I wrote the following words of gratitude to Professor Daniel Noni Lantum ten years before his death on February 15, 2021. Now that he is gone, I recall them in his memory.
It surprises me that I always seem to find words of gratitude for people only when they are no longer with us; when they have, as we Catholics say, gone ahead of us marked with the sign of faith. It is only then that my heart, my mind, and my lungs pour out of my trembling lips words soaked in tears and wrapped in long moments of silence, interspersed with sighs and much headshaking. Today, however, I have decided to sing the praises of a man who is still very much alive, and to whom I owe a well-nourished debt of gratitude.
Whenever I take a respite from the hectic and often frenzied life I live in Douala to peer down the winding path I have travelled over the past forty years or more, I see Professor Daniel Noni Lantum, Emeritus Professor of Public Health of the University of Yaounde School of Medicine, also known by his Nso traditional title as Shuufaay wo Bastos, holding up a torchlight to guide my steps, especially in the early years of my adult life. And for that, I want to let him know I am grateful. He has long retired from active academic life and lives peacefully in his home in the neighbourhood of Bastos in Yaounde, Cameroon’s political capital.
I will let the waves at memory beach wash back to 1976. That was my last year at the University of Yaounde. We had just finished our degree tests and were waiting for the results. For my friends and me, it was a period of uneasy recess in which we loitered about aimlessly, occasionally making forays into neighbourhoods of low repute, with their bulging, rowdy bars where clients in varying stages of drunkenness mingled freely with women of light virtue, clad in see-through dresses, mouthing obscenities and occasionally lifting their skirts to expose their wares to admiring audiences. As they squeezed their propped up bosoms against you in those crowded bars, you would even feel the smart ones skillfully searching your pockets for some cash. That is why it was always prudent to hide your wallet in your socks for it could be snatched out of your back pocket within a twinkle of an eye.
The next day, we would then kill the boredom of waiting by sitting around in groups and comparing notes about the conquests of the previous evening. We were, for the most part, in our early twenties, an age when young men are constantly in heat, and whorehouses are usually an irresistible attraction that serve as a release valve for the pent up stress of waiting for the results of the exams.
Come to my office
I remember running into Professor Lantum one afternoon as I was leaving the Department of African and Afro-American Studies where Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon, of glorious memory, had, for several decades, hoisted a flag of academic excellence that was sticking out like a sore thumb from amidst the chaos of mediocrity that characterised the other departments. After the habitual exchanges of civilities, he asked me about my studies. I told him I had just written my degree exams and was expecting the results any day. He then asked me to come to his office the next day. What time? I asked. Ten o’clock. “It’s a deal, Prof.” I said. His office was located at the then University Center for Health Sciences, more commonly known by its French acronym, CUSS.
Ten o’clock the next day, my trembling hand gave a weak knock on his office door. Without even caring to look up, his secretary grunted: “What do you want?” I told her I had an appointment with the Professor. Could she tell him I was already around, please? I expected her to ask me to identify myself, but she kept her nose buried in her typewriter. Since she did not care to even look at me, I began scrutinising her. Boy, did she have one hell of a generous bosom! She must have felt my eyes ‘undressing’ her for she suddenly looked up and asked aggressively: “Do you want to take my picture, or what?” I quickly said I was sorry. That Ewondo woman could be trouble; she could start a scene and there would be no end to it. Their reputation for picking quarrels at the drop of a hat follows them like the tail following a dog. But, I still could not get the picture of that well-nourished bosom off my mind. “You better watch it boy,” I said to myself. “You could leave this office with a split skull from that lady’s shoe!”
Show me your talent
Shortly thereafter, Professor Lantum, who was in the neighbouring office, came in, greeted me and ushered me into his office. Walking past his secretary, I could not help taking another quick look at her well-endowed chest – what a generous gift from nature!
As soon as we sat down, the Professor picked up a bunch of documents from the shelf behind his desk and handed them to me: “How soon do you think you can translate those for me? I’ve just finished a seminar/workshop on traditional medicine and I want the proceedings in English and French.”
