By BARRISTER HENRY NGALE MONONO
It was in the early sixties and Hon. NERIUS NAMASO MBILE (AKA MOTA CURRY) had just been through the doldrums of a political wilderness after his unavowed political alliances with C.P.N.C and its quest for a Union with Nigeria. Now Mbile was again in the West Cameroon government. He was appointed Minister and he now had a foothold in the corridors of power.
He alighted in Buea with his family and a coterie of friends and hangers on. That is when I first saw the late CHIEF NORBERT NANGIYA MBILE. He and his immediate elder brother VICTOR the inimitable actor made fast friends with us the other G.R.A boys like AKERE MUNA, the MENGOTS, LAFONS, NJIKAMS etc. Even at that tender age NORBET as we called him had an arresting presence and a domineering personality.
Honorable MBILE his father would have but a brief stay in government because of some unwarranted and unjustified accusations from malevolent political nonentities. His dad once again would have to leave government and take up the profession of a sand contractor using his emblematic Land Rover which carried the caption “Take Courage”.
NORBERT took courage and from the position of an ex-Minister’s son he entered Lycee Molyko as an underling. He squatted with his father’s political ally Dr. ENDELEY and became part of the Endeley household during his teenage days at Buea. At Lycee Molyko he excelled in French and English a literacy bent which influenced his decision to read linguistics at the University of Yaounde. Before he went to Ngoa Kelle and after Lycee he developed an unbridled desire for music. He was a virtuoso guitarist.
At a relatively young age he was hired by the late LE ROGGOW of Atlantic Beach and Bay Hotel Saloon Bar as a guitarist. This exposed NORBERT to night club life and the seamier side of life. He would in later life own and operate a night club and all his friends and admirers would repair there to enjoy his largesse and uninhibited humour.
After his degree in Linguistics, he was posted to Edea, he was a darling of the students. He learnt to speak the Bassa language. His stint in Edea along with his training in Lycee Bilingue Molyko strengthened his belief in the Cameroon experiment. He was unapologetically Cameroonian, fluently bilingual and espoused the benefits of re-unification. He would later be transferred to Kumba as principal of CCAST Kumba. The students of CCAST Kumba quickly named him ‘Rambo’ because of his physical prowess and his constant engagement with them in their youthful shenanigans. He was a strict disciplinarian and a stickler of the concept that “if you spare the rod you spoil the child”. CCAST Kumba became a reference point for excellence and discipline.
While in Kumba, as a person who always engaged with the youths and the community he took the reins of PWD Kumba football club alias “ball for net” and he got all of us involved in supporting and promoting football. He would single-handedly use his pick-up Van to carry the players to participate in tournaments in far away Mamfe, Mundemba and Tombel.
He was relieved of his functions as principal of CCAST Kumba in what many perceived as a punitive and an unfair transfer to Mundemba. But this was a man who knew how to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. No sooner was he in Mundemba his division of origin than he grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat. He plunged into the politics which was in his veins through his illustrious father and he won his way into parliament as a Depute for the Ndian Constituency.
In parliament he was known as a dynamic, volatile, influential and controversial parliamentarian. He immediately found himself as the spokesman for the helpless and hapless Ndian people and he picked up the gauntlet and shouted to the roof top about the marginalization of his people. This did not go down well with the powers that be and they ganged up against him with his political opponents to bring in a less assertive and more accommodating parliamentarian from the oil-producing but neglected oil producing region.
My friend was a larger than life personality who immediately left an impression on everyone he met. The people of Lipenja Village and the Batanga Clan could not let such a charming and monumentally unflappable personality go unheralded. He was immediately made chief of Batanga Clan and the government picked him up because of his uprightness and incorruptible accolades and made him the Anti Corruption Chief for the South West Region in CONAC.
He did not disappoint.
He always complained to me that one of the fundamental drawbacks in the fight against corruption in this country was that unlike its counterpart in Nigeria and other countries, CONAC was not autonomous. Much of its good work was bogged down by the bureaucratic process and the heavy hand of the Presidency.
He believed in the direction President BIYA was taking the country and he was unapologetically C.P.D.M and pro-Biya. We agreed and disagreed on many points. We quarreled and fell out at night but in the morning we were back as friends, brothers, confidants and partners in the peace process.
Chief Mbile was many things to many people. An astute politician to some, an anti- corruption Czar to others, a good and uncompromising hard tasking principal, a connoisseur of fine wines and a bon vivant. A sports enthusiast, a successful entrepreneur, farmer, road builder, socialite, peace maker. He spoke his mind not caring whose ox was gored. He was unpretentious, down to earth and would jump into a friends fight before blaming the friend afterwards. He was a spokesman for the South West Region and an unrepentant antagonist of secessionists. He loved his country, his clan, his region and his friends.
In a now famous Television debate on National Unity during which the Batonier BEN MUNA almost died with laughter, Hon MBILE made the following definition of national unity;
“National unity’, he said “is like a marriage if one partner farts or messes the air at two o’clock night, the other partner should stay quiet. If the West messes the air the others should stay quiet. If the Anglophones mess the air, the others should stay quiet”.
This remark, outrageous, humorous, crude, brutally effective and wildly accurate was typical of the flamboyant man. Let us remember his message then for Cameroon to remain one. We should know that we are in a marriage. Let that be his epitaph: the marriage which is Cameroon must be protected
Rest in Peace my gallant friend. Life without you can never be same.
*HENRY NGALE MONONO
Prince of Great Soppo, Buea
Barrister – at – Law