Tribute to PeterKins Manyong

The Colbert Factor:

How Peterkins Manyong, Publisher/Editor, The Independent Observer, Finally Gains Total Independence

This reflection is inspired by a discussion I once had with Peterkins Manyong, while alive, to the effect that despite the fact that he was running his own media outfit, most newspaper publishers still wanted him to run columns in their newspapers, to the extent that his reluctance would lead to a clash with them, and he wondered why they could not understand that he needed to concentrate on his own creation, The Independent Observer. In a bid to assert that independence he took time explaining to me why he named his media outfit, The Independent Observer, because he wanted to be totally independent, both in modus operandi and in modus vivandi, not like Southern Cameroons that decided to become independent by joining La Republique du Cameroun, wondering aloud why someone would decide to become independent by joining another person.

It is the more informed by the fact that Manyong's inner yearnings to live an independent Life may as well stretch back to his child upbringing, and all through to his after university studies, where unlike his mates who picked up jobs in the civil service with effortless ease, he went for the liberal profession of journalism, painfully stringing for key national newspapers until finally creating his own media enterprise.

It is also inspired by the fact that unlike most English speaking Cameroonians who have been fighting tooth and nail in the past five years for greater autonomy or outright independence, to the extent of self-emolition, Manyong has just gained his total independence, by dying to this sinful world and going to his home in Heaven where there would be neither suffering nor sorrow.

Today, we mourn Peterkins, not because he did not live while alive, but because if he lived longer, he could have written many more incisive pens or animated the media landscape with some of his incisive quotable quotes and academic references.

Today, we mourn PK, not because he is free and independent at last, but because of his unfulfilled promises of acompanying the oppressed Anglophones in particular, and francophones in general, through to their dream of greater autonomy.

All through his journalism career, PK was driven by one cardinal principle: comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. He would inadvertently stray away from this foundational principle, but the moment he realizes it, he reverts to it. Like someone who identified himself with the afflicted, he made sure that even once in a while when he is dining and wining with the comfortable, he consoled himself with the fact that he was simply trying to retrieve what has been stolen from the commonwealth.

Being someone who had ready answers to any position he adopted, each time you tried telling Pk that money must have influenced a particular writeup he commissioned, he would tell you: massa, you people should get out, only a fool writes for nothing. He would take you through one argument to another, to the effect that apart from being a journalist, he is a business man and that no printer can print his paper on the basis that he has written objective and balanced stories. He would recount that one needs to first survive, feed the children, pay rents and medical bills before one can write objective and balanced stories. He would even go to the extent of explaining to you that it is not as if he is unaware of the fact that what he has done was ethically wrong, but that his son,Junior, cannot get up in the morning and ask for money to buy bread for breakfast and rather than just fulfil Jnr's needs, reminds Junior that his father is the best journalist in town.That while the landlord wants his rents paid by month end, Junior wants bread on the table every morning. In a very amusing manner, he would tell you that even though Ntumfor Nico Halle goes round preaching that a good journalist cannot sleep hungry, he cannot assure anyone right now that good journalism has been able to put food on his table these past days.

When PK was not yet married and needed company of friends late into the night and you wanted to go home before 9pm on grounds your wife needs you, he would arrogantly tell you, only henpecked husbands go home before 9pm. He finally got married and so the need to be home before 9pm. But each time he wanted to go home, he would stand up, stretch his body and announce his departure By saying that only irresponsible husbands drink in the bar after 9pm.

Only last year, I coincidentally came across him at a nearby bar in Yaounde as he came to pay his ticket to travel back to Bamenda by night. As we discussed over a beer, he told me that although he was waiting for some journalist friends to come meet him there, he was not comfortable with their behavior. He said he came to Yaounde and instead of them welcoming him with drinks, they were rather asking him to give them drinks. He said he had reminded them that he could understand when they come to Bamenda and ask him to welcome them with drinks, not when he is visiting them in Yaounde. He told me he has told them off, and that they were not better than his girlfriends in Bamenda. When they visit him, they ask what he has kept for them. When he visits them, they ask what he has brought for them. So, whether he is visiting or they are visiting, he must be the one to give. He then told me such behavior was like fulfulling the Bible prophecy, that is, if you live, you live in Christ, if you die, you die in Christ. So, whether dead or alive, you are in Christ.

In the years when Cameroon was fighting to qualify for the debt relief package for the poorly indepted countries, each time PK went for coverage and came back "loaded", he would invite you for a beer and before you settle down he tells you that although Cameroon is still struggling to meet the completion point for the Poorly Indepted Countries Initiative, he had already reached his completion point for that day, and that you could have As many boozes As you wanted.

He would proudly tell you that he is not like those who are still struggling to make a name in journalism by going after scoops. While you think a scoop is an exclusive breaking news story that hits a Newspaper frontpage, PK would tell you that as far as he was concerned, a scoop is that story that when you are writing, a bottle of Isenburg or Export is standing in front of you, and As you are writing, you are looking down at a 5ver or 10ner in your chest pocket.

As I pen down this reflection, the scoop is that Peterkins Manyong, fondly called PK or Philosopher King, and most probably, should be sitting at the right Hand of God the Father Almighty. And as PK and my friend Teneng would put it, when you die, there are only two surprises that await you:the first surprise is that you have found yourself in Heaven, and the second surprise is that those you thought were supposed to be in Heaven would not be there.

Fortunately for Peterkins, he started negotiating the last bend to Heaven while still on his hospital bed. As the celebrated author of God the Politician, he knows what God has in stock for him. We only regret the fact that he died without finally publishing his book, The Dictionary of New Deal Terms, that would have been an unputdownable.

Adieu, PK, the Philosopher

Done in Bamenda, this day of Lent, Wednesday 17, 2021

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