Heavens above! Was he really asking me to translate that bunch of documents into English? I had not even suspected why he had called me to his office in the first place. Even though I was in a bilingual degree program and translation was one of my subjects, I had not expected to be so openly challenged to show how skillful I was in fondling our two official languages – English and French — just a few months shy of a bilingual degree! Had it been a slim document of a few pages, I could have told him I would try to get it back to him in a day or two. Here I was, holding a pile of documents that seemed to weigh a ton, or more, and being asked to give a deadline for translating them! Lord, have mercy! I frankly did not know what to say.
Professor Lantum saw my hesitation and embarrassment and decided to come to my rescue. “Listen,” he said, placing a reassuring hand on my trembling shoulder, “take a look at them and get to work immediately. I will be here to help and guide you. I know you’ve never done this type of work before, but you’ve chosen this field and I want you to excel in it. Come with me.” He led the way to his secretariat, where his secretary was now loudly chatting with a friend, who had dropped in for a visit. “This is your desk. That is a bilingual dictionary over there; I know you’ll need it. Get to work immediately and we’ll see how far you can go before the end of the day. My secretary will give you some paper. Good luck!” And with that, he turned his back on me and went straight back into his office. As I took a seat, I saw the two ladies whispering something to each other and eyeing me from head to toe. I decided to ignore them with a royal disdain.
Meeting traditional healers
As I browsed through that pile of mainly hand-written scripts, it became clear to me that I was about to face my baptism of fire in the field of translation. In later years, I would spend lonely moments in Madrid, Paris, Washington DC, and Edmonton, Canada, in hot pursuit of excellence in that field. Today, nearly forty years later, I still remember vividly that it all began that first day in Professor Lantum’s office. I cannot count how many documents I have since translated; documents of varying lengths and complexity, from nine months poring over boring government bla! bla! bla! at the Economic and Social Council in Yaounde, to well over twenty years wallowing in the overwhelmingly intricate world of the oil industry in an American oil company in Douala; not to mention tons of religious documents that have passed through my fingers during all these years I have collaborated closely with His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi, the Archbishop Emeritus of the Douala Archdiocese. You name them, I have pored over them. I have also facilitated understanding in conferences from the interpreter’s booth around the globe, but I have never forgotten that it all began in Professor Lantum’s office in Yaounde in June or July of the year of our Lord 1976.
The fascinating world of ngambe men
Professor Lantum introduced me to the fascinating world of traditional medicine, which is what all those documents were about. Through his persistent effort, the Ministry of Public Health began a census of traditional healers in Cameroon, under his tutelage. I met many of them in his office from every corner of the Republic. The list of the diseases each of them claimed to treat ran into several dozens. A few of them were from my part of the country. One of them, in particular, was from my village and listed nearly forty diseases he claimed he could cure, the majority of them being sex-related. Had HIV-AIDS been in the news in those days, I am sure he would have had it on his list as well. He probably does now for he is said to be still going strong in that field.
On minister’s payroll
He once told me a fascinating story, hard to verify, about someone who was then a minister in the Ahidjo government, whom, he claimed, had put him on his payroll. When I asked what he had done to merit the said minister’s confidence to the extent that he would put him on a monthly stipend, he looked around as if to ensure that no one could overhear him and then said: “Don’t you know that the man’s wife had abandoned him?” That was news to me. And why would she do that to the poor man? I inquired.
“You know women,” he said shaking his head sadly. “That man’s enemies had rendered his weewee a mere stunted growth between his legs, good only for passing out water. When he consulted me, I merely touched it with this stick,” he showed me a short wooden stick entirely covered with animal skin. “Yes, when this stick touched his baabaa, it immediately stood at attention and the man had to rush to Briqueterie where as many as three women joined forces to help him quell it down. From that day, I’ve become his worker. He pays me whenever I ask him for money. Don’t you know that he now has a new wife, young and plumb? It’s thanks to me!” he said, smiling proudly. You talk of the violation of medical ethics! How could a man who claimed to be a medical doctor so openly discuss his patient’s medical record? I wondered. Luckily for me, I did not need any assistance in that domain. He would perhaps have tried his magic stick on me too.
