samedi 30 avril 2011


(For Sarah)

By Tikum Mbah Azonga

You are the person
You are the one and no one else
You are the apple tree
The one I ran into by accident
I mean by pure chance
Yes, you are the one
The one and lone ideal teacher.

You may not be another Pearson
But you are my Oscar Wells
Even if it was all for free
I`d refuse to concede a single dent
Unlike Cyrus Vance
Who grossly tripped before the crown
That`s why with you I`ll always be a sea fairer.

Copyright 2011

dimanche 17 avril 2011



Although we may say we are used to close persons of ours dying, the case of Pa Samson Achu Tayong is a particularly sad one for me. And that is so for a host of reasons:

1. Genesis of a family

With the death of Pa Tayong, we, the Anomah children have lost our family head. The Anomah children are descendants of Anomah, prince to His Royal Highness Fon Nji Angyie of Mbu. Anomah gave birth to Tayong, Ngu, Clement Achu who settled in Muea,
Ndangoh and a sister who got married in Bali. Tayong became a polygamist and had an impressive number of sons of whom Pa Samson Achu Tayong was one. So was my father, Fan Mbah Tayong. Always Grad Pa was popularly known as Tayong that was a nickname that came to stay. His real names were Ndzah Rufoh. In fact, while I have named one of my sons, “Tayong”, my brother, Albert Ndi Mokom has named his own son by the real names of our grandfather, “Ndzah”. The name of our great grandfather, Anomah has also been replicated in the family. Professor Anomah Ngu, a son of Ngu bears that name. Pa Samson Achu Tayong also has a son who bears the name. For the record, once when I visited Pa Clement Achu in his compound in Muea {thanks to Ni Abraham Akum Mbony), he got so moved that he ordered that a cock be killed and prepared for feast. He also went into his ‘”box”, removed four sets of clothes including a “kente” which he said his “son” {Emmanuel Buban Ngu) had sent him from Ghana, and clad me with them! He also fetched a photographer before whom he and I posed for a historic photograph. That was a big honour. The family of the late Pa Isaac Anomah which includes Ernest, Eric, Ufei Nseke, Valentine, Moka, Jude, etc, are also part of the family group.

2. Me, stuck in mud

The entire clan in general and the Tayongs in particular will mourn his passing. That is as far as the family is concerned. As for me, my tears will flow for a long time to come and this will be coupled with a feeling of embitterment in me because there are things I had wanted to share with him, which I kept postponing. I admit that sometimes I am unnecessarily slow in acting, and this has been one of those. However, to be fair, I could not have thought Pa`s time was near. Only a couple of weeks ago, we were together in Santa for Mami Hermina`s burial, and when Pa`s dance ‘came out’, he was full of his usual vigour, gusto and oomph. As usual I walked and danced with him and spoke and joked with him in Lamnso which we often spoke to each other. Little did I know that was the last time I was seeing him.

3. Pa Tayong as my father

When my father (his Nini) died, it was at Pa Tayong`s compound at Atuakom that I was made successor. It was he who handed me my father’s cup and other accessories as part of my installation. It was their sister, Ma Susana Mambo Tayong, under the watchful eye of their eldest sister, Abu Atuck, who organized the grass beads that were put around my neck. It was Pa Tayong who blessed me. Nei Ngu Peter Mokom, the successor of the Ngu`s was unavoidably absent, but “empowered” his “elder brother”, Nei Tayong to go ahead with the ceremony. And he did it, in the presence of my other uncles, Pa Martin Mokom Tayong (the eldest), Pa Mathias Ndefru Tayong, Pa Joe Anye, Pa Damien Nche Tayong, Pa Denis Semeze Tayong, Pa Christopher Achu Ngu; and my aunts, named above, as well as Mami Aggie Alekum Tayong, Abu of Ndop-Babungo and Ma Pauline Achu. The successor of Pa Clement Achu could not be there either, because he was abroad. Pa Samson Achu Tayong is also Peter Ngu Tayong`s father.

