad. But first, a description of the topography of the area will help the reader to understand the incident better.
To go to the college, one had to branch off the trunk road that cut through the urban district of the village. Taking the right hand branch that was opposite the one leading to the college would mean go to the hinterlands of the village and eventually the Fon’s Palace, which was three miles away. However, a mile before the palace was a left branch leading to the cattle market. It was the largest cattle market in the group of five villages in the area. Trading took place there every Friday and on such a day, around fifty cows were sold there. Two men, one of whom from the front, pulled and directed the animal from a leash tied to its neck, took them away. Another from the back, held a leash tied to the beast’s leg. He would pull if the cow were moving too fast and therefore posing a threat to the foreman.
On the Friday morning of the incident, early morning buyers were coming away from the cattle market with their cows being herded by the foreman and the hind man.
“Gafara!” the hind man would say, lashing out at the cow with his whip, if the animals slowed down unnecessarily or started changing direction into the bush.
“Hai! Hai!” said the foreman to warn pedestrians that a cow was coming down. The warning was necessary because sometimes some cows became very wild and would charge at onlookers, thus throwing them in disarray and even causing some of them to lose balance in the stampede, fall down and injure themselves or be trampled upon.
Despite the danger, little children loved taunting cows by rubbing their neck with their hand thus telling them that they were going to be killed. To stress the point, the boys would stamp their right feet on the ground. One would normally think that a cow, being only an animal, would not understand that kind of language, let alone its implication. But far from it, they did. That is why any cow thus teased, would take offence and thus charge at the provoker, At such a position both fore man and hind man would summon all their might to control the enraged beast. Often they hurled abuses at the poor animal murmuring in Fulani, the language of the majority cattle grazers in the region, or in their own language or in pidgin.
“You cow! No start da your nonsense!”
Meanwhile, the little school boys, feeling they had their joke, after all, would laugh while running away at a speed neither the cow nor the two herdsmen could match.
On the day of the incident, one cow that was being led out of the cattle market started the day on a bad note. After the herdsmen had tied a nozzle and successfully flung it around the neck of the cow, they secured it, and then skillfully provoked the cow into putting its right foot into another nozzle that had been purposely placed on the ground. Quick as a flash, the hind man leapt at it and pulled it so that it got tightly secured on the cow’s leg. For this unfortunate cow, of all the cows that left the cattle market on that day, none went through as many tribulations as Ali, for that was the name the cow was given by the original owner who raised it.
As there was a school, a Catholic primary school so close to the cattle market, it turned out that once the two herdsmen and Ali stepped onto the motor road just outside the market, they ran into a group of deviant children who started booing the cow and hurling stones at it. As might be expected, some of them made the death sign to Ali. It took a lot of shouting and threats of beatings from the two herdsmen for the boys, six in number, to disperse.
For Ali though, it was too late. He had been worked up beyond the point of no return. The foreman and his counterpart noticed this at once, for Ali’s countenance had changed. He was headstrong and stamped his feet, instead of galloping. The two herdsmen had been in the business long enough, that is thirteen years, to know when an animal was turning into a beast.
So, not even the friendly taps on the back of the animal or the fondling of his male genitals meant anything to this offended mammal. As a result, the warning calls from the foreman to onlooker and passersby were more strident. Some understood the danger and immediately took cover. But again, the children walking to school continued to be a stumbling block, as they continued to taunt the cow. At one point, the hind man almost lost control of his leash as the animal suddenly made a dash for some boys who provoked it and were trying to escape. But the foreman was an old hand. Within a few minutes, he had brought back Ali under control. By the way, it is not haphazardly that the foreman and the hind man are chosen. The foreman is usually hefty and strong so that single-handedly he can pull the cow back if necessary. The foreman is by any standard an athlete who can run faster than the cow, if it were to break free from the hind man. That was exactly what the two men on this day were. Even so, this was not to be their day for their cow received more provocation on the way than any other cow they had ever led away from the market. These constant interruptions made the journey unnecessarily long.