I heard all kinds of stories from those traditional healers, one as fascinating as the other. Be they men or women, they all claimed to perform miracles, especially in below-the-navel activities. I remember another one who said he was from Ebolowa. He came trailing behind him a relatively young and nice-looking girl carrying a bag which I assumed contained some medicinal herbs. I asked him what his specialty was. He too looked around to make sure no one was looking and then made a gesture with his right hand to the lower part of his body which carried the weight of obscenity. He then leaned towards me and asked to know the last time I had gone with a woman. Without even waiting for an answer, he beckoned his companion to give him the bag she had in her hand. Opening it, he pulled out a small bottle with a white powdery substance in it. “All you need to do, my friend, is sprinkle this in the direction of the woman you want, and she’ll follow you like a sheep,” he said with a knowing wink.
I took the bottle from him, scrutinized it for a minute, open and smelled its content and then turned round to look at his companion. He looked up in surprise, rightly guessing what I had in mind, and quickly seized the bottle from me, screaming with laughter and shaking his head disapprovingly: “No, no, not with her! You’re a dangerous man. If you buy it from me, you have to go to someone else, not her!” With that, he led his companion out of the office, and I could hear him telling her: “Did I not tell you how dangerous the young men in the capital city are. You must be careful with them.” I never saw him again.
My confidence swells
A few days into my translation work with Professor Lantum, my confidence began to swell and bubble over, especially when he went through what I had translated so far and gave his nod of approval. What I had at first thought I could not do, I was now doing well, and loving it. In fact, I began to churn out several pages of hand-written translation that the Professor’s secretary could not handle, complaining that my translation was making her neglect the office work for which she was employed. If I remember well, the Professor had to hire the services of a temporary secretary with whom I worked well.
My first salary
The most memorable part of the work I did for Professor Lantum was the pay I received at the end of the month. A month after I had been working for him, he called me into his office and gave me an envelope. When he saw how confused I was, he said: “That’s your pay. You’ve done commendable work for me and I’m glad I hired you.” I wondered if he saw how much my hands trembled as I held onto that envelope. I did not frankly know what to say or do. He and I had not even discussed how much he was to pay me. If he had given me anything I would still have been happy. But for him to give me 50.000 francs was simply unbelievable. 50.000 francs in 1976 must be worth 500.000 francs today!
That was my first salary ever and I think I will remember the effect it had on me forever. I have since earned good sums of money as salary. When I worked for the oil industry, my salary hit seven digits, not counting the bonuses we received for one thing or another, but no amount I have earned has had as much an effect on me as my first salary from Professor Lantum. I think I did shed a tear and my voice broke as I thanked him.
I remember clutching that envelope in my trembling hands and heading for Melen where my brother, Kenjo, and his family lived. I showed it to him and told him Professor Lantum had paid me for the work I had been doing for him. My brother shared my joy and said he had always known Dr. Dan to be a good man. He always called Professor Lantum, Doctor Dan, as still do many people who are close to him.
I was successful in my degree examination and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Bilingual Studies. Back in the 70s, jobs for bilingual degree holders, as for many other graduates in other fields, were easy to come by. I remember dropping applications for a job at the National Assembly and at the Presidency of the Republic. Some friends of mine, who leaned towards teaching, took the road to the Higher Teacher Training College, known in French as “Ecole Normale Superieure”, where they were given admission on the spot. Professor Chindje Kouleu, who was teaching at ESIJY (the Yaounde School of Journalism), said he would be happy to have me on board. I had met Professor Chindje in Aix en Provence in southern France the previous year when my friends and I went for a language immersion course. He left shortly after our arrival to come back to Cameroon where he got a job in ESIJY. When we returned from France, I met him on several occasions and he thought I was good material for journalism.
A few feet away from Ahidjo?
