SECOND OPEN LETTER TO THE MOST REVEREND GEORGE NKUO, BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF KUMBO AND HIS COLLEGE OF CONSULTORS REGARDING THE EARNEST CONSIDERATION OF THE OFFICIAL LAUNCHING OF THE BEATIFICATION PROCESS OF THE LATE PROFESSOR DOCTOR BERNARD NSOKIKA FONLON OF BEATAE MEMORIAE (BLESSED MEMORY/ HONORIFIC EPITHET), UNOFFICIALLY CONSIDERED AS THE PATRON SAINT OF MINISTERS, EX-SEMINARIANS, EDUCATIONISTS, PROFESSORS, LAITY, WRITTEN BY NCHUMBONGA GEORGE LEKELEFAC, UNIVERSITY OF MÜNSTER, GERMANY, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2020
Most Reverend Bishop George Nkuo, Bishop of Kumbo Diocese, Republic of Cameroon
Most Respectable and Highly distinguished Members of his College of Consultors
I most respectfully have the honour to submit for your consideration, this second proposal requesting the official launching of the beatification of the late Professor Doctor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon of blessed memory.
Professor Doctor Fonlon had the following sterling attributes: First English speaking Cameroonian holder of a doctorate degree in 1961; First Cameroonian Professor to direct a doctorate thesis in Cameroon; First Cameroonian to receive national honors in Nigeria, Germany and Tunisia; First Minister to be dismissed from government by President Ahidjo; One of the first Cameroonians to be recruited as an associate professor, Maitre de conference, a rank merited because of his doctorate degree; First bilingual (French and English) Anglophone Cameroonian in 1961 who translated the Cameroonian National Anthem from French to English maintaining its marvelous melody; First interpreter of President Ahmadou Ahidjo and H.E John Ngu Foncha; An icon of Catholic Social Teaching; A genuine Christian and intellectual in politics, who lived a distinguished life, blessed with the following four heroic virtues and three theological virtues: Heroic Virtues: 1). Prudence (Greek “Phronesis”, Latin “prudential)”; 2). Temperance (Greek “sophrosene”, Latin “temperantia”); 3). Fortitude (Greek “andreia”, Latin “fortitudo”); and 4). Justice (Greek “dykalosene”, Latin “iustitia”) and Theological virtues: a) Faith (fides), b) Hope (spes), c) Charity (caritas). The word cardinal derives from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge.” As a result, these virtues are called “cardinal” because all other virtues are categorized under them and hinge upon them]
Structure of the Second Open Letter
This Second Open Letter is divided as follows: 1). Greetings and Opening Remarks; 2). Aim of My Second Open Letter; 3). No tribalistic impediment to the cause for Beatification; 4). Reactions to my First Open Letter; 5). Initiative to Conduct a Scientific Research on Prof. Dr. Fonlon; 6). Trip to Africa [Cameroon and Nigeria] and the Holy See (Vatican) to Research on the Life of Prof. Dr. Fonlon; 7). Recent Message of His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze on Sainthood; 8). Brief Parcour of Prof. Dr. Fonlon; 9). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Authentic and Devoted Christian and a Minister in Government of Cameroon; 10). My International Experience on Prof. Dr. Fonlon in Nigeria and the Vatican; 11). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Academic Qualifications; 12). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: His Message to Cameroonians and all Citizens of the World; 13). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Educationist to the Youth; 14). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Simple and Humble Man; 15). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Genuine Christian with Leadership Qualities; 16). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: A Man detached from whatever is not God; 17). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Man of Prayer; 18). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: A Man of Faith and Hope in the Lord; 19). Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Legacy of an Active Layperson in the Church and Contribution to Seminary Formation; 20). Conclusion.
1. Greetings and Opening Remarks
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). Many greetings from the eternal city of Rome, specifically from Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy See [Vatican City] where I arrived, to conduct a scientific research interview with His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, on the life of Prof. Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon of blessed memory, Diploma in Education of the University of Oxford, Theologian from Bigard Memorial Seminary, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa), Founder of Abbia, Prime mover of the Association for Creative Teaching, Nationalist, Stateman, Fullbright Professor, Classicist and Scholar, Professor (magna cum laude) of the University of Yaounde, Humanist and Author, Teacher in his very being, Pride of all Africa, Humble Citizen of the World, Defender of Philosophers, Defender of the true University, Defender of the Intellect, Defender of the Faith by his own conviction and by the will of God, Dr. Fonlon was gentle in manner but firm in deed, Lambent Luminary of Cameroon’s Intellectual Life, Magnanimous Statesman, Eminent Avatar, Consecrated Votary, Rare Specimen, An Extraordinary Personality, A Sanctuary of Justice, Irrefutably a Man of the People, a Scholar, a Linguist, a Prolific Writer, A Promoter of Bilingualism, A Celibate, a near Legendary Figure, Africanist, A Terra Incognita, A Genius.
As you must have already known, I am a Layperson, a Canon Lawyer, a Catholic Christian, born in Cameroon, from the Bangwa-Nweh ethnic group, and presently a Doctorate Candidate at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität-
Katholisch, Theologische Fakultät, Ökumenisches Institut, Münster, in Germany, where I am, with God’s Divine Providence and Grace [for without Him, we can do nothing, Cfr. John 15:5)], doing a doctorate research programme on the topic: “Anerkennung der Taufe: Die Initiative von Walter Kasper und der Empfang in der Ökumenischen Gemeinschaft (Recognition of Baptism: The Initiative of Walter Kasper and the Reception in the Ecumenical Community)”.
2. Aim of My Second Open Letter
My Lord, Bishop George Nkuo, I write this Second Open Letter to you [exactly three months after], after writing my First Open Letter on Friday, August 7, 2020, in which I respectfully, and devotedly proposed to you and your College of Consultors, the earnest consideration of the official launching event of the beatification cause for the late Dr. Prof. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon.
The aim of this Letter is to humbly reiterate my earnest request on the aforementioned subject and to update you on the reactions, of my First Open Letter, and later, my scientific research trip to Cameroon and Nigeria, on the life of Prof. Dr. Fonlon. The Very Reverend Father Oliver Ndi, your Vicar General, wrote to me on August 27 and stated inter alia: “Bishop cannot say anything yet. But certainly he will in the later days.” It is exactly three months ever since I submitted my Open Letter to you. I have not received your reaction to the Letter, nor have I received a formal letter from you and the College of Consultors, acknowledging receipt of my First Open Letter. I am consoled by the fact that my Lord Bishop George Nkuo and the College of Consultors are extremely busy with other pastoral commitments, but I am certain with faith, hope and charity in the Lord Jesus Christ, that my Lord Bishop George Nkuo and the College of Consultors of the Diocese of Kumbo, will find time, out of their extremely busy schedule to address this cause of beatification of Prof. Dr. Fonlon, which I consider it is a cause of Primordial and of utmost capital importance, not only for the local Church in the Diocese of Kumbo, and the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, but also for the entire Catholic Church in Cameroon and the Universal Church worldwide.
3. No tribalistic impediment to the cause for Beatification
My Lord Bishop George Nkuo, after having submitted my First Open Letter, some people approached me to inquire why I was interested in having another Nso man’s name to be introduced in the process of beatification, barely one year, after the late Archbishop Paul Verdzekov’s cause of beatification was introduced by your predecessor in Bamenda. As far as I am concerned, even though I am not from the same tribe like Prof. Dr. Fonlon [I hail from the Bangwa-Nweh tribe], I do not evaluate people from where they come from, but by merit. I informed these people who have a problem with the Nso people, that Nso was the first place where German missionaries built schools, when they arrived in the grassland in 1912. It was not surprising, that such a place would produce the very first Catholic Priest in the person of Fr. Aloysius Wankuy who was ordained on July 24, 1949 by Bishop Peter Rogan. Interestingly, during my interview with His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi who was a boy of 19 in 1949 and was present at the ordination, at his residence in Douala on Monday, October 26, 2020, he noted what Bishop Peter Rogan said inter alia: “Today, the sun shines over Shisong…Today, the prophesy of the Holy Scriptures is fulfilled in your presence, that today the Lord has sent a reaper into his vineyard which ripes with harvest..”. Prof. Daniel Noni Lantum also confirms this statement in his book titled: “Father Aloysius Balon Wankuy 1917-1986, The Pathfinder”, page 41.