4. I take my place among the elders

Since then, in my capacity as my father’s successor, I have been occupying his seat among his brothers and sisters whenever there is a family occasion. I have joined them in making contributions when a death of a family member is being celebrated. In fact, when Pa Vincent Ndangoh Tayong died, I was the treasurer who kept the money collected and I disbursed it as it was necessary. When Professor Anomah Ngu`s wife died, I played a similar role. When Pa Martin Mokom Tayong died, I played the role. When Pa Christopher Achu Ngu died, I was the Master of Ceremonies from the beginning to the end of the event.Here I would like to pay tribute to two maternal aunts of mine who always impressed upon me, the need for me to be "close" to my "fathers", meaning not just the brothers of my father but also his sisters. That piece of advice was pertinent because at the time I was being given it, both my Dad and Mum had passed on.Those aunts were Mami Anna Andze (of regretted memory) and Mami Martha Fri Mbo (thank God, alive and kicking).

4. A friend indeed

Like Pa Joe Anye Tayong once rightly remarked, through his own personal observation, Pa Tayong Samson Achu was more than an uncle or a grandfather to me. He was “a friend”. Often when I was in the compound, I slept with him on his bed and we would chat all night long, again, mainly in Lamnso. Whenever we had any family event, I was usually around him because according to family hierarchy, I was in his immediate entourage, by virtue of succession of my father. My prized items such as my “successor bag” and my traditional wear were kept in his bedroom. And so, I was never far from him. Pa Tayong was father to me in every sense of the word. So, you can imagine the depth of my grief.

5. Unfinished business

1. I was supposed to consult with PA so that I formally “feed” the family to conclude my installation as my father’s successor. That has not been done.
2. He was supposed to lead a delegation to Loum and Bangangte to formally and officially ask for the hand of my wife here. That was not done.
3. I was knighted and red-feathered by the late Fon of Mbu, Fohbolingong II. I never formally presented that feather to Pa Tayong.
4. The same Fon named me Tom Fon of Cameroonians in the United Kingdom. I never formally informed Pa Tayong.
5. When I published my collection of short stories, THE WOODEN BICYCLE, I named characters after Tayong and Anomah, etc. But although I gave Pa Tayong a copy, I did not celebrate the even as I would have wanted.
6. Later, when I published the collection of poems, SIGHS AND WHISPERS FROM WITHIN, I actually had one of the poems in it dedicated to him. Still, no pomp and pageantry followed.
7. Then when MODERN CAMEROON POETRY, Book 3 for Secondary Schools, came out, it carried a poem in it about the famous bicycle when Grandfather Big Pa Tayong owned when he lived in Bamali-Ndop many years ago. That bicycle was unique because he had a ‘driver’ just to carry him around with it. And when he went past his friends, he would say at the top of his voice that he was going ahead; they should follow (on foot).
8. Last year, my book of French and English poems on HIV AIDS sensitisation went on the Government Book List for five anglophone classes and four francophone classes. Again, although I told Pa about it, I did not give him a copy for him to "spit" on it, by way of benediction. Perhaps that is why this first year of the book on the booklist was rather lacklustre.
9. I earned my PhD in Mass Communication a couple of months ago and although I informed Pa Tayong verbally, I did not take the certificate to him so that he could bless it. He never touched it with those hands of wisdom and authority of his. So here I am, some how stranded with it.
10. I had always told Pa that we should, just the two of us, take a photograph clad in traditional regalia which we would enlarge so that he could hang one in his parlour and I hand one in mine. That project never took off. I had the same plans with my other uncle, Pa Martin Mokom Tayong, yet, like in the recent case of Pa Tayong, that photograph was never taken.

6. Pa Tayong and the bright side of life

I. Hilarity

Anyone who knew Pa was eternally happy to have met a man like him. In fact, I have often wondered whether he had any enemies. He was friends with everyone. He was a man to whom relationships mattered so much that when he collected rents from his tenants he would some times sit down with them and offers them beer.

