Peter Essoka has a professional life that spans over 40 years. As a journalist, Peter Essoka created great sensations in the 70s through his emotional sports commentaries on radio Cameroon. In the early 90s when multi-party politics was reintroduced in Cameroon with its ensuing consequences, his programme “Hotline” became a punch bag for many Cameroonians who wanted to air their points of view. Today, many people look forward to his morning “Reflections” over CRTV Radio for their daily inspiration. He currently presents the Head of State’s messages in English and was appointed recently as the NCC Chairman. Peter Essoka had some good reflections on John Fru Ndi, SDF Chairman. BaretaNews brings this to you. He writes:
“Some called him crazy. Others said he was a mad man. And they had every reason to label him as such. It could only be a madman who would see an oncoming vehicle and would want to confront it. You see, even those ones we come across in our streets every day would give way when a vehicle is approaching; for they too are afraid of death. One’s madness could have reached an uncontrolled level for one to go chasing after shadows. At that point, he would need to be chained and in this case chains and handcuffs were put on him when he was placed under house-arrest and a curfew was imposed on the city of Bamenda for fear that “even when people failed to sing hosanna to him, the stones may do so.” Yet the sense of his presence was felt everywhere and his notion of democracy sort of caught fire.
He seemed to have been using a remote control to change the channels of his actions and like a mob the people reacted. They were bent on seeing change, and even the non-believers started being converted – a Cameroonian messiah had been born! You remember those days when anything that needed someone to lead the way in protest, reference was made to Bamenda! When salaries were sliced by nearly 70% and devaluation struck the marketplace, all we could hear from all around was has Bamenda heard this or is Fru Ndi aware of what is happening?
His remote control was very functional. He almost crippled the economy of this country with his ghost-town phenomenon. This action although condemnable highlighted the influence this man had implanted in a nation that had become so wobbly, the direction was tentative. He dared everything with an aura of mysticism.
Some called him mystical. They could not imagine how one man could be almost as invincible as this man, to stand up before the rage of power and would survive. He was shot at with no effect. He was insulted, but not deterred. He pulled crowds and crowds of people and the cry for change reverberated. People believed in his ideas and the establishment got nervous. What kind of man is this?
Some considered him as stubborn, obstinate and headstrong. He was relentless and sometimes even stoical. He went out in an unemotional way because for him it was a matter of life and death for change to come.
Some thought he was a subvert. He wanted to overthrow the establishment. And like the pig in Animal Farm, he plotted strategy after strategy, for Biya to go. He missed out on that when this strong wind he had let loose fell short by not presenting candidates for the 1992 legislative elections. And when it was realized that he incarnated danger to the system, measures were tightened. So when at last in the same year he thought he could stand election as a presidential candidate and even with his claim of victory, the establishment had tightened its control grip.
He was considered as recalcitrant, uncompromising and ill-reconciliatory. Politics almost became vengeful. Scores had to be settled. All those who were suspected of being part of this movement were stigmatized. And Bamenda became like the graveyard for political renegades.
Some, at the end of the day, thought and still think of him as a dictator. His ideas were unchangeable. He would not condone with traitors and would not want to be wrongfully misled. He stood his ground but also lost much of it. There were mass resignations and dismissals. The party lost some of its vibrancy but this man even at times when odds were and are still against him continued his march. The sting seemed to have left him when it looked as though, he too like others, will follow the philosophy of “when you can’t beat them, join them.” The SDF under Fru Ndi has been lured to join the establishment. But even with the decline in the steam in them, they have remained adamant. We saw Fru Ndi shake hands with President Biya in Bamenda. We saw him wining and dining at the Unity Palace. We saw Fru Ndi at the Ebolowa agric-show. And only a few days ago we saw him at the grandstand of the May 20 Boulevard during the celebration of the 43rd anniversary of Cameroon’s unitary state. He did not and still does not consider May 20th as a valid historical date because his focus has always been on the reestablishment of a Federal Republic.
25 years have gone down the line. A historical figure has been raised and that name John Fru Ndi will remain indelible in the hearts of men and women of this nation. No matter what we may think of him, Fru Ndi added a new vision to this staggering republic. He put many people on their toes. I believe his actions fair or unfair have given courage to many to know that things can be achieved no matter the circumstance. He would remain a hero in his own way as we all continue to trace a pathway for this nation. It needs men and women with hearts of lions….”
By Peter ESSOKA