Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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To You in Heaven: A Missive to Old Sam 

By Eric Chinje

There are no tears in heaven, I believe.  My friend, brotherand erstwhile colleague: you are certainly in a better place now than the one you left behind, and I take great comfort in that! We travelled so much of this road together, from that day in my eighth year of life when I came to the government primary school in up-Station, Bamenda, and met you,the boy who would become, quite simply, O’Sam!Even at your tender age of ten, you were a fine young man and I could see, with the eyes of a child, that you were clearly one of the stars of the school!  I felt a special bond then that would stay with me through our years in school, college, university, Radio Cameroon, our crazy little joint in Quartier Mokolo (in Yaounde) where you welcomed me upon my return from studies in the US, Cameroon Radio and Television, and ultimately in the so-called International Community. What a journey!


Our last meeting, this side of heaven, was in a foreign but friendly land – in Cote d’Ivoire.  I called you when I arrived in Abidjanin May 2015 and you were the same old you – classic O’Sam: “Ee-r-iii-co! Hey Ole Boy!  Come on up here my man!”I ran up the stairs to your penthouse-like apartmentwhere you were waiting and you stretched out your big hand, pulled me in and, laughing and very obviously elated by our first get-together in years, gave me that brotherly bear hug that was also something of your trademark.


I had expected the worst because I had been told you were quite ill.  I could not help staring at you from head to toe and trying hard not to give that impression.  You caught my gaze, gave a knowing wink and a nod, as you always did, and belted out thatfull, throaty laugh that again told me “this ole boy has lost nothing of his verve!”  You actually looked very good and I told you so.  I was quite happy about that too, even after you told me all you had been through and about the pain you still had in your legs.  You also said you had quit smoking for good!


We spent a long night together, eating fantastic Cameroon food by the Ivorian chef you said your wonderful wife had personally trained.  We talked about everything: living in Cameroon; leaving Cameroon; journalism and media in Cameroon, then and now;  governance in our dear homeland; old friends who are now lost in the Diaspora, and old friends who are gone.


You said, and I agreed totally, that we must put our heads together and write a book or two about our shared experiences; especially about that period in our youth when we each tried, in our different ways, to weaken the grip of dictatorship on our land; when we each anchoredor contributed to “Cameroon Report” and later “Cameroon Calling” on radio,or “Minute-by-Minute” on television.We recalled the weeks and months after the November 1982 programme on radio – “Tribute to AmadouAhidjo” – which followed the resignation of Cameroon’s first President.  And the cold moments in the closed rooms of the secret police and the endless interrogations!  Inevitably, we spoke with a streak of regret about those who had left us: Mark “the Knife” Nebo,ShuFontem,Luke Ananga, Akwanka Joe Ndifor, EpsyNgum, Ben BerkaNjovens, George Tanyi, Charles Landze, and the list goes on.  Was it you who asked why God needed so many journalists from one linguistic group and geographical space?


And now, Big Ole Sam, you too have taken the leap.  Do you have an answer to that question now? What am I supposed to think?  What will happen to the book you so wanted us to write?  Is it left to me and the remaining few–Peter Essoka, Francis Wete, Gidoen Taka, Tata Mentan (Brother Tee), George Ngwa, AsonglefacNkemleke, Charly Ndi Chia, Adamu Musa, Boh Herbert, Julius Wamey, Willie Niba, Kevin Njomo, and all the younger ones – to tell our story?


Tears and pain are for the living, not for happy immortals.  We are in pain and weep for your passing on.  We hope you are having fun, wherever heaven is, and working to free the children of our country from the shackles that still bind them. It is everything you fought for.  In the realm of the immortal, everything is possible.  You must use the powers now conferred upon you to talk to God, who you must see on a regular basis now, to free the only land you called home and give its children the strength they need to do what is right by their country.


I can envisage you and all our old buddies doing what you did so well here and must do best in your new life.  Be critical, ole boy, but just do not criticize the Almighty too much.  Nott sure what He will do if He does not like it!  Have fun, O’Sam, and please intercede for us when you can to have the strength to stay on the path of righteousness.  That will be our ticket to where you and God are; where we will be together forever!


Your man, Errriiiccco!