II. Wives and the economic crisis

H e used to joke that when there was no crisis in the country and he had money, it was enough he should call his wife, “Julie!” and she would come running and asking him whether he wanted her to warm water for bathing or whether he wanted her to scratch his back. But now that there was no more, he said, when he called she would bark at him and not come. Instead she would send him a child saying, “Go and see what that man wants”.

III. Pa Tayong and police checks

He used to say that when he was stopped by the police who asked for his identity card, he would ask them why instead of looking at his face which was genuine, they preferred to look at a piece of paper with a lifeless impression of what he looked like.

IV. Encounter with the gendarmes

Once when he was still a public transporter, he carried a corpse from Widikum (I think it was) to Bamenda. Gendarmes stopped him on the way. When they asked him what was in the vehicle and he said what it was, they refused to believe him and proceeded to impound his vehicle. He got out of the vehicle, got some help, removed the corpse and put it before the gendarmes and started his vehicle. The officers literarily went on their knees to plead with him.

V. The prescription from Dr. Kwende

Pa Tayong used to cite the prescription given him by his doctor, Gilles Sama Kwende as “one Tuborg in the morning, one Guinness in the afternoon and one Castell in the evening.”

VI. Pa Tayong`s famous oath

Pa Tayong always swore on his Identity Card. He would speak and in order to show that he was speaking the truth, he would say, “Vraiment d`Identité!” which is how he came to be known as “Pa Vraiment”.

VII. What you probably didn`t know about Pa Tayong

Despite the large number of sons Grandpa Tayong had, he did not designate a successor before dying. He asked his children to meet and choose one of them to be successor. It fell on Pa Vraiment. And it was unanimous! If you are wondering how family could be so democratic back then in 1962 {because that was when grandpa died}, then it’s because you do not know the kind of man he was. He was the type who when preparing for a court case, he would sit before his family and ask them to ask him the kind of questions they felt he would be asked in court. So when he appeared in court, he had been tested enough.

Copyright 2011

mercredi 13 avril 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

The founding fathers got it wrong
They got it all wrong
And all of that in the name of political correctness
So let not those of us standing here and now
Claim that our cats were cleaner than theirs
If all we care about is a feline beast
Then what shall we say about
The numerous virgin gifts
Which were all of a sudden
Thrust at the Sultan of Foumban?


mardi 12 avril 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

I saw him kiss her
He may deny it now, but I saw him do it
He thinks he`s God`s gift to the world
Just let him wait until the soldier ants start biting her.

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

I don`t know if it`s here
But I know it was sent
So, check again and have no fear
If you still can`t find it, the caretaker must repent.

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

An impromptu reaction to the massive group of charred bodies Funge Diffang posted on Facebook today.

Those bodies aren`t bullet-riddled
They`re charred
They`re lined up
Arranged, massed up, jumbled up, shuffled, and reshuffled like a Pack of cards
See how bare they are!
Betrayed objects of base value.

Yet they`re human
Even if
They too are to someone, somewhere, some how
Uncles and aunts
Sons and daughters .
Nephews and nieces

So, whose greed is it?
Whose shame?
Whose disgrace ?
Whose humiliation ?
Whose betrayal?
If not ours
We who still live and behold and ponder and contemplate and wonder
We who still have it all on our laps
Partners in crime
We live to be haunted for ever
By those sordid image
By those macabre images
By those
By this heinous crime
By this dastardly crime
Man`s inhumanity to man
It`s all so disgusting
So repelling
So repugnant
So low
So below-the-belt
So squalid
So foul
So grubby\
So chilly
So horrid
So ghastly
So grisly
So ghoulish
So gruesome
So grisly.

But we`re all guilty
We all have blood dripping
From our pens
From our mouths
From our ears
From our nostrils
From our private parts
From our breath
From our very being
From our space
From our world
From our very being.

When the time comes
The moment of atonement
We shall all give an account
All of all
Singly and collectively
We shall answer questions
Searching questions
Answer for ourselves and for them
Right or wrong
For we are responsible
We are also responsible
This world is one, global
And echo one of us
Is his brother`s keeper.

