Forever Chairman

Dr. Azu’u FONKAM III

July 27, 2023
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A COLOSSUS BOWS OUT


Cameroon, nay the world, mourns the passing of a colossus, a trailblazer, a man of unassuming dignity who has in more ways than one left his mark on the political history of his epoch.
We from his immediate political constituency mourn the exit of one of us, Ni John or Nini Chairman. We are proud that through his sterling achievements he has written the name of Santa, our Sub-Division, in letters of gold.He and the likes of the venerated Professor Victor Anoma Ngu and the Right Honourable Simon Achidi Achu have earned their place in the Santa Hall of Fame!


At a more personal level, what can I say in a concise but precise manner about a man who was for more than three decades a political adversary yet a friend, a caring older brother with a warm and endearing persona? Chairman Fru Ndi was best known before he took the world of politics by storm in 1990,
through his pace setting Ebibi Bookshop and his headship of the Public Works Department (PWD) Football Team of no mean repute.
I got to know him more personally when the Honourable Bochong Francis Isidore Wainchom Nkwain of blessed and reverred memory and l supervised the CPDM primaries for the parliamentary elections of 1988 in what was then Greater Mezam, today’s Mezam and Ngoketunjia Divisions.The Honourable Nkwain was Leader of that team and l was Chargé de Mission.


For over one month we criss-crossed the villages of that vast Division in the company of the ten candidates of the two competing lists.The Green list led by the Honourable Simon Achidi Achu and his opponent from Santa on the Khaki list was no other than Ni John Fru Ndi!
The Khaki list was led by a certain Bongwa from Ndop.


From the necessarily close encounters during the month long hustings, Chairman Fru Ndi and l got to know each other better.Later l learnt that part of his early childhood was spent with his aunt, one of the senior Queens of the iconic Ifo’o Teneng of the Pinyin Kingdom. In spite of the ensuing political hostility and outright acrimony that followed in the wake of the creation of the SDF Party and the advent of multiparty politics some two years later, Chairman Fru Ndi continued curiously to closely follow my administrative career and will call to congratulate me each time l was appointed to a higher position, but not when l was
appointed as pioneer Chairman of ELECAM.Surprised l did not hear from him, l jokingly asked if he thought that appointment was not a promotion?His response was a vintage Fru Ndi political knock-out punch:”Azu’u, you want me to congratulate you for being appointed by Biya to rig elections in his favour?”
In reply l simply told him to give me the benefit of the doubt and judge me on the basis of my performance on the job.


Subsequent developments were to prove his openness of mind, his readiness and willingness to let me prove l could be a neutral umpire.I will mention just a few instances of this open mindedness:
– His historic working visit to ELECAM headquarters, a thing no one thought was possible given his hitherto refusal to officially meet any political ‘High Up’ in Yaounde;
– His participation in person at two of the annual National Consultation Forums organised by ELECAM for Election Stakeholders and staying on each time until the usually late night closing ceremony;
– His invitation to me to attend the SDF Convention held in Bamenda to address burning issues relating to the then ongoing biometric registration ahead of the crucial twin elections of 2013;
– His readiness and willingness as head of the SDF list for the first ever Senate elections of 2013 to take part in a long working session l organised in my Bamenda office with him and the CPDM list leader, the Right Honourable Simon Achidi Achu, to address contentious
issues concerning those very closely fought elections; and
– His refraining from participating in person at the Council Supervisory Commission session to deliberate and announce the results of the results for the Santa Council in 2013 as he regularly did until then.When l called him to express surprise that he had not come to sit through the exercise, especially since the SDF narrowly lost control of the council to the CPDM for the first time since 1992, he calmly declared that ELECAM had through palpable
acts earned his trust for the time being!


I have painstakingly recounted these incidents in order to show how Chairman Fru Ndi as a Statesman was able to rise above the pettiness and acrimony that regrettably oftencharacterize politics and human relations in our country!
Since leaving ELECAM I remained fairly close to Chairman Fru Ndi.We met from time to time to share a drink and chat on sundry matters but never politics!By some unwritten code of conduct he never sought my insight even on topical national issues and l equally refrained from expressing any views on such issues.Each time we met we were happy to just enjoy each other’s company and thereby even unconsciously, reaffirm that we had each other’s
back!


As l tearfully bid farewell to this political giant of our time, l dare say our relationship is proof that people with divergent political views can respect each other and work together for the greater good of the common weal, and this without necessarily being compromised! It is proof that recognising and celebrating the personal merit of others does not diminish us, that civility in public affairs is possible even when we do not agree on everything!


The death of Chairman Fru Ndi is a great and tragic loss to Cameroon.He was for over thirty years a prime mover and shaker of the political life of our country.Fare thee well my belovedolder brother.Your contribution to the political life of Cameroon will not soon be forgotten!

Sleep easy great son of our land and may your no nonsense soul find eternal rest in the company of Angels in the celestial city! You will be sorely missed!


Dr. Azu’u FONKAM III

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