In addition, Nso produced the very first English Speaking Cameroonian to earn a Doctorate Degree in 1961 in the person of Dr. Fonlon. Despite the fact that he was English speaking, Dr. Fonlon wrote his Masters and Doctorate thesis in French. It is of no doubt that Dr. Fonlon set the pace for other Nso people and Cameroons as a whole to strive and quest for intellectual, moral and spiritual excellence having been influenced by missionaries. Moreover, Nso has also produced Cameroon’s very first Cardinal in the person of His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday. In addition, Nso produced the very first English Speaking Anglophone Archbishop in the person of Archbishop Paul Verdzekov. Should the Nso people be blamed for this? Objectively, the answer is no. it is absolutely not their fault.
Those who are against the introduction of Dr. Fonlon’s cause for Beatification on the basis that he is from Nso should re-think and reconsider that position, if we really want our country Cameroon to move forward to greater heights. We cannot afford to downplay the merits of others based on their ethnic group. This is not Christian and should be rooted out of the Cameroon system. Some Cameroonians are suffering from the deadly virus of tribalism, which blinds them from appreciating the good in others from other tribes. In 1984, Bishop Christian Tumi from Nso was made archbishop, and in 1985, he was elected president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, a post he held until 1991. During his tenure, the Bishops of Cameroon wrote numerous letters against tribalism in Cameroon. Recently, in December 10, 2019, the Cameroon Episcopal Conference issued a Pastoral Letter to the country’s Christians, in which they warned that tribalism was “a recipe for economic stagnation; a threat to social cohesion, and a major driver of unwarranted suspicion and fear, especially among the most vulnerable in society”. I add, that tribalism can blind others from appreciating the contribution of others in society as is the case with those who do not see the need why Dr. Fonlon’s cause for Beatification should be introduced with the reason that the very first cause of beatification in the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda regards a Nso man: Archbishop Paul Verdzekov.
Prof. Lantum observed that as Minister of Mines, Posts and Telecommunications, (1966-1970) Dr. Fonlon went out for the best talents in his Ministry, promoted them on merit, ignoring the complaints about the tribal conglomeration in the Ministries – a tendency which characterized the structure of the civil service of the time. For Prof. Fonlon, he wanted efficient services, and in conformity to this principle, he was prepared to post the most qualified and competent persons to the highest posts, irrespective of whether or not they were brothers from the same ethnic group. Prof. Lantum noted that there was a situation in his Ministry where: Mr. Tchouta Moussa – the Director of Postal Services, Mr. Jean Djipguep – Director of Telecommunications and Kamga Njikeu – the Director of Intelsat were all of West province origin. Prof. Fonlon taught us that we should consider people by merit and not by ethnic groups.
Dr. Fonlon was fair to all, and treated people on merit. The example of His Royal Highness Chief Alemanji Ajua from the Bangwa-Nweh tribe deserves to be mention. He notes in his tribute to Prof. Dr. Fonlon: “By selecting my name from the list of meritorious students who had qualified to study Science or Engineering, but had no source of finances, I was able to withdraw from the faculty of civil Engineering University of Nigeria Nsukka, flew back home (I was there on my own financing), but had no knowledge about how, or where my next terms fees would come from. Upon arrival in Yaounde, Dr. Fonlon hosted me in a hotel and paid everything. Before I left Yaounde on the second Sunday of October 1964, the Professor Philosopher summed up his advice to me in one sentence. ‘I am sending you abroad as a student Ambassador of our country, to study and come back here as an agent of Development, do not allow yourself to be distracted by pretty girls.’ This is a great legacy, especially in a country where tribalism has taken over from merit.
4. Reactions to my First Open Letter
My Lord Bishop George Nkuo and the College of Consultors, after having submitted my Open Letter to you, I received several reactions. The following reactions were collected: 1). Mimi Mefo Info published the Open Letter on August 11, 2020 in her website [mimimefoinfos.com], which received countless positive comments on the icon: Dr. Prof. Fonlon; 2). The Sun Newspaper published the first part of the Open Letter on Monday, August 24, 2020, no. 0614, page 11; 3). The Sun Newspaper published the second part of the Open Letter on Monday, August 31, 2020, no. 0615, page 11; 4). The Cameroon Ambassador to the United States of America reacted on August 25, 2020: “Mr. Nchumbonga George…Your open letter and all annexed testimonies calling for the beatification of late Prof. Bernard Nsokika FONLON will be forwarded to the addressees in Cameroon. I hope for a favorable outcome for your proposal. Kind regards, The Ambassador, Henri ETOUNDI ESSOMBA”; 5). Francis Cardinal Arinze, Vatican City, August 26, 2020 noted: “I hold Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon in very high regard…As a seminarian; I saw Bernard as a learned seminarian….Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon was a man of high ideals. He prayed. He said the Latin Breviary daily. He loved the Church…He lived a celibate life…In my view, the cause of Beatification of Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon could be introduced”; 6). Christian Cardinal Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala, Cameroon noted on Sunday, October 26 in an interview inter alia: “Dr. Fonlon is a Saint because a saint is one who does good and avoid evil”; 7). Monsignor Alphonsus Iroawuchi Aghaizu, St. Paul’s Owerri, noted on August 20, 2020 in his letter supporting the cause of beatification of his friend: “I look forward to Dr. Bernard Fonlon’s Beatification. To God be the glory!” 8). Cardinal Okogie wrote a tribute on the 34th Anniversary of the passing into glory of Prof. Dr. Fonlon on September 21, 2020 inter alia: “Professor Bernard endeared himself to me…, an icon of Catholic Social Teaching, a true Christian in politics, loyal to constituted authority and a true servant of humanity to the core. His efforts I believe were all for the spread of the faith which he used for the good of the Church and service of humanity”; 9). Bishop Dr. Gregory Ochiagha, emeritus Bishop of the diocese of Orlu added a tribute on September 26, 2020 inter alia: “As far as records go, Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon was one of the most outstanding Catholics in the history of Cameroon. As an alumnus of the prestigious Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu-Nigeria, where I also studied, he distinguished himself by all standards. He was an academic of no mean feat. Little wonder, he became the first Cameroonian to earn a doctorate degree in 1961. In the social life of the Cameroonians, he was not found wanting. He was highly patriotic. Having written and translated the Cameroonian national anthem in French and English, he left a great patrimony for the country”; 10). Fr. Akoh Valery, a priest incardinated in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, whom you had the honor to participate at his priestly ordination in Atlanta noted from Atlanta inter alia: “When I read your motivation, I thought the man himself had penned down those words: ‘As years go by, after almost 34 years of the death of Professor Doctor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon, a totally tenacious feeling of something undone has continued to gnaw my entrails, resulting to a still longer column of absolute serenity, peace and unrelentingly trailing its way like ants through the contours of my mind, which inculcated in me the spunk to write this Open Letter.’ Like St. Thomas Moore, he is truly a man of all seasons, an unparalleled intellectual of unquestionable integrity. One of his students, Dr Dogmanji, my English Professor in the Seminary, never grew weary of singing his praises especially his simplicity even as a government official. George, thanks for all your efforts. May God bring to perfection the good work He’s started”; 12). Monsignor Theophilus Okere wrote inter alia on Saturday, October 10, 2020, barely ten days to his death: “…But before I myself came to the Senior Seminary in 1956 which had then migrated to Enugu, Bernard Fonlon’s reputation had grown sky high. He was known as the sharpest mind around as well as the humblest. At Bigard, I interacted personally with other Cameroonians like Clement Ndze, Pius Awa, Charles Acha, and especially Paul Verdzekov who all had the highest opinion of this legendary talent and genius. But it was his classmate and friend Rt. Rev. Msgr. Alphonsus Aghaizu whose priestly ordination was the first I attended and who today at 95 is Nigerian’s oldest priest who let me know further the depth of the solid spirituality in the man. His rare, quiet combination of brains, and virtue, of delicate conscience, and integrity in public life, though an asset lost to the Catholic Priesthood, eventually came handy to make him a model of lay Christianity, in order words, a Saint for our time and especially for our continent…We had in Bigard and Okpala real geniuses like Martin Maduka, Bernard Fonlon, Francis Arinze, Bede Onuoha and Paul Verdzekov……Fonlon however remained a name to invoke over the generations, and unforgettable genius, perhaps because everyone regrets his not making it into the priesthood, to honor our ranks. But I think, especially of the real unanimous and lasting appreciation of his worth…And it is as much, if not more, on the spiritual side that Fonlon shined and remains a model, even for ordained Priests and Bishops. His spirituality in practise, his superiority to adversity, his sticking doggedly to his principles, his resignation to what he clearly understood as God’s will – This were the hallmarks of “Fonlonism” which then endeared him to his countrymen when he was eventually involved in the public service of his native Cameroon.” My Lord Bishop George Nkuo, these were some of the countless reactions I received from my First Open Letter and on the 34th anniversary of the passing into glory of Prof. Dr. Fonlon.