Back at the college where the cooks were expecting the cow, there was beginning to be some agitation as already the cow was an hour late. Usually it got there by nine, after which the two herdsmen were paid extra to slaughter it and cut it up into major parts such as the head, the two thighs, the two forequarters, the neck, the inside contents, the four legs, and the skin. The rest was left to the cooks, under the supervision of the Chief cook.
Usually the Principle allowed the cooks and stewards to share among themselves the head, the tail, the intestines and the four legs. The legs were no problem because, since they were four and the kitchen staff four, sharing was easy. For other parts like the tail and the intestines, they shared them simply. When it came to the head, they agreed that it was never a good thing to share a head because it would be like casting lots over a head made by the Almighty God. That in turn could bring them ill luck. So they decided that member would have a turn in carrying the whole head home. On this day the notorious cow was expected, it was the turn of the Chief cook, Godlove, as students were fond of calling him. That was his name, anyway. The point is that the same stude4nts called the other kitchen staff by their surname, in some cases prefixing it with “Mr.” But perhaps the problem with Godlove was that of familiarity breeding contempt. Of all the kitchen staff, he was the only one who at night, would throw off his work clothes, have a good bath, put on his “show boy” clothes, perfume himself and go dancing in the one and only night club in the vicinity, called Spot Bar. Here he rubbed shoulders with students from Bangara College. They sat together, danced together, and drank together and cracked jokes together. He got a chance to dance with the prettiest girls. He could even dance blues that enabled him to press girls’ breasts to his chest and feel good, or “high” as he used to put it. When it came to dancing rock, which most people found difficult, Godlove was always a champion. Everyone who went to nightclub knew him. He was a star in his own way. In fact, once in a while, in the night club a certain Dominic, would buy him a free drink, because let’s face it, he also attracted customers to the bar in terms of the number of people who came there just to see Godlove.
Back on the road, the going was getting tougher and tougher. Children’s taunts had worked up the cow so much that it was annoyed just with anyone and saw everyone as a threat, even the two herdsmen who knew it by name.
Of the three kilometres journey, the cow had made only two kilometre, which was slow. They were now by passing the late Pa Nebashi’s compound down below on the left. The late man made his name in the village by being the first man from there whose son became a headmaster, and the only one whose son became the first headmaster of the village school, St.Joshua’s school. On this day, the herdsmen and the cow had left the market at the usually 7:30am. Normally, by the time it was, that is, 9:30am, they should not still be at Pa Nebashi’s compound, a compound which they always get to at about 8:45am. So, today must be really a bad day. Amungwa the senior herdsman said to himself.
“Ashanga, this is not a good journey we are having today”, he said to his companion.
“It is certainly not,” Fundum replied, “As they talked over the cow to each other, it groaned loudly as if to say they were disturbing him.
“Oh, shut up, you cow! You’ve given us enough trouble for one day already!” Ashanga shouted.
The cow was panting heavily as it galloped also Saliva was trickling down its mouth, often a sign that he was exhausted or thirsty, or both. But the foreman and hind man in no mood to compromise and let it have a drink of water.
“When they got to the bridge over the street that was between the area where Pa Nebashi’s compound was and “God’s Promise” off licence, the animal came to an abrupt stop and refuse to continue, regardless of what was done or said to it. The senior herdsman called it all kinds of names in all kinds of tones.
“Debo!” (Woman in Fulani)
“Ndjala ku!” (Nonsense)
“Bi wa ad dere djo!” (You good for nothing)
The reason why the herdsman chose to address the cow in Fulani was because the bulk of cattle rearers in the country were Fulani. So everyone had the general belief that cattle were first and foremost a Fulani thing and that all cattle understood the Fulani language.
In a way, such a belief was not far fetched because if we trace the cow Ali to its birth we shall find that it was very much Fulani. Firstly, the market where it was bought, although located in Balemba village, had cattle sellers who were all Fulani. They drove their cattle from their distant villages and brought them to the Balemba market. Ali in particular was born into a typical Fulani family, the Mustafa’s. Ali’s parents and grandparents were from Fulani families. That was as far as any living person could go with the cow’s family tree.
Even so, there are high chances that generations far back were also Fulani.
So much was cattle rearing and obvious occupation for Fulani families that it was common for parents to keep children away from school so that they can help with looking after cattle. However, with government sensitization, the community throughout the country was beginning to wake up. Fulani elites were getting together and forming associations to fight Fulani marginalisation and get Fulani themselves to realise that education was the key to long-term success.
Nonetheless, it doubtful that as Ali the cow was given the two caretakers hard times on the bridge, he was even remotely thinking about the Fulani problem. Ali was simply reaching to a situation. For it, enough was enough and there was no way he was going to go beyond the bridge.
Finding that even insults in Fulani would not move Ali, Amungwa now lashed its back with a stick. As the cow define him by not budging, he rained more strokes on him until the stick got broke and he threw it away. But it had left weals on the cow’s back. Yet, he did not move. Curing Amungwa pulled sharply several times on his own leash that was tied round the animal’s hind foot. Still no respond. So, the foreman, Fundum pulled hard on his own leash, tied around the cow’s neck, to make it move forward towards him. Still it did not work. At that point, Fundum had an idea. Passing his leash from his right to the left, he walked over to Ali, and stroking his neck affectionately, he said.
“Listen, Ali. If you think you are punishing us by digging in your heels, you are actually punishing everyone, including yourself. The longer you keep us here, the more tired we’ll all become. So, just cut it out and let’s go.”
As if by magic, the cow relaxed and started walking forward.
“Yowa! Yowa!” shouted both Amungwa and Fundum in Fulani.
They both noticed that the cow was exhausted. It was still panting and was losing a lot saliva through its open mouth. Here Amungwa felt that in a way, it was the animal’s fault because while at the bridge when they had tried to lead it under the bridge for a drink of water, it had categorically refused not knowing that they were doing it a favour. It now he was thirsty, that was his problem because there would be no turning back.
Meanwhile at the college, Godlove was clearly getting impatient.
“This is not normal. Why has it taken so long for the cow to get here today? Its nearly two hours late.”
“I hope they haven’t mistakenly taken it to the village market, since today is a market day? It’s easy because on a day like this several cows leave the cattle market for the village market where they are slaughtered and sold to butchers on the spot who then retail it to the market customers,” said Brown the cook.
“Perhaps we ought to start thinking of what the students will have for lunch if that cow does not come in the end.”
“I think so, chief.”
“Okay, Brown, do we still have enough fish that can replace the meat just in case?”
“I’ll go and look.”
Upon that, Brown disappeared into the dining hall storeroom. Godlove removed his bunch of keys from his pocket, singled out a long and small key with which he started cleaning his teeth. Richard the steward who was watching him while peeling plantains at the washing up point situated on the side of the kitchen building suddenly remembered a story his junior brother who was at the St. Andrew’s college told him. This story was about a classmate of the junior brother’s who during a lesson had the rounded top of his pen break into his ear as he used it to clean his ear. When the poor boy tried to pull out the foreign body with the nib of the pen, he instead pushed it inside. He then started crying and the class teacher -the lesson was geography -took him to the principal who sent him to the hospital with a personal note for Dr. Rosenkeimer. The principal wrote:

Dear Dr. Roe.
Please, kindly attend to this student with foreign body in his ear.
Fr. Paul Lehman
Although it took the Doctor only seven minutes to extract the object with the sophisticated instrument his father had sent him from Bristol (England) the operation was very painful.
“You’ll be alright. Just don’t fool around with your ear any more. The ear is a very delicate part of the body.”
“Yes Doctor. Thank you Doctor.”
This was what Richard thought. Nonetheless, as he poured out the dirty water from the basin of peeled plantains, he shrugged his shoulders and said to himself.
“Anyway, that key is not a pen knob and Godlove is not the student who stuffed it into his ear.”

