By Tikum Mbah Azonga reports on the burial in Oshie, Momo Division, of a Cameroonian university don.
Dr. Ndambi Isaac Akenji, lecturer in history and archaeology at the University of Buea who died in that university town in August of this year, was buried in the family compound of his native Oshie village in Njikwa Sub Division of Momo Division in the North West Region on Saturday 28 August 2010. He was laid to rest in the family compound in Bereje Quarter at a ceremony heavily attended by colleagues from the University of Buea, especially those from the Department of History to which he belonged. Also in attendance were colleagues from other universities and family members from far and near. Dr. Ndambi died at the age of 50.
Ngamfon Awanga Z., a leading patriarch of the Oshie people, cast a retrospective glance at the life of the deceased: “Ndambi was a self-made man. In life he was very consistent and as a result he achieved his targeted goals. I give you an example: all along, he wanted to do a PhD. After working very, very hard, he did it and obtained the degree.” Prof Tafah Edokat, a Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Dschang, reacted to the rather premature demise of Dr. Ndambi through the medium of poetry. That is why the professor quoted Shakespeare extensively, while relating the quote to the fact that life is nothing but vanity and a dream that ends up by being short-lived, thus begging the question as to what is its real purpose in the first place.
For its part, the Department of History to which Dr. Ndambi’s Archaeology Unit was attached said: “Dr. Ndambi was very active in the Department. He played a particularly active role in the orientation of fresh students, giving them useful information that eased their understanding of archaeology. He would spend quality time counselling students in difficulties and giving them useful tips on how to sail through their studies in UB. He was always willing to give a helping hand when called to do so by hierarchy. Dr. Ndambi was at various times officer in charge of Long Essay, Departmental Socials and Buea University Society of History (BUSH). He was very hard working and conscientious in the discharge of his duties. He was known to pay attention to details which would otherwise have been glossed over by many others.”
In a written statement, the Faculty of Arts wondered aloud: “How long has Isaac Ndambi Akenji lived with us to be lying here today? How long? It is true that at the close of the semester, he was already in the throes of his malady. But illness is not death. So we had a right to be hopeful that he would get well and recover his place among us. Ndambi belonged among those characters in life, and there are a precious few of them, who leave you shivering in the cold when they depart: so powerful is their radiance. That same sensation seized us when we received the news; we are still under its spell.”
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea, Prof. Vincent P.K. Titanji in his own tribute said: “We are deeply hurt to have lost a person so firmly committed to the institution, one who has been here since the university was created, teaching, mentoring and doing research with all devotedness. His commitment to his job earned him respect from students who fondly called him ‘Pa Ndambi’. His friendliness with his colleagues earned him the appellation ‘Munchi Boy’ or ‘Abakwa Boy’. Dr Ndambi was a lively person, simple and easy going but stringent. He believed that if something had to be done, it had to be done well. The university community has lost a gem in Dr. Ndambi.”
Higher Education Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo regretted that the Department of History was losing too many of its lecturers: “When I received the news of Dr. Isaac Akenji Ndambi’s death on August 14, thorough sadness seized my heart. Only seven months ago Dr. Alexander Ajong, another young and promising lecturer of the same Department of History died in similar painful circumstances. That loss is still very fresh in our minds. And this one has come to confound our sadness. Death is taking a serious toll on young energies in the University of Buea. We can not but speak out our protestation.”
The minister quoted Shakespeare: “William Shakespeare reminds us that the world is a stage and we are actors on it. I imagine that like actors on a state we exit the world when we have played our part in it. Dr. Ndambi tried to extend his stay on the life stage but could not. He did all he could to overcome his ailment but the latter had the better of his determination. I want to thank all those colleagues, friends and family who assisted him during these trying moments. My special thanks go to Mrs. Ndambi and her children, the Ndambi family and the entire University of Buea community.”
Prior to being taken to Oshie for burial, Dr Ndambi was given academic honours by the University of Buea. This took place in Amphi 750, the largest lecture hall on campus. First, after removal of the corpse from the mortuary, colleagues of his were made to arrive on campus without robes, after which students and guests came in. Later, staff assembled in their robes at the Faculty of Arts Parking Lot. Then the convoy bearing the casket arrived and there was procession of academic staff with the casket accompanied by the University of Buea Marching Band right to Amphi 750. Once everyone was in the hall, academic honours began. The chaplains said a word of prayer, the biography of the deceased was read, after which tributes followed from students, the Head of Department, the Dean, the Vice Chancellor and the Representative of the Minister of Higher Education. Next came the viewing of the corpse and the final benediction given by the chaplains. After the academic honours, the casket was formally handed over to the family of Dr. Ndambi.
Dr. Ndambi Isaac Akenji was born in Oshie, Momo Division, on the 26th of January 1960 to Papa Abungwo Ndambi and Mama Theresia Ndambi. He was the second-born and a twin in a family of five. He studied at the Presbyterian Primary School in Oshie and the Presbyterian Teacher Training College (PTTC) in Batibo. He studied part time for the GCE Ordinary Level, while serving as a primary teacher, and later entered CCAST Bambili where he obtained his GCE Advanced Level papers. After that, he did the Grade One Teachers’ Certificate course at the Government Teacher Training College in Kumba. Later he enrolled at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria where he earned the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in archaeology. His studies were capped in 2005 when he obtained a PhD in archaeology from the University of Yaounde I. He has to his credit a number of articles in national and international journals. Two years after bagging the PhD, he was promoted to the grade of lecturer.
Apart from serving as primary teacher in Bambili, Ndambi held other job positions prior to being recruited at the University of Buea. He was a probationer teacher in Ngwo, taught at the Frank Harcourt College in Kumba and was later appointed principal of the same institution. He also taught at Presbyterian High School, Batibo. On the social front, he was a member of several groups such as the Oshie Cultural and Development Association and the Oshie Students’ and Teachers’ Union. He was a devout Christian of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and a member of the Christian Men Fellowship (CMF) which he joined while in the Great Soppo Congregation of Buea before transferring to the Bomaka Congregation where he took up residence. Dr. Ndambi leaves behind his wife, five children and his mother (sadly), to mourn him. His loss certainly creates a vacuum not only at the University of Buea or in the higher education family in Cameroon, but also in the academic community worldwide.