5. Initiative to Conduct a Scientific Research on Prof. Dr. Fonlon
One of the reasons why Africa does not have the names of its sons in the list of Saints proclaimed by the Roman Pontiff is because Africans have not been used to documenting the life of its icons. The act of documentation is primordial in the process of the beatification of Saints in the Roman Catholic Church. That is why, after the numerous reactions from every angle worldwide, I took the initiative, inspired by Divine Providence to document in detail, the life of Prof. Dr. Fonlon in Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Holy See.
In the meantime, Fr. Herbert Niba and I wrote an article entitled: “The Impact of Pope John Paul II’s Visit to Japan, 23-26 February 1981”, which was published by the Japan Mission Journal, Autumn 2020, volume 74, no. 3, page 207-216. Suffice to add that I contacted Fr. Herbert Niba to join me in writing this article because he is the author of the book: “The Way of the Cross with St. John Paul II” published by Our Sunday Visitor, USA, 2019. His exceptional interest in the life of Pope John Paul II is quite admirable by me. This article was my intellectual contribution to the 100th anniversary of the birth of St John Paul II.
In addition to my intellectual contribution, I decided to make a spiritual contribution by following the invitation of Pope Francis to carry out a spiritual commemoration of the gift that Pope John Paul was to the Church and the world. I made a pilgrimage to Poland between September 24 to September 29, 2020, where I prayed and reflected in Warsaw, the birth place of Pope John Paul II, and Krakow, where he was ordained a priest, consecrated a bishop, and where he later became archbishop and Cardinal. After that pilgrimage, I was inspired to travel to Cameroon and Nigeria, Africa to carry out a scientific research Interview on Dr. Fonlon, despite the Corona Virus Pandemic. God made this possible by providing me with the cheapest flight I have ever purchased to Cameroon from Europe, a flight which I bought just two days to my trip.
6. Trip to Africa [Cameroon and Nigeria] and the Holy See (Vatican) to Research on the Life of Prof. Dr. Fonlon
My Lord, I betook myself to Africa: Cameroon and Nigeria from October 1 to November 1, 2020 to carry out a scientific research interview on Prof. Dr. Fonlon. My program in Cameroon was as follows: Wednesday, 30 September: Flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels, Belgium; Thursday, October 1, 2020: Flight from Brussels, Belgium to Douala, Cameroon; Friday, October 2: Research Interview with Dr. Daniel Noni Lantum; Wednesday, October 7: Left Yaounde for Idenau, South West Province, Cameroon.
Program in Nigeria: Thursday, 8 October: I left for Nigeria from idenau by flying boat; Friday, 9 October: I arrived Owerri where I began my Research Interview with Msgr. Alphonsus, Classmate of Prof. Dr. Fonlon in the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu from 1948-1953; Saturday, 10 October: Interview with Msgr. Theophilus Okere from 11 a.m to 4.30 p.m [Monsignor Theophilius Okere died 10 days after this interview]; Sunday, 11 October: Left Owerri for Onitsha for research at C.K.C., Onitsha, where Dr. Fonlon did his Secondary School, and met with the Principal of that institution; Monday, 12 October : Spent the whole day in Onitsha at C.K.C, and also dropped my research questions for Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke, Archbishop of Onitsha (He was out of Nigeria). I left for Enugu: Bigard Memorial Seminary in the evening; Tuesday, 13 October : Research at Bigard Memorial Seminary, where Dr. Fonlon studied Philosophy and Theology; Wednesday, 14 October: Interview with Bishop Anthony Gbuji, Emeritus Bishop of Enugu; Wednesday, 14 October: Interview with the Rector of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Okey Ikpenwa; Thursday, 15 October: Left Bigard for Abuja Archdiocese; Sunday, 18 October: Interview with His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, on Dr. Fonlon; Monday, 19 October : Left Abuja for Port Harcourt; Wednesday, 21 October : Left Port Harcourt for Uyo Diocese; Thursday, 22 October: Interview with Bishop Ebebe Ajah, Bishop of Uyo Diocese on Dr. Fonlon in Uyo; Thurday, 22 October: Interview with Msgr. Michael Ekpenyong in Uyo; Thurday, 22 October: Interview with the Very Reverend Fr. Dr. Donatus Udoette, Vicar General of the Diocese of Uyo, the Rector who first introduced me to Dr. Fonlon in 2006; Friday, 23 October: I left Uyo for Cameroon, and arrived in Idenau – Limbe, Cameroon in the evening by flying boat.
Program in Cameroon: Saturday, 24 October: Interview with Lawyer Galus in Limbe on Dr. Fonlon; Sunday, 25 October: Interview in Douala with Mr. Martin Jumbam – student of Dr. Fonlon; Monday, 26 October: Interview with with His Eminence Cardinal Christian Tumi, pupil of Dr. Fonlon, from 9 a.m to 11.30 a.m; Monday, 26 October: Interview at the DBSTV in Douala at 12 p.m on Dr. Fonlon; Tuesday, 27 October: Research at the University of Yaounde I on Dr. Fonlon; Wednesday, 28 October: Research at the Catholic University of Central Africa, Nkolbisson Yaounde; Wednesday, 28 October: Research interview with Fr. Prof. Dr. Antoine Essoumba Fouda on Dr. Fonlon; Wednesday, 28 October: Research interview with Fr. Prof. Dr. Jean Paul Messina (Doctor in Church History) on Prof. Dr. Fonlon, at the Catholic University of Central Africa; Friday, 30 October: Interview with His Royal Highness Alemanji Ajua in Yaounde; Saturday, 31 October: Interview with Senior lecturer Alemkeng Richard in Mbalmayo; Sunday, 1 November: Last Interview with Dr. Daniel Noni Lantum – returned flight to Germany; Monday, 2 November: arrived Frankfurt, Germany. My trip to Cameroon and Nigeria was of profound success, in which I had the opportunity to document a lot on Prof. Dr. Fonlon.
Trip to the Holy See [The Vatican], Friday, November 6 to Monday, November 9, 2020
On Friday, November 6, 2020, I betook myself to the Holy See, the Vatican, where I had a research Interview with His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze in his residence in the Vatican. It was a very successful trip.
In all, my research trip to Cameroon, Nigeria and the Vatican were totally efficacious. Despite the corona virus pandemic and restrictions to make international travels, I did not stop pursuing this just cause. During my trip to Cameroon, despite the unsafe atmosphere, especially in the English speaking part of Cameroon, God protected me, for Prof. Dr. Fonlon was with me to guide and lead me.