By this time, the party of three, that is, the cow, the foreman and the hind man were approaching the urban part of the village, which was intersected by the high way that linked Mondamo Administrative Division to Bazongo Division. When approaching the centre of the urban area from the south, one found to the right, the road that led to the primary school, the cattle market and the village Fon’s palace.
Another road that branched off to the left, led to the college and an agricultural station. At the angle between the northbound highway and the road leading to the village, there were, as there usually were everyday, women sitted in an area a little larger than one half of a handball pitch. They called it a market. Normally, it looked too small to be called a market, but as far as they were concerned, it was a market, their market. They sold a wide range of foodstuffs: roasted groundnuts, ripe pears, bunches of plantains, ripe bananas, cola nuts, sugarcane. Nearby, there was a butcher’s slab. He was a middle-aged man called Pa Bone, because he sold soft bone that many buyers loved.
“Gafara! Gafara!,” shouted the hind man as the three galloped down towards the “market.” As they did so, the angry, tired, fuming cow trotted as if it would kill anyone in its way.
Some people, saying how fierce the cow looked, quickly stepped away from the earthen and wet road and took cover in the nearby corn farms, or plantain farms or coffee farms, as the case might be.
However, some two boys, in their attractive light blue shirts and khaki shorts that were the uniform of the village Catholic school, suddenly stopped unto the middle of the road, and in full view of the approaching cow, made the death-to-you sign and stamped their feet on the road to emphasize their death sentence. As if stung, the cow leaped at them, taking both the hind man and the foreman by surprise. In the struggle to regain their balance, both men fell to the ground, but being as die-hard as Spartans, they hung on to their leashes. The result was that as the cow chased the boys, it dragged both men along, off the road and unto the nearby farms. At some point they lost their grip and the cow continued along learing foreman and hinding, moaning and writhing in pain. In their panic, the two schoolboys fell over the farm ridges several times, staining their school bags. Unfortunately for the cow, the two boys disappeared as they hid in a nearby thicket.
A bit calmer now, the cow continued its journey, although it is doubtful whether it really knew where it was going or whether it remembered at this point whom it had been chasing in the first place. It walked over and across the groundnut and corn farm, smashing ridges, distorting their form and killing sprouting crops. It was certain that the poor woman whose farm it was would curse the animal on finding its hoof marks. But what would it matter, since the cow would be gone anyway?
Ali the cow came across a side road and took it. Fortunately it found no one on the way. As there were no farm beds to impede its movements, quicken its pace and soon broke into a run. The side road led into the village road from which the schoolboys had diverted the cow. As it entered the road, a group of market goers screamed:
“Cow, oh!”
And ran helter skelter. Some onlookers who have seen the incident involving the two boys quickly ran towards the direction where the cow was. But it was now heading towards the small market located at the angle. Before it got there, saleswomen who saw the unmanned cow were in disarray. They all got up and ran helter skelter, some screaming and calling the names of their late parents or grandparents. One said in English. “I am covered with the blood of Jesus!”. Some fell over others and were trampled upon, although not to death.
The cow now entered the highway. It could have turned right to go up towards Bazungo Division, or straight ahead towards the agricultural station or even towards the college for whose students it had been bought. But the cow instead went left and down the highway towards the village market. Towards the north the highway was steep for about a kilometre and south where the cow was heading, it was down hill for about two kilometres. It probably chose this route because it was easiest going down dale. So, it followed the line of least resistance, the primitive path.
So down the road went the mad cow, saliva dripping from his mouth. Now that he was on the tarred highway, its hoofs made its galloping sound so loud that people could hear it before it came into view. Of course some mistook the hoof echoes for those of a horse, horse not being uncommon in the village. The reaction was the same. As soon as people realized it was a loose cow, they scrambled out of sight for cover.
From where the cow and that was half way between the women’s makeshift market and the main market, there were practically no more provocative pupils still walking to school. This was because they were already at school. So, the cow was spared any more taunts.
When it got to the part of the highway that passed just in front of the highway, it scared the many people, there, some of whom were haggling others buying and others about to board waiting taxis. Yet some had their private cars. Some others, notably women, stood in groups, greeting and chatting. As the cow came closer, people scattered in all directions. Then it suddenly found that it was caught between the parked vehicles on the left and right and a line of some three vehicles approaching it from down. Instinctively, it stood still. Then the driver of the vehicle right in front of him, probably impatient of waiting, probably nervous or even frightened, let out a long and piercing hoot on his horn. Frightened, too, the cow leaped over one of the cars and made a dash into the market.
Here all hell broke loose, for the entire market was in total confusion. The cow ran about wildly, knocking people and things down. Some victims cried out for help, others started weeping and exclaiming in their mother tongue, people ran wild with some just running because they saw others doing so. The cow even ran into njangi huts and market bars, breaking some down. The biggest victim was Pa Awantang whose hut was partly damaged, his jugs and calabashes of njangi palm wine broken, njangi members in panic as they tried to run, unconscious of where they were going. The cow got out of the hut and unfortunately for one mother, her 11 years old son was running towards the cow without noticing it. Before the mother attempted to rescue her child, the cow had picked him up with his horns and hurled him unto open large bags of garri. He was not hurt. By this time, it appeared the entire market had known there was something wrong. So in loud singular chorus, they booed, the way they always did when it had rained and was slippery and someone slipped and fell in the market.
As everyone was scared of the cow and making way for it, it ran towards the back of the market and exited through the gap between the butchers’ slap and the second hand clothes section. It then entered a nearby a corn farm and started ploughing through it. Some men and boys gave chase. Because of the ridges of the corn beds, the animal’s movement was inhibited and because the chasers were pressurizing it, it soon fell and as a result of its large size, it could not get up quickly. The pursuers pounced upon it with sticks and stones. Some five minutes later, it stopped movement apart from breathing.
“Don’t kill it, please! Don’t, please!” That was the foreman, followed closely by the hind man. Both were tearing through the huge crowd that had gathered round the animal. The two men then explained to the other people what had happened.
“If we don’t slaughter it at once, it will die out of exhaustion and the blows. And if it dies, there is no way it can be slaughtered. The veterinary assistants will not allow anyone eat meat from an animal that dies before slaughter.”
With the consent of the two herdsmen, the butchers went to work. They were three and within twenty minutes, they had finished the job.
The hind man took a chance, not knowing what the chief cook at the college would say, and gave the butchers the head, the skin, the tail and legs. They paid some idle boys a little money and they transported the meat on their heads to the college.
The kitchen staff looked lost when they saw nine heads in all bringing parts of a slaughtered cow to the refectory. When the hind man narrated the story to Godlove the chief cook, he said.
“I knew there was something wrong”.
“Didn’t I tell you, Brown?”
The question for Brown was more or less a rhetorical one.
“Okay, wait here, I’ll go and tell the principal what has happened..”
When he told the principal, the latter said to him:
“We have only an hour left for the students’ lunch. Have you prepared something else for them to eat in place of meat?”
“Yes, sir. There is fish.”
“Is it ready?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Fine. Prepare fish for lunch and the cow for supper. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
“Yes Sir.”


