By Tikum Mbah Azonga
There is a saying that we live in a changing world. Other similar aphorisms state that we live in changing times. Some go on to link the process of change to progress or deterioration, growth or depreciation, development or underdevelopment, pros or cons, etc. So it is some kind of double edged sword, being able to cut both ways. Its mere existence confirms the law of opposites in nature; up and down, day and night, man and woman, good and evil, as well as God and Satan, to name those. But the key question is: What is change?
Well, the Global Association of Productivity and Efficiency Professionals views change as “something that presses us out of our comfort zone. It is destiny-filtered, heart-grown, and faith-built. Change is inequitable, not a respecter of persons. Change is for the better or for the worst depending on where you view it. Change has an adjustment period which varies on the individual. It is uncomfortable, for changing from one state to the next upsets our control over outcomes. Change has a ripping effect on those who won`t let go. Flex is the key. Even a roller coaster ride can be fun if you know where to lean and create new balance within the change. Change is need when all the props and practices of the past no longer work. Change is not comforted by the statement, `just hand in there` but with the statement, `you can make it`. We don`t grow in retreat, but through endurance. Change isn`t fixed by crying, worrying, or mental tread milling. Change is won by victors; not victims; and that choice is ours.”
That being the case, I believe I can safely proclaim that change is taking place in Buea. In other words, Buea is changing.
The Mayor at work
Buea Council Mayor Mbella Moki Charles is effecting change within the Council area. He is at war. He has launched an all-out war against anarchically constructed architectural structures. A few days ago I spotted him in the Molyko area, at the University of Junction, to be more precise, surrounded by a crowd of curious supporters and distraught detractors. He was pinpointing for destruction to his technicians off licences which he felt were too close to the university premises. ‘This is a university!” he said. The owners of the businesses have been notified that they have some days of grace within which they must relocate their structures or face the full force of the law. If anyone doubted the seriousness of the mayor`s threats, such can hardly be the case now because prior to the off licence incident at the U.B. Junction, his men had already been at work pulling down businesses that were operating from containers. The mayor has said he does not want to see any containers in public places. Right now, it is difficult to find any more container businesses in the town. But of course, since change is a painful process, there are those who are in tears because their businesses have been ruined and they do not know where to go from here. Nonetheless, when one contemplates the empty spaces left by the displaced containers, one notices some beauty and sanity in the environment, which proves that sometimes it may be necessary to force change when it is slow in coming.
The new market
What one might call a modern market is currently being constructed in Buea Town. It is a rejuvenation of the erstwhile Buea Town market, just at the bend before the Buea Town Motor Park and the Council premises. The new market which is coming up strongly in terms of construction is a far cry from the huts and shacks that are today receding but used to stand tall like veritable eye sores to the onlooker. As the new buildings approach the sky, the old ones which have had their day are being sidelines and marginalized and dwarfed. I am sure they will ultimately be put down and kissed goodbye for good. The new market comprises purpose built structures with an imposing front façade storey building. I understand that, traders and market men and women are already reserving sheds in the market for fear that they may not be accommodated if they wait for completion of construction work. When the market becomes operational, it will not only mark a sea change from the existing markets at the OIC, Muea, Mile 16 and Mile 14 – all of them within the Buea Council area, but also for those outside of its jurisdiction such as the one in Mutengene.
Traveling to Mile 17
Significant changes have taken place along the road to Mile 17 from downtown Mutengene, in the last one year, if not even the last six months. The National Social Insurance Fund (CNPS) regional building which was constructed at Mile 17 some years ago and which immediately became the pride of the town is still today a jewel in the crown. Its large and sumptuous banquet hall has served as the venue of many a conference and wedding, such as the recent one between Umenei and Achu. Of recent, the Lobe Cooperative Credit Union has also put its mark on the place by putting up a four storey building just down the Road from the petrol Station and just before the CNPS building as you go down towards Mile 16. At night, the building is a marvel to look at with its glittering corridor and bedroom lights. Hardly anyone drives that way without admiring the building and asking questions about it. Not far from it, a similar building is coming out of the earth. That is not all about the new buildings, for in Dibanda (Mile 14), the international NGO, Habitat, is putting up some dozen living houses, it would appear this is as a contribution to the fight against poverty through the provision of low cost housing. Although the first dozen or so are near completion, it is not known how interested candidates will be made to acquire them.
A gas station near you
In the last few months, Buea has had the joy of welcoming two new petrol stations within its jurisdiction. The first to come was BOCOM, located just after TEXACO Mile 17 on the way to Mile 16 and the other is SOCOAME which is in Mile 14. When BOCOM came, motorists heaved a sigh of relief because they had been having tough times with congestion at the then lone Texaco Station. Furthermore, the station attendants were said to be laid back and unwelcoming. When BOCOM came in, it made them sit up. SOCOAME has now come to make everyone sit up, for competition is really keen.
The chariot of the people
Surely, the name `chariot` must be a special one here in Buea, if one considers the number of users gunning for it. The appellation had for years been associated with Epasa Moto, ‘The Chariot of the Gods”, and a reference to the legendary power behind the Buea-located Cameroon Mountain. Then came the University of Buea`s Journalism and Mass Communication`s Chariot Radio and Chariot TV. Now, a new hotel has opened in the town under the name of the Chariot Hotel. This latest institution is not just a hotel; it is a high profile three star structure, with a well chosen site and clearly defined architectural options. It has beautiful and spacious rooms and a swimming pool as well as conference rooms. In fact, that is where all the big events in Buea needing hotel or catering facilities now go to. Perhaps this is a welcomed move, considering that the once leading hotel in Buea even before independence, the one and only Buea Mountain Hotel, was allowed to depreciate, crumble and die some years ago.
Kumba as the extra mile
If you come as far as Buea nowadays, then you really must continue to Kumba, popularly known as K-Town. The road to Kumba that used to be a nightmare is today simply a pleasure ride. When I plied the new look road for the first time last year, I just felt like making more and more of the same trips. The road was widened and tarred right to Kumba and inaugurated by none other than the Prime Minister and Head of Government, Philemon Yang. That was one of the first major activities he performed after being appointed Prime Minister and Head of Government in June 2009. However, after the pleasurable ride to K-Town, one immediately feels anger and frustration when one enters the town. This is because the state of the roads in the town leaves a lot to be desired, in comparison with the Buea-Kumba road.
Putting it all together
After decades of apparent neglect and sidelining as well as an unavowed reluctance to grow and experience change on the part of the town itself, Buea seems to be waking up from slumber at last, or at the very least, stirring. But for the town to get up and perhaps also rise to the rank of a City Council just like Limbe and Kumba which although only Divisional headquarters whereas Buea is a regional headquarters, got there before it, all hands must be on deck. The job can not be left to the indigenes or the local Council; no, anybody who has anything to do with Buea must put his or her hand to the plough. Of particular interest here is the group of Cameroonians in the Diaspora who are always more ready to offer criticisms from their distant sanctuaries of fast cars and quick dollars, than really take the bull by the horns and make a lasting contribution and impression.