I took his Picture when he was raised to the status of a Sub-Chief (Shufai-wo-Ntoo-Ndzev), wherever I went [This picture was taken when he received the title of Sub-Chief as a merit for having provided water to Kumbo]. The risky trip to Nigeria from Idenau, Cameroon by flying boat was a sign of God’s intervention in the cause; the success in easily booking an appointment to meet those who knew Prof. Dr. Fonlon in Nigeria, the long trips from one end to another by car despite the terrible roads, was a sign that God was intervening. Even the corona virus pandemic could not deter me from accomplishing this scientific research which is of utmost and capital importance for the initiation of the beatification process of a Christian in the Catholic Church. These documented interviews can all be found and watched in my “u tube channel with the name: Nchumbonga George Lekelefac”. I recorded all of them, and I know that these interviews will tremendously help in speeding the process of beatification of Prof. Dr. Fonlon, if it is launched. I am very willing to render my voluntary services and time, and my unconditional collaboration with you in the cause of beatification of Prof. Dr. Fonlon.
7. Recent Message of His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze on Sainthood
His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze noted in a recent interview that it is time for Bishops in Africa to consider forwarding the names of their Christians who are considered Saints for the process of beatification. He underscored that unless the Bishops begin doing this exercise, Africa will continue to have very few Saints proclaimed by the Holy Father. He also encouraged Africans to document the lives of Christians who have distinguished themselves as Saints while they were alive so that this will facilitate the process of beatification carried out by the Congregation of the Causes of Saints which is found in the Vatican: Unless we present the causes of our genuine Christians, we will have ourselves to blame.
8. Brief Parcour of Prof. Dr. Fonlon
Dr. Prof. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon is the first Anglophone English speaking Cameroonian to earn a Doctorate Degree in 1961 at the University of Ireland. During my research interview with Fr. Prof. Dr. Jean Paul Messina (Doctor in Church History and Professor at the Catholic University of Central Africa), on Wednesday, 28 October, 2020, I discovered that the first French Speaking Cameroonian to earn a doctorate degree was Fr. Jean Zoa, in 1953 at the Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana in Biblical Studies. He later became Archbishop of Yaounde.
Prof. Dr. Fonlon was born in Kumbo, on November 19, 1924 to Joseph Fonlon and Agatha Naa. He began his primary school at the Native Authority School in Kumbo in 1931, and continued that course at the Sacred Heart School, Shisong (1933-1936), and then proceeded to St. Anthony School, Njinikom (1937-1938) for the last two years, standards five and six. During the three years (1939-1941), Prof. Dr. Fonlon worked as a Probationary teacher in Shisong, serving for part of that time as Catechist at Kikai Kelaki.
In December 1941, Prof. Dr. Fonlon left Cameroon to do his Secondary School Education at Christ the King College, Onitsha Nigeria from 1942 to 1945, where he entered the Junior Seminary. After completing the Secondary School Course at the end of 1945, he returned to Cameroon and taught for two years (1946-1947) in Saint Joseph’s College, Sasse. In January 1948, he proceeded to Bigard Memorial Senior Seminary, Enugu, Nigeria which was then at Okpuala, in Owerri, Nigeria. He was among the pioneer seminarians at Bigard Memorial Senior Seminary in 1948, together with Monsignor Alphonsus Aghaizu, who happens to be the oldest living Monsignors in South-East Nigeria. He is presently 95 years old and is retired at St. Paul’s parish, Owerri. I had the grace to interview him recently. In January 1951, the Seminary moved to Enugu. After completing six out of seven years of the Major Seminary course, he was advised by his Superior to leave the Seminary. Fonlon’s one and only desire was to become a Catholic priest. In 1952, Prof. Dr. Fonlon wrote: “This year (1952) has been, in a psychological way, the hardest I have ever gone through; there were periods when my soul was literally on the rack. I came within an ace of a nervous break-down, within an ace of the ruin of the purpose of my life. In the agony of the crisis to which I have just referred, I groped rounded for something to stay me, something to save me from complete collapse, I found it in Ghandi and Lincoln and in the Sermon on the Mount.” (Diary, December 8, 1952).
As a seminarian at Bigard, Prof. Dr. Fonlon wrote this in this Diary: “I have resolved that the Priesthood and Authorship shall be the joint goals of my life, and I see that kindness, which wells like a ceaseless fountain right from the heart, is desperately important to both. To the Priesthood: in the works of winning souls, it is the priest’s most powerful weapon next but to the grace of God. To the Authorship: if the writer writes to influence men to rouse the good in them, to get action, or to impress and convince or even merely to instruct, he cannot win them to his side, except every sentence he writes rings with sympathetic understanding and sheer goodness of nature. Let every passage show that you love your reader, and your book cannot fail. For the priest as for the writer, kindness is a must: I must either become kind through and through, or my life’s work is marred.” (Diary, February 20, 1953).
At the end of the year 1953, just before the sub-diaconate in 1953, Bernard experienced the greatest crisis of his life. He was informed that he would not be admitted to Major Orders, and that there was no likelihood of that decision being changed in the future. This happened in November 1953 at Enugu, in Nigeria. In the midst of the darkness of that crisis, his hopes for ordination completely shattered. The goal of the Catholic Priesthood, for which he had striven for 15 years, eluded him forever. The other goal, Authorship, was attained, and attained in grand measure.
Msgr. Alphonsus Aghaizu describes the scene on August 20, 2020 in his humble contribution to the cause for the beatification of his close friend Dr. Fonlon: “I was due for sub-diaconate ordination with Fonlon in 1953 but he was dropped the morning of the ordination, but he maintained his cool, and went with me as previously arranged for a month’s holiday to Msgr. P. Meze’s parish at Maku. The authorities arranged for him to teach at C.K.C his alma mater (1942 to 1945). At my ordination at Uli 1954, Fonlon and three of his friends came from C.K.C to Uli despite the fact that there was ordination same day at Onitsha….After my month’s tour of the stations at Uli Parish, I was due to return to Bigard to obtain my faculties; and I decided to touch C.K.C enroute. I did not go to the Fathers House upstairs but to the teacher’s quarters to stay with Fonlon. Next morning, he followed me to the fathers Chapel and served my mass! The authorities were so impressed at this gesture that they gave him scholarship to study in Cork, Ireland”. His total submission to Divine Providence was highly admirable and his exceptional gesture earned him a Scholarship to Cork, Ireland.
Before he was awarded a scholarship to Cork, in Ireland, He joined the teaching staff of C.K.C Onitsha, in October of 1954. Thus, thanks to his exceptional gesture, between 1954-1961, Fonlon got a Scholarship [from a disappointment to a blessing], and studied at the National University of Ireland, Cork under Professor E. Byrne Costigan, Prof. Dr O’Flaherty, Prof. Servais, and Prof. Forgatton at Sorbonne, Paris. Fonlon also studied under Professor Georges Balandier at Oxford University and under Professor Halls. Had he become a priest, he would not have had the opportunity to serve his country as an authentic Christian and highly distinguished intellectual in politics as he did for Cameroon in particular and the world in general. God had other plans for him and he surrendered his life totally to Divine Providence.
9. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Authentic and Devoted Christian as a Minister in Government of Cameroon
In 1961, he returned home. Prof. Daniel Lantum notes that Dr. Fonlon translated and adopted the Cameroon National Anthem from the earlier French language edition and wrote the English version which was adopted by the West Cameroon House of Assembly and later adopted at the Foumban Constitutional Talks and included, without emendations, in the Federal Constitution of October 1, 1961. There was a serious problem of communication at the Foumban Constitutional Talks (17-21 July, 1961). Dr. Fonlon, the only true bilingual Cameroonian on the spot volunteered to serve as an interpreter, cum translator. Later, he was called to Yaounde in 1961 and attached to the Presidency of the Republic for multipurpose use, although he was named Chief of Missions. He later became Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, then as Minister of Transport. Prof. Lantum observes that it was Dr. Fonlon’s Ministry that wrote the project for the Cameroon Airlines and obtained approval to break away from Cheikh Fall’s Air Afrique administration in which Cameroon was badly marginalized in spite of its high proportion of capital inputs into that multistate Airlines. He also became Minister of Posts and Telecommunication. Prof. Lantum said that as Minister of Public Health Professor Fonlon by Ministerial Order turned the Yaounde Central Hospital to the University Teaching Hospital of Yoaunde. This caused a political uproar, but Minister Dr. Fonlon held his ground and the higher authorities eventually saw reason. At the same time, he was the editor of the Cameroon Cultural Review “ABBIA”. The motto he wrote for the review was: “Not merely to recount what has been, but also to share in moulding what should be.” He was dismissed as the member of the government in October 1971, and then returned to the University of Yaounde, where he served as a professor until his 60th birthday, November 19, 1984, the day on which he retired from the service at the University. He died in Ottawa, Canada on Tuesday, August 26, 1986. Thanks to the President of the Republic of Cameroon His Excellency, President Paul Biya, Prof. Dr. Fonlon’s mortal remains was flown into Cameroon from Ottawa, Canada, and taken for burial in his parish of origin, the Cathedral Church of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, in Kumbo.