A short story

By Tikum Mbah Azonga

Pa Shimoon, for that was what we grew up knowing him to be called, was an extraordinary man. When I First heard of the name of the former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimoon Peres - and that was in primary school - it reminded me of Pa Shimoon’s name. I sometimes wondered if the name Shimoon was not really a corruption of Simon, but my father said it was not.

“His father named him Shimoon. I don’t know why, but that’s the name his father gave him at birth. If you want the whole story, his full names are Shimoon Atanga Ngu, the last name being his father’s.”, my father would say, and then go on to recall that Pa Shimoon’s father ran into problems with the parish priest who stopped the local priest from baptizing Pa Shimoon, unless he was given a “proper” Christian name, whatever he meant by “proper”.

“We can’t put that name on our church records. It’s not a Christian name. It must be a pagan creation”, Fr. Anthony said, in the coolness typical of Mill Hill missionaries. He was born in Southampton but grew up in Bedfordshire and Yorkshire. However, since Pa Shimoon’s father would not agree to an alternative name and the parish priest would not yield an inch either, a rift soon developed between the two men. The result was that Pa Shimoon’s father withdrew his entire family from the Catholic Church and they became Presbyterians. Of course, my father could afford to be so authoritative about Pa Shimoon. Both men were from Njini Menam village. They were age mates and had grown up together in the village. They were classmates in the village catholic Mission Primary School. When Pa Shimoon’s father moved them out of the Catholic Church, he accordingly enrolled at the village Presbyterian school. Meanwhile my father stayed on at the St. Andrew Catholic School. When both boys completed primary school they entered the big and famous Basel Mission College. (B M C) that was the only one for boys in that part of the country. After their studies, they both won British scholarships to study in England. My father went to the famous Milroe College where he took an honours in tropical agriculture. His friend and brother went to Silverpool for and honours in mechanical engineering. That was then. Today, because of the closeness of my father and Pa Shimoon, all of us my father’s eight children (from his only wife, my mother, mama Benedicta) called Pa Shimoon, just Shimoon,’ not uncle Shimoon ‘. The latter, on the other hand, had two wives. Mama Beatrice had five children while the second wife, Mama Angela, had three. If you ask me, I would say Pa Shimoon had difficulties handling his polygamous home because there were frequent fights between the wives. Sometimes they even they fought.

Even so, what I or I guess any other child with whom I grew up in the neighbourhood remember most about Pa Shimoon was his indulgence in alcohol. It seemed to me that he was always drunk.

For many years he and my father worked in Ndokoban, the headquarters of Kana administrative Division in the Plateau Province. My father was the divisional delegate for Agriculture while Pa Shimoon was Divisional Chief of service for Agricultural Statistics. My father was his boss because according to the organisational chart, the Divisional Delegate of Agriculture Controlled the Divisional Chief of services for Administration and Finance, the Divisional Chief of Community Development, the Divisional Chief of Rural Engineering, the Divisional Chief of Agriculture Production.

My father always spoke disconsolately about his “brother Shimoon” at home. “What haven’t I said to him? I have warned him repeatedly about drinking. I have told him it will ruin his career and even his life. But will my brother listen to me? That places me in an awkward situation because if I were to apply the rules on him and send a nasty report to hierarchy, he might lose his job. But does my brother understand that?”

Sometimes, I felt sorry for Pa Shimoon because even his physical looks were already wearing him down. He, from what I could see was born handsome. He had the fair complexion, which most people dream of. Unfortunately he made himself a slave to alcohol. Perhaps he could even have been a delegate like my father. Let’s not talk about smoking because they both smoked, and in all fairness to Pa Shimoon, they smoked sparingly. Pa Shimoon’s greatest sin was alcohol abuse and drunkenness, not smoking.
One morning when my father sent me to Pa Shimoon’s place to get something for himI found Pa Shimoon lying in bed, drinking whisky straight from the bottle as if it was water. The room stank of alcohol.