I discussed all these options with Professor Lantum and he said I still had a place by him, pending something more permanent. In early September 1976, I received word, through my late friend and brother, John Sabbas Bime, ‘John B’, to the intimate, that I was wanted at the Presidency. He was already a seasoned translator and a conference interpreter in the Linguistics Service of the Presidency. After passing through several layers of security screening by guards, who seemed as if a smile had never crossed their lips, I was ushered, trembling like a leaf, into the translation office of the Linguistics Service. I was met by a certain French lady, Mrs. Atangana and Mr. William Mbelem. They said they had received my curriculum vitae and seen that I once studied Spanish. I told them I had received a pass grade in Spanish at the London GCE Ordinary Level at the Bilingual Grammar School in Man O’War Bay, but that my Spanish, for lack of use, had become fairly rusty. They said it did not matter how far back I had studied Spanish. They then gave me a piece of paper and asked me on the spot to write an application to the Secretary General for a scholarship to study Spanish in Madrid. The plan was that from Madrid I would then go to Paris or Washington, DC for translation and interpretation studies.
It was the most amazing thing in my life. There I was, inside the Presidency of the Republic, the citadel of supreme power in Cameroon under the dreaded Ahmadou Ahidjo, who, at that moment, was perhaps just sitting a few feet away from me. I even thought I could feel his breath on my neck. Boy, was I ever eager to get out of there!
Victim of Confusion.
Confusion ran riot on my face and in my mind. Had it not been for the presence of my friend and brother, John B, I would have told them I was still going to think about it. John came up to me and congratulated me and laughed my confusion away. “Go for it,” he said. That was when I wrote the application. Before I left, I was told to prepare because my departure for Madrid was to be in a week’s time. Just enough time for me to get a new passport and I would be leaving.
I came back to the office to tell Professor Lantum what had happened and how confused I was. He wondered why I was confused and instead gave me a hearty congratulation that greatly oiled the hinges of my self-confidence. I had also been worried because there was no family member of mine around, my brother, Kenjo, having been transferred to Bamenda. I felt uncomfortably alone and lonely and Professor Lantum’s reassuring words came as a balm to my heart.
“Don’t go,” said Professor Fonlon.
A week later, I was called to the Presidency and given my passport and a plane ticket and instructed to go to the Spanish Embassy where a visa was affixed to my passport. A few days to my departure, I had an unexpected call from Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon, may eternal rest be his! I met him in his office and he said he had heard that I was about to leave for Spain. I said he was correct. He then said he had been eyeing me for a position in his department and that he thought it was not too late for me to cancel my departure for Madrid and he would give me a teaching position with him. He assured me he would do all in his power to ensure that I got a scholarship for studies that would lead to a doctorate from an American university.
Some months earlier, he and I had discussed the possibility of my applying for a position in an American university to study Afro-American literature with the view to coming back and teaching in his department. We had even toyed with the idea of my applying for admission into Al Ahram University in Cairo, Egypt, to study Arabic. Professor Fonlon’s contention was that there was a huge amount of written material in Arabic by Cameroonian Muslim scholars in North Cameroon that needed to be translated and made available to the academic world. If I studied Arabic in Cairo, I would then come back home and focus attention on that mass of literary work that was still virtually inaccessible to the rest of the academic world. He thought he had sufficient clout with the Egyptian embassy authorities to obtain a scholarship for me to study there. He saw his department taking a lead in introducing Arabic studies at the University of Yaoundé.
My decision to take a totally different route in life laid waste all those plans he was beginning to nurture for his department. As we talked, he said something quite poignant when he asked me to look at him. “I am no longer a young man,” he said, “and I don’t have long to be at the University. I’ll really be happy if you are on my staff before I finally retire.” Looking at him and seeing how helpless he looked, I felt a lump crawling up my throat and the confusion I thought had finally gone to rest, resurfaced. Before me that morning, Professor Fonlon suddenly appeared frail, weak, old and frustrated. My heart nearly missed a beat. I told him I would think about it.
No turning back.
