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The Truth Sent Me Packing As CRTV Station Manager – Sammy Anguh 

Interviewed By Chris Mbunwe

The Post: After going on retirement, not much has been heard of you; what is happening?

Sammy Anguh: After 30 years of service in government as a civil servant, retirement calls for us to rest from active service. But you know, generally, we try to do something else to keep going.  After retirement I did not get into any direct employment as such. I really wanted to relax because I had put in quite a demanding life time of service, so I did not rush to pick up a full time employment but I left  options opened that if my services were needed somewhere, I could offer some service particularly on part time.

Why didn’t you pick up a job of a Station Manager in one of the private radio stations, like most of your colleagues did?

I did not pick-up a couple of them because of some health reasons and other preoccupations. However, I got fully occupied with church activities at Presbyterian Church Ntamulung, Bamenda, where I was an elder and Secretary of the Congregation. I thought service to God was much more important than trying to do something elsewhere.  Recently, my tenure of office ended after 11 years as Secretary and elder at the Ntamulung Church. I am once more at the second state of retirement. That is how I have kept going. I was also the editor in chief of the Church magazine.

Let’s know more about your journalism career?

I spent most of my time working at the then Radio Cameroon in Yaounde, where I started work officially on January 1, 1966. I worked there and later went for training in Canada from 1970-1973 and back to Yaounde where I continued work and held various duty posts over the years.

These included; Chief of Bureau to Station Managers in Bamenda, Buea and the Provincial Delegate of Communication, Southwest. I was sent to Yaounde as Provincial Chief of Service where I worked until I retired in 1996. I had the privilege that while in Bamenda, I covered such national events as the Agro-Pastoral show, the New Deal Congress of the ruling CPDM, the Pope’s first visit to Cameroon and the Lake Nyos disaster.

What were some of the trying moments in your career?

Trying moments were many. But, at the time, with youthfulness and the zeal, we didn’t look at them as such, but as challenges that you have to face.

From your explanation, you were never harassed or embarrassed during your career unlike some of your colleagues.

There are quite a few of us today who seem to or take delight in saying that they were imprisoned or jailed for one thing or the other, thereby making others believe they were so courageous.  To me, it is the question of sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I remember, I handled the programme "Where Are We" with Ade Muma, and that programme was the forerunner of what we call today, "Cameroon Calling". It was very hot. We had as a theme song, "We shall overcome" and when that signature tune hit the airwaves, people adjusted and were glued to their radios to hear what was coming next.

The programme became a hot potato. I remember once being called up and cautioned to watch-out. It didn’t mean so much to me. The office that called was that of late Jean Forchive, the National Police Boss. The name of the office was "Service de Documentation SEDUC. The name seems very innocent, and one was tempted to ask what they are documenting. In that office, the police were busy documenting what they felt was subversive. I had the luck that I was only questioned and sent away. I was never locked up.

When you look at the practice of journalism today, do you have any regret?

Not at all. I got into journalism rather out of the love of hearing good speakers. As early as secondary school, I was already a fervent listener of the BBC.  When we got into broadcast journalism, we had in-service training and I quickly remember Sammy Nchonfon, who trained us. So, BBC was our standard. I think we did the rudimentary, just doing the right thing.
My advice is that those getting into the profession, especially broadcast, should master their English. There is no school that will teach you everything. 

You learn everyday, read, read and read and of course, listen to quality broadcast, notably all types of programmes from BBC, which I admire till today. However, when you look at CRTV today, you will be tempted to say there is a drop out because people go into a profession with expectations. However, there have been some moments of frustrations in the profession. If I were to see for myself, the type of thing that could make you jump out of CRTV, then you could ask what the alternative is. Today, there are more openings, may be that is why it is possible for journalists to jump out with ease. There were some injustices during our time.

For example, you cannot reconcile the fact that at some point, I was part time lecturer at the Yaounde School of Journalism for five years (1975-1980) and I was Chief of Service in the Central Administration at the radio. I taught students who later came out of School and became my bosses. How do you reconcile that? I want to think that some of those things have pushed some people out of CRTV. 

Are the injustices you mentioned, pose as a hurdle to you, in trying to re-shape the society in which you worked?

I believe in the truth. I can recall that during the multipartism period I was the Station Manager in Bamenda, and that was a very difficult moment. We were given directives because of the fact that the government of the day must survive and would not like to be pulled down easily. We were instructed that because of multipartism, we should understand our role as a government organ. But you know our training as journalists demands basically that we give the two sides of the story. Strive for the truth.

So, you cannot separate yourself from that. In as much as government would have liked that we down play the political storm of the time, we had to say it as it was. It wasn’t easy. We were told by hierarchy in Yaounde that the best thing to do is package your news, send to us and we will broadcast as we can. Since we had no TV images here and we could not broadcast from Bamenda, we obeyed. 

So we packaged the stories and sent to Yaounde and of course what happened, censorship played its role. Back in Bamenda, the people start looking at you as that person who is doing the censorship meanwhile it is Yaounde, but you are sitting here on the boiling hot seat of the political event. However, we kept on struggling. At times the leading political party stalwarts stormed even my residence, but I told them that I was out for the truth.

I knew that as a government worker, the government of the day was right in its own way, but that an opposition too exists. Of course, the latter will not please the authority of the time. This caused my position and I was sacked as Station Manager, because I stood firm on certain principles of truth.

Was that when the government wanted you to report that the six SDF demonstrators who died of gendarme gunshots were trampled upon?

Yes! Remember! I actually filed the report in my voice. I presented my facts in my story that people were shot. Thereafter, I was relieved from that position and sent to Yaounde. This did not bother me at all because I could walk the streets of Bamenda with my head high for telling the truth. It didn’t mean anything to me even when I got to Yaounde and met the then Minister of Communication, Augustin Kontchou Kuogmeni. I am glossing over it because the details are a bit tricky.

Your message to young journalists?

They should be courageous, creative and not chicken out in the presence of an SDO, Governor or Minister. Get your facts and tell the story as it is and be fair.

Who are those colleagues you would love to remember?

Gideon Taka, my classmate from CPC Bali; Peterson Yuh, Francis Wete and Peter Essoka, all my classmates, and a host of others. There are people I taught like Sam Nuvala Fonkem, Luke Ananga and many others.

You still look energetic. Can you pick up a job if there is any?

I am happy to hear that. After serving the church for 11 years after retirement, my arms are still open not for an 8-hour job, but what I can be able to do at a certain rhythm.