Surprisingly, his first wife, Mama Beatrice, as she prepared her husband for work, and the children for school, repeatedly entered the room but showed no sign of surprise or disgust. I suppose the poor woman was, after these many years of marriage to an ever drunk husband, simply braved things out. Otherwise, what could she do about it? Pa Shimoon would not listen. However, perhaps the poor man too was now too addicted to alcohol to come out of the situation. So after I stepped into his bedroom and found him drinking his whisky, I stood respectfully, waiting for him to finish. Good morning Pa” I said.

“ Good morning, my child”, he replied turning round with difficulty and groaning about pains all over his body. But he made sure he held very tightly to his half drunk bottle of whisky. He looked worn out, tired and sleepy. Surely, he must have been drinking in one of the off license or bars in the town the previous night. “ In such a state, how will he go to the office today?” I wondered to myself. Of course, I would never dream of putting such a question to him. I knew he would beat me, report me to my father who would again beat me without giving me the slightest chance in the world to defend myself.
Pa Shimoon finally managed to sit up in bed, and I had no choice than to put up with that very strong and offensive smell of alcohol.

“Is it…Is it..Arrr…. rrr! You. …Captain?”
“Yes Pa.” I replied. He always addressed me as “captain “, because as he said, he was sure I would grow up to join the national armed forces and eventually become a captain. Time was to prove him right because after my degree in law, I passed the entrance ewamination into the National Military School and later became a captain. Using my law degree, I trained at the national administration and magistracy school and became a military magistrate. I retired a couple of years ago as a colonel. So on that one, pa Shimoon got things right.

Back in his smelling room he asked why I had come. “Pa asked me to get the leave requisition file from you”.

“Oh yeah? Is that all? Your father didn’t send me anything?”

“No, Pa.”

“Why not? He didn’t send me any whisky? Or even a beer, for my breakfast?”

Here, there was no way I could hold back:
“Alcohol for breakfast, Pa?”

“Yes, of course, captain. Why not? By the way, what class are you in?”

“Class seven, Pa”

“So you are due secondary school this year? And you don’t know that alcohol is good for breakfast? What do your teachers teach you these days? I don’t …”
Here, he raised his bottle and gulped down a mouthful rather absent-mindedly.

“Yes, this makes me feel good!” he said, making grimaces because of the drink. I noticed he was still in his pajamas and had not had a bath. If he was as time-conscious as my father, he should be in the office in exactly an hour. The time by his old clock was 7 o’clock. But knowing him well, I was sure he would get to the office after his boss.

He had struggled to his feet, still clutching his bottle.
“That bloody file! Where is it? Where did I put it.”
For once, he put his bottle on the table, fetched his black brief case, and placed it on the table and after about five minutes of figuring out how to open it, the brief case flung open. He ransacked it. All this while I ran towards him several times because he was staggering and I felt he might fall.

“No! No! No!, captain… I’ll be all right. Do you now see why your father should have sent me a bottle?, he mumbled.

“Yes, Pa” I acquired, most reluctantly, for although I was only a little boy, I never liked sacrificing my principles. I felt I was betraying myself. How on earth could Pa Shimoon prescribe alcohol for breakfast? I had never heard or read about that anywhere and to be frank with you, I did not believe there was any teacher who could make such a claim.
After searching in vain for the file, he mumbled something to the effect that I should tell my father he would give him the document in the office. Before I left, Pa Shimoon had crashed back in bed, his bottle beside him. He started snoring like and old cow.
When I got home and gave my father the message, his reaction, which was, of course, addressed to himself, was:

“I knew it. How could he find it?”

From what we occasionally overheard our father telling our mothers at home, Pa Shimoon was equally a disaster at work. He knew his job well. Remember he was a mechanical engineer, appointed to the post of agricultural statistics chief. So, from any perspective, he was a square peg in a square hole. In fact, not only had he always been good at mathematics, but also at the Advanced level, he scored distinctions in mathematics with statistics, applied mathematics, statistics (as a whole subject), Physics and Chemistry. So, when he applied himself to his job, he did it well. The problem unfortunately was that since he was often drunk, his job was often poorly done.

At such times, he would arrive for work late and no sooner had he settled down than he would disappear from the office, leaving his door open, consciously or unconsciously. People waiting to see him would grow impatient and leave with their files untreated. Once his boss, my father, sent for him. When the messenger returned to my father and reported that the door was open but the chief was absent, my father ordered the Chief of Service for Administration and Finance to lock the door, get some men and comb all the drinking places in the town and bring him to the office. Pa Shimoon was found in an off license, drinking with the left hand and sighing documents of waiting service users with the right hand. While doing so, he talked about things that had no bearing on the work he was doing. He was completely off topic. When the men reported back to the Divisional Delegate, he thanked them and asked them to leave him alone with Pa Shimoon. Turning to Pa Shimoon, he said,

“Sit down, please.”

My father was making a big effort to control himself and sound courteous. Even so, Pa Shimoon spoilt it all because in the process of sitting, as he was staggering, he missed the seat by sitting too far away from it. As he struggled to regain his balance, he grabbed my father’s table and accidentally scattered some of the effects on it on the floor.

“What nonsense is this? I pull you out of an off license during working hours, and as if that is not enough, you scatter my table? Look at how you tremble like a leaf and fall like a child! What is all this slavery to alcohol, Shimoon? “

“Sorry… I’m sorry, boss … I …”

“Well, that won’t help, neither you nor me. My God how you stink of alcohol!”

Then my father continued in our mother tongue, Ngam Njini Menam (literally, the language of Njini Menam).

“Shimoon, you are a disgrace to me. The whole of this town knows you and talks about you very negatively. Alcohol will ruin you! Are you happy to have earned yourself a notorious nickname like, Cup Man?”

“ I … I … “

At that point he had still not managed to get up from where he had fallen. So my father went round the table, gave him a hand and helped him up.

“Look at how you have soiled your clothes! How will you walk in the streets?”

