Issues at stake

Issues At Stake: Nation At Attention For Ni John Fru Ndi

Author of issues at stake

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The dead are not dead. If this statement is true, then, the hero of May 26, 1990, Ni John Fru Ndi, should be lying blissfully in the bowels of Baba II mother earth. In that case, he would be basking triumphantly in the warm glow of the honour that the entire nation showed him as he embarked on his final journey to the hereafter over the weekend.

From when his corpse was removed at the mortuary of the Yaounde Central Hospital to the ecumenical service at the Yaounde Multipurpose Sports Complex and from the journey to Bamenda and to Baba II, the entire nation stood at attention for the patriot who refused to ignite a civil war in Cameroon when he was robbed of his victory in the 1992 Presidential election.

As Fru Ndi’s mortal remains were being taken to the Sports Complex for the ecumenical service, there was a rumble of applause to the man who caused the caesarian birth of democracy in Cameroon by forcefully launching the opposition Social Democratic Front, SDF, in 1990. According to the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, Fru Ndi was quitting the stage on a standing ovation because he fought a good fight for democratic renaissance in Cameroon. The man of God said Fru Ndi was propelled by love for country. To him, Fru Ndi fought a good fight for a free society wherein every voice could be heard. Fru Ndi was portrayed as the man who refused to allow his personal ambition to outweigh the general good.

Posthumous praises at the Sports Complex that July 27 evening raised Fru Ndi to the high heavens as a virtuous politician who had the visionary clarity for the unity of Cameroon with federalism as his driving force. He was described as a Moses who saw Cameroon’s political paradise but never reached there.

For one thing, Fru Ndi’s demise united many Cameroonians in pain and joy. Pain because Cameroon was losing a man who was a symbol of hope and courage and a devout Christian who branded his political pursuit with a Bible in his hands. Cameroonians are happy that God provided them with a courageous man who decided to light the candle of multiparty democracy instead of standing far away and cowardly cursing the proverbial darkness.

To the Deputy Secretary for Communication Commission of the Episcopal Conference, Father Humphrey Tatah Mbuy, Fru Ndi was an epitome of virtues that should be learnt like an academic subject. He said the F in Fru stands for Fidelity, the R  for Respect while  U stands for Unity. N in Ndi stands for Nice, D represents Devotedness and I for Integrity. He said these virtues are all attributes of Fru Ndi’s character. Small Wonder the Metropolitan Archbishop of Yaounde, Jean Mbarga, described Fru Ndi’s demise as a great loss for Cameroon.  Following the fact that the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, decreed an official burial for Fru Ndi, the government bench at the mortuary and the ecumenical service was quite full. They paid their respect to a man who treated his political adversaries with magnanimity and camaraderie. The outpour of posthumous encomiums on Fru Ndi are an indication that the silver lining in his character largely outweighed the dark clouds. Many people testify that the SDF Chairman’s hospitality was overwhelming. Anybody who visited him, big or small, poor or rich, ate and drank with him on the same table. He had a deep sense of humour and cracked many jokes to entertain his guests.

However, Fru Ndi was not a saint. Just like any ordinary human being, he had his character flaws. That’s what he will talk over with his maker. By extolling his virtues, nobody was trying to bestow sainthood on Fru Ndi. He might have made his mistakes in the in-house quarrels that have been rocking the SDF and in that party’s controversial boycott of certain elections in the country. But vilifying Fru Ndi even in death and burning down part of his compound and declaring a lockdown to frustrate his burial is preposterous.

His faults, notwithstanding, it will be an exercise in futility to try to paint him completely black in the eyes of posterity. It is also a very ridiculous thing for anybody to think that he or she can influence the history annals of this country to see Fru Ndi only in the negative perspective through the few mistakes he made in life. One would be tempted to ask if Fru Ndi could only become a saintly figure in the eyes of some people if he had dumped the federalism option of his party and embraced the secessionist agenda?

For one thing, Fru Ndi demonstrated to the whole world that his courage was no fluke. For, he did not budge in his ideological convictions even when he was kidnapped and tortured twice for his federalism stance. And it is that same courage that many people in Bamenda used to pay last respects for their hero, thereby defying the lockdown campaign and scorning death threats.

There are two important dates that the advocates of vilification cannot force historians to erase from the glorious pages of Fru Ndi’s political life: May 26, 1990 and October 11, 1992. Fare thee well Ni John Fru Ndi.

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