By Winston Lebga
Who is ignorant about this declaration of a respected political figure: When Yaounde breathes, Cameroon lives? By virtue of the dictum, the Bohemian will not be burned at the stake or put on the rack for believing that this means happenings in Yaounde dictate the pace of events in the rest of the country.
In this city, the wise people are those who have the sense to keep their mouths shut about most things. The Bohemian has learnt to be very tight-lipped about glaring facts, especially if the big people interpret them by doctoring the statistics.
The other day, at a tavern where the beer tastes better than anywhere else this side of the Mungo, a drinking buddy was in a pensive mood, chain-smoking. A pall of cigarette smoke drifted against the ceiling of the place we had nicknamed, ‘The Tabernacle ‘. He finished what appeared to be his fifteenth gag. He threw the cigarette butt into a nearby deep puddle. It winked out with a hiss.
“Pays!” He shouted drawing the Bohemian’s attention. They called each other ‘pays’ (French for country).
“Pays – I say eh, where have you ever seen toll gates being built before roads – have you ever seen such a thing in your life?”
The Bohemian contemplated his question and contemplated the man silently. A tall spare man, with dark eyes, gray hair and a frequently distracted look. Then, the Bohemian broke his silence and spoke in a quiet deadpan, while his eyes took in the room methodically, one object at a time – one person at a time.
“Pays, I have not seen much of anything nice in my hard knock life – some things are best left unsaid.” At this response, Pays lighted up again and quaffed his drink.
The hypocrisy was understood by all in the room. Every hour in this city appears to be rush hour and the characteristic gridlock is nerve wracking. Narrow roads showing cracks where there is tar, dotted with enormous potholes, the earth roads are even more dangerous – very muddy when it rains and dusty in the dry season.
Cars, heavy duty trucks, motorbikes jostle for some room. The pedestrians are also drawn into the fray, jaywalking – dashing across the streets against the red light. In some parts of the city the traffic lights are permanently red.
Buildings are constructed wherever the builders find space even in risky disaster-prone areas in utter disregard for the law, and when disaster strikes, the victims term it bad luck. The authorities are tight-lipped. There is potential danger everywhere and every new day brings ugly surprises.
So, I the Bohemian of Abakwa, resident in the city of the seven hills, born on the last day of the festive month along the shores of the Atlantic in the land of the proud people, this day declare:
This city is weeping for the lunatics with no field experience, brandishing heavily worded certificates and giving directives.
Ongola’s chattering classes are complaining about bad service, piling garbage heaps, buildings in a state of dereliction plus the public ones with stinking toilets.
The city is weeping and some residents are praying. What are they praying for?
Well, on the high inspiration from martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee, the Bohemian has decrees that the prayer warriors should not pray for an easy life – they should pray for the strength to endure this difficult one.