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Life Lesson

Inner Conversation



Professor Bernard Fonlon

“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 the 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… 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” (Professor Bernard Fonlon)

Today I got introduced to Professor Bernard Fonlon. I was surprised I grew up in a country that had bred such an icon and I got to know him today. Prof. Bernard Fonlon was born in November 1924 and died in August 1986.In 1961, he was secretary in the office of the prime minister of Southern Cameroons, then worked for the President until 1964. Fonlon was then elected to the Federal Parliament, where he stayed until 1970, and served in the cabinet, first as deputy minister of foreign affairs, then as minister of transport, later posts and telecommunication, then health and social welfare. Fonlon left government service in 1971 to join the University of Yaounde, where he taught literature, rising to become head of the Department of Negro-African Literature and publishing a number of works. Though surrounded by opportunity, he was content to live on his salary alone.Words cannot totally describe his excellence. He was a father, a leader, an adviser, a statesman, a teacher, writer, an Africanist, a nationalist, a philosopher, a patriot and much more. Most of all he was a man of great humility. Today as I read about his life and the tributes to his legacy, I was truly humbled. 

He came to a position of wealth and power, but instead of focusing on a ravishing life style and getting deep into the sad politics of our nation; he took another route. He believed Cameroon had the position of being better. He believed this could be possible if he educated the youths whom he considered the future. Away from the limelight, he groomed a lot of young Cameroonians who later made it to the limelight. The likes of; writer Linus T. Asong, Dr. Victor Anomah Ngu, Kenjo Jumbam, Arch Bishop Paul Verdzekov attributed their successes and inspirations to him. He also reformulated and translated the Cameroon national anthem to English. Professor Nalova Lyonga dubbed him the Socrates of Cameroon.

He believed in the preservation of our national cultural heritage. He believed in a nation with institutions structured to accommodate genuine intellectuals. He broke barriers of culture, language, sect and tribe to embrace nationalism. Above all, he caged his ego lest in deterred him from his purpose. Truthfulness, holiness, transparency and goodness were his way of living. He loved the way he lived and he always fought for the greater goodness. His passion and work helped a lot remove corruption. Yet till today, most of the leaders work for their own gain. It is necessary to spread the teachings of this great person in this domain

Decades have gone by since you left this world Prof. However, your legacy leaves on and keeps touching the lives of those who come to know you story. You are the true definition of the African spirit; a spirit of brotherhood, love and inspiration. Such a spirit never dies. I and many others are products of the fire you started. This revolutionary icon has touched my life and given me a lot to think about…I hope his story continue to shed light on the lives of those who get to know him. Africa could use more of his kind…

 “My central aim in life is to become an educator and inspirer of youths. 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”. (From Prof. Fonlon’s Diary, 8thDecember 1952)

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