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

It isn`t normal at all
No, forget the packed lunches
For once, pick up your Holy Bible and walk tall
That`s the only way you can avoid the trenches.

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

(For Ola During)

I need a man
Wherever I can find one
I need him so that the boss can lift the ban
In that way, I`ll be his Number One.

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

Let`s not talk about it now
Let`s leave it for the evening before
When you hear the Queen Mother vow
Then wheel out all the pregnant girls to the fore.

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

All the swan birds have flown
Taken off before the Fon has sneezed
It has happened before the young have grown
So how shall the lone widows be quizzed?

Copyright 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga in Buea

A maiden workshop on culture and arts reporting in the South West Regional Headquarters of Cameroon opens up novel vistas for practitioners in the field and students in the classroom

Something has happened in the Cameroonian arts and culture world recently. A little over a week ago, some stakeholders in the arts and culture journalism sector met for three days here in Buea and came up with what can be regarded as a blueprint for the take off of art and culture reporting courses in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Buea.

A congregation with a difference

The composition of participants was quite appropriate because it consisted of members of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication led by its Head of Department, Henry Muluh and honored by the presence of Prof Enoh Tanjong, the architect of the department and its pioneer. But the professor of mass communication also came to the workshop as the representative of the Vice Chancellor of the University, unavoidably absent. Also present were a fine crop of practising journalists from various news organs, all of them as it were, united by the love for culture and arts reporting and the consensus that if ever that branch of journalism needed a push, it was here and now.

Mirrors of culture

In the invitation letters that went out to participants, the workshop convener, Mwalimu Gorge Ngwane who is the Executive Director of AFRICAphonie, said: “ The main objectives of this workshop are to expose lecturers of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department of the University of Buea to the possibility of introducing art and culture as either a separate or integrated module in their curriculum and to help journalists adopt more innovative ways of approaching coverage in the area of art and culture.” Even before the workshop began, Ngwane had set a cultural tone to things by saying in the letter of invitation: “We recommend that you dress in any cultural wear on Day 1 but AFRICAphonie will provide you with workshop polo shirts and baseball caps for you to wear on Days 2 and 3.” And so true to form, that was how we all turned up.

Orators of sterling worth

The list of speakers was in itself, another bouquet of flowers for culture and arts journalism. There were two main guests, Suzy Bell who is a Founder/Member of the African Arts Journalists Network in South Africa, and Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, Journalist and Communications Consultant as well as Programme Coordinator of the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme in Accra, Ghana.

The Cameroonian top brass speakers who joined them included South West Regional Delegate of Communication, Eno Chris Oben, and Professor George Nyamndi who is President of Africa for Africans and who is widely referred to as “Mr. President”, as not only has he run twice for President of Cameroon but he is also girding his loins to run again for the same position this October. Professor Raymond Asombang who is a lecturer of archaeology at the University of Yaounde I was another speaker; so was the South West Regional Delegate of Tourism, Peter Elangwe and Prof Kashim Ibrahim Tala, director of the Centre for African Literature and Cultures and Coordinator of postgraduate programmes in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Buea. Other speakers included Telesphore Mba Bizo, Founder Member of Arterial Network, Cameroon and Dr. Donatus Fai Tangem who is a lecturer of drama and performing arts at the University of Yaounde I. The moderator for the three days was Dr. Cheo Victor Ngu, a lecturer of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Buea.

Defining the modus operandi

The workshop lasted three straight days, each of which was packed full of challenging but exciting activities. In his opening remarks, the organizer, Mwalimu George Ngwane highlighted the importance of culture but regretted that coverage in the media was inadequate. One of the reasons for this, he said, was that the university curriculum does not give arts and culture the weight they deserve. He gave a foretaste of the three-day event by saying that the first day would be devoted to a theoretical overview; Day 2 to the reporting of art and culture and Day 3 to looking at how to include the subject in the curriculum of the University of Buea Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.