According to Prof. Dr. Daniel Lantum, Dr. Fonlon who had foreseen the need and had prepared himself accordingly, believed that those who governed – and politics is to do ultimately with good government – should have the intellectual and moral preparation for such an important and sacred task. He believed with Socrates that “kings should be philosophers” or that those who govern should have the intellectual and moral qualities which true philosophy inculcates. With these principles which Fonlon learnt from Bigard Memorial Seminary, he distinguished himself in politics as a genuine and true Christian and earned eleven Political Honours: 1). Canada: The Canadian Medal; 2). Vatican: A Papal Medal, the Medal of the Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum 1 and 2; 3). France: The Medal Trois Siecles de Cartographie Francais; 4). USA: Medal of the African-American Dialogues; OAU: Medal Issued to the Participants of the First Congres of the OAU, 1963; 5). Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Valeur, Officier de l’Ordre de la Valeur; 6). Tunisia: The Order of the Tunisian Star ; 7). Nigeria : The C.O.N. for Distinguished Public Service ; 8). India: The Jawaharlal Nehru Medal; 9). Africa: Madale de Vermeil d’Union Africaine et Malgache des Postes et Telecommunications; 10). West Germany: Grosses Verdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband; 11). Nso: Chieftaincy title, Shufai-wu-Ntu-Ndzev, conferred by the Fon of Nso, for having brought water to Kumbo, where he was born.
Taking a look at his contribution in the public life of Cameroon, Prof. Dr. Fonlon wrote this brief entry in his Diary on December 8, 1952: “Ours is a country, poor and lowly, a country which counts for nothing even in this part of Africa. I am resolved to take my stand with those who fight for its uplift. I am resolved to give my share in the fullest and loftiest measure, to foster that struggle! I am resolved that this land, poor and lowly, shall be rich and great, not so much with material wealth and worth, as with that higher wealth and nobleness which consists, essentially, in greatness of soul, on the part of her children. I am resolved to play my part, unswervingly, so that this country which counts for so little, today, in human eyes, shall see a brighter morrow, and stand high, in heaven’s eyes; that her name, now unknown, and, perhaps, despised, shall win respect.” Prof. Dr. Fonlon was a loyal servant to the State of Cameroon, an example par excellence of an authentic and genuine Minister, permit me say this “a Patron Saint for Ministers, Ex-Seminarians, Professors, Laity, Educationists”.
10. My International Experience on Prof. Dr. Fonlon in Nigeria and the Vatican
The name of Prof. Fonlon goes beyond the frontier of Cameroon. In fact, I got to know about Prof. Dr. Fonlon out of Cameroon: 1). As a senior seminarian under the diocese of Mamfe, I was sent to study in St. Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria. During one of the conferences of Rev. Fr. Dr. Donatus Udoette, the Rector at the time, he presented some books I had written and published in Enugu in 2006, and concluded by saying: “George Nchumbonga Lekelefac is following the footsteps of Prof. Dr. Fonlon of the Cameroons”. After that experience, I decided to know who Prof. Dr. Fonlon truly was; 2). The second incident was in Owerri, Nigeria, in 2006. During one of my holidays as a senior seminarian in Nigeria, I travelled to Owerri, and behold, I met one of the priests, Monsignor Alphonsus Aghaizu, the oldest Monsignor in South-Eastern Nigeria, who happened to be the classmate of Prof. Dr. Fonlon in the Major Seminary in Nigeria. When he was told that I was from Cameroon, he began talking to me about Prof. Dr. Fonlon’s personality as a distinguished seminarian; 3). The last straw that broke the camel’s back was in the Vatican. During my first audience with Francis Cardinal Arinze, as a student of theology at the Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana, Vatican City, in 2012, Cardinal Arinze asked me whether the process of beatification of his friend, Prof. Dr. Fonlon had already been introduced, and he reminded me that he had repeatedly asked the late Archbishop Paul Verdzekov and late Bishop Pius Awa in Rome: “What are you people still waiting for to introduce the process of the cause of beatification of Prof. Dr. Fonlon?” These three experiences out of Cameroon totally motivated me, and gave me the spunk to research more, in order to know Prof. Dr. Fonlon in toto. Generally, a prophet is hardly recognized by his own people. Our Lord Jesus Christ went through the same experience. He was rejected by his own people. Instead, Jesus Christ was recognized and valued by others, and not by his own people. Let us not make this same mistake. Despite the fact that Prof. Dr. Fonlon was a Cameroon, he was more recognized out of Cameroon, by other nationalities, as I have described from my own personal experience, than by his own people. It is high time for us, Cameroonians in the government and in the Catholic Church to begin to recognize Prof. Dr. Fonlon and his lasting legacy. We cannot afford to forget the positive cum lasting impact and teachings he left for us to follow. This accounts to why he was invited to give conferences in other countries. The mere mention of the name “Fonlon,” rings a bell in Ecclesiastical circles in Nigeria, and other places, where Prof. Dr. Fonlon studied. His name makes Cameroon proud, because Prof. Dr. left an unforgettable and remarkable legacy wherever he went. The State of Cameroon, and the Catholic Church in Cameroon cannot afford to forget the legacy of this great but humble man.
11. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Academic Qualifications
Prof. Dr. Fonlon earned the following Academic Qualifications: 1939: Primary School leaving Certificate; 1945: Senior Cambridge Grade One; 1946: The Nigerian Teacher’s Higher Elementary Certificate; 1957: B.A. Honors, NUI Cork (2.1, Latin and French); 1958: M.A., NUI Cork (First, Thesis: Flaubert Ecrivain, a study of Flaubert’s style, written in French); 1960: Diploma in Education, Oxford University; Ph.D., NUI Cork (Thesis: Bernard Nsokika. La poesie et le reveil de l’homme noir / par Bernard Fonlon, published by Presses Universitaires du Zaire), an investigation into Negro African protest literature in English and in French (including North America, the Caribbean, Africa and Madagascar. This was the first Ph.D thesis in this field and was written in French under the auspices of Professor W. McCausland Stewart (Bristol), Dr. Green (Oxford) and Professor E. Byrne Costigan (NUI Cork). This Ph.D was the first doctorate awarded to a Cameroonian in Ireland; 1986: D. Litt. (Honoris Causa), University of Guelph, Canada. With this extensive study, Fonlon earned three Academic Honours: 1). Nigeria – Patron of the Philosophical Fraternity of the University of Nigeria; 2). USA: Member of the National Geographic Society; 3). USSR: Awarded the Pushkin Medal in Moscow on the 170th anniversary of the birth of the celebrated Russo-African Writer. He remains an example to every Cameroon student.
12. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: His Message to Cameroonians and all Citizens of the World?
