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Analysis: The Art Of Celebrating (Kudos To CRTV) 

By Peterkins Manyong

James Boswell, in his "Life of Johnson", biography of one of mankind’s greatest thinkers, quotes Samuel Johnson as saying, "There is no time that death has ever ceased to be terrible to me". If the pain in one part of the body can keep one awake the whole night, Johnson argues, then imagine a situation when the whole body is paining.

So great is this fear of death that celebrations and other acts of entertainment are seen by many, besides Johnson, as intended to keep the mind away from constant thought of the final hour. Last week the nation savoured two very important celebrations: the Silver Jubilee of the ruling CPDM party and that of CRTV. That of CRTV deserves more attention because it was the rare case of an important news organ making news.

The celebration included a time safari to the 90s. Once more, they enjoyed the news anchored by professional role models like Eric Chinje and Denise Epote from the Diaspora. The CRTV also re-broadcast late Joe Akwanka Ndifor’s cherished programme "Minute by Minute" as if to say, like John Donne, "Death be not proud".

In line with the official decision that Cameroon’s Armed Forces/Independence Day celebrations will take place in Bamenda, CRTV decided to broadcast from that history-making town. The occasion showcased the hospitality of Bamenda, while highlighting the leadership trappings of Joe Nkelle Mewanu, CRTV Bamenda Station Manager. Ayaba Hotel had the honour of providing the logistics for the CRTV anchor and Silver Jubilee dinner. Kudos to Albert Njie Mbonde’s famous "Hello" and the celebrated "Morning Safari crew.

Unlike the CRTV, which celebrated for close to a week, the CPDM Silver Jubilee lasted one day – March 24. The CPDM event was characterised by as much merry making as pleas for the "indispensable" and "natural candidate" President Paul Biya to take another seven-year term in 2011. As if that message was meant for everybody except himself, Biya was rather preoccupied with the Chinese. But that didn’t deter his disciples from thundering out his indispensability.

But that is beside the point. Cameroonians have since rejected Thomas Hardy’s philosophy that pleasure is an occasional episode in a general drama of pain. They welcome every opportunity to make merry: football victories, births, marriages and even deaths. So great is the love of feasting that funeral ceremonies are sometimes opportunities to create more deaths either deliberately (using poison) or inadvertently through unprotected sex.

Celebrations as a rule have the advantage of bringing people together and distracting the uncorrupted. When people are doing nothing they are doing mischief. Unlike what transpires in Cameroon, repressive religious laws in most, if not all Islamic state communities, deprive people of the opportunity to vent pent-up emotions. Suicide bombers are the product of puritan and intolerant systems.

Cameroonians, on the contrary, are free to love their neighbours, married or unmarried, as themselves. Beer makes them merry by putting them out of their senses. In a country where elections are organised merely to renew the mandates of those already in power, a sound mind is not what pleasure seekers need. "My bushfaller friend almost killed me with beer yesterday". This statement does not suggest that the friend is a murderer. It means he is a wonderful friend. The hangover resulting from quaffing to completion point is therefore not viewed as evidence of moral depravity or bankruptcy, but as a sign of good living.

Ancient Romans demonstrated that they had a great feast by drawing swords and hacking each other down. If Cameroon were ancient Rome more slaughtered persons would be buried in a year than the Rwandans did during the 1994 Genocide.Thanks to the culture of celebration, the funerals of elderly persons are viewed not as occasions for lament, but that of celebrating the life of that individual.

While the festive spirit is commendable, it must be admitted that nothing ruins a people more economically and health wise like it. The excessive attachment to celebrations has not only given the electoral pickpocket the liberty to walk away with his election victory each time, but has elevated into theory late Francois Mitterand’s hypothesis that "Africans need bread, not democracy". We all know that what the Bible calls "daily bread" is more than just the product of flour, yeast and sugar baked in an oven. Bread means what a human being can live on.

Incidentally, Mitterand was the President of France whose defeat in 1940 (during the Second World War) was a direct consequence of too much attachment to food and drink. The French had erected the Maginot Line made up of materials which they deemed impenetrable and gone celebrating. But Hitler, who was no respecter of territorial boundaries, tactfully executed the planned invasion of France through Belgium.

The French are our colonial masters and our unreserved inclination to celebrations is one of the vices Cameroonians inherited from them. Celebrations engender much laughter, although laughter is not always a proof of joy. The witty Lord Chesterfield makes the point when he cautions that someone who laughs too often, especially while talking, cuts the figure of "a natural fool". His essay is unmistakably a recommendation of "a Belgian face". Belgians are noted for hardly finding anything funny to laugh about. 

Happiness radiates. But life should not be taken up by too much merriment. Prince Henry makes the point in Shakespeare’s "Henry IV, Part One" when he states in his soliloquy if the whole year were made up of public holidays, to play would be as tedious as to work. In the days of the Inquisition, many Cameroonians would have been suitable candidates to be burnt at the stake for not only drinking too much, but for justifying the practice with the authority of the Bible – that Jesus turned water into wine.

A people so inclined to the deadly sins of lechery and gluttony are not likely to care if their rights are trampled upon. Cameroonians certainly deserve the kind of leadership they have because they rate peace and leisure much higher than justice.

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