HOW WE WERE ROBBED OF VICTORY
I don`t know about you. But for me, the part of my life about which I dream often is that period I spent in secondary school. I don`t know whether the reason is that it was a boarding school and that consequently, life in a boarding school is always like in a home from home. It`s an entire world of its own with a different set of “family” members and friends and administrators. It`s a different administrative unit with a “government” of its. Consequently, it`s also a life in its own right with its joys and pains. That school for me was Sacred Heart College in Mankon, Bamenda in Cameroon`s North West Region.
Many have been the anecdotal stories I`ve published about my life at Sacred Heart College. But still, there are many more to be written and published. A lot of interesting incidents took place while I was there. And fortunately, I remember many of them. Those that I have not yet committed to writing, I`ll do my best to equally render them when it`s possible.
I loved Sacred Heart College and still love it. Perhaps that was so because my idol, my role model and my mentor, Brother Tah Asongwed passed through the school. Even so, on the day I went for interview at Big Mankon Catholic Mission, it was not Sacred Heart College that was my destination. My first choice was Saint Joseph’s College, Sasse. That meant that my file had been sent to the official who was charged with interviewing candidates for Sasse. But when I got to Big Mankon on the morning of the interview, I suddenly changed my mind and instead went up to the man interviewing for Sacred Heart College. I can`t now explained why I had initially placed Sasse ahead of Sacred Heart College, in spite of my attachment to my brother, or why I again made a thirty six degree swing to Sacred Heart College. Perhaps it was due to peer pressure.
However, after searching in vain for my file among those in front of him, the man who interviewed me – he later turned out to be our Principal at Sacred Heart College, the Rev. Brother John Phillips – suddenly said to himself: “Anyway, if I can`t find the file, what does it matter? I`ll still go ahead and conduct the interview!” And he did. The result was that I passed and was admitted in the institution.
In any case, the story I want to recount here is not about how I got into the college. Rather, it is about how a choir to which I belonged was blatantly robbed of victory during a competition that took place in the college auditorium one Saturday evening while we were in Form 2. When the Senior Prefect, Frederick Ngang who was nicknamed “man mountain” because of his imposing size which even threatened other students when he played football – announced the competition and said students interested should form choirs and register them, I found myself in a choir made up of some of my own class mates with Charles Ewang Mengale as the choir captain. For the record, Mengale became a senior officer in the Cameroon Police Force and at one time served in the Cameroon Embassy in Ethiopia.
During our practice sessions, Mengale taught us three songs in the Douala language. He actually wrote them on the board and we sang from the board. When we found it difficult to pronounce certain Douala words, he modified them but warned us by saying;” Although I`m doing this, you people should know that I `m spoiling the Douala language”. On the day of the competition, we did very well. We were the only choir that earned itself a standing ovation. The only choir that came close to ours was one led by Francis Melone Mbe, a Form 5 student who had come to Sacred Heart College from Sasse. But at the time the overall winner was announced, victory was handed to Francis Melone Mbe`s choir! This wasn`t surprising to me because not only were the judges classmates of his, they were also very senior students to us. They were in Form 5 while we were in Form 2.
Since then, I have met Francis a number of times. Like I said earlier, he joined the Cameroon Police Force. Once when he was on vacation and traveled to London where I was working, we met at an all-night Cameroonian party. He was a very good dancer and while we danced, he asked me: “What problems are you having with your paper in Cameroon?” He was referring to the London-based WEST AFRICA magazine for which I was a staff journalist. The reason was that it was back then in the repressive single-party days of Cameroon when papers that published information which the government considered too critical were simply impounded and the journalists, rounded up. When I told him that some of the editions of our magazine had actually been seized by the forces of law and order in Cameroon, he said he would look into the matter when back in Cameroon.
I met again with him after returning to Cameroon. This was during a strike by university students in Yaounde. I was now a journalist at CRTV television and was part of a team that was sent to the ENS in Yaounde to cover the strike. I saw how the then Minister of Higher Education, Prof. Maurice Tchuente and the then Rector of the University of Yaounde I, Prof. Sammy Beban Chumbow were being harangued by protesting students in front of the ENS premises. I think that at the time Francis was Director of Public Security at the General Delegation for National Security. But he was the one who commanded the squad that came out to control the angry crowd of students. I could hear him issuing orders to his me: “Formez le cordon! Formez le cordon!” and the squad immediately cordoned off the students and thus freed the officials who had been besieged. In later years, he was appointed Director of the Frontier Police. He also earned himself the highest rank in the Cameroon Police Force which is that of “Commissaire Divisionnaire”.
Whenever I have met him since our Sacred Heart College days, I haven`t failed to remind him that his choir stole the victory of our choir. Usually we both laugh at it and laugh it away. After all, that was then and this is now!