On June 14, 2011, Cameroon lost an academic giant – Professor Victor Anomah Ngu. As I joined many Cameroonians in and outside our country to mourn the passing into eternity of this intellectual colossus, I felt a tinge of sadness that he did not deem it necessary to write his life story for posterity.
In fact, one of my greatest regrets has always been that nearly all our leaders (political, religious, civil or academic) are exiting this world without leaving behind their stories, in their own words. I am thinking of the likes of Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon, Pa John Ngu Foncha, Pa Solomon Tandeng Muna, Dr. EML Endeley, Archbishop Paul Verdzekov, among others. They have all walked out on us without an autobiography. To the best of my knowledge — and I stand to be corrected — it is only Pa NN Mbile, who has left us with a story of his life in his own words. On the whole, our political, religious and lay people of some weight, seem to tiptoe out of life leaving a ‘literary’ and a political vacuum behind them.
Would it not have been simply marvelous had Professor Anomah Ngu written his life story for us, especially when he was still with us, so we could ask him questions and hear his answers to some of the things he could have said in such a book? He has probably left something behind for his family to bring to the light of print. If he did, wonderful! But the contrary would not surprise me.
Such works do not necessarily have to be written by the authors themselves. What of using the services of a talented ghost writer? That is what many outstanding men and women in public or private life in other parts of the world are doing. They merely dictate their life story to someone else with the talent, who then puts it out in a book form for public consumption. That is not what our own people are doing, unfortunately. A great soul, like Professor Anomah Ngu, leaves us and we have nothing about himself in his own words. What a pity!
Long before many of us ever met Professor Ngu in person, the fame attached to his name had already made inroads into our minds and into our conversations. What a legendary figure he truly was! I recall a story that made the rounds of the Federal Bilingual Grammar School in Man O’War Bay when I was a student there in the 1960s. It was said that he could operate on a mosquito with as much ease as he did on humans! One chap, who knew the Professor personally — or so he claimed — gained the status of a folk hero, as he marvelled us with stories of what the man could do, and how easily he could do it. Listening to him, there was nothing Professor Ngu could not do. He was even said to be the Queen of England’s personal surgeon and some even rumoured that the English Monarch would not even think of travelling if Professor Victor Anomah Ngu was not there. The man therefore appeared to us, not only huge in words but also in physical appearance, even though we had not met him in person.
When I ran into him for the first time at Doctor Fonlon’s residence in the 70s, I stood in awe of him. I remember sitting at a respectful distance from him, amazed as I truly was by the presence of that unassuming man of medium height — what happened to the giant figure our friend drew for us? Could that really be Professor Anomah Ngu looking so simple and cracking jokes so easily with Doctor Fonlon? That was certainly not the man whose picture I had in my mind from our friend’s stories back in secondary school!
I remember Doctor Fonlon introducing me to him as one of his students. I do not recall exactly what Professor Ngu said to me, startled as I was to be in the presence of a man whose fame was so highly lauded by many in the secular, academic and religious world — he was a fervent, believing, practising Roman Catholic. Dr. Fonlon, for one, boasted openly that had it not been for him, and his friendship with Professor Ngu, the latter would never have abandoned what was a promising career abroad to come back home to the University Teaching Hospital where his salary was nothing compared to what he was earning prior to his arrival in Cameroon.
That was the first and the last time I ever met Professor Victor Anomah Ngu in person, but I followed his career as a Minister and as a University Don with much interest. Whenever he was in the press — written or audio-visual — I always paid keen attention to what he had to say. Through my contacts with some of the younger doctors, of whom many had been his students in Yaounde when he taught there, I was able to get a slight glimpse of his research work in the AIDS pandemic, although some of them had serious questions on the validity of his claims that his invention could cure people of AIDS.
Although it was already obvious that Professor Ngu was on his way out — I saw him at the funeral of the Emeritus Archbishop of Bamenda, Father Paul Verdzekov in February 2010, being pushed in a wheelchair — his passing to eternity definitely leaves a void in our midst. May his family find here my deepest condolences.