When I left him, I went straight for Professor Lantum’s office to give him an account of our meeting, which had further intensified my confusion. Should I go, or should not I go? Professor Lantum left his desk, walked up to me, placed his hand on my shoulder, looked at me straight in the face and said: “Don’t miss this opportunity to leave this country. It is not always easy for anyone to leave but now that it is the Presidency itself asking you to go, go without delay! Don’t look back! Just Go! If you get there and things don’t work out for you, you can always switch fields and do whatever you want. But, for heavens’ sake, don’t stay! Go!”
I do not believe that he realised how helpful his words were to me. I walked out of his office and went straight to my friend and brother, John B, to tell him I was leaving. Access to phones was not as easy in those days as it is today and so I could not reach any of my family members in Bamenda or Nso to tell them I was leaving for Madrid. Professor Lantum said I should not worry about my family. They would understand once they received a letter from me from outside the country. I still had one difficult step to take, though: go back to Professor Fonlon and tell him I had weighed his offer carefully but would not be taking it. And that is what I did the next day. I thanked him for his confidence in me but said I was leaving all the same. He seemed shattered by my decision but said he understood me and wished me well.
Fonlon under suspicion
My ‘defection’ notwithstanding, Professor Fonlon and I remained good friends till he answered his Maker’s call in August 1986, ten years later. I recall that in the summer of 1984, two years before his demise, he and I sat in his hotel room in the Canadian city of Calgary, where he had been invited to a literary conference. I was then a student of Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and had travelled to Calgary for the said conference. This was shortly after the botched coup d’etat of April 1984 that nearly toppled the still tottering Biya regime. He told me about the thick cloud of suspicion that was hanging over his head because the government was convinced that he was in collusion with the coup plotters. One thing he said, and quite categorically too, was that he had worked very closely over the years with Ahidjo, whom he called in Lamnso “wir-gassah” (a Hausa man), and that he was not prepared to denounce him, as some of his colleagues were doing at the University. He loudly regretted that university professors, who had literally licked the ground on which Ahidjo walked, were now the ones loudly denouncing him because they wanted to be in President Biya’s good books. He thought their action was tantamount to intellectual prostitution of the worst kind. University dons should take stands on issues and not vacillate like leaves in the wind, he thought. His stand was firm, he would not denounce Ahidjo just to be in Biya’s good books.
In the course of our discussion, he recalled how sad he had felt that I had not joined him back in 1976. He then wondered, given the chaos back home, especially among university circles, whether I had not been right not to remain there after all. I told him I had discussed the matter with Professor Lantum who had urged me to leave. He said that, with hindsight, Professor Lantum’s advice was probably the right one.
John B, my brother, thank you!
Even though this tribute is mainly to Professor Lantum, I also like to highlight for praise and infinite gratitude the role my friend and brother, John B, played to ease the feeling of confusion I felt shortly before my departure. On the morning of that day, I asked the taxi driver taking me to the airport to stop over at his house in Melen. John B had told me he would like to accompany me to the airport. As we were about to leave, he gave me a fur-coated jacket that was to save me from the Madrid cold that winter. I was leaving Cameroon at the onset of winter in Europe totally unprepared for it. Had he not given me that fur-coated jacket, I would have had it rough in Madrid. John, my friend, my brother, you are no longer with us but know that I cherished that gift immensely. You were a life saver. Thank you, my brother! Rest in peace!
Several years later, John was to remind me of that day I left for Madrid, drenched in tears. We were sitting in my office in Douala where I worked for an American oil company. He would always drop by whenever he was in transit through Douala. He recalled that as he stood at the airport watching as I boarded the plane, he suddenly saw someone racing across the tarmac to the plane. To his surprise, it was Professor Lantum. He wondered where the Professor was going and why he was boarding the plane just as it was about to taxi down the runway. Inside the plane, I did not know what was happening outside but I recalled that as the plane was about to leave, I suddenly heard someone call my name. I turned round and it was Professor Lantum coming towards me. He handed me an envelope, wished me well and disappeared. I was so stunned that I did not know what to do or say. As the plane taxied down the runway ready for take-off, I opened the envelope and it contained a hundred thousand francs CFA. I wept openly for I had practically no money on me, the Spanish Embassy having told me that I would only receive my stipend from their Foreign Ministry the day classes began, which was still a few weeks ahead.