My father sent for his driver and asked him to take Pa Shimoon home. Before he left, my father told him:

“Shimoon, I’ve just been told Beatrice and Angela have quarreled at home and are fighting. Go and see what you can do.”

“My wives?”

“ Yes your wives.”

Pa Shimoon was helped into the vehicle, a Toyota Four Wheel Drive. As they drove past, occasionally, people would point at him and say,

“Look! There goes Cup Man!”

One day, the Senior Divisional Officer paid a surprise visit to the Divisional Delegation of Agriculture. When the Delegate did roll call, everyone was present apart from Yours Faithfully,

“ Where is Shimoon?” he asked the Chief of General Affairs and Finance.

“ I haven’t seen him all morning, Delegate.”

“Okay, check first at his home, then in the drinking places. Bring him discreetly when you find him. I’ll make sure the Senior Divisional Officer visits all the other services first to give him enough time to get back. Let’s hope he is sick or just tired, not drunk. For God’s sake, not drunk again!”

He was found in an off license, drunk and insulting the people drinking with him. He created a scene because first, he refused to pay for the six large bottles of Castle he had drunk, on the grounds that he had drunk only three and was being “fraudulently” made to pay for six. His colleagues asked him to pay for the three he recognized. Then they contributed money and paid for the other three. However, there was still trouble because he now insisted he must leave with the unfinished bottle. In vain his colleagues explained that the Divisional Officer was visiting. In vain the bar saleswoman tried to explain to him that if he must go with the bottle he must first pay a refundable deposit on it. His refusal was categorical.
“You are an old, dirty and stinking prostitute!” he told the woman.
“Look here, Cup Man. If I didn’t know exactly who you were, I would be annoyed. Now that I know you, I can only feel sorry for your wives and children.”
Thereupon, Pa Shimoon flew into a rage. “My family! How dare you insult my family? Leave me alone, , , . Let me . . . Let me teach this swine a…. lesson!”
His companions now decided the only option was force. So, they grabbed the bottle from him, returned it to the woman, and bundled him away kicking and cursing. He was forced into the vehicle. The men decided that since the situation was much worse than they had anticipated, they must find some way of advising the Delegate not to reveal him to the Senior Divisional Officer in that state.
Unfortunately, just as they were getting him out of the vehicle, the Senior Divisional Officer emerged from the building accompanied by the Divisional Delegate and the Senior Divisional Officer’s entourage. The Administrator stopped abruptly on seeing and hearing Pa Shimoon who was speaking hysterically and insolently about the bar woman. The words the Senior Divisional Officer heard distinctly were: “That prostitute! She took my unfinished bottle of beer! I will teach her a lesson!”
“Who is that man, Delegate? You know I haven’t been long in this Division to know all your collaborators. Is he one of them?”
Yes, Monsieur le Préfet. That is Mr. Shimoon Atanga Ngu. He is our Divisional Chief of Service for Agricultural Statistics.”
“Is he always like this, Delegate?”
“No, Monsieur le Préfet. Not always. Sometimes. Not always.”
The Senior Divisional Officer went nearer.
What trouble are you having gentleman?”
“Trouble? You ask me about trouble? Where is my beer? You….”
“Mr. Ngu, don’t talk like that to the Prefect!” barked my father.
“Prefect? What Prefect? I have no Community Development with any Prefect. I keep statistics, agricultural statistics. I…”
Mr. Ngu!” snapped my father.
“That’s okay, Delegate. Within the hour I will have to issue you a query. That will be for inability to control your staff. My visit is over. Thank you for the reception.”
And he left at once. By this time, Pa Shimoon had been left alone. He was staggering towards his office. When he got there and found it had been locked, he could not find his keys. So, he started kicking the door saying very incongruous things such as,
“I know you are in there stealing my food, Platoon Soldier. Come out, you starving nincompoop!”
Platoon Soldier was his dog at home. He was also saying,
“Hey you bar woman! What are you doing with my drink? Do you want to urinate in it before you give me? You fool! Has a woman ever urinated in a bottle? Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Thereupon he slumped against the door and went down like a sack of corn. Almost immediately, he started snoring. When the Divisional Delegate was informed, he came to see for himself.
“God Almighty! Have I not had enough of my share of troubles for the day?”
He instructed his driver and two other men to take Pa Shimoon home. The time was 11.10., fifteen minutes after the Senior Divisional Officer stormed off. At exactly 11.50, a messenger from the Senior Divisional Officer brought the query my father had been threatened with by the Senior Divisional Officer. Within an hour, my father too had addressed his own query to Pa Shimoon. His intention was to attach Pa Shimoon’s reply to his before taking it to the Senior Divisional Officer. That was what he did.
In the end, although the Prefect understood that the fault was really that of Pa Shimoon and gave him a poor end of year mark, the fact remained that Pa Shimoon had not gone down alone. He had brought my father down with him because the query to my father and its reply was still placed in my father’s file. In other words, my father’s file had a stain.. Pa Shimoon’s disgrace with alcohol did not end there. Many were the times he got home very late at night, sometimes after falling and rolling in mud several times. There were times when he had to be taken home by “Good Samaritans” who found him asleep on a chair in an off licence after everyone else had left and the barmaid was cursing. Worse happened for he was once found sleeping in a gutter one early morning after failing to return home. He was smelling of urine and excreta.

Hearing this, one may wonder whether no medical person ever warned him about the dangers of alcohol to his health. Of course, they did! Doctors and even nurses, but he wouldn’t listen.

