For Every One Successful Francis Ngannou Abroad, There Are 1000 Failures

The Colbert Factor:

For Every One Successful Francis Ngannou Abroad, There Are 1000 Failures

Colbert Gwain

In the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s in the middle-belt Njinikom Subdivision in the Boyo Division of the North West of Cameroon, it was the genuine pride of a parent to have his/her child as a priest or a Reverend Sister. Such a parent was treated with reverence by the rest of the community members. Although the Reverend Father or Sister might be serving in a distant parish or religious community, approaching his or her parent or offering him or her a service was like sharing in the blessings of that family. Such parents automatically became the most sought-after counselors in the community.

Some Njinikom parents became restless until a child of theirs became a priest or sister so they became socially uplifted to the enviable position of ‘Na Falla’ or ‘Na Sister’; meaning the mother of a priest or a Reverend Sister. Although some parents of those ‘early missionaries’ at times never wanted “to share their glory with anyone”, and especially when their ordained children came back to Njinikom to visit; it was always a fulfilling experience to hang around the family of a priest or Reverend Sister in Njinikom, the epicenter the Catholicism in Komland.

Then came the 90s and following the economic crisis and the subsequent salary cuts in Cameroon, the aged-old value systems crumbled with it. It soon became a pride in the same society (that had once valued a priest and a Reverend Sister), to value parents and families whose children were ENAM graduates, and especially Taxation, Treasury, and Customs Officials. If the priests and Sisters in the Njinikom case were a source of spiritual satisfaction to the families and the community, the Taxation, Treasury, and Customs officers became the source of financial satisfaction to their loved ones and families. The situation wasn’t different for the rest of the country.

Children whose parents could not secure positions for them in ENAM and other lucrative sectors of the Cameroon economy began looking outward to possibilities in other countries. In a bid to make themselves relevant and to make sure their parents also became a source of community pride,  they began taking on perilous adventures abroad. The earlier economic migrants succeeded, the more restless youths back home developed the urge to follow in their footsteps and the competition for greater social status increased among youths and parents.

Today, it has become a source of pride for a parent to tell you how his or her two, three, or five sons and daughters are in Europe or America and how they are preparing for him and the wife to join them out there. A marker of success in today’s society is the number of children one has abroad to the chagrin of the poor neighbor who has nothing to show. Some parents are often tempted to create an association of parents whose children are abroad. When such parents meet in a social environment, their conversation is always around the memories of their visit to one jaw U.S. state or the other.

Just like the highest-rated American daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless, which portrays silent competition and rivalry between the wealthy and the average working-class families in the United States of America,  Cameroon’s unemployed youths and the average working-class families are restless until they rest in Europe or America, however perilous the journey might be. When those who venture to the West in the likes of Francis Ngannou succeed, they are looked upon back home as the bold and the beautiful and a source of inspiration for the rest of the struggling youth. They are hardly made to understand that out of every one Francis Ngannou that succeeds, a thousand others live out there in abysmal conditions.

Perhaps, a better way of explaining this is through Mark Twain’s book: The Innocents Abroad, where he explains the difference between appearance and reality and how the impression people give about foreign countries is always different when one visits and sees reality himself/herself. Although Mark Twain encourages people to travel to see things for themselves,  he however concludes that: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts”. In brief, grass is greenest where it is watered.

Despite that, this conclusion may still seem unrealistic to many unemployed Cameroonian youths and the average working-class households because in the country right now the grass doesn’t only come in short supply but also water sources are lacking to water it. With skyrocketing unemployment and social and political instability, added to the deteriorating security situation in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon and the Boko Haram threats in the Northern regions; clandestine immigration would continue to be the order of the day.

With an alarming increase in “third generation” social ills and the front seat taken up by the pervasive value system where silent competition and rivalry is the new culture (fueled by the get-rich-quick syndrome and propelled by the “Rapid Results College” generation), wishing away illegal or clandestine immigration without concrete and innovative pull back solutions, will be a perpetration of a dystopian society.

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