Panic in Madrid
It took the Spanish Foreign Ministry several months to start paying me because it was said that my documents had still not arrived from Yaounde. I remember writing a letter dripping with frustration to Professor Lantum, wondering aloud if my departure for Spain had been such a bright idea after all. I told him how the Spanish government was not coming clean with its own part of the bargain and that I was practically broke, desperate and totally frustrated. I must have sounded suicidal for Professor Lantum sent me a magnificent reply to my letter that brought me back to my senses and made me face the reality of the life I was then living. He delved into Nso martial history, reminding me that we, Nso people, have always been fighters from time immemorial; that we did not have godfathers anywhere and that we had to fight our own battles on our own terms. He asked me to remember that no Nso man worth the name ever fled from the battle field, and that every Nso man, who had ever fallen in battle, did so with a spear sticking out of his chest, never out of his back; and that only cowards, in their flight from the carnage of the battle field, received the spear in their back. He did not think I was a coward and he knew I could and would make it, temporary problems of money and adjustment to a new culture notwithstanding.
Change of focus
I had never received such a heart-warming letter before, nor any ever since, and, poor as I remained for a good part of the first months in Madrid, I never again questioned the wisdom of my presence in the Spanish capital. In fact, I even started to laugh my troubles away. I just did not focus on poverty or loneliness anymore. I had a definite purpose in mind, that is, study the language and head on for greater pursuits. Surprisingly, as I realised that since I could not change the world to fit my mood, it was in my best interest to change my mood to fit the world, the light suddenly came on. I realised that no amount of kicking and screaming was going to make the Spaniards pay my stipend any time soon, so I decided not to make the non-payment of the said stipend an issue for a court case. With more positive thoughts, I began to enjoy my studies and make friends with Spanish and foreign students alike. I even received a proposal from one student to move into an apartment much closer to the university, which he was sharing with four other students. We called it “las Naciones Unidas”, the “United Nations”, because we came from different countries of the world. One fellow was from the United States, representing North America, another from Peru, representing South America, one from Japan, representing Asia, I was from Cameroon, representing the great continent of Africa, and there was a Spanish guy, home bred and proud of his historic city, Madrid. To Pablo, Madrid was the center of the universe. Was it not from Madrid, the then center of ‘civilised’ humanity, that the great conquistadores had fanned out into the world, planting the Spanish royal flag in remote corners of the world, especially in the Americas! “Viva, Espana!” he would shout beaming a broad, a glass of pure Spanish wine in hand. What a great chap Pablo was!
Life became fun as we would buy bottles of excellent Spanish wine and chill out in the living room in the evening, listening to Spanish flamenco dance music oozing out of the turn-table at the corner. Before Professor Lantum’s letter, I was a grouchy and sullen man and none of the students with me in class dared approach me, which increased my feeling of despair and loneliness. After his letter, I took control of my life, changed my focus to more productive pursuits and Madrid became a marvelous city for me. I did not suddenly become richer, but I ceased to think of myself as a poor helpless African student, waiting cap in hand for a hand-out, and venting my bile to whoever was near enough and willing to listen to me. That was thanks to Professor Lantum’s robust reminder to me that I needed to lift myself out of that complaining phase and go on with my life. In the face of adversity, chickening out was not the solution. Staying focus on what really mattered, was the way to go.
Upon my return to the country in late 1984, months after the botched putsch against the still limping Biya administration, I went straight to Professor Lantum’s office, that same office that held many memories for me, being the springboard from where my initiation into the world of translation took off nearly a decade earlier. Same office, same desk but a different secretary. The one whose bosom had caught my lecherous eye some ten years earlier had left. In her place, sat another one, who was not much to write home about in terms of looks, but who turned out to be a very nice person to work with, reserved, respectful and motherly.