Once his situation became so serious that the doctors after examining him said he had early signs of cancer of the throat. He was admitted in hospital. After a week, his condition started improving. Then Pa Shimoon who had all along been moaning about being “killed slowly by being deprived of drink” which he called his food, came up with a plan. He bribed someone to buy whisky and sometimes beer, and put it in a tea flask and deliver it to him in hospital as if it was tea. When he was a lone and found that no one was noticing, he would quickly have a drink, close the flask and stand it back on his bedside hospital cupboard. One day, nurse Naomi surprised him with a flask in bed. When asked, he said he was feeling cold and needed to warm himself up with the flask. It’s just that at that juncture the usually alert nurse was distracted by another patient, otherwise the thought would have crossed her mind that the outer part of a flask is not warm since all the heat is inside. Although the doctor, nurses and ward servants sometimes smelled alcohol in Pa Shimoon’s space, they never accused him, for want of evidence. So, the patient continued “cheating”. His situation got worse until it got to a point where he was weak. Still, he managed to get his innocent six-year old son who happened to be with him, to open the flask and give him. For some strange reason, perhaps because his time had come, he drank too much whisky and died in his sleep. The uncorked whisky got spilled all over the bed, beneath the blanket and stank from afar. When Nurse Naomi found him in that state, she exclaimed:

“Oh My God! So this is what it was all about?”.

In less than no time, the entire town had known that Cup Man was no more. He died the way he lived. By the cup.

copyright 2009


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

There are times when despite the feelings parents may have for a child, they still wish they had not brought that particular child to life. Such was the case with Jonas Bikwibili and his son, Moses. He was the first of seven children Jonas had with his wife, Judith.

Moses was 13, and now in Class Seven, the final class in primary school. If all went well, that is, if he passed both the First School Leaving Certificate Exam (FSLC) and the Common Entrance Exam into Secondary School, he would gain a place in college. It was his father’s greatest wish that the boy should pass the entrance in List ‘A’ in order to gain an automatic government scholarship. If he didn’t make it, things would definitely be difficult, for his father depended very much on his coffee farm. But for some years now, harvests had been poor, and it was clear he would not be able to afford the boy’s school fees.

The two hardly ever saw eye-to-eye, for, Jonas often said of his son that he had ‘a certain madness’ which he didn’t like. He called him a devil and an unworthy son. Perhaps this was because being a hard working man himself; he couldn’t bear to see a lazy son. Moses’ “madness”, Jonas said, consisted of wasting valuable time, carving he knew not what out of wood which his mother would have used for cooking.

But the boy always said he was “producing” a bicycle. He carved two wheels, a large one for the back of his bicycle and a smaller one for the front. Several times his father smashed the bicycle before it was completed. “Is this not madness, for God’s sake? Aren’t you just stupid? Have you even seen a bicycle made of wood? Instead of revising your school work, or helping your mother, or even looking after the younger ones, you keep carving nonsense!”

But disapproval from his father never dampened the boy’s spirits in his craft. It is true that he never really gave his school work all the attention it needed, although of course, he always passed his exams. But his teachers just like parents, were deeply concerned about his performance. No doubt his teacher had commented on his end-of-term report card: “an intelligent boy who could do better”. Clearly, his bicycle business was like an obsession although his father beat him every so often. Moses would steal himself away to work on the bicycle. As might be expected, because of the repeated threats from his father, he moved his tools away from the latter’s compound to a thicket near one of his mother’s farms , situated about a kilometre away. Once she had run into this hiding place of his, but although he wasn’t there at the time, she hadn’t any doubt that this was a place of her son’s making. But she never mentioned this to Moses or his father. She had a soft spot in her heart for her children whom she said she had borne all alone. “A father can bear to beat a child the way he likes, for he knows not what bringing forth one involves”, she would say. All she told Moses was that he should do his household chores and take his studies seriously.

The time for his exams came and he sat for both the FSLC and Common Entrance. The schools broke up for the long holidays. If all went well, he would be going to college, and hopefully on government scholarship when the new academic year started in three months’ time. Even so, his father had great doubts about his prospects. How could a child who spent his time on pointless and fruitless activities ever do well in his exams, he wondered aloud. Moses’ mother for her part, in her heart of hearts had one prayer: “Lord, you made me and you gave me this child. If what he is doing is right, let him continue; if it is wrong, may you stop him.”

During the holidays, Moses worked even harder on his craft. But he made sure he did his chores such that his parents had no reason to complain. When he completed the bicycle he took it out for testing. It was on a Sunday evening when there was some laxity in practically all families. This was the day on which no one went to the farms, but on which inter-family meetings of all sorts took place and during which children were free to play together. Moses was with Teboh, his immediate younger brother, aged 11. He needed Teboh to push the bicycle uphill so that it could be ridden on its own. As far as the bicycle was concerned, the village was ideal because it had a long stretch of some four kilometres of low gradient road. When Moses was ready to embark on the downward journey, he swung the bicycle round and asked his junior brother to jump on the back seat. Moses held the steering frame firmly, and then released the foot brake and his bicycle started rolling down.

“If Moses doesn’t pass the Common Entrance in List ‘A’ and therefore doesn’t obtain the government scholarship, what we shall do?” his mother was asking his father back at home.

“That’s a good question. Well, I suppose we’ll keep him at home so that he can try again next year, because I honestly don’t see how we can afford the eighty thousand francs he needs for the year’s school fees. And there are the other children who also need fees, books, uniforms and all the rest. They are still in primary school, which fortunately means that they don’t need as much as Moses, but then we have five in primary school; excluding Mary who is only a year old, which still makes the total amount substantial.”

“Don’t worry. God will provide”

“That’s what you always say. Anyway, let’s hope he will.”

Just then, Moses and Teboh came running into the compound. No one can say how long it took them to cover the three kilometres to the compound. They themselves couldn’t say. All Moses knew was that they r-a-a-n! They were out of breath, but he manages to speak.

“Where is Papa? Where is …”

“What’s the matter, my child? You have both been running! Was anyone chasing you?” Judith asked as she caught Moses in her arms.

