Culled from George Ngwane (1993) Bate Besong (Or the Symbol of Anglophone Hope). Limbe: Noomerac Press.
Bate Besong is Bate Besong. If you call him Besong Bate, it will be somebody else. His name refuses to obey the law of choice. Born on 8th May 1954 at Ikot Ansa Calabar, former Eastern Nigeria, of Cameroonian parents from Ndekwai Mamfe, Bate Besong (BB) began his secondary education at St. Bedes College, Ashing Kom. While in Kom, his passion for Art was nursed and nurtured as he developed an interest for music, playing in the school orchestra with mates like Kenneth Komtaghi of the "Do Good" fame and earning the show business tag of James Brown (JB).
His academic ambition propelled him to the land of literature – Nigeria - where he obtained his "A" levels at Waddell Institute, Calabar, then got a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literary Studies from the University of Calabar, before crowning his academic pursuit with a Masters Degree (emphasis on African poetry and drama) from the University of Ibadan.
While in Nigerian colleges, he was more than a hermit, reserving his active energy to the confines of libraries, pondering over text books that have laid bare this continent of contradictions on the map of the world. He was shy, withdrawn to the timidity of his literary imagination to the point that he dulled his own social life either out of brazen unworldliness or obsessed with the trappings and trimmings of a budding artist. If Nigeria was his Gethsemane, where he prayed and got Literary inspiration, the University campus was his Bethlehem. It was simply the cradle of his artistic perception. He saw the world through the prism of paradoxes.
Nigeria at that time was the cauldron of military dictatorship and Bate Besong did not sit watching idly. He contributed to Literary journals like Opon Ifa, Okike, Anthology of Oracle Poets, West Africa Magazine, Quest Magazine, Drumbeats and the African Concord. He also acted as a ghost writer for many personalities including the late Mamman Vatsa, edited some of the fine poems of Niyi Osundare and had his first book Polyphemus Detainee and other Skulls launched in April 1980 by the internationally renowned novelist Chinua Achebe.