Exclusive Interview: “Why And How I Left CRTV” – Fon Echekiye

Fon Echekiye

A few unique features of Ignatius Fon Echekiye make him standout way apart from his other colleagues of the journalism profession. One of them is his unique knowledge of sports and reporting it.

Another is his trademark grey hair. He is a very fast yet, lucid talker. One outstanding characteristic of Fon’s which people apparently don’t know of is the fact that he’s always been into deep research and meticulously keeps a diary.

Three weeks ago, he invoked his three decade old diary. It provided 850 pages of sporting information and more of published work.

Fon discusses this publication in an exclusive interview he granted The Post.

It is compelling!

Fon Echekiye, most Cameroonians know you simply as a stand-out sports journalist who served at CRTV for close to three decades. Who else is Fon Echekiye?

I was born shortly before 11am on Tuesday, September 8, 1964, at the Kumba District Hospital. My father, the late Michael Fon and my mother, the currently ailing Mami Anastasia Mbafon, had come from Djottin-Noni in the then Northwest Province of Cameroon and settled in Kumba. My father was a clerk in the Helmenthisis Research Unit, today’s Medical Research Centre. At the age of six I was enrolled in Sacred Heart Primary School, Fiango-Kumba, where I graduated in 1977. Since along the line my mother had introduced me to mass serving in the Catholic Church, the zeal to become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church became so obvious. So, I requested that I be sent to Bishop Rogan College, Small Soppo, Buea.

My father died in 1975 when I was still in class five in the primary school after he was poisoned by our next door neighbour, his tribesman. So, it was my uncle, my mother’s younger brother, Thomas Ndinayi (Uncle ‘T’) who had come in from London after grabbing his degree in telecommunications who stepped in to assist my mother, a rudimentary farmer, in the sponsorship of the seven children my father had left behind. You know from the Northwest tradition that, when such a thing happens, it is the man’s family brothers who come in to help, but in my case, my uncles absconded from the responsibility. That was how Uncle T sponsored me in Bishop Rogan College right up to form five where I had 11 O/levels and I later moved to CCAST Bambili where I obtained four A/levels. Whilst in CCAST Bambili, I read Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Physics. One afternoon, I got into the room of my classmate, Francis Yoba Yoba who slotted in an audio tape of Cameroon versus Poland 1982 World Cup preview by Zachary Nkwo. What I listened to it over and over again, it sowed the seed of sports reporting in me. Whenever our teacher of Chemistry, a subject I was weak in did not show up or came late, I would spend the time reciting the preview by Zachary Nkwo; and that’s how I got so interested in sports reporting.

So when in 1984, I had four A/level subjects with less than enough points to secure a government-funded scholarship abroad, I travelled to Yaoundé to enrol in the lone university at the time. Imagine a blue-blooded Anglophone from Bamenda confronted with assimilating mathematical analyses in French…I got discouraged. After roaming the campus of the University of Yaoundé for two years, I sat in for three competitive entrance examinations (Advanced School of public Works, Advanced school of Engineering and the Advanced School of Mass Communication). The first results that came out were that of ASMAC. So, I quickly rushed in there and that’s how I would eventually become a journalist. I never cared about what happened to the other results.

So you were taken to journalism by a sheer conspiracy of circumstances?

The flame in me was burning brightest when I thought about journalism. My understanding of Journalism at the time was that you just get into the commentary booth, pick up a microphone and commentate on whatever sporting event was going on. So, I left from there with my first degree in mass communication and according to the mandatory operations at the time, I would spend some few months in the Ministry of Information and Culture, from where we were summoned one afternoon to meet a panel at CRTV Mballa II.

I was later retained as CRTV staffer and sent to the sports service to work with the lone man on board, Francis Niba. That was on August 22, 1990, the day my professional career as a sports journalist began. When I went on retirement, it was 27 years afterwards. I had covered five World Cups and 11 Africa Cup of Nations editions. At the time of this interview, that has gone up to six FIFA World Cups and 12 Africa Cup of Nations, respectively.

One would have thought that a book like the one you recently published would have been dedicated to one sporting legend or the other. Surprisingly, you dedicated it to all the victims of the Anglophone crisis, what informed this option?

There were three things. One of them was to dedicate the book to my mother, whom as I said is ailing right now as we run this interview, for all what she has done for me. The other one was to the heat which so many Cameroonians are going through because of the Anglophone armed conflict and then the third one was to dedicate it to any particular sports man who trained me during my career as a sports journalist. When we put all three independently on a scale, the one that weighs heaviest is that of the Anglophone armed conflict.

Did you by any means have covert or overt sympathy or support for propagators of the Ambazonia project?

Sympathy not for the propagators but rather sympathy for a cause as it is. Why? Because it is accepted that this matter is something that started way back in 1961 when the two parts of Cameroon came together; Southern Cameroons and La République du Cameroun at the time. When things started from there, there was a seeming attempt to frustrate the ambitions of one part of the deal. There is no reason why…

To be continued

This interview was conducted by The Post Yaounde Bureau Chief, Yerima Kini Nsom

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