The paper he edits is glossy, all right, but not quits as popular like the ordinary general interest newspapers that dot the landscape.
Yet, what SONARA NEWS lacks by way of juicy local gossip and other topical hard news, it makes up with authoritative statistics and other “qualified news” about oil refining in Cameroon, the inner workings of the country’s lone petroleum refining company as well as Management’s interaction with staff and integration with the rest of the corporate world in particular and society in general.
Blasius Ngome is arguably, a restless gentleman; a man of many parts, if you will. For something of a generation, he has been quietly contributing to building the corporate image of SONARA. But recently, two, just two events, namely; the publication of one of his books, “J’ai le SIDA” or “I Have AIDS” and his being named to be SONARA’s Chief image maker imposed the limelight on Ngome. The Post talked to him, exclusively, about how his uncanny ability to combine his job at the refinery with private business and other social activities without “rocking the boat”.
The Post: Recently, one of your publications, “J’ai le Sida” was launched at the Chamber of Commerce and Industries headquarters in Douala. Can we know what informed the writing of this book?
You are talking about one of my publications. Permit me to emphasise on the word one. This implies that I have many and that is perfectly correct, given that I have published four so far, namely, “J’ai le Sida” and the English version “I Have Aids”, which, incidentally, was translated by my younger brother, Lawrence Enongene, a Senior Translator; “The Healing Word” and “Be Healed”. The fifth one titled “From Hell to Paradise” will be published soon, followed by a collection of poems.
Now, to answer your question more precisely, what prompted me to write on HIV/AIDS is the acute pain, suffering and trouble faced by HIV/AIDS patients, who appeared like zombies or like living skeletons. I had no choice but to declare a fierce war against the destructive beast, the dehumanizing leech and octopus which slowly erodes the body from outside, eating deep into it, leaving indelible marks, weakening, and draining it of its substance. And what weapon could be more handy and efficient than the pen. I want to think that this novel has contributed in saving lives by creating awareness about the pandemic and helping its victims realise that contracting HIV/AIDS is not tantamount to a death sentence. Read it, yours will change for the better.
Ngome: On December 10, you clocked one hundred days in the office to which you were appointed earlier on in the year. What is your responsibility as Director of Communications at Cameroon’s lone petroleum refining company? To be more specific, what innovations have you initiated or intend to initiate as Chief image-builder of SONARA?
Yes, I was appointed Director of Public Relations, Communication and Translation in SONARA by the Board of Directors on August 30, 2013, and installed on September 13, 2013. Once more, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Board and to the General Manager, Mr Ibrahim Talba Malla, for this appointment.
The charge of a Director in this capacity is at once noble and challenging. It is interesting to be the link between a giant international company like SONARA and Government officials, administrative and religious authorities, Non-Governmental Organisations, associations, Embassies, the media, educational institutions and why not, the general public. Equally rewarding is the conception and management of internal communication with a bid to motivating workers for greater productivity and a sense of belonging.
As the corporate image-building boss, my job specifically consists in projecting a positive image of SONARA, both internally and externally, through actions that touch the hearts of the people. After my appointment, I started off, among other things, with the reorganisation of the Department, producing appropriate job descriptions which serve as road maps, designing the organisational chart and creating the first ever SONARA website that went operational since November 15, 2013.
Correct us if we are not exactly right, but it would appear that you have, so far, had an exceptionally plain-sailing relationship with each of the General Managers under whom you have worked in SONARA. What has been the magic?
God is great! I have enjoyed a good working relationship with each of the three General Managers whom I have been privileged to serve. The first thing, if you could call it magic, consists in being who you are, respecting company policy, serving selflessly, to the best of your ability and putting the company first on your list of priorities. The other important secret consists in listening keenly to everything your boss says, be it in private or in public and acting accordingly. Not less important is that I also listen to my collaborators, right down to the driver, and you may be surprised at how much one’s thoughts are shaped, if their ideas are well sifted, by this class of people whom we sometimes tend to take too much for granted. Finally it serves to understand that no two persons are identical, not even identical twins.
Many years back, you were in the founding team of “SONARA NEWS” an in-house publication of the refinery. Today, you head it. How has the road travelled so far been and how has this publication impacted and/or integrated with the rest of the corporate world and general public? Why is “SONARA NEWS” not on-line yet?
Inspired by SONARA ideals, mission and objectives to reach out to the general public at a time when companies and especially those of the petroleum sector were looked upon as no-go area, I was privileged to propose, among other things, the creation of a company magazine in 1989. The then very charismatic General Manager, Mr Bernard Eding, imbued with intelligence and a high sense of direction did me the honour of accepting my modest proposal.
SONARA NEWS, in spite of sporadic troubled waters is the only company magazine that has been published non-stop, for 24 years. This magazine has inspired countless company magazines and the media as a whole. Successive SONARA General Managers have always advocated and insisted that SONARA NEWS should and must be the fruit of team work. They are right and that has always been the case.
Mr Talba Malla, the present General Manager, piloted the creation of the SONARA website which can only be a welcome initiative in a world that is growing ever smaller. Thanks to this project, SONARA is on–line.
