Tension Mounts as the Trial of Ni John Fru Ndi in the HereAfter Begins
‘Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them[b] great glory, his majesty from the beginning. Some ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valor; those gave counsel because they were intelligent; those spoke as prophetic oracles; those led the people by their counsel and by their knowledge of the people’s lore they were wise in their words of instruction; those composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing; rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes – all these were honored in their generations, and were the pride of their times.
Some of them have left behind a name so that others declare their praise.
But of others, there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.
But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children.[c] Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake.
Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation. The assembly declares[d] their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise’, Sirach 44:1-15
The enigmatic and emblematic founding father and National Chairman of Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front, the SDF (since its creation in 1991), Ni John Fru Ndi, who passed away last June 12, 2023, and is being interred July 29, 2023, apparently falls under this category of great men being referred to in the book of Sirach 44:1-15. Yet, this hasn’t in any way exempted him from the subject of curiosity as he arrived at the HereAfter. And this, for the same obvious reasons that made him great.
Like the famous Nigerian poet in Ali Mazrui’s book: ‘The Trial of Christopher Okigbo’, who died during the Nigerian civil war and was tried in the afterlife on two counts: first, that he subordinated the vision of a unified Nigeria to the Biafran ideal (by abandoning poetry and taking up arms to fight for Biafran independence); and second, that he had betrayed his art by behaving as an Igbo first and as a poet last, Ni John Fru Ndi (foremost and famous opposition political leader since the reintroduction the multi-party politics in Cameroon in 1990), is currently being tried on same two counts. Firstly, (and unlike in the case of Christopher Okigbo), that he insubordinated the original leitmotif of the founding fathers of the SDF that was principally based on honing in on the plight of Anglophones in the larger Cameroon body polity to dying for a one and indivisible Cameroon. Secondly, at the onset of the Anglophone minority conflict and later war of independence, he was seen marching on the streets of Bamenda and Buea and even going on record as stating that if he were still young, he would have taken up arms and joined the boys fighting to break up the country, only to turn back and join the Yaounde regime in castigating and condemning the fighters and activists fighting for the independence of the former British Southern Cameroons.
Depending on the outcome of the trial, Fru Ndi would be sentenced to either salvation or condemnation. The afterlife where Fru Ndi is being tried is a place of many surprises. He is being welcomed at the gate by the late Bochong Francis Nkwain, former Minister of the Commonwealth department in Biya’s government. As he arrives, Nkwain hands him a book and he rebukes Nkwain for having abused him as being a “common bookseller” and therefore cannot be a good leader and politician and he is now handing over to him “a common” book. The former Minister and Biya’s crony tells him to take the book because it contains the ‘rites de passage’ to the hereafter and that for now, Fru Ndi is merely dead and not yet immortal until he performs all the rights.
After his encounter with Bochong Francis Nkwain, he is ushered into a large glittering soccer stadium where a multitude from all generations and backgrounds, are watching an exciting encounter, being a selection of former PWD Bamenda players and veterans from all races, apparently to welcome a figure, Ni John Fru Ndi. The players of both teams are all stark naked except for the girdle of colored beads around their waists so one can tell who their teammates are. Goalkeeper Agbwa is still on the reserve bench waiting for his turn to go in and defend the Abakwa boys.
As the trial proper begins, Ma Nestorine Boh Kangoum, a woman of great strength is assigned to act as counsel for salvation for the leader of the Social Democratic Front, Ni John Fru Ndi, who has died in the heat of the raging deadly Anglophone conflict. But before Mrs. Nestorine Boh settles down to her assigned job, the heat rather turns on her as she has to be first judged on why she was in such a hurry to the extent of being killed in an automobile accident in the United States of America and far from homeland-Africa.
Fru Ndi, a legendary, larger-than-life figure, gets his toughest opposition from Eric Motomou, assigned counsel for damnation, who argues forcefully that the National Chairperson doesn’t deserve salvation because he ran the SDF as a cult. Ebale Angounou St. Yves who wrote: ‘Paul Biya: The Nightmare of My Life’ and ‘Blood: Biya’s Body Lotion’, is summoned in from the real world to ascertain Eric Motomou’s assertion. Ebale clears Fru Ndi of the accusations and is asked to go back.
