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

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