“Where is Papa?” He repeated.

“Yes, Moses. What’s the matter? He responded, emerging from the sitting room.

All the boy did was to remove a bundle of CFA bank notes from his pocket, which he held out to his father.

“What! Where did you get all this money from?” he asked, overwhelmed.

“The wooden bicycle”, he gasped.

“The what? What is the meaning of all this, Judith?” he turned to his wife.

“How should I know? Why don’t you ask him?”

“It’s the wooden bicycle, Papa. The white man who owns the large shoe company in town bought it. He was here and saw Teboh and me riding the bicycle, and …”

“What bicycle are you talking about? That thing I destroyed?”

“Yes; I made another one”

“What! And he bought it for eighty thousand francs?”

“No, he asked me how much I would sell it for and when I told him one hundred and fifty thousand francs, he did not argue. He told me I should bring my father to his office tomorrow morning where the remaining seventy thousand francs will be paid”.

“I can’t believe this”, he said, counting the money. “My son, tell me how it all happened.”

“I was descending the Mbon Hill with Teboh at the back when an approaching car stopped. Then the white man got out of the car with a white girl. They looked at us ride past with a lot of admiration. Then he asked us to stop. He got the bicycle, rode it, examined it closely and said to the girl: “This is great!” He told us that his daughter had come from the country on holidays from America and that she was doing a project on children’s toys in Africa. He offered to buy the bicycle so that his daughter could take it home and show it to her university.”

“Wonderful! Is that so, my son?”, Jonas exclaimed. Meanwhile, Moses’ mother, brothers and sisters who had heard everything were singing and dancing for joy.

That night, Jonas couldn’t sleep. He thought hard. Was this thing true? At one point he decided to go and ask the boys whether they hadn’t stolen the money and then made up the story they had told. He went to their bedroom but changed his mind. It was past midnight and he couldn’t wake them up. He returned to his bedroom, restless. “Aren’t you sleeping?” his wife asked as she had noticed he couldn’t stop turning himself over and over.

“How can I?” he replied.

The next morning, Jonas and his son were at Mr; Tom Scott’s office two hours earlier than expected. Jonas couldn’t contain his excitement. When Mr Scott arrived, he immediately recognized Moses and guessing the elderly man who accompanied the boy was his father, said to him:

“Papa, Na your son this?”

“Yes, sah”, Jonas replied. “Na my son, sah. My own son, sah. My son I born for my own belly, sah.”

He took them into his office and explained to Pa Jonas how he had discovered the exquisite piece of craftsmanship.

“This son intelligent plenty!” he said to Jonas.

”That is true, sah. Na my best son, sah.”

At this juncture, Mr Scott counted the remaining seventy thousand francs and handed it to Moses’ father.

“Thank you, sah. Thank you plenty, sah. This is too good, sah.” he said effusively.

“Don’t thank me, thank your son. And if he has any more such carvings, do let me know.”

“Yes sah. I go tell you, sah.” He then turned to his son and assured him that if ever he needed any help to produce more wooden bicycles, he should not hesitate to let him know. He kept praising Moses throughout their trek home.

Both Jonas and his wife were in high spirits. She particularly kept thanking God whom she said never slept but kept watch over those who needed him. Now they were happy that even, if Moses did not win the scholarship, they would still be able to send him to college “by their own means”. But when his results came out, not only did he pass the Common Entrance exam in the coveted List ‘A’ and as a result, obtained the scholarship, he also passed the First School Leaving Certificate with distinction.

THE WOODEN BICYCLE was one of a collection of ten short stories first published in 2003 by Patron Publishing House, Bamenda, and later in 2009 by Langaa, Bamenda.

lundi 10 août 2009


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

(How to avoid it)

I don’t have sex anymore
And I won’t have it, I mean
Until I’m married
And even so, only with my husband.

I’m scared of having a sore
I don’t like being a skeleton one bit
Simply because in life I hurried
Please, AIDS, I’m no man’s land.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga, Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(A big threat)

AIDS is real like a pain
It’s cunning like a fox
As deadly as death
As uninspiring as an infectious disease
And as sure as fate
So, beware.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(Ultimate sacrifice)

The price of sex is heavy
And the hidden charges even heavier
Once incurred, they become an albatross
Which must be paid with life.
Is it really worth it?

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(Trappings of the easy life)

One moment of fun
Can be a lifetime of sorrow
Then you see no more sun
And have no more tomorrow.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(Trust no one)

The one you love
Can be the one who kills you
Because he rushed you
And you rushed him.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(Avoiding AIDS)

Abstain from sex before marriage
If married, stick to partner
Choose life, not death.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(Love or death?)

You say you love me
Is it me or my body?
If it’s me, my body waits
If it’s my body, I wait
No IDS, please.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(I did my test)

My name is Anybody
Not because I doubt that AIDS exists
But because I have come face-to-face with it
I have rubbed shoulders with it
And I live with it
Keeping it under control.

I did my AIDS test
By being pushed, not by jumping
But I did it
And today I am happy I know my status
And can control it
Have you done yours?

© 2009 Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé

(Voice of a sufferer)

Dance little brother, dance
Dance for me
The down and out
Dance for me to seer
Let me see before I die
Dance your last dance for me
Give me my last number
Make it big and memorable
So I can tell the tale to Dad.

Dance little brother, dig it
Alas the referee has blown me out
I lie off the touchline
Injured, fractured, hurt, humiliated, ashamed
My limbs have given way
They have let me down
Is this me, Big Boy Moukoko?
Why am I reduced to this?
Yet, like a man I must go
I must bite the dust
So I wait for that moment.

© Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga,Published in ‘Say No To AIDS’, 2006, Editions de La Ronde, Yaoundé