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Hohoit, I’ll Forever Remember Our Hello Joe Cheese Missions 

These are my remembrances of my brother O’Sam with whom I shared a private and rare nickname, HOHOIT! That nickname was created when we lived in the early 1960s at the police barracks located at the rear of the Clerks’ Quarters in Buea.

These were the days of our early pre-teenage truancy. I was 11 years old and O’Sam was 8 or so. Some evenings of the week, we would go to the British military base in Small Soppo, to visit with the British soldiers popularly called “Hello Joes”.

These Hello Joes often gave us free excess cheese, ham, et cetera, from their leftover dinner consignments. Now, these leftovers were only available after the Hello Joes were done with their dinner, which was usually at 8:00 pm. On one of those days, I brought home a chunk of cheese given to me by one Hello Joe. When I arrived home, it dawned on me that I had been out past our dad’s night time curfew. I peeped through the windows and saw Dad sitting comfortably in the living room.

Whether you come into the house from the front or back door, you had to pass through the living room to get to the bedrooms, kitchen etc. I was in a dilemma. So I decided to wrap my chunk of cheese in a newspaper and stashed it under a hibiscus hedge in front of the house. I gathered my courage, went into the house and of course got a tongue lashing from the old man. When I went into our bedroom, I told O’Sam of the stash I had hidden outside. We anticipated retrieving the cheese the next morning, so we fell asleep, got up the next morning and went looking for the cheese. There was no cheese! We observed that ants and nocturnal rodents had spent the night feasting on the chunk of cheese.

We had to have a way around this problem of curfew, so O’Sam and I came up with the following plan; when I get home from my Hello Joe cheese mission, I will, from the outside, call O’Sam to open up the window so I could climb into our bedroom. How to alert O’Sam from the outside of our bedroom window? I will whistle a sound which he will recognize. We agreed on a bird whistle – HOHOIT. Since then we have called our selves HOHOIT. The plan worked and I never again got caught coming home late.

Hohoit, I remember you when our mother,  of blessed memory, passed on in Ikeja, Nigeria at the age of 23, and at the time you were about eight (8) months old and I was about three and half years old. Right there we were dealt a fifty percent parentage for a time.

I always remember our days growing up with our roving police father, from Victoria, Buea, Mamfe, Kumba, Bamenda and back to Buea. In all of these places, you and I made a lot of friends – some of whom are here today to bid you farewell.

I remember your achievements in Cameroon Protestant College (CPC), Bali and later on in Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology (CCAST), Bambili, where you won the coveted first year literature prize.

I remember your University of Yaounde student exchange year (1975) in Montreal, Canada, from where you came and visited me briefly while I was at SUNY in Buffalo, New York.

I remember you in your professional career as a man with great courage and commitment in your beliefs. Because of these convictions and your speaking truth to power, you were sent to the infamous Kondengui prison for five months, after which it was hoped that a “reconditioned” you would emerge from this ordeal, as a “cowardly lion”. That was not to be, as it is said that “a pen is mightier than a sword”. During your hardship when you were blacklisted and out of “work” for over 20 years, you never abandoned your convictions nor your profession as an activist journalist.

I remember you when in my 1988 visit to Cameroon, at Mfou, I found the now-grown-up Wahdinga incubating in Ma Imma’s womb. Our visit was short but pleasant and memorable.

I remember your tenure with the United Nations in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and your recent retirement. I also remember the good times you recently had with your lovely wife Ma Imma and children, William Wahdinga and Juliana Nabila in London, United Kingdom this past June during Nabila’s graduation.

I vividly remember your optimism after you were diagnosed with various illnesses these past years. Recently, we chatted about your most recent ailment which required oxygen therapy. I remember we had set out a plan to tackle your ailment, but you “checked out” before we could implement the plan.

I promise you that I will always take care of Ma Imma, Sema, Wahdinga and Nahbila as long as I am able.

At the news of your passing, I couldn’t stop thinking of the times I spent together with you, Hohoit, and the times we didn’t, but should have. I shed some tears on the thought of the latter.

These remembrances are some of my memories, amongst others, that I shall cherish forever. When I think of you Hohoit, I think of immortality and infinity because to me, even though you died at the age of 62, you are infinitely immortal.

I am proud of all that you accomplished, including your parenting and nurturing to witnessing Sema, Wahdinga and Nahbila mature to accomplished adults.

I am proud of you for being you.

I am proud to be your brother.

I am going to miss you terribly; we all are.

Hohoit, go in peace and join our forebears who have gone before us: our father Ba Robinson Ndanji Fonkem, our mothers Nah Juliana Makeh Fonkem, Nah Omulade of Surulele, Lagos, Nah Esther Nagella Fonkem,  Nah Joan Fonkem and our siblings Godfred Bibilla, Henrietta Manyi  and Sammy Njamnu. May the Merciful God grant you all eternal rest until we meet again.

Ba Victor Sigala Fonkem

Abington, Massachusetts, USA


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