Philosopher Dr. Tanju Fidel Kottoh, PhD, who happened to have been born on the day Prof. Dr. Fonlon died: August 26, 1986, writes: “What was the message of Professor Fonlon? Professor Fonlon’s message – and he was the very incarnation of the message – was the supremacy of a genuine intellectual life. This is what informed his heroic detachment from material fixations. In step with the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, Professor Fonlon so believed in the primacy of the intellect that he saw genuine intellectual life as the surest panacea to the moral degradation that so potently lured the contemporary African youth. He described the ideal youth, whom he called the ‘genuine intellectual’ in the following words: ‘As Truth’s votary, ever faithful, ever sure, he is committed to wage lifelong warfare against falsehood. And as goodness and beauty are inherent in truth, it follows that he must be a constant seeker of the good and right and an inexorable and implacable of evil and wrong; and a devoted worshipper at the shrine of the beautiful and the sublime”. (Bernard Fonlon, The Genuine Intellectual, Buma Kor, Yaoundé 1978, 114). The Professor’s message was: virtue, knowledge and truth. He preached it vehemently in and out of season. But most importantly, he lived it. He himself was a paradigmatic expression of the heroic virtues he incessantly preached. His writings, teachings, encounters all attest to his desire to ‘walk the talk.’ Above all, he was thoroughly humble. He said “it is my ambition to live the life of a simple man. The Professor’s humility was overwhelmingly evident”. Fonlon’s cool and total dependence on Divine Providence is an attitude that ex-seminarians can emulate when they are asked to withdraw from Seminary formation. Fonlon left the Seminary without bearing any grudges. His maturity and attitude when he was dismissed is distinguished and should be emulated by ex-seminarians. Cardinal Christian Tumi, a former student of Bigard also notes in a recent interview conducted on Sunday, October 25 that Fonlon is a Saint because he did good and avoided evil.
Dr. Tanju Fidel Kottoh, PhD, Philosopher observes: “Professor Fonlon was a vir probatus – a man whose unflinching devotion to virtue, knowledge and truth was evident and proven by an iconic lifestyle. His death, an event that eclipsed the ‘African intelligentsia and the entire elite of the Negro World’ is a reality that we must face up to. In the words of Professor Bongasu Tanla Kishani ‘we need to accommodate ourselves to the fait accompli and open our minds more than ever before to their messages”; referring to two legends: Professor Fonlon and Cheikh Anta Diop of Senegal. In the same way, he adds that ‘the world is in desperate need and arguably enthusiastically yearning for the manifestation of the Fonlon’s of our time; for the citizens of the world marked by an unrepentant commitment to virtue, knowledge and truth. As you continue reading this masterpiece, remember ‘talk is cheap.’ Only a firm decision to emulate the heroic virtues you are about to discover/rediscover makes your time worth its while. Relish every moment even as it energizes you into active participation in The Bernard Fonlon Revolution.”
13. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Educationist to the Youth
Another goal which Prof. Dr. Fonlon had earlier set for his life consisted in service as an educator of youth: “My central aim in life is to become an educator and inspirer of youth. To succeed in this, I must strain for the fullest possible measure of this twofold culture of head and heart; for the young worship high scholarship and cannot resist the pull of a noble character.” (Diary, December 8, 1952). Many will testify that Prof. Dr. Fonlon strove throughout his life, to attain this goal of being an educator and inspirer of youth. He wrote “An Open Letter To African Students: or The Nature, End and Purpose of University Studies”. In addition he further wrote: “To Every African Freshman – Ten Years After: an Academic Testament”, published in June 1979 in the ABBIA Cultural Review. According to Prof. Dr. Daniel Lantum, when the Federal University of Cameroon, the forerunner of the present university of Yaounde was created by Decree in July 26, 1962, Dr. Fonlon was one of the early Cameroonians to be recruited as (Maitre de Conferences) Associate Professor in view of his academic qualifications. He thus set the stage for his future role as educationist. Dr. Fonlon believed that teaching was his first responsibility and profession and that he had a mission to contribute in the development of youth upon whom the great future of Cameroon depended. After his period of service as Cabinet Minister from 1964 to 1971, Prof. Dr. Fonlon returned to the University where he gave the best of himself as University Professor and Head of the Department of African and Negro literature from 1971 to 1984 when he retired. It is also known that during his retirement, Prof. Dr. Fonlon continued to supervise the thesis of students free of charge.
Referring to Dr. Fonlon as Magister Magnus par excellence, Kevin Mbayu notes elaborately that Prof. Dr. Fonlon taught not only the younger generation of Cameroonians, Nigerians, Americans, Canadians, and Europeans in and out of classroom from kindergarten through university to life, but he was also, and is still even in death, a teacher by example and par excellence to the older generation as well. Prof. Dr. Fonlon in precept and in practice and by pristine example was a teacher to teachers that teachers may learn; a teacher to politicians and cabinet ministers, that they may learn about honesty and accountability; a teacher to literary artists, that they may learn not only the art but the science of their craft; a teacher to the makers of universities, that they may learn about the indivisible trinity that must unite in a university, and the scientific and philosophical nature of the studies that must be undertaken in this institution; a teacher to lovers of music, that they may learn how to savour the works of classical and deathless masters; a teacher to aspiring polyglots and linguists, that they may learn to insist on the crucial importance of language in the process of education; a teacher to all workers in the area of culture and all men of culture, that they may learn that culture is at the heart of development , and at the heart of culture is religion and respect for the supreme godhead and for one’s fellow man, and hence the absurdity of discrimination against school certificates obtained in this area of the humanities; and a teacher to Priests, Bishops and ex-seminarians, that they may learn what responsibilities they bear on their shoulders before man and God, and how the philosophy of their learning should be deployed and give direction and meaning to their efforts. To the latter category, to ex-seminarians anywhere in the world, Prof. Dr. Fonlon is more than a teacher. He is a standard-bearer of Spartan proportions. He speaks to them in their own language, saying with the Master: To whom much is given, much is expected (aut in ecclesia universa, aut in mundo) in the Church or in the world. Prof. Dr. Fonlon is a teacher to every human being that all may learn that ‘Mind is Master, not mammon; that mind is spirit and therefore by force of syllogism spirit is master, not mammon, nor power, nor dominion’. Consequently, spiritual, moral, and intellectual values are superior to the purely material, which depend for their worth on the capricious and transient acclamations of the uninformed rabble. What a difference it would make to the common wealth of Cameroon (the Res Publica) if operators of the political establishment could borrow a leaf from the matchless Prof. Dr. Fonlon. This humble teacher sought no accommodation with mediocrity, nor with the enticements and appurtenances of material greatness. He sought no deal with timid or unreasoned opinion, nor with clandestine falsehood. A votary of hard work and perseverance, he shared his unflinching motto with the British Royal Air Force: Per Ardua Ad Astra (through hardwork to the stars). Would that lovers of ease, lovers of gain without pain, of the cult of facility and the line of least resistance borrow a leaf from Prof. Dr. Fonlon the teacher par excellence! He maintained, ipsi dixit, and with due honours to Dr. Cornelius Holy, his philosophical praeceptor, ‘that he who would succeed in any enterprise must shun delights and live laborious days. And this is truer still of him who would influence society by his pen.” Prof. Dr. Fonlon was a teacher with the pen that knew neither null nor remission in the task of guiding and influencing society, a responsibility which he executed with humility but with a sober, incisive, intellectual and pedagogical intrepidity yet to be surpassed in this country, his own fatherland. He knew that if his own living example was the best way of talking to his fellow countrymen in his lifetime, his written works would be his spes unica after death. Author of Cameroon’s ‘Syllabus Errorum’, Prof. Dr. Fonlon was irrefutably committed to the moral health of the City, the Country, the Academia and the Cathedral, without leniency to the Courts of the land. Several times did he intervene in justice to save innocent, poor and powerless countrymen from the corrupt avarice of a swaggering political overlords whose ergo stood to gain from the immediate imprisonment of lesser folk.