On the original accusation of abandoning the SDF’s original ideals, Albert Mukong is called in and he painstakingly narrates how he came about the idea, the role played by Yondo Black, and how Fru Ndi was brought in. Fru Ndi defends himself in the most spirited manner by stating that after touring Cameroon over 20 times, he discovered not only Anglophones were suffering and so he opted for the bigger picture. On why he originally supported separatist fighters by marching with his parliamentarians and Mayors on the streets of Bamenda and Buea and later declaring if he were still 50 years he could have taken up arms, only to turn around and castigate the separatists, Kwame Nkrumah is assigned to defend him. Kwame Nkrumah simply redefined his ideology of a New Africa, independent and free from imperialism, organized on a continental scale, founded upon the conception of one and united Africa, drawing its strength from modern science and technology and from the traditional African belief that freedom is when people move freely from one African country to another without further limitations as originally imposed by the Berlin Conference of 1884. John Ngu Foncha then nods in approval.
As the trial progresses, Fru Ndi is tired and thirsty, and looking into the crowd, he finds Mme Tarh Delphine who for years took guard over the Ntarikon residence of the National Chairman. He requests that Delphine be asked to bring him water to quench his thirst and is reminded that Delphine could not be a vanguard on earth and also a vanguard in Heaven. He looks further into the crowd and sees someone resembling his late wife, Rose (singing in the Heavenly choir), and asked whether he could reconnect with her. He is quickly reminded in the same way Jesus reminded the Sadducees in Mathew 22:27-30 (when they wanted to know whose wife in the resurrection would the woman who married seven brothers and they all died be), that in the afterlife all intimacies are with God, and not with marriage.
Professor Siga Asanga is called in to explain the political implications of Fru Ndi having to change from one political conviction to another. The venerated Professor rather mesmerizes the audience with his objection to whether there is any jurisdiction to try Fru Ndi either in real life or in the afterlife, and why instead of just allowing the man to rest in peace as recommended for great men in the book of Sirach (confer chapter 44), he is being tormented in his native Bamenda (where his home has been torched and where separatists have called for a lockdown), and whether these trials (both in Bamenda and the afterlife) can resolve the civil war conflict in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon in any meaningful way. A much more profound defense from Professor Siga Asanga (who had fallen out with Fru Ndi before dying), is whether the socio-political considerations in the fight for the restoration of the identity of Anglophones and standing up for a one and indivisible Cameroon are comparable or mutually exclusive such that one can be faulted for choosing either path.
Influential SDF National Executive Committee, NEC Members like Asapgu Ferdinand, Hon. Awudu Mbaya, Hon. Joseph Mbah Ndam, Hon. Banadzem, and others are eager to question Fru Ndi on the health of the party he has left behind and why he didn’t reconcile with the G27 before dying, but the trial is abruptly adjourned at the instance of Professor Asonganyi (former SDF Secretary General who fell out with Fru Ndi, and author of the book: ‘Cameroon: Difficult Choices in a Failed Democracy’), and Peterkins Manyong erstwhile Publisher/Editor of the Independent Observer newspaper (and someone Fru Ndi had mocked when he fell sick and died). The former is standing guard by the gate of hell and the latter, by the gate of Heaven.
Fru Ndi would be condemned to salvation or condemnation depending on how well he frames the question he is to ask both of them. Before framing the question, he has been briefed about the two guards, one perpetually tells lies and the other the truth. If he asked the one who perpetually tells lies to point to the gate of Heaven, he would rather point to the gate of hell. And if he asked the guard who perpetually tells the truth to point to the gate of hell, he would do exactly so. But he must ask both of them the same question…
Colbert Gwain is a digital space immigrant, author, radio host, and content creator @TheColbertFactor. He is also a Commitment Maker at @UN Women Generation Equality Action Coalitions. He describes himself as an African Citizen merely living in Cameroon (by his support for the Africa Rising campaign for a #borderless Africa). The Colbert Factor is a nonprofit news organization. Our coverage relies on your financial support. If you value analytical write-ups like the one you are reading right now, give them today at 677852476…And you would have supported a free press