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Issues At Stake: I Will Kill Simon Nkwenti 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

At one time in the late 90s, gloom fell on the journalism profession in Cameroon. Death did a bountiful harvest of some of the finest journalists without shame. And so Ebssiy Ngum, Peter Atem Ebang Ashu of CRTV, Joe Kum Set Ewi of

The Herald and Denis Ngala of The Sketch newspaper, among others, all sailed to the hereafter.
The then Executive Scribe of Cameroon Teachers Trade Union, CATTU, the celebrated Simon Nkwenti, issued a stern warning to me.

In an irony-inspired statement, Nkwenti admonished: “Kini, if you die, I will kill you! I warn you because too many journalists are dying these days.” My colleague, Peterkins Manyong, and I laughed over the statement as we savoured the sheer dramatic irony in it.

The statement slipped in to my memory again when Nkwenti died on that fateful day of August 21, 2012. As Simon lay fallow like a sleeping prince in his gorgeously decorated casket during his burial on September 7 in his native Chomba village, I fell into the reverie of his statement.

I found myself murmuring in a soliloquy. “Simon, you threatened to kill me if I had died like some of my colleagues. Now, you are dead, so I will kill you,” I told my inner self as the pain of Nkwenti’s demise ran down my spine.

Before his death at the Bamenda Regional Hospital, Simon reportedly greeted everyone with joy and unusual bonhomie. Like a devastating hurricane, death came in one big sweep, provoking ululations of disapproval.
Before Bamenda could wink, Simon was already sleeping forever as he did the journey from the hospital to the mortuary in Bamenda.

Simon Nkwenti, the civil society colossus, had passed on to eternal glory that melancholy-stricken day, Tuesday, August 21. Like Simon of Sirene did to Jesus, Simon Nkwenti shouldered the cross of the voiceless in the Cameroonian society by fighting for justice in his civil society activism.

As a young teacher, Nkwenti shot to the limelight and carved a niche for himself when he led the civil servants strike in Bamenda. They were protesting against the 1993 salary cuts. As the Secretary General of the Cameroon Public Servants Union, CAPSU, Nkwenti won hearts with his fighting spirit, oratorical prowess and his frontal articulation of public issues.

His tone and tenor bespoke a very literate and articulate mind which many Cameroonians who were dazed and downcast, looked up to for salvation of sorts. Since then, the name Simon Nkwenti produced vibration and inspired absolute confidence in civil society activism and trade unionism. When he spoke, his rivals squirmed in the shadows.

At 30, Nkwenti‘s slender body at the time carried a head that was centuries wiser than those of his sexagenarian contemporaries.

He pushed out his neck even when the guillotine lurked. That is why he did not hesitate to unleash scathing criticisms on the former Northwest Governor, Abakar Ahamat, for irregular transfer of teachers and banning prayers during official ceremonies.

Nkwenti is one of the main protagonists that stirred the revolution for the creation of the GCE Board. The revolutionaries stampeded Government into creating the organisation in 1993. He died while still fighting for the improvement in the remuneration of teachers including the research allowances.

He walked tall as one who looked at injustice in the face and called it by its name. He was frank and fearless when he commented on issues of public import. His achievements are a shining legacy for everyone to see.
Thus, Simon Nkwenti still lives on in his achievements, three years after his death. Yes, his spirit still lives on in his vocal successor, Wilfred Tasang.

He lived through the chill and cheer of his chequered earthly sojourn that is visibly fulfilling. The Cameroonian civil society is poorer by his death but richer by the articulate vision and the belligerent spirit he harboured for the cause of social justice.

Unlike the very many “okrika” leaders in our country, Simon did not die many times like a coward while waiting for his real death. He maintained his dare-devil courage even when his life hung on a balance.

He raised his neck even when the guillotine lurked. This explains why Simon did not capitulate in his battle for social justice when unidentified gunmen narrowly missed taking his life in Bamenda a few years ago.

For one thing, August 21, 2012, remains Simon’s best day since the Bible says that the day of one’s death is better than the day of his birth. According to family sources, Simon’s exit was very triumphant, given that he did not only quit the stage on a clean slate, but also died in the Lord.

Simon’s exit remains a big loss to the education family, the civil society and Cameroon in general. But, we must stop getting worried about things that we cannot change. Since we cannot bring back that brilliant activist to life, we can only pray that he should be at peace with his maker.

After all, we did not have any say in Simon’s birth. So, we cannot blaspheme by querying his maker for calling him back home so soon.
Long Live Simon!

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