For Communication Delegate, Eno Chris Oben, the quality of participants spoke eloquently of the high standards of the workshop. He stressed the importance of art and culture journalism and urged the young journalists and others to take full advantage of the golden opportunity offered by the workshop. The Vice Chancellor`s representative, Prof Enoh Tanjong expressed the wish to see the lessons leaned at the workshop trickle down into the Journalism and Mass Communication curriculum of the University of Buea and urged the department`s journalists there present to ensure that they wrote articles, news stories and did documentaries that would bear witness to the knowledge gained at the event. He said the department`s programme was broad based and flexible and could easily accommodate new programmes.

Now, rise for the resource persons

Speaking on the topic, CULTURE AS IDEAOLOGY, Prof George Nyamndi affirmed that it was time to hoist the African flag of culture at raise it higher, at full mast. He rejected the view held by some observers that the arts and culture should not be taught because they are self evident. According to him, not only should these aspects of society be actually taught, but the organizers of the workshop should have been more assertive in their programme content by going the full length and talking about culture being “life lived”, “muscles flexed” and “the brain activated”. Citing the ideological aphorism that, “everybody is alive but only those in control live”, Prof Nyamndi citing telling examples of ideological icons such as vodka for the Russians, NASA for the Americans, and the MIG for the French, as well as Toyota for the Japanese and the Rolls Royce for the British. He argued that culture which he presented as a “set of ideas constituting ones goals, expectations and actions, not someone else`s”, is related to ideology, which he said was in turn :subjective”. As a result, he said, Africans must write their own history because if it is left to Europeans, they will write it from their own view point. ‘We must know who we are and be convinced that our existence has its own validity”, he opined.

Copyright 2011

mardi 5 avril 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

I won`t spare any
All must come down
Down with a bang
So, don`t bet waste your bet.

My club licenses aren`t legion
But my chips are down
So if want an orang outang
We must be ready to pay the fee.

Copyright 2011

dimanche 3 avril 2011


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

The question of a healthy environment is currently one of great concern here in Cameroon. The problem is so intense that I believe that if a rigorous scientific study were to be carried out to see how clean the environment is, the result would be a disappointment. So the ministry of the Environment and Nature Protection (MINEF) on the one hand, and the Ministry of Public Health (MINSANTE) on the other hand, should take note.

Where the stench is coming from

You do not have to look far to see to what extent our backyards (in the large sense of the word) are filthy. If you are in any Cameroonian town, just look at the back of houses and homes or other buildings, including government offices and you will see all types of dirt. It is worse in the “social” vicinities such as drinking spots. All around, there are layers and layers of rubbish that have accumulated over a long period without being removed, and worse still, without being noticed. These include broken bottles, plastic bags (which scientists and researchers have found that they can take decades of years to decay, if at all). Other garbage items one can readily see include cigarette butts, bits and pieces of paper, decaying particles and morsels of food, torn and abandoned garments, and many more.

Perhaps you would think that where food is sold, especially the make-shift “restaurants” that today abound in the urban settings, the situation is better. The plain truth is that there is no difference in such places. In fact, it would appear that the women (it’s mainly they) who cook and sell food “out” would care to clean up their “spaces” before beginning the day’s business. However, far from it, they simply arrive, install their equipment and start selling over yesterday’s dirt which is superimposed on the previous day’s dirt, which in turn is juxtaposed between the dirt deposited previously. And so, it is some kind of embedded composition like the utterances and phrases in a linguistic corpus. What that means is that customers who eat regularly at a particular food selling spot will the nest day return to the same filthy environment they left the day before.

If a visitor does not have a strong and resistant stomach, they may through up on approaching what pass for “public toilets”. A vast majority of them do not have toilet seats; neither do they have flushing facilities. They stink firstly because users do not care to position themselves well before “delivering the goods” , and secondly because the custodians of the places do not know or do not care to know that the hard ware stores and pharmacies sell products that can not only “kill” the acrid smell, but also chemically treat the decaying and smelling waste. One would find ones self between a rock and a hard place, to quote that typically American expression, if what one needed was a toilet to pass stool. This is because most public conveniences are intended just for people who want to make water. And if questions are put to the “tenants” nearby about what they do when they want to go to stool, they throw up their shoulders nonchalantly. The bold ones say they go to the nearby bush, while the philosophical ones tell you that while at work, they do not feel the need to go to stool.

