The Trial of Ni John Fru Ndi (II)
Before the final verdict, Ben Muna, former Cameroon Bar Council President, and former lead Prosecutor for Rwanda genocide at the International War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, insists on standing in as counsel for the damnation of Ni John Fru Ndi, on grounds that he ordered the burning to death of Tita Fomukong because he black-legged on the ghost town calls by the SDF in the 90s in Ntarinkon-Bamenda, and other parts of Cameroon, and more importantly, the brutal killing of Diboule, a Centre Regional SDF militant who had joined the Ben Muna-led dissident group to hold a counter convention in Yaounde when the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, had decided that the convention should hold in Bamenda.
Barrister-at-Law, Joseph Mbah Ndam is invited to come to defend Ni John Fru Ndi, but he rather sends his pupil lawyer, Balthasar, disguised as a young intelligent, and witty lawyer, with the following words courtesy of Bellario in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Vernice:
‘Your grace shall understand that at the receipt of your letter, I am taken up: but in the instant that your messenger came, in loving visitation was with me a young doctor of Law; his name is Balthasar. I
acquainted him with the cause in controversy between our former dissident militant, Ben Muna, and our esteemed Party Chairperson, Ni John Fru Ndi. We turned o’er many books together: he is furnished with my opinion; which, bettered with his learning, the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend, comes with him, at my importunity, to fill up your grace’s
request in my stead. I beseech you, let his lack of years not impede to let him lack a reverend estimation; for I never knew so young a body with so old a head. I leave him to your gracious
acceptance, whose trial shall better publish his commendation.’
Immediately after Balthasar is allowed to stand in, he bested Ben Muna in just two rounds, by arguing that as popular and enigmatic Chairman of the leading opposition party, the SDF, just so many people committed acts in his name and (just like Ben Muna did in attempting to stage a convention in Yaounde in the early 2000s that turned deadly) without the Chairman’s consent. He buttresses his point in triumphant detail by arguing that most of the letters attributed to St. Paul in the Bible were, after all, not written by him. He references theologians, Bible historians, and modern-day clerics who confirm that although 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament are attributable to Paul, only seven of these Pauline epistles are accepted by Bible scholars as having been penned down by Paul himself.
As one of the most prolific contributors to the New Testament (just like Fru Ndi was the most popular party leader in Cameroon), many followers of St. Paul wanted to benefit from his popularity to pass their message without being challenged. These authors, it is believed, likely used material from some of his surviving letters and/or had access to many of his unpublished works. The letters of Paul to the Ephesians, the Colossians, the second letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, the first and second letters of Paul to Timothy, that to Titus, and Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, were certainly written by his other followers, and in his name. Most of the disparities in the letters come from the style and form, especially from the fact that those authentically written by Paul start with salutations. Balthasar skillfully concludes that just like Paul’s followers wrote biblical letters in his name, so too some overzealous militants might have done things in Fru Ndi’s name, and without his knowledge.
It turns out that the young Balthasar is Rose Fru Ndi, who is merely disguised as a man.
Concerning further charges pushed by Professor Ngwasiri and activists fighting for the independence of the former British Southern Cameroons – that Fru Ndi subordinated the Anglophone cause for the defense of a one and indivisible Cameroon – learned Barrister Francis Sama sits in as counsel for the salvation of Ni John Fru Ndi and draws historical evidence from the time of German Kamerun through the trusteeship period to independence and reunification to justify that Fru Ndi was first a Cameroonian before being an Anglophone, and not the other way round. He rubbishes charges from activists abroad and fighters in the bushes that Fru Ndi became a blackleg by tracing the history and etymology of backlegging to conclude that since 1990 Fru Ndi had belonged to only one union, the SDF. He has never been SCNC nor belonged to the so-called Ambazonia. And since a blackleg is one who first belonged to a union and later turned around to disrespect a strike action called by the union, Fru Ndi can never be accused of being a blackleg.
In response to Hon. Awudu Mbaya’s ask as to why Fru Ndi allowed the party in 2020 to March on people’s blood to parliament when he rejected going to war after his stolen victory in the 1992 Presidential elections and borrowing from the nineteenth-century writer, Hazlitt, Barrister Francis Sama roundly concludes that Fru Ndi was ‘honest in his vices’, while his critics and opponents were ‘hypocrites in their virtues’.
The last point before his verdict as raised by Rex Ngong, a die-hard militant of the SDF even in the hereafter, is whether there is any meaning, both on earth and in Heaven, for anyone or group of persons, to attempt to deprive another person of a peaceful burial as obtained during Fru Ndi’s last July 29, 2023. Sophocles, the most famous ancient Greek tragedian is summoned to pass judgment on it so everyone knows where his limits start and end.
Sophocles wastes no time in explaining his plot in Antigone. The King of the land, Creon, has forbidden the burial of Polyneices, for he was a traitor to the city as he had joined a foreign army to try to overthrow the city of Thames. Antigone, Polyneices sister, decides to bury his body (against the laws of the land and in the justification of the laws of nature which hold that the dead must be properly buried whatever their crime). Creon sentences her to death. Eventually, Creon is persuaded to free Antigone from her punishment, but his decision comes too late as Antigone commits suicide. Her suicide triggers the suicide of two others close to King Creon: his son, Haemon, who was to wed Antigone, and his wife, Eurydice, who commits suicide after losing her only surviving son.
Despite original warnings from the blind prophet, Tiresias (a man who has never gone wrong in any of his prophecies), that King Creon is going contrary to the wishes of the gods, Creon turns a blind eye to Tiresias. Even though privately Creon is worried about the words of the blind prophet, knowing that he speaks the truth, Creon finds himself at the end of the play standing alone over the bodies of his wife and his son, with no one to assist him bury the only two people he treasured in his kingdom and fought all along to protect and defend.
Then enter, Professor Asonganyi, former Secretary General of the Social Democratic Front, and author of the book: Cameroon: Difficult Choices in a Failed Democracy, and Peterkins Manyong, Publisher/Editor of the Independent Observer newspaper. One stands on the gate to hell and the other on the gate to Heaven. Fru Ndi has been briefed about the fact that one only tells lies and the other always tells the truth. He has only one question to ask them as he seeks the gate to Heaven. If he asks the one who tells lies to point to the gate of Heaven, he would point to the gate of hell.
Fru Ndi suspects Asonganyi must be the one who tells lies and decides to first approach and engage him in a cordial conversation. In the process, and in his characteristic skillful manner, he puts the question to Asonganyi: ‘If I ask Peterkins to show me the gate to Heaven, which gate will he point to?’. He wastes no time in telling him he would point to the gate to hell. Fru now goes straight to Peterkins and asks him to show him the gate to hell, and he points exactly to the gate of hell. Fru Ndi now knows that the Gate both of them haven’t pointed to is the gate to Heaven.
As he opens the gate and sees the multitude glittering in their splendor, he asks whether when Biya finally comes he would also pass through such tough grilling. Mendo Ze and goalkeeper Agbwa caution him to mind his business. He stares back at Cameroon he has spent all his useful years trying to change and sings his famous rallying song:
“Freedom is coming, tomorrow… ”
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