By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 29th of June 2005 with a view to raising general awareness on the need for statesmen to write their memoirs. It was occasioned by the passing away in 2005 of Nzo Ekanghaki, former cabinet minister of Cameroon and perhaps above all, former Secretary General of the OAU. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
When the recent death of Now Ekanghaki was made known recently, it touched the hearts of many people not only in Cameroon or Africa, but even around the world. President Paul Biya sent condolence messages to his widow and dispatched a special representative to the funeral. Outside of Cameroon Nzo was mourned in a number of countries among which were Ethiopia, Sudan and Nigeria.
Such a reaction is hardly surprising for Nzo made his mark in his life time in many ways. At a young age he quickly became a minister and soon acceded to the coveted post of Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity, thus succeeding the Guinean Diallo Telli. One factor that contributed to Nzo´s acceptance in the post was obviously that as a Cameroonian he spoke both French and English well. Another factor was what Nzo was the right man at the right place and at the right time for, he came up at a time when Heads of States within the OAU were fed up with his predecessor, Diallo Telli, and were determined to get rid of him. No wonder, Ivory Coast President Houphouet Boigny is quoted as having once shouted at Diallo and saying : “Lorsque nous avons demandé un Secrétaire Général, nous ne voulions pas un Général, mais un Secrétaire”, which means, "When we asked for a Secretary General, we didn’t mean a General but a Secretary".
Nzo´s tenure at the OAU will obviously be remembered for a long time to come because unlike many African leaders he took observers by surprise when he resigned from his post of Secretary General as a result of the corruption charges that arose from his relationship with Tiny Rowlands, boss of Lonrho, an international firm based in the then hated apartheid Republic of South Africa, and the fact that he as Secretary General had gone as far as committing the OAU through a consultancy contract with Lonrho. Eyewitnesses who were at the OAU headquarters in Addis Ababa at the time Nzo threw the bomb shell remember that his own president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, walked out of the conference hall as a sign of disappointment with Nzo. Perhaps as a providential measure of comfort to Ahidjo or perhaps thanks to the latter's lobbying skills, Nzo was succeeded as Secretary General of the OAU by another Cameroonian, William Aurélien Eteki Mboumoua. However that is another story.
Nzo Ekanghaki is by no means the only top Cameroonian to have died in recent years. His predecessors in the matter include Ahmadou Ahidjo himself, N.N. Mbile, Mgr Andre Wouking, Mgr Jean Zoa, Christian Tobie Kuo, Samuel Eboua, François Sengat Kuo, Victor Ayissi Mvodo, Dr E.M.L. Endeley, Dr John Ngu Foncha and Solomon Tandeng Muna. Of course, the list is not exhaustive. It is interesting to note that some, like Mbile, wrote their memoirs before departing. Nonetheless, the majority took off without leaving behind any such legacy. Among existing top Cameroonians of today, many have still not committed their life’s experiences to writing. Yet, time waits for no one and death can strike at any time, without any prior notice. So the importance of memoirs can not be overemphasized. And for the record, a memoir should not be the daunting task it appears to be, considering that the Oxford Advanced Learner taking up writing's Dictionary describes it as “an account written usually by somebody in public life of their life and experiences.” Many people believe that they must be fully prepared before writing their memoirs. But they could in fact start by just making random jottings and keeping photographs.
Whatever is the case it must be remembered that the longest journey begins with the first step. Over and above everything else, our leaders should realize that they owe it to posterity to leave behind something document by which they can be remembered.