Besides being a man of many parts, you are also quite active by nature. For instance, you work full time for SONARA and run a chain of hotel businesses. Doesn’t this compromise quality performance in a way?
Human beings are naturally endowed with huge potentials and talents. The exceptional persons were never created exceptionally. The extraordinary people were not made under extraordinary circumstances. These are a set of persons who simply develop capabilities through hard work, a sense of purpose, the ability to serve and good organisational qualities. I find myself in business, writing, associations, charity, church groups, etc. I get up at 5 am every day, go to church for morning mass, get to the office at 7:30 am, close at 6 pm or later. The question is, how do I manage the rest of my activities? That’s where my wife comes in. Indeed, in addition to the moral support I get from her with regard to my numerous activities, she is a huge helpmate as Manager of our businesses. Writing and other activities are carried out over the weekend in a quiet environment. In a nutshell, performance at my job site is not at all compromised; otherwise, I would not be where I am today.
How about the fact that you are also heavily involved in journalism associations, church charity works, village development committees and publishing? You must be on steroids…
The best way to sign your death warrant is to live on steroids. If you want to live long and happily, your best steroids are sports, good body hygiene, a balanced diet and healthy living. Rest is never to be neglected and even though I am quite busy, I do not joke with rest.
Indeed, I happen to have at one time been a member of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, Vice President of the Association of Economic Journalists, AJEC, with headquarters in Yaounde. I have been the Chairperson of the Bota Catholic Mission Pastoral Council, deeply involved in the Mbat (my village) Cultural and Development Association, MBACUDA, and more. All these serve as stimulants. Come to think of it… If this is what you refer to, as steroids, then you are right. I live on them.
You fully participated in the last December National Communication Forum organised by the Minister of Communication. Indeed, you were a member of the Scientific Committee. What, would you say, was the raison d’être of that Forum and how, if we may ask, has the Forum improved the lot of our media and its practitioners, if at all…?
I happen to have worked in other committees as well. To start with, there will be a need to improve on the organisational aspects of such forums in the future in order to gain in output and efficiency. That said, its objective was to improve on the practice of journalism and mass communication in general, with regard to content, actors and the respect of ethics in the field. The improvement is hardly perceptive, which does not necessarily imply its total absence. People with little or no knowledge in the field, still practise journalism. Even, some of the professionals, regrettably, do more of blackmail and speculation than anything else. However, I am very comfortable with one thing, namely, the hard work and results of the National Communication Council, NCC, which is bent on calling media practitioners to order by sanctioning some newspapers and their Publishers. That is one of the resolutions we arrived at, in the Commission that was headed by Monsignor Joseph Befe Ateba, President of the National Communications Council.
As a prominent member of your village Development Association, MBACUDA, what, if we may ask, has been your direct or indirect contribution to the common good of your people?
In the words of the Cameroonian politician, diplomat and poet, Francois Sengat-Kuo, “A tree goes out to the conquest of the Sun by holding firm to Mother Earth”. Indeed, a tree without roots cannot stand. I am baseless without my village; therefore, what that community has given to me simply by way of birth, deserves to be ploughed back a thousand times. My contributions to the MBACUDA and the entire village community include my presence there, a family house, sponsoring children in primary and secondary school and the university, financial and moral support. I took active part in the construction of the church house, repairing of the road leading to the village for it to be usable all year round, etc.
I was honoured by the village during the annual meeting by the village community for services rendered as recently as on Saturday, December 7, 2012. It is a good thing, but should I be recognised for carrying out my God given assignment?
We would love to have your bio-data for the interest of those who may want to know a bit more about the author of the intriguing novel “J’ai le SIDA”?
I am a Cameroonian and proud to be one, from the Southwest Region, Kupe Muanenguba Division, Bangem sub-Division, from a small lovely village called Mbat, which I call the pacesetter, situated some four kilometres away from the very attractive twin lakes, with enormous touristic attractions that are yet to be exploited.
Anglophone by birth, I accidentally became francophone by culture. This is to say that my mastery of the French language surpasses that of English, given that my primary and secondary school studies were done respectively in École Saint Martin and Lycée de Muannengouba in Nkongsamba. Thereafter, I obtained a Diploma in Translation, Journalism and Linguistics from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, a degree in bilingual letters from the University of Yaounde, a Maitrise in English Modern Letters and I spent one year doing pre-Doctorate studies. I taught at the University of Yaounde before picking up a job in SONARA in 1986. Since then, I have occupied several posts of responsibility before being appointed Director of Public Relations, Communication and Translation.
I am privileged to be a member of the University of Buea Board Of Directors. I am married and father of four.
Given your numerous responsibilities and commitments, do you find the time to relax…?
My occupations are not an impediment to relaxation; far from it. For instance, I enjoy swimming, walking, gymnastics and travelling. So far, I have visited more than 20 countries of this world. I also enjoy reading, having intellectual discussions, watching TV and going to the beach. Writing novels and poems are other hobbies of mine. One thing I find difficult doing is visiting drinking spots because my system and alcohol are not good friends. On the whole, I strive to be a happy person while being very strict on myself.
Interviewed By Francis Tim Mbom