By Christopher FON ACHOBANG
Bole Butake finally leaves his professorship at the University of Yaounde and crosses the River Moungo to Bali, symbolically returning home to Southern Cameroons.
Whatever his business will be at the Christian University of Cameroon (CUC) Bali is inconsequential to this write-up.
I am here celebrating the wise decision of a West Cameroonian, even though belated, to return home from exile or subjugation in Republic of Cameroun.
Crossing the Moungo to Yaounde, the subjugation of Southern Cameroonians, started in the 1960s after the plebiscite when the United Nations forced the former British Cameroons to be splintered and parts joined the Federation of Nigeria and the Cameroun Republic.
Most and all institutions of West Cameroon were dissolved, assimilated and destroyed in favour of its East Cameroon counterparts. Cameroon Bank, Produce Marketing Organization, POWERCAM, WADA, were all casualties of the annexation of West Cameroon, in what France described as the small gift of the British to France.
Bole Butake was educated in Sacred Heart College, Mankon, Bamenda where he probably learned not to protest or challenge the status quo. He moved to the University of Yaounde and Leeds where he cut his tooth in theater.
Even being the pious Catholic Bole was, he decided to protest subtly through the medium of theater in the Yaounde University theater. He authored many plays. His repertoire of plays includes, The Rape of Michelle (1984), Lake God (1986), The Survivors (1989), And Palm-wine Flow (1990), Shoes and Four in Arms (1993), Dance of the Vampires (1995), Zintgraff and the battle of Mankon (2003), Family Saga (2005), Betrothal Without Libation (2005). He also directed plays by his friend Bate Besong.
In 1989 Bole Butake and I produced Bate Besong’s “Beasts of No Nation”, epitomizing the plunder of Cameroon by unpatriotic Cameroonians. This production, watched by a furious Jean Stephane Biatcha, was seriously criticized by the government agent who reported that the play was subversive.
Years down the road, Bole Butake watched his critical colleagues being lured to Biya’s sinecure with enticements of juicy appointments and gratification.
Bole Butake refused to be LAPIROED.
Lapiro de Mbanga is a Cameroon folk musician who played popular songs critical of the human rights abuses and corruption in Cameroon. He was tempted by the largesse from Biya’s agents and accepted gifts after he crossed the carpet to join the ruling Cameroon People’s Demolition Movement (CPDM). Satisfied that Lapiro had been sufficiently depersonalized, CPDM dropped him from his new ivory tower.
Lapiro regretted and he loaned a new expression to political betrayal.
Bole Butake was satisfied to earn his hours in the amphitheater, molding minds hoping to use the theater of conscientization to prepare the minds of Cameroonians for change.
Change came very close to Cameroon in the 1990s. University of Yaounde parlement (student assembly) played a primordial role in ushering in political change in Cameroon. The momentum for change fizzled out with the stage-managed Presidential elections of 1992, when an Anglophone, Ni John Fru Ndi was denied victory simply because he was English speaking.
This conspiracy theory is credible as the concerted efforts of Western partners to undermine the Yaounde regime were forestalled by France. America, Canada, Holland and Germany pegged their support to Cameroon on the respect of Democracy, human rights and governance. While the other Western democracies suspended their financial assistance to Cameroon, France doubled its financial support to prop up the Yaounde dictatorship.
That was the first defeat of the awareness created by Bole Butake and others like Gilbert Doho through theater. Many active forces in the change education paradigm dispersed to the diasporas and internally to landlocked climes where their fertile imagination withered. Cheng, Suhfor Tangye and others were dislodged from Mbengwi to Mundemba and other desolate academic destinations.
Bole Butake continued in Yaounde and produced a score of terminal degrees.
Beyond the exuberance of the amphitheatres, these paper tigers were lamentable social change makers. They soon fraternized with the spoilers of the land. The huge human resources trumpeted by Biya are but paper tigers as they fall short in transforming their academic qualifications into catalysts of change and development.
Pseudo intellectualism or turn-coat intellectuals overflow the landscape, yet the fertilization of the abundant natural resources lurks and is not happening. Lamentable results, regretted by Biya every year for 32 years, will continue till thy kingdom come. An insult to university learning and knowledge!
The University of Buea received some of the dispersed minds from the University of Yaounde. Hansel Ndumbe Eyoh, Herbert Endeley, Titanji, Lambi, Nalova. I landed in Buea in 2003 and witnessed the metamorphosis of gray matter into acid and caustic soda.
For years I saw how Darwinism was experimented, perfected and deployed as a tool for the affirmation of the fittest in debauchery and spoliation of an announced but deferred Anglosaxon university, UB the place be. Hansel was butchered and recently his cousin Peter Ndoumbe was bulldozed and buried in Ofrikpabi, victim of Titanji overzealousness. An intellectual who dreads seeing other intellectuals! Professor Mbuagbaw can testify as she was wished and washed back to Enugu by Titanji. Yet the University should know no tribe.
Butake survived in Yaounde keeping a low profile.
I met Bole Butake on Commercial Avenue Bamenda on 6 January 2014 as he was hurrying to get out of town to Bali. He showed me beddings in the boot of his car he was taking to Bali.
“I must sleep on this bed in Bali tonight.” Butake announced jubilantly.
“Why you not get a house in Bamenda?” Achobang asked
“After Yaounde, I cannot live in any big town again.” Butake concluded as he maneuvered his car out of the parking on Commercial Avenue. I watched him disappear towards the end of T-junction.
I am excited having Bole Butake in Bali five hours walking distance from Nyen. I can walk across from Mbengwi through Ngyembo to Bali for a further fertilization of my activist mind.
I had registered for postgraduate studies in theater under Bole Butake. I got fed up with the amphitheater and abandoned in 1999 to meet the Shona stone carvers of Zimbabwe. I came back convinced that even the hardest rock, Cameroon, could be shaped and polished into some fine object.
These lessons of endurance, perseverance Butake and I have learnt through the years, we are ready to deploy yet in another theater of conscientization of the Southern Cameroonian towards their independence.
We have both drunk from the fountain of subjugation and have always been left thirstier for freedom, self-rule and self-government. We are now over constipated with excess brainwashing, and second status citizenship degrading. The shackles are jangling to fall off now. We must ease off the chains of bondage.
Set the stage Butake!!!
This 2014, the year to clear everything odd from our long walk to freedom, will witness others abandon their crumbs in the land of captivity and return to the milk and honey awaiting all free minds in Southern Cameroons.
We can easily forget about the few hundred Southern Cameroonians trapped in Biya’s dictatorial cocoon of political expectations. The Achidi Achus, the Munas, Agbor Tabis, Mafany Musonges, Ngolle Ngolles are still trapped in Yaounde, hoping they will be exhumed from purgatory to be made one of Biya’s princes.
The renascent Southern Cameroons would need all its sons and daughters who have liberated themselves from mental slavery to cross the Moungo to Bali for the restoration of patriotism and integrity in Cameroon.
Bali welcomes Bole Butake back home.
Fon Christopher Achobang
Social Commentator, Human rights activist
Tel, (237) 99365954 (237) 33160489
See online: Bole Butake Crosses Moungo to Bali