Horace observed in his Ars Poetica that ‘scholar’s dispute but the case remains before the courts.’ (Grammatici certant et adhuc sub iudice lis est). But Prof. Dr. Fonlon, a maker of letters and a scholar, disputed and took the case out of the courts in defense of the weak. An admirer of D.H. Lawrence, Prof. Dr. Fonlon nevertheless refused to add evidence and fodder to the former’s affirmation that ‘Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.’ For he consistently refused to be corrupted by money. He preferred to inscribe his simple name in the hall of fame, affirming with Robert Edward Lee that: Duty is the sublimest word in our language; Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less Inscription in the Hall of Fame. In the sober humility of this Cameroonian, it must be said that far and few, far and few indeed, are the generation in which the Bernard Fonlon live. Those he has saved from the harrowing fangs of injustice; those he has redeemed from the cold, serpentine fingers of ignorance; those students he has saved from extra modum academic abuses; those children he adopted and educated in the spirit of informed philanthropy and Christian love; those who take pride in the existence of the Cameroon Airlines; those who enjoy the lyric beauty of the English version of Cameroon’s national anthem; those who appreciate the academic and cultural status of the Abbia Cultural Review; those who savoured the selection and explications of good music as it was borne into the living rooms and bedrooms by radio; those who admire teachers who teach by moral example; those who salute the gallantry and courage of a fit fighting soldier even when the last comrade-in-arms has fallen on the fields; and those who, like Prof. Dr. Fonlon, are votaries and advocates of the Philosophia Perennis as a solid crucible for the development of mental culture, for the cultivation of arts and science, and classical as well as modern letters, must now woefully agree with Francis Thompson, the Poet mystic, that: The fairest things have swiftest end, their scent survives their close; But the rose’s scent is bitterness, to him that loved the rose”. To this locanic verse, Kevin Mbayu concludes, “that persuaded that generations of Cameroonians to come shall add dirges upon dirges each time the quality of truth for which Prof. Dr. Fonlon stood gets suffocated at the expense of a people, any people”. (Kevin Mbayu, Socrates in Cameroon, 153-158).
14. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Simple and Humble Man
Prof. Dr. Fonlon’s greatness lay in his simplicity, love for mankind in general, humility, desire for justice, moral consciousness and his general concern for the well-being of others. This was the man who stood in defense of people who were not able to defend themselves; and he did this without fear or favour, as long as he knew it was a just cause. Throughout his life time, justice, moral conscience and the dignity of man, whether black or white, were his guiding principles. Archbishop Paul Verdzekov who knew him as a close friend, had much that was really touching and primordial to say about late Prof. Dr. Fonlon. He brought out one aspect that would immortalize Prof. Dr. Fonlon. It was that when Prof. Dr. Fonlon had studied and prayed for six long years out of seven to become a priest of God and was disappointed by the Seminary authorities, unlike other people who would get angry and allow themselves to be swallowed up by pride, Dr. Fonlon instead accepted it with all humility and took a very strong resolution to serve God in this world in such a way that his life, would be a living example for his society and perhaps mankind and renounced worldliness and asked God to help him keep away from mortal desires. Prof. Victor Anomah Ngu noted that Fonlon was a great man, yet very simple and humble. True greatness consists not in possessing some great natural talent, which is a free gift from God, but in being simple and humble in spite of that talent. Christ was simple and humble. He was the son of God. Prof. Dr. Fonlon tried to follow Christ’s example.
15. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Genuine Christian with Leadership Qualities
Fonlon made the following entry into his dairy on Monday, September 6, 1954: “When I look at my life, at the course it has taken, at the shaping it has received, I feel…that, perhaps, I am headed for a share in the leadership of my people. To make a good leader, it is absolutely necessary that I: 1). Should know where I am leading the people to; 2). Should know how best to lead them there; should wage perennial war in my life, against all the attractions, enticements, and seductions of money, ease, pleasure, worldliness; against the thirst and the craving for power and glory; must come to no terms whatsoever with vice; must live in the world with a spirit that is totally dead to the world; 3). Must toil in union with God. To attain this union, three means are indispensable: 1). The frequent and fervent reception of the sacraments of the Eucharist and penance. The Sacrifice of the Mass must become the centre of my life and frequent confession a regular practice; 2). There must be earnest and regular prayer, both oral and mental; and, for this latter, spiritual reading is imperative; so too is the examination of conscience, if the work of daily purification is to progress; 3). There must be mortification of one sort or other – the most obvious one being fidelity to duty.” The foregoing are some of the ideal ideas which Prof. Dr. Fonlon considered as guiding principles of his life. Many who knew him at close hand have no difficulty in recognizing him in the mere enunciation of those ideas. He was a very emotional man, very concerned about the welfare of others; he often wept on hearing news of the death of a friend, testifies Prof. Daniel Lantum.
16. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: A Man detached from whatever is not God
One last reference to the Christian principle of life that was dear to him concerned the spirit of poverty, that is, detachment from whatever is not God. Writing to the Bishops of Buea and Bamenda in his Open Letter of 16th September 1973, on the occasion of the inauguration of the St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, Bambui, Fonlon said, inter alia: “In a world that is rank and rotten with materialism, where hedonism is the principal philosophy, where luxury is the summum bonum; there is the crying need for dedicated souls who would go to the other extreme and espouse the spirit of genuine religion, the spirit of poverty, the spirit of austere abstemiousness, in order to wage war against the onslaught of materialist godlessness”. Prof. Dr. Fonlon did not hesitate to call on the witness of non-Christian thinkers to underline the primordial and capital importance for himself of detachment from wealth, luxury and extravagance. But he always concluded that the lofty ideas of those good pagan thinkers were only stepping stones towards the enunciation of the supreme doctrine of Christ: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Mt. 5:3). Prof. Dr. Fonlon endeavoured to live this beatitude in ways that could be of some assistance to us who are still on pilgrimage towards heaven. In 1954, he set down his thoughts about this aspect of the spiritual life in the following words: “I sprang from humble origins. I was not favoured by wealth; I was not favoured by rank. I was lowly born; and it is my deep desire lowly to live and lowly to die in a word, it is my ambition to live the life of a simple man. But what is simplicity? To me, the essence of this virtue seems to consist of that transparent meekness and humility that should mark my dealings with my fellow human beings…Therefore; I resolve that no feeling of fear or awe, on the part of others, shall ever come within my environment. With me, any assumption of airs, of superiority shall be anathema; with me, there shall be, absolutely, no consciousness, whatsoever, of personal dignity or prestige; with me the poorest and the lowliest shall ever be at their ease. And above all, everywhere, and on every occasion, the youth, in general, and the little children in particular, shall be my dearest friends; I cannot accomplish this aim without taking upon myself, in Christ-like fashion, the poor man’s life. Therefore, I resolve, from now on, to be always satisfied with the plainest fare, with the simplest clothing and furniture; I must never claim any special treatment or any exemptions, and the putting on of airs should be completely out of question. In short, whatever, I may become, my life, my surroundings, my bearing, shall be such that any man shall find it easy to approach me; and, approaching, find himself as in his accustomed environment, completely at hiss ease.” (Diary, December 19, 1954).
When Prof. Dr. Fonlon died in August 26, an American friend of his – Bjornson R. made a pointed reference to this aspect of his life and character when he stated: “In some ways, the very fact that he died in semi-obscurity is symbolically appropriate, for despite the accomplishments of his life, Fonlon was a humble man who never really sought the limelight. As others gained fame and notoriety, he labored patiently and effectively – as a government minister, as the editor of an impressive cultural journal, as a teacher – to realize the lofty ideals he had set for himself. He always defended the highest standards of excellence, and unlike many of his successful countrymen, he was never interested in amassing a personal fortune. In fact, he became an almost legendary exemplary of integrity and modest life style in a country where conspicuous consumption is commonly regarded as a prerequisite of success.” These aspects of his life could assist us in our own spiritual pilgrimage. Henry Mbaritiang adds that men steal to get rich quickly; men embezzle funds; men amass wealth illicitly; men take pride in being in high positions, but Fonlon’s target was humanity. He lived a life of service to humanity. Fonlon had no time for wealth.
17. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Man of Prayer
Archbishop Paul Verdzekov observed that during his earthly life, both when he served in the Cameroon government, and later when he served as a University Professor, Prof. Dr. Fonlon often prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, the official Prayer of the Church. In the Te Deum, he will often have prayed those words which express our Christian hope: “In te Domine Speravi, non confundar in aeternum” (“Lord, he hoped in you; let him not be confounded forever, but give him a place forever among the Blessed”). Dr. Herman B. Maimo, Prof. /Fai Daniel Lantum, Shey O.B.B. Sendze noted that Prof. Dr. Fonlon was a man of prayer who slept with the Rosary in his hands.
18. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: A Man of Faith and Hope in the Lord
Prof. Dr. Fonlon was acutely and perpetually conscious of the necessity to fit whatever he did into God’s specific plan in his life. Barely a month after he left the Seminary, with his hopes of becoming a priest forever repudiated, Fonlon wrote: “This morning, it struck me that I should regard my life as one complete undivided whole; for chequered though it be, it has a purpose and a plan. Thinking further, I recalled the truth that it was not my will and consent that I came into being: – I did not choose my place; I did not choose my time; I did not choose my duration: – these depended totally on the will of another. And if that other is, thus, Master of my beginning, my being, my continued existence, and my end, then he is Master of my total life. Indeed, He is Master of it, down to the minutest detail, down to the minutest moment. Yes, the life of a man is planned, but man is not the planner. I shall plan where I may; I will plan where I must; but I will not plan in the hope that, what I should plan, was contained in the Greater Plan.” (Diary, January 3, 1954).
19. Prof. Dr. Fonlon: Legacy of an Active Layperson in the Church and Contribution to Seminary Formation
Prof. Dr. Fonlon left the legacy of an active layperson in the Church. In line with Canon law Canon 212 §2 of the Code of Canon Law (CIC83) which states: “Christifidelibus integrum est, ut necessitates suas, praesertim spirituales, suaque optata Ecclesiae Pastoribus patefaciant,” (The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, and their desires, especially spiritual ones), Prof. Dr. Fonlon contributed tremendously to the Church in Cameroon. Prof. Dr. Fonlon’s dismissal from the Seminary in no way diminished his profound attachment to the ideals of the Catholic Priesthood, for whose attainment he had consecrated so many years of his youth. When he learnt that the Bishops of Buea and Bamenda had obtained the authorization of the Holy See to erect a Major Seminary at Bambui, Prof. Dr. Fonlon felt that it was his sacred duty to make a contribution. This took the form of an Open Letter to the Bishops of Buea and Bamenda (16 September, 1973). He was persuaded that his right and duty were fully justified by the following words of the Second Vatican Council: “An individual layman, by reason of the knowledge, competence, or outstanding ability which he may enjoy, is permitted and sometimes even obliged to express his opinion on things which concern the good of the Church. When occasions arise, let this be done through the agencies set up by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage, and in prudence, with reverence and charity towards those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ”. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, no. 37).
In his Open Letter, Prof. Dr. Fonlon pleaded for two essential qualities in all those who would pass through the new Major Seminary, namely saintliness and learning. As to the first requirement, saintliness, he argued forcefully for discipline and poverty in the life of every priest: “In a world that is rank and rotten with materialism, where hedonism is the principal philosophy, where luxury is the summum bonum; there is a crying need for dedicated souls who would go to the other extreme and espouse the spirit of genuine religion, the spirit of poverty, the spirit of austere abstemiousness, in order to wage war against the onslaught of materialist godlessness. For this, one thing is absolutely necessary – Discipline; discipline of the mind; discipline of the heart; discipline of the will; discipline not imposed from without by fear, but a free and willing discipline, welling from within, stemming from deep and unshakable convictions!” As to the second requirement, learning, Prof. Dr. Fonlon argued that the motto of the Seminary, as regards philosophical and theological studies, should be a single word: “Thorough; no superficiality should be given quarter.” It is also imperative for me to mention that it was thanks to the suggestion of some of the Cameroonian laity to Pope John Paul II in Yaounde in 1985, that the Catholic University of Central Africa was established four years later in 1989. This showed the importance and impact that the laity could make in the Church. Cardinal Arinze describes the primordial role of the laity in the Church to me on November 6, 2020 in his residence on the occasion of an interview on Dr. Fonlon: “The Church is like a football team in which each player has a part to play. The absence of one player will definitely affect the results of the team.” This clearly elucidated the capital role of the laity in the Church. The laity have rights and duties in the Catholic Church.
St. Paul captured the idea of virtue and the living of a virtuous life: “My brothers, your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise” (Letter to the Philippians, 4:8). With this in mind, the classic definition of virtue is a habit or firm disposition which inclines a person to do good and avoid evil. Cardinal Tumi supported this definition in my recent interview with him justifying why he testifies that Prof. Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon is a Saint because he did good and avoided evil. Dr. Prof. Fonlon was characterized by stability, and was a virtuous person, who not only strived to be a good person, but also sought what was good and chose to act in a good way. Aristotle defined virtue as “that which makes both a person and what he does good.” It is often said that politics is a dirty game, but Prof. Dr. Fonlon lived an unblemished life as a politician, by putting into practice the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not separate his Christian life from politics. He lived his authentic Christian life in politics. Prof. Dr. Fonlon lived the Heroic Virtues: Cardinal and theological virtues which are perquisites for the introduction of a cause of beatification. He lived the virtues of Justice in government, Prudence, Temperance and distinguished himself with the virtue of fortitude, including faith, hope and charity.
My Lord Bishop George Nkuo, your predecessor, Emeritus Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua, noted as bishop of Kumbo on September 1, 1986, on the occasion of the Funeral of Dr. Fonlon in Kumbo: “Dr. Fonlon was an illustrious Christian, a man of great devotion and a priest at heart. He was a saintly Man, and on account of this, regardless of who he was, I have decided to lay his mortal remains next to those of his closest friend, late Father Aloysius Wankuy, who parted this life less than two months ago, as a sign of our gratitude for his affection and deep attachment to the Church”. I think it would be equally thoughtful and profound for you, My Lord Bishop George Nkuo, to continue the expression of your predecessor’s sign of gratitude to Dr. Fonlon for his affection and deep attachment to the Church by launching the cause of his beatification. This will have a more lasting spiritual and moral impact not only on the faithful of the Diocese of Kumbo and the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, but on the entire Church in Cameroon and the universal church in general. Prof. Dr. Fonlon was inscrutable. The unfathomable life of Prof. Dr. Fonlon is the richest legacy which he bequeathed to the world and to posterity.
I kindly conclude this letter by calling on my Lord, Bishop George Nkuo to take this cause of beatification of Prof. Dr. Fonlon as a matter of utmost, primordial and capital importance, so that his legacy and example may continue. Article 19§3 of the instruction Sanctorum Mater states: “The task of gathering the proofs, according to the norm of law, belongs only to the diocesan or eparchial Bishop and to those who will be duly nominated for this task, according to what is established by the “Normae servandae”. It is due to your exclusive mandate of gathering the proofs, according to the norms of the law, that I approach you again, for the second time, formally, My Lord, Bishop George Nkuo, with total reverence. In the same way, article 20 specifies that “It is the right of the diocesan Bishops, Eparchs and those who are equivalent to them in law, to investigate, within the limits of their own jurisdiction, the life, virtues or martyrdom, and reputation of holiness or of martyrdom, alleged miracles and, if it be the case, the ancient cult of a Servant of God, whose beatification and canonization are asked”. With the aforementioned citations in mind, it is in accordance with the latest Instruction that I kindly request again the solemn consideration of the official launch event of the Beatification Process of Professor Fonlon, given your unique role as the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Kumbo, his diocese of origin. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration, and please accept, the expression of my profound gratitude and respect, for taking time to go through this message, from the pen of a lay person of the “Holy Mother Church” of which you are Bishop. Thank you! Merci beaucoup! Vielen Dank! ¡Muchas gracias! Hartelijk dank! Muito obrigado! Grazie mille!
Respectfully, prayerfully and devotedly submitted today, at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Saturday, November 7, 2020, exactly 3 months after my First Open Letter regarding the same subject.
Nchumbonga George Lekelefac, B. Phil., (Mexico); S.T.B., (Rome); J.C.L/M.C.L., (Ottawa), Diploma in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch; Doctorate Candidate at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät, Ökumenisches Institut, Robert-Koch-Straße 29, 48149 Münster, Deutschland, Europe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [My Signature: Nchumbonga George Lekelefac]