As soon as Professor Lantum saw me, he asked me to take a seat. He was still working with the World Health Organization (WHO) on projects in Mbandjock and the Bamenda region. This time around, I was already a seasoned, certified translator/interpreter, no longer the frightened greenhorn, fresh-out-of-school-baby translator that I was when, years earlier, I pored over volumes of documents on traditional medicine. Even during the nine months I worked for the Economic and Social Council in 1985, a period I consider a total waste of my precious time, I still collaborated with Professor Lantum. I felt proud to have assisted him to organise a seminar on sterility in Cameroon that made headlines for weeks in the local media.
A well written and well-read man
Professor Lantum writes extensively on just about every topic imaginable: medical literature, poetry, biography, sociology, etc. He is also a well published man and well read one too. I have had occasion to review some of his writing for the media, and I have not always been tender towards him. I believe my role as a reviewer is not to flatter the writer but rather to give an honest appraisal of the writer’s work, mainly from the point of view of form and substance. As regards substance, I could not pretend to be versed in medical knowledge but it was the form that interested me; that is, the language carrying whatever message he wanted to transmit, and how the work was structured.
He was also a biographer who gave due respect to some of his contemporaries who have gone ahead of him: Father Aloysius Wankuy, the first West Cameroonian Catholic priest and Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon, whom he calls his friend and brother. His knowledge of Nso culture is unrivalled and he has several publications in that area, dating from the early days of his student life in Nigeria. He has also produced scholarly publications in medicine, particularly in the medicine of our ancestors. Thanks to him traditional medicine received official recognition as an integral part of the healing industry in Cameroon.
He also promoted the peaceful co-habitation of the Nso, Bamum and Bafia people, commonly called the “Mandjara”, the Bafia word for “brother” or “sister”. History has it that these brotherly people share a common ancestor. Historical forces beyond their control dispersed them in the Center, West and Northwest Regions of our country. He has been quite instrumental in bringing these brotherly peoples together in cultural activities that have greatly enhanced dialogue and understanding among them.
Thank you, Professor Daniel Noni Lantum.
Professor Lantum, aka Shuufaay wo Bastos, whenever I peer down this road of life which the good Lord has permitted me to walk all these years, I see you standing at strategic locations, serving as a sentinel pointing the way out of difficult situations, especially during those early years of my adult life, and I want you to know that I am grateful. You firmly placed me on the road I have walked all these years, the road of translation and conference interpretation. On this sometimes bumpy road, I have raised a family and seen my three children grow and prosper. You have my infinite gratitude. I did not want to wait for you to answer the Master’s inevitable call to recall to other’s ears all that you have been to me and done for me. I want you to hear them from my own lips when both of us are still alive and active.
I am penning these words of gratitude to you, Professor Lantum, on a cold night in the quiet precincts of Paul VI’s Memorial Centre in Mendankwe Bamenda just a few days after my sixty first birthday. Sixty one years on the surface of the planet earth is not sixty one days, to put it mildly. At sixty one years of age, retired from active duty but still endowed with good health, I can only thank God Almighty for making it happen. The list of boyhood friends of mine, who have not been so lucky to count as many years as I have, is lengthening by the day. That is why I deemed it necessary to take a few days off to be alone and to look down the long, winding and sometimes slippery road I have walked all these years and thank you for your part in it. On this moonless night, drenched in rain, wrapped in a cold wind that is noisily assaulting my window pane, I thought I should thank you, dear Professor Daniel Noni Lantum, for the role you played, unknowingly perhaps, to make me what I was yesterday, and what I am today. May God bless you, Sir.
2 comments On A salute to the memory of Professor Daniel Noni Lantum (1934-2021).
Always moved reading anything from you Tav.
Martin, this is an appropriate addition to the revised “Beads of Memory “ it explains how the memories came to be. Very well written as usual. I am very happy to read this because I was unaware of your life after we left Yaoundé University. Now, I know.