?? On the first of January 1960, Cameroon was independent. Oh freedom! Oh freedom! Freedom everywhere.??
The song above is a song we loved to sing in primary school. It was one of our favourite marching songs. I sang the song a few weeks ago and wondered what on earth made me like it. How bogus! Cameroon gained its independence on 1st January 1960? What Cameroon were we talking about? Or should the question be WHICH Cameroon were we talking about?
It’s often said that if you do not write your own history, others will write it for you. You might be wondering why one has to pay attention to the narrator when what’s important is the narrative. Would you let someone tell your story without you checking to see if it’s a faithful account? You might want to remember that perspectives are different and writers have agendas or motifs or aims or influences.
The history of Cameroon has always seemed to me like an embellished love story. I’ve heard different versions of the story since I was a kid and that’s how I learned it was important for me to own my narrative. Going back to the naked history and making sure all the metaphors, euphemisms, hyperboles and whitewash are stripped off was my mission when I first realised how fussily Cameroon history was documented in songs I used to sing as a child.
I’ve always hated romance fiction for a couple of reasons. There is usually a damsel in distress waiting to be saved by a metaphorical knight in shining armor. Most of the time, the damsel has very little in her name and doesn’t know how to go about the issue she is dealing with when a demi-god-like man shows up and changes her fortunes. He comes to her rescue with good fortune (as in a change in fate) and good fortune ( as in material wealth).
Many narratives in Cameroon have been given this pattern. In order to be on the safe side, let me say these narratives follow this pattern. We have internalised it to the point that we always wait, hope and pray for a knight to bring us light even when we can turn on the switch while waiting for sunlight.
I remember 20th May celebrations as a child and all the euphoria that came with it. The rigorous march past practice and its execution with human perfection on the D day by the military, students, and pupils. Even political parties, ex-servicemen/veterans and other associations or organisations didn’t invest as much time and effort, but they were orderly and their movements were synchronized. To most of us, it was an opportunity to meet friends from other schools, hang out, make new friends, get a pocket money raise, try new things and an opportunity to buy an assortment of edible stuff. It was our National Day (whatever that meant) and that was it.
Some of the songs we were taught helped us memorise dates and this came in handy during General Knowledge tests. Little did we know that these songs were our introduction to the embellished love story of Cameroon(s). One of the songs was:
??20th May of 1972 was a great day in Cameroon. All Cameroonians suddenly voted to become one united Cameroon.??
“All Cameroonians” may seem like a figure of speech or maybe one but it goes a long way to blur history. An unsuspecting mind will sing this song over and over, it will get stuck in his/her memory and when he/she internalises it, it will become ‘truth’. This song forgets what has been referred to by some as the “insignificant minority”.
There’s this other song that left us a little confused and as we grew older, we developed two hypotheses. The author of the song was either as confused as we were or he/she wanted to point to an embellished story or a blurry story. He/she probably didn’t see why Youth Day and the plebiscite day should fight for the spotlight though he/she refers to plebiscite day as Unification Day:
??11th Feb is a great day. It’s a great day in Cameroon. In Cameroon, it’s a great day. For the youth of Cameroon. 11th Feb, Unification Day.??
The plebiscite was a precursor to Unification Day which came to fruition in 1961 with the Independence of British Southern Cameroon.
Kibonen in her 20th May post this year referred to the day as Independence day and some of her followers were surprised but I wasn’t. This is what happens when we are fed embellished love stories even in textbooks and when our realities are cloned to look like a duplicate of the duplicate. Other countries celebrate their independence and victories and Cameroon’s silence when it comes to her independence is freakishly weird.
It is because of this type of silence that people like Kibonen find it hard to follow or remember the love story of our Country. Many of us would think we easily see through the fog and have not been conditioned to internalise little details with regards to this love story. Let’s try this quick test:
*Question 1: When did Cameroon gain its Independence?
How long did it take you to get the answer? I’m not even going to worry about your answer at the moment till you answer the next questions.
*Question 2: When was French Cameroon independent?
*Question 3: In what year did British Southern Cameroon gain its Independence?
*Bonus question: Why is reunification celebrated and why isn’t unification celebrated?
By the time you get the answers, you would have seen the fog and had a glimpse of what’s standing behind. I don’t know what you are going to see. I saw an embellished romance.
It’s now easy to understand why writers have always used the image/allegory of a dysfunctional marriage or family to talk about the reunification of Cameroon and its journey thereforth.