Normally, one would have expected that since the trend nowadays is for “food women” to sell in an Off License, so that people who come there to drink (and drinking in Cameroon is always bizarrely the first consideration over eating food) can also “eat something”, adequate steps would be taken for customers to feel at home when easing themselves. But that is not the case. And so what one finds is that as “eating out” as such gains ground, the amount of filth gathering momentum is also on the rise. To be fair to the trend, food sales in drinking places in Cameroon is a relatively new phenomenon. One would recall that some twenty years or so, these make-shift “restaurants” were largely unknown in Cameroon. At the time there were only Off Licensees, and heavy drinkers who left home serene could spend such a large part of the day drinking that when they returned home in the evening stinking of alcohol and cursing their wives, or out rightly drunk – or at least tipsy- but starving. Today, with the mushrooming of “eating places”, they can order something to eat while drinking. In fact, some observers have reported that as a result of this unprecedented availability of food out of home, Cameroonian men now look healthier.

No place too high to be touched

So widespread is the phenomenon of “public filth” in our country that even the political capital Yaounde and the economic capital, Douala have not been spared. In fact, there are times when they seemed to compete with each other for the top position on the filth league table. It is common to find heaps of refuse lying around uncollected by the Local authority. Actually, there used to be a time when inhabitants of Yaounde gave descriptions to their homes to friends and relatives by citing the number of refuse heaps one had to pass by on the way to the destination. Nonetheless, to be fair to the authorities, the national Refuse Disposal, HYSACAM, which has for months now been cleaning up the South West Regional capital of Buea, is doing its best. But then, that best is not good enough. HYSACAM alone can not clean up the whole of Cameroon.

The adverse effects on us

Such unhygienic living conditions undoubtedly pose a health threat to everyone, the vulnerable such as children and old people included. That is not all: free for all dirt also greatly tarnishes the image of our country in the eyes of foreigners who are visiting either for new business opportunities or one of our many tourist havens, especially when one considers that Cameroon has a lot to offer the world, being what has come to be known as “Africa in miniature”.

What way forward?

The solution to this problem lies in collective effort. All of us are involved and must put our hands to the plough. All of us. Cameroonians overseas can provide refuse collection equipment and tools, notably to local Councils. They can also set up an NGO that can work here in Cameroon permanently. Local authorities such as the Municipal Councils and the City Councils should tighten the rules for refuse collection and water drainage and ensure they are observed to the letter. Each Cameroonian should wake up to the need to refrain from throwing litter indiscriminately and actually get in the habit of picking up rubbish when they spot it anywhere. “Food women” who sell in public and Off License owners who act as their landlords and landladies should get in the habit of cleaning up at the start of the working day and at the end of it. Those who sell food could even go the extra mile by pausing once in a while during sales to eliminate existing dirt before carrying on with the job.

Where is the old sanitary inspector?

Over and above everything else, the age-old but now long-forgotten “sanitary inspector” should be made to come back to the Cameroonian environment and make it “breathe” properly again. I knew the sanitary inspector in my very early years on earth. It seems to me that sanitary inspectors were the creation of the erstwhile state of West Cameroon who later on lost their place in society as the two sub cultures (Anglophones and Francophones) gave up their respective Federated States to form a single Republic, strove to adjust and readjust. But the sanitary inspector was a powerful and unavoidable man in society. He was both feared and revered. If any compound was informed that the sanitary inspector would be visiting, all hands immediately went on deck in a bid to spruce up the whole place before he arrived for his inspection. Of course, if a compound “failed the test”, the penalty was heavy. So everyone fought hard, very hard not to fail it. That led to the prevalence of a clean environment. I advocate that not only should we reinstate the sanitary inspector, we should actually go further and appoint enough of them so that in the towns, each quarter can have one and in the sub divisions, each village should have at least one, depending on the size and population of the village.

Copyright 2011