Dear brothers and sisters
A few days back, my brother, I should say our brother, Mr. Andrew Adjua, asked me to address the SWELA meeting holding at Mamfe this day. He did not suggest a topic. All he said was that I could say something in the same light as I had done at the SWELA meeting at Limbe on February 28, 2015.
I initially declined the request in that my agenda was too charged for me to attend the gathering. But he insisted, explaining that someone else could read the write-up for me. I still did hesitate for several reasons; yet the urge was there; especially when I looked back on how Mamfe turned up in thousands for small me in the 2011 presidential election... Truly, I owe Mamfe so much! And as the English saying goes: “A good turn deserves another”.
My initial fear was legitimate. Manyu is a land of political wizards! A land of intellectuals and intelligent people! Yes; a land of courageous people indeed! I naturally felt too small and lacking to address you, my dear brothers and sisters. But then there was the higher duty to pay my debt to the people: to you all here and more.
May I begin by asking you to bear with me for the shallow uncoordinated ideas, and all the shabby presentation. Time constraint did not permit anything good enough! There certainly are people among you here who know that the age-old Reading Room not so distant from where we are right now. That forlorn structure abandoned to rats and reptiles hosted international conferences on the independence of Southern Cameroons. You do certainly remember, maybe even vividly, the inauguration by the then President Ahmadou Ahidjo of the only monument in the land on the Independence of West Cameroon and the Reunification of Cameroon in this renowned and historic town!
Those relics only do add to the vestiges left behind by the Germans in this historic town and all over our division at large. Proudly then can I say that Mamfe is the incarnation of our past; the evidence of the present, and a hope of continuity!
Yet are there missing links! I see not in Manyu today the face of the political wizard of the calibre of S.A George that moulded Mamfe into the enviable centre for international conferences. I see not in the Manyu of today the intellectual face of A.D Mengot that caused the world to adopt eru as an international dish in the hope of inducing universal intelligence. Nor the academic prowess of QRC Okoyong of yore that turned an Ibo man’s christening of a mammy-wagon “Satan Must Obey God” – (SMOG) – into Sasse Marry Okoyong Girl! Not at all Emmanuel Egbe Tabi’s legal eloquence that mystified alien competitors as if he was a descendant of Cicero!
No! All that is gone! Manyu today is past glory; the forgotten land; economic stagnation. How can we of Manyu today live like islands: for all our education; for all our political maturity; for our early occupation of the place of pride? How do we justify that the anguish cry of a brother today has ceased to be the concern of the rest? Where is the brotherhood when the few swim in plenty while the many are destitute? In short, where is the spirit of the general good in the new Manyu that is a foil to the Manyu of yore?
I know you know more than I do that the whole is not whole when there is a missing part. I know you know that a person dies and never the part of the body that is fatally infected or afflicted.
Therefore can we never be a community when any one part malfunctions or lags behind the rest. We cannot feel well when a tooth aches; or a singer pains; even a finger nail! ... We say that a house leaks, even if only one room leaks. Manyu is a house of four rooms: Akwaya, Eyumojock, Mamfe and Upper Bayang. We are a household only when the entire house is maintained; when the difficulties of the one are the preoccupation of the others! Manyu should be a relay race where the entire team fail because of one failure.
Such reasoning was the inner drive that led me to found SWELA as an individual. Permit me to say it loud and clear here that SWELA met in my office in Buea Court of First Instance twice before Kumba ever hurriedly declared it in June, 1991; shortly after the end of “ghost towns”. Some of the persons who attended the meetings I called are now deceased; but a good many are still alive and they can attest to what I assert here. What prevented the third meeting from holding in my office after it had been scheduled for April was the outbreak of “ghost towns”... Never mind though! Those are only by-gone...
What is of essence today is what I conceived as the objectives of SWELA. SWELA intended that every inhabitant of the Southwest Province (as it then was) make a monthly contribution of 10 francs for development projects in the province, such as the Kumba-Mamfe road; Kumba-Mundemba road; the Limbe deep seaport etc. The money was to be deposited in a blocked saving account. As it accumulated over the years, together with the interest and interest on the interest, we would spend it for the developing our province...
In my thought, SWELA was inclusive and not the other way round. It was not to be limited to the indigenous people of the province. You would agree with me that development knows no colour. But how could it be otherwise? If we built a road, it would be used by everyone. So too would it be regarding the seaport, schools or hospitals! SWELA only got derailed when it got hijacked by politicians. I should insist that SWELA from conception was entirely apolitical, concentrating every effort exclusively on development.
I was highly inspired by what Rev Father John Brumelius had done for Akwaya town. He did convince the population in the second half of the sixties that potable water would reduce stomach disorders by half. The contribution of the community would be in labour and the supply of local materials – sand, stones, food to “foreign workers”... And even as the government grant was a mere 800.000 francs, adding to the 5 million from a German missionary body, the taps started flowing in 1971 – three years from the start.
As the small community had succeeded, there was every probability that the province would do likewise on a larger scale!
If therefore SWELA similarly went down to the grassroots and preached the doctrine of “We can do it ourselves”, every village would realize some project or the other. There is every reason to believe that, in general terms, we would obtain spectacular results.
I also did recollect that, before a road got to Akwaya town, a bottle of Cameroonese beer sold at 1.000 francs. And villagers drank, and drank, and drank again! If SWELA educated our communities to forgo one bottle of beer each per year, a community of two thousand people would save 2 million a year. What health centre would they not build in five years? And if they already had a health centre of their own, what would prompt them to start bickering over the one the government proposed for the next village? And if a good many of the villages got the necessary education on local communal development, they would much more easily understand the necessity to raise money for the development of the larger community like the province.