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Where Were Anomah Ngu’s Admirers? 

By Clovis Atatah In Vienna, Austria

As rivers of both genuine and crocodile tears continue to flow following the death of eminent scientist Prof Victor Anomah Ngu, one cannot help wondering why many of the apparent sympathisers and admirers of the inventor of VANHIVAX took cover, while the humble researcher was being assailed and humiliated by public officials and establishment scientists who saw in him a threat to their dishonest sources of income.

For many years, as the professor struggled with incredibly meagre resources and a tiny team of researchers at Clinic de l’espoir in Yaounde to give succour to sero-positive persons and develop a vaccine against the HIV virus, he was not greeted by general acclaim within elite circles, but rather by scepticism, scorn and even outright hostility in several quarters.

At one point, the professor was so exasperated by lack of financial support that he decided to go on a fund-raising offensive.  Depressingly, contributions were not anything to write home about, and the effort was more or less abandoned even before it really kicked off.

On a good number of occasions, establishment scientists and Yaounde regime officials publicly expressed serious doubts about the seriousness of Anomah Ngu’s efforts, with some toddler scientists even casting aspersions on him and suggesting that the professor was a charlatan. They barely fell short of declaring an all out war on the award-winning professor.
It is not that the eminent researcher enjoyed no public support.

On the contrary, there was widespread appreciation of Anomah Ngu’s efforts in the streets, and there was enormous public pressure (even if, unfortunately, not organised) on the government to support his initiative. It was for that reason that the government belatedly announced a committee to examine the merits of VANHIVAX and give financial support to the project.

Unfortunately, prominent academics and opinion leaders, who could have given teeth to public pressure by coming out and showing support for the VANHIVAX initiative largely failed to do so. Emboldened by this silence, thieving public officials led by the former Minister of Public Health Urbain Olanguena Awona, who is currently cooling his heels at Kondengui Prison, resumed their disguised and outright attacks on Anomah Ngu and virtually withheld the promised financial support.

Olanguena Awona and his gang of scientists, it appears, erroneously believed that the success of VANHIVAX would have meant an end to the colossal resources pouring in from various international sources for the fight against HIV/AIDS, which they had been benefiting from in both legitimate and illegitimate ways. Mr Awono’s successor, André Mama Fouda, who notoriously advocated ethnic cleansing in Yaounde after the 2008 riots, continued with this callous policy.

As is often the case in Cameroon, very few people in positions of authority even attempted to look at the big picture. They failed to see the sheer number of people in Cameroon and abroad whose lives could have been saved if substantial investment had been put into the VANHIVAX initiative. They refused to see the enormous economic benefits that could have accrued for Cameroon if VANHIVAX turned out to be a globally accepted treatment for HIV/AIDS. They failed to see a golden opportunity to put Cameroon on the global scientific map.

One may even understand the greed of the establishment scientists and regime officials, even if one is shocked by their callousness. But it is still difficult to understand why many intellectuals did not speak up against the evil policies of a regime that would let its own people suffer and die.

Eulogies from these same intellectuals are already pouring in, some cliché, others riveting. They will tell stories about Prof Anomah Ngu’s genius, inspiration, diligence and assiduousness.  They will narrate his passion and determination to give succour to the sick. Yes, they will narrate his conviction about the efficacy of VANHIVAX and his determination to conquer the mystery of the HIV virus.

As on every such occasion, there will be many promises to continue with the good works of the deceased and ensure that his legacy continues to shine like a beacon in the sky. These promises will likely come from many quarters, including from those who fought very hard to frustrate the VANHIVAX project.

Pessimists will recall that in the past, most such promises have been drowned in the oceans of alcohol that flow during post-funeral boozing sprees. They will recall the many solemn pledges made at gravesides in the past which everybody knew nobody had any intention of keeping.

But I want to be optimistic. I want to believe that the pledges that have been (or will be) made to keep Prof Anomah Ngu’s torch burning are in earnest. I want to believe that as we mourn this great soul, we will search deep in our hearts and bring out the best in us. I want to believe that we will raise the necessary resources to ensure that the development of VANHIVAX is accelerated.

That to me is the best way to atone for the "crimes" committed against the eminent professor. While atoning, we can also be delighted in the knowledge that through our actions many lives are likely to be saved.

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