To Catholic Christians, Sunday June 4, 2017 was Pentecost Day, birthday of their faith! Pentecost marked the coming or descent of the Holy Spirit, in the shape of “tongues of fire” on those Apostles of Jesus Christ who had waited in the Upper Room after their friend and Lord had ascended to His Father and our Father, His God and our God.
But, this is not a story about Pentecost! Rather, it is a tribute to one I knew well enough to be able to pay him tribute at this ultimate moment.
Back in the 1960s, as a young camp boy, pursuing education in the then West Cameroon citadel of learning, Saint Joseph’s College, Sasse, Simon and Garfunkel released a song: “He was my Brother…”
On this occasion of the demise of one so simple yet so influential in broadcast journalism (one so versed in unscripted broadcasting) in Cameroon, I can with deep emotion paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel in that their song.
“He was my Brother,” Zachary Tokoto Nkwo, by virtue of our crossing paths in Sasse College: he a senior, college Goalkeeper and “lead commentator” during inter-house football matches in the College; I, a shy admiring junior.
“He was my Brother,” Zachary Tokoto Nkwo, by virtue of our paths crossing again in the Ecole Superieur Internationale de Journalisme de Yaounde (ESIJY), he graduating and me coming in – a freshman, fifth batch student journalist.
“He was my Brother,” Zachary Tokoto Nkwo, by virtue of us working for Radio Cameroon, then the Cameroon Radio Television Corporation (CRTV) in Yaounde and Buea.
“He was my Brother,” by virtue of him visiting me in Radio Buea in the early 1980s (during my first tour of duty as Station Manager) to confide in me that his dad was sick and laying in the CDC Hospital in Tiko; requesting me to look out and let him know (duty was calling him on a foreign trip) should things take a turn for the worse. Pa eventually moved on and Brother Zach returned to pay his tribute and lay dad to rest.
“He was my Brother,” by virtue of him seeking transfer to Buea in 1989 (while I was away in the United States pursuing a Master’s degree at the American University in Washington, D.C.) and I, unaware of his path, asking for and obtaining transfer to the same station (in 1991) for family reasons.
“He was my Brother,” Zachary Tokoto Nkwo, by virtue of him looking out for my success as Station Manager (during my second tour) at a time when the deck was stacked against me and me looking to play a different game!
My travels to a different continent separated us physically and Pentecost 2017 has now put an end to our paths crossing again; until hopefully, a final meeting “across the bridge, where there is no more sorrow.”
Brother Zach, as many of us knew and called him was thus no stranger to me. And one particular moment in this journey stands out: Fai Henry Fonye (a senior in broadcasting) had just laid down his pen (for good) and CRTV Buea was to receive the first call on Luncheon Date that day.
Station Manager, Becky Ndive (RIP), approached me to do the tribute to Fai. I retorted, “I know who will do it!” Brother Zach arrived at the station minutes before Luncheon Time and Becky approached him.
He was ready, as he most often was. In the studio, and for close to ten minutes, and without a script, Brother Zach paid a glowing and memorable tribute to Fai Henry Fonye … a senior from Sasse College, whose registration number Brother Zach gave on the air without mixing up the digits.
On Pentecost Day 2017, Brother Zach travelled to be with his Father and our Father; to join Fai and other SOBANS and journalists called home so far: some too early! Be that as it may, Brother Zach was my Brother, our Brother:
“He died “Because he hated what was wrong,” he was my brother, our Brother and he died and
“Tears can’t bring him back to me”, to us. He loved the journalism profession; and he died so “His brothers could be free.”
For, in the freedom of our trade he believed and lived, and earned a living. The “sound of silence” on you has now descended, but we live to pay homage to you, and to hold high the standard you set.
Sasse College, ESIJY, Radio Cameroon, the Buea-Yaounde-Buea axis were our common trajectory; but now, since this Pentecost Day and “across the bridge,” there will be joy as Saint Joseph, in the hollow of hand, brings you before our Creator.
May the soil of this “Good Old Country, called Cameroon (dixit Etub’Anyang) be light on your shoulders, Brother Zach! Fondly remembered by Asonglefac Nkemleke (Bro, as you always called me.)
Asonglefac Nkemleke is a veteran Cameroon Journalist, wrote in from Washington D.C