Emmanuel S. Ngwa, PhD
Open Letter to “Anglophone” Intellectuals (University Dons) Currently In Southern Cameroons
Dear Professors, Associate Professors, Senior & Junior Doctors of Anglophone Cameroon,
I humbly write to express my worries about a trend I’ve been watching in our country for over five years now, which has kept me wondering and asking rhetorical questions like: Why are we called intellectuals? And what is our role as intellectuals in engineering political, economic and social change in our society (apart from teaching and research)? These questions are emanating from the fact that, during my undergraduate and postgraduate training and readings, I was made to understand that, politically, dictatorial regimes across the world are often afraid of members of the intellectual class. Reason being that they constitute the engine house of politico-economic and socio-cultural revolutions in society. That’s why most revolutions in history were said to have been birthed on University campuses.
Regrettably, it has been five years of a senseless and unjustified war in our society (Anglophone Cameroon), a war bordering on the historical, political, educational, legal and economic underpinnings of the nation, and the intellectual class, particularly our seniors of the professorial cadre, have been suspiciously silent. Consequently, as a young “Anglophone” intellectual, I am tempted to openly ask you all these questions as the macabre events unfold in our society: What’s the role of Senior Anglophone intellectuals on the ground in ensuring a cessation of violence and a sustainable peaceful settlement of the ongoing war? Where are the Professor Benard Fonlons and the Dr. Bate Bessongs of our time? Do they want to speak up only when they or their interests must have been directly affected by the war?
As the war rages on between pro-independence Ambazonian rebels and the Cameroun government forces, it has rather been members of the Francophone intellectual class resident out of the war theatre who have consistently appeared on national TV debate panels, with some of them making utterly vexatious and ridiculous propositions that define the direction of a war affecting largely “Anglophone Cameroonians”. Paradoxically, their rational Anglophone counterparts (which of course excludes pro-regime and CPDM “republican Professors”), who are the direct victims of the war, have been largely eloquent in their silence, as they monitor the debates on TV and social media platforms.
The fact that these Anglophone intellectuals are among those feeling the direct heat of the war every day on ‘ground zero’ and have not been seen to be fully part of the public political debates on the issues at stake, as part of their outreach functions, is what baffles me. It appears they rather prefer to bear the risk of teaching students in an atmosphere of flying bullets without any risk allowance being paid to them and die in their silence and the clutches of kidnappers. It is no longer news that, for the past five years, these University Dons have been constant victims of kidnap-for-ransom from war merchants and criminals who have taken advantage of the state of chaos to criminally enrich themselves.
I keep on wondering; what is the use of all the knowledge we have acquired if we can’t speak out for the uneducated people and ourselves to help influence the direction of our political destiny in the nation. Are our seniors, especially the historians, political scientists, educationists and legalists with impactful voices, afraid to also appear on these national TV political debates to tell the stories of the realities they live on the ground as eyewitnesses, while also projecting a sustainable way forward?
How are we sure that the outreach services of Francophone intellectuals on national TV like Dr. Diudonne Essomba, Prof. Owona Nguini, and others who have never heard the sound of a “La Republique” or “Amba” gun, will positively contribute to defining our destinies as members of the Anglophone intellectual class feeling the heat every day in the troubled territory? For how long shall we continue to be silent victims of kidnap, with huge amounts being coughed out from our private pockets as ransom? Do our seniors not think that it’s high time they spoke out and took critical decisions that will go a long way to pressure the belligerent parties, particularly the Cameroun government towards a permanent resolution of the conflict?
If we, as Anglophone intellectuals, can’t even speak up against such political and social injustices for the uneducated in our society, not to talk of ourselves, what then is the use of our high-level educational attainment?
It is important that we reflect on these issues, especially in the face of the increasing insecurity and constant targeted kidnappings of University dons, particularly along the Bamenda-Bambili stretch of road.
It is an established fact that, when the bourgeoisie and intellectual class of a society fail to speak up against political and social injustices in their society, they often end up becoming the most vulnerable victims of any negative consequence arising from the escalation of the said political quagmire. With this, you can now understand why University dons, particularly of the University of Bamenda, have become hot cakes to kidnap merchants under the prevailing security atmosphere. The end to these kidnappings and state of insecurity lies in the cessation of violence and a sustainable peaceful resolution of the conflict, with senior members of the intellectual class critically playing their role as public consultants on the issues at stake.
It is, however, not yet late for you to join the public debates and advocacy towards sustainable peace and justice in our society.
With love, honour and respect, Emmanuel S Ngwa writes from Bamenda.
(Emmanuel S. Ngwa, PhD, is a young Anglophone intellectual and researcher from the University of Bamenda. Before now, he served as a graduate research assistant/sighted reader to a Visually Impaired Staff of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and an International Academic Staff at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebony State, Nigeria).