By Canute Tangwa
Indeed, these are trying times. But what are the men and women in our university and intellectual circles doing to conscientize, energize, create awareness, proffer solutions and chart a course of action? The answer is not far-fetched.
It is in the very essence of a university, i.e. critical thought, that has been smashed to smithereens at the University. There is no longer a "revolutionary manière" at the academy. The deafening silence from a cross-section of eggheads in times as these is a cause for concern. A university is an integral part of its socio-economic and political environment.
It rubs off on the environment and vice versa. It is at the service of the community. However, the university and a generous number of intellectuals strain to cut the picture of a stainless gold nugget in a pigsty or a dyed-in-the-wool ashawo that distances herself from the backstreet hubbub.
It was never like this before. The University used to be a place where ideas fought for space and spilled over onto the pages of newspapers and journals. Unavoidably, these ideas became topics for debate/discussions for days on end in bars and drinking spots, and exclusive joints for the initiated.
That was the time Agbor Bala, Balayo, JK, Forcha, VK, Stevo and so on would rush to the nearest kiosks to read the latest from Bate Besong, Mbella Sonne Dipoko, Victor Julius Ngoh, Mwalimu George Ngwane, Churchill Ewumbue Monono, Adolf Mongo Dipoko, Francis Wache, Carlson Anyangwe, Nouck Protus, Paddy Mbawa, Ntemfac Ofege, Rotcod Gobata, Julius Wamey, Julius Afoni, Charly Ndi Chia, Clovis Atatah, Akere Tabeng, Paul Tan, Ngoh Nkwain, Dibussi Tande, Emmanuel Yenshu, Solo Mbwoge, Mike Yanou, Barry Fohtung (RIP), Sam Nuvalla Fonkem, Azore Opio, Kikefomo Bulai, Martin Jumbam, Charles Taku and a host of others.
This array of matchless chroniclers pried into all events with an incisiveness that was characteristic of them. Buea then, by all accounts, was the cultural and intellectual capital of English-speaking Cameroon. There was a lot of intellectual effervescence. There were debates in the sublime sense of the word. There was poetry and a lot of beer and mirth to cool down the high intellectual momentum.
With the passing away of the revolutionary avant-gardist, Bate Besong (BB), something died at the university and the vibrant intellectual community. Indeed, vision and momentum fizzled out! The last public outing of this community was a memo on the need for independent candidates in our political fabric.
However, at all times that University of Buea students took to the streets with loss of lives, there was only one strident, loud and clear voice within the academy, Bate Besong's, that the 'the business of memory' has to solidify and solemnize. From then on till his death, he seemingly stood alone.
Of the business of memory, the Book Development Council led by Mwalimu George Ngwane has indeed solidified and solemnized BB's memory by providing books to the Bate Besong Memorial Library at IMPASS, Tiko.
Today, Cameroon is at the crossroads. The entire nation almost went up in flames following four days of violent strikes in February. Rampaging youths burned and looted property and called to question the running of affairs of State. They complained about rising fuel prices, high cost of living, unemployment, poverty, constitutional amendment and so on.
In the midst of all these, the academia was tight-lipped. The youth want to know why prices of basic commodities like corn, oil, garri, beans and so on are shooting upwards. They want to know why only article 6.2 and some other article of the constitution have been amended.
The youth also want to know why the much-heralded HIPC completion point has not brought about the much expected and publicized economic prosperity. They want to know what Operation Sparrowhawk (tracking down and prosecution of embezzlers of public funds) is all about.
They want a clear picture of the so-called Anglophone problem or the fractional SCNC and so on. This is where the academy and intellectual community wade in: making analyses, conducting research, providing information and solutions.