Among the numerous people Christian Cardinal Tumi highlighted for thanks for their messages of condolence to him and his family, when his mother passed on, was the presidential family, Mr. Paul Biya and his family. Sensing, and rightly so, that many eyebrows were being raised in the audience over what sounded like his effusive thanks to the Head of State, Cardinal Tumi humorously mentioned that even though many have always thought that he and President Biya were long-time enemies, they were actually good friends. President Biya, he told the bemused audience, was the first person to send him and his family a condolence message once it became clear that his mother had stood up, answered present to the Master’s inevitable call, and gone forward to receive her eternal reward.
Cardinal Tumi said his mother had passed on while he was in Accra, Ghana, where the Cardinals and Archbishops of Africa had gathered to reflect on threats to the African family in preparation for the upcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has convened for October this year. Upon his return from Accra, he found that the first message of condolence had come from the Head of State and his family. For that, he said he was very grateful.
He then informed his stunned audience that he was all the more grateful to President Biya for authorizing the re-opening of the Catholic University of Bamenda’s School of Medicine based in Kumbo. The Cathedral exploded in cheers as it was the first time many were hearing that the ban on that school had been lifted; or those who might have heard it thought it was a mere rumour. Yes, the fledgling School of Medicine, which the Ministry of Higher Education, under Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo, had declared illegal, and ordered closed down over a year ago, will now officially re-open its doors to our children, thanks to the timely intervention of the Head of State. For that brave act, Cardinal Tumi openly expressed his gratitude to President Paul Biya.
How did it happen? Cardinal Tumi explained that he had earlier met face-to-face with the Honorable Minister of Higher Education, Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo, to express the Catholic Church’s dismay over his ministry’s decision to close down the said school. To bolster his argument, Cardinal Tumi mentioned many other schools of medicine in the country that were functioning with fewer facilities than the Catholic School of Medicine in Kumbo, which has at its disposal two world-class hospitals, the Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Shisong, which runs a cardiac center, the like of which is seen nowhere else in the Central African region; and the Banso Baptist Hospital (BBH), one of the best and oldest hospitals in the country. To boot, the Catholic Church is currently building a full-fledged teaching hospital in Nkar, less than ten miles from the site of the main campus. The Cardinal also revealed that the Rector of the University of Buea, Professor Nalova Lyonga, had expressed surprise that the Kumbo school of medicine had been shut down when the University of Buea’s Faculty of Medicine had opened its doors to the public with fewer buildings and facilities than Kumbo presently has.
Even though the Cardinal presented these irrefutable facts to the Honorable Minister, the latter still turned down his plea to re-open the school, arguing that it was not him who personally shut it down but rather a whole commission from his Ministry, which had acted after due investigation. It would therefore be up to the same commission, the Minister argued, to review the case anew and see if it had sufficient reason to rescind its earlier decision, which the Honorable Minister thought was well founded.
It was when he hit the ministerial wall, which seemed impenetrable, that Cardinal Tumi turned his attention to the Honorable Minister’s boss himself, His Excellency the President of the Republic. To ensure that his letter reached the President’s desk directly without anyone tampering with it along the way, and perhaps sitting on it, Cameroonian style, the Cardinal had it delivered by a reputed courier service, with an acknowledgement of receipt requested.
That is how the Cardinal’s plea reached the right ear, that of His Excellency the President of the Republic, who was surprised that the school had still not been re-opened. There, on the spot, he gave instructions that the banning order be lifted. That is why the Honorable Minister, apparently unaware of the Cardinal’s skillful diplomacy, later made what he thought was a great revelation, that is, that his commission had, after mature reflection, decided to lift the ban on the re-opening of the school. Laughter and jeers greeted the minister’s claim while his boss’ decision received well-nourished applause from the grateful audience.
His Eminence Cardinal Tumi did not fail to mention, for the records, that it was the second time His Excellency President Paul Biya had stepped in to resolve a contentious issue between him and, coincidentally enough, the same Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo. Fifteen years ago, or so, the same honorable minister had ordered the immediate closure of Radio Veritas, the radio of the Archdiocese of Douala, Cardinal Tumi’s much cherished evangelization tool. Cardinal Tumi had earlier applied for a licence to open and run a Christian radio station in Douala. Having waited in vain for a head nod from this same minister, then the Minister of Communication, Cardinal Tumi decided to test run his equipment, pending the official approval of its licence. However, no sooner had the radio hit the airwaves of the city than Minister Ndongo wielded his political might. The radio station, which he branded as a clandestine radio station, was asked to cease broadcasting with immediate effect.
To understand this Tumi-Ndongo duel, one must take a step back in time. A few years prior to their open clash over Cardinal Tumi’s radio station, the two men had had an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation over what the Honorable Minister then claimed was Cardinal Tumi’s overtly-declared intention to run for presidential elections and unseat President Biya. A certain trashy English tabloid, which no one had heard of before, nor since then, claimed Cardinal Tumi had granted its editor-in-chief an interview in which the prelate had clearly said he was ready to run for presidential elections and that he was sure he was going to send the incumbent packing from Etoudi back to his native Mvomenka. The echoes of that Tumi-Ndongo clash were heard around the world as the press made a field day of it.
So when the same minister stood like a block of wood on the way of the Cardinal’s ambitions to run a radio station, the latter wisely shut it down – to the dismay of its listeners – and opted for a quiet but much more efficient diplomatic approach. While the press was yearning for another ‘Clash of the Titans’, Cardinal Tumi decided enough was enough and directly appealed to the honorable minister’s boss, the President of the Republic himself. On the spot, and just as he did for the School of Medicine of Kumbo, President Biya ordered that the Cardinal’s radio station be reopened and given a permanent licence to operate in the city of Douala. That was over fifteen years ago. We still have the same President of the Republic and the same Honorable Minister.
To this day, and Cardinal Tumi loves to tell whoever wants to listen, and he did so in the Kumbo Cathedral the other day, Radio Veritas, broadcasting on 96.9 on the FM dial in the city of Douala, is the only radio station in the country, outside CRTV, to have been officially granted a licence by none other than the President of the Republic himself. Both the approval of the reopening of the School of Medicine of the Catholic University of Bamenda and, fifteen years earlier, the untying of the knot around Radio Veritas, gave Cardinal Tumi enough reason to officially and publicly salute His Excellency President Paul Biya for his friendship, hitherto unbeknownst, or unimaginable, to many in this country.
From now on, whenever we hear Christian Cardinal Tumi referring to President Paul Biya as his good friend, eyebrows should no longer be raised in astonishment. The two men are truly good friends. May peace reign in our land. Amen.
Douala, July 20, 2015