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Issues that hinder the Oroko People at Home and Abroad

A Presentation on the Occasion of the 2014 Oroko Convention in Atlanta, GA. USA (30th August 2014) - By Mukete Daniel Modika

 

Mr. President of OCA USA

Your Royal Highnesses;
Distinguished Invitees;
Dear Brothers and Sisters.

I. Plan of Presentation
Formalities: Permit me to first of all express my joy of being here today accompanied by my dear wife Josephine. Our presence here was neither planned nor dreamed of. But we are here by the Grace of God and the machinations of the Cameroon government that decided to send me to Washington to open a Tourism Information Bureau for Cameroon. This bureau covers the continents of North and South America. We are happy to be here with my children.

That said, let me thank the President of OCA, Tata Fred Mboe Mediko for giving me the opportunity to stand before you to talk about issues that hinder the progress of Bato ba Oroko. I can guess why he chose me for this task. It is because I have lived among and interacted with the Oroko people for over half a century. This however, does not make me an expert in Oroko affairs. I would have loved to talk about the beauty of the Oroko women. This would have been easier for me because I was born by one, and I have been living with one for the past 32 yrs and that union has produced some very beautiful Oroko ones.

I thank God for the very warm welcome my wife and I have received from many of you. I lack words to express myself but I pray God to bless you abundantly.

II. What is said about the Oroko Problem?

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The people who call themselves Oroko are made up of ten tribes: Bakoko, Bakundu, Balondo Badiko, Balondo Banaga, Balue, Batanga, Bima, Ekombe, Mbonge and Ngolo tribes. They are found in two administrative divisions of the South West Region of Cameroon – Meme and Ndian Divisions and together have built 205 villages.

From these statistics we cannot deny the fact that the Oroko people constitute a major grouping in the South West Region of Cameroon, and it follows therefore that we are expected to make a reasonable contribution or create a great impact in all domains of our national life. In other words we are expected to make a reasonable contribution in the economic, cultural, social and political development process of our beloved country Cameroon. In the same vein, we are entitled to a corresponding; an appropriate or befitting share of the national cake.

The issue here is how much is our contribution and how much is our share of the national cake? The answers to these questions calls for the drawing-up of a statement of account of Oroko people both in the national and international context.

When this is done, we will then be able to make a concrete statement about our pace or state of development. Whether we are progressing at an acceptable pace or we are stagnating or regressing. This is a monumental task requiring a scientific study based on the analysis of available facts and figures. It can be done and it should be done.

Writings about the various Oroko tribes can be found in German and English archives and are growing steadily in the archives of the various Universities in Cameroon. This is as a result of the increasing number of Oroko students graduating with post graduate degrees from these universities. Unfortunately literature concerning the performance of Oroko people as a group is very scarce.

However, the few who have addressed this issue are of the opinion that the Oroko people are hospitable, honest, trustworthy and peace-loving. They say that the people are blessed with geographic and climatic conditions which give them enormous economic potential. Hence, the area they occupy is famous for the cultivation of cash crops like cocoa, rubber, coffee, palm trees just to mention but a few. They also can produce all kinds of food crops. Even their sub-soil is full of minerals. And they conclude by saying that in terms of natural resources, their inheritance (or contribution) is outstanding, if not monumental. These are very strong points in favour of the Oroko people. Compared with their achievements, one of the writers, an economist and the most knowledgeable in the Oroko way of life, Mr. Mosamai Emanuel Dibo, in his pamphlet “BO CHANI’SE” says that:

“From the evidence before us it is no secret to conclude that our people have contributed far below their potentials in terms of human resources and in the scramble for national merits and honours. In fact in the recognition and awards table, they do not feature prominently, be it in the domain of academics, finances and economy, culture, sports and politics. This is the irony. A people on whom nature has showered all her material goodness turns out to be handicapped in the race for achievements. The truth is that many of our people are not aware of their predicament and are therefore not in a suitable position to assess themselves in the race of honours vis-à-vis either other groups or their potentials. In actual fact and if we are obliged to give a statement of account of our achievement vis-a-vis our resources, it will be a deficit balance.”

He continues:

“For a simple and for a clearer illustration of our situation, permit me to ask a few questions:

  • How many millionaires have we?
  • How many eminent farmers have we?
  • How many civil administrators have we?
  • How any PhD holders and Professors have we?
  • How many senior army officers and policemen have we?
  • How many medical Doctors have we?
  • How many engineers do we have?
  • How many musicians have we?
  • How many distinguished sports men have we?
  • How many practicing lawyers have we?
  • How many car owners have we?
  • How many city land lords have we?
  • How many first class or second class chiefs have we?
  • How many real politicians have we?
  • How many of us are even there or what is our population vis-à-vis our natural resources?

These questions apply to all of us at home and abroad.

This list of questions sounds elitist. Let us add the following:

  • How many native carpenters have we in our villages?
  • How many native tailors have we in our villages?
  • How many native builders have we?
  • How many native Petty traders have we?
  • How many truck pushers have we?
  • How many tire repairers have we?
  • How many black smiths have we?
  •  How many! How many! How many?
  • ETC, etc.

The common answer to these questions is that we have a number, in each case, which is far from enough”.

My dear brothers and sisters, when I received the letter inviting me to talk on this issue I was so frightened that my first instinct was to turn dawn the request. But then when I thought of this fact that many of us here are not conscious of our perplexing situation I changed my mind although I knew that I could not provide answers or solutions to the problem raised. I accepted because I thought it was time to formally state the problem in a forum like this one – living Oroko organization. And provoke the minds of the elites in the American Diaspora to start reflecting on what to do about the issue of our collective development or advancement.

III. Why and how do we find ourselves in this situation?

Many of us have attributed the situation to internal and external causes:

  1. We are ignorant of our situation.
  2. We are not many enough to take advantage of what nature has given us.
  3. We do not take education very seriously.
  4. We give too much importance to ceremonies (funerals).
  5. We are too timid in our undertakings .
  6. We are not proud of ourselves and our tribe .
  7. We are nonchalant and lazy .
  8. We are not ambitious (how do we perceive life) .
  9. We are not united .
  10. We are not well organized culturally, we are too loose .
  11. We do not have good leadership and our people cannot be led etc, etc .
  12. We have been invaded by strangers .
  13. We are too generous to strangers

My dear brothers and sisters,

We can add many other reasons, but we will need another time to enter into the details of each of these issues.

What have we been doing all this time to solve these problems and how far are we succeeding?

One thing is certain our forefathers were conscious of their situation and even conscious of the fact that some of these problems where beyond the efforts or scope of the individual, family or village to solve. So they initiated a number of collective solutions to some of them:

  • In the field of education, the village came together and sponsored bright children to school.
  • In the economic domain some elite came out with thrift and loan schemes.
  • In the cultural and development domain cultural associations were born at different levels.

How far did these measures go? This is another domain of study.

With regards to the Oroko Cultural Association, Mr. Mosamai said this: “… our forefathers, conscious of the challenges that they faced with regards to the march towards civilization and development, the Oroko Cultural Association was created. This was in respect of the universal dictum that ‘united we stand and divided we fall.’ They believed that there must be unity of purpose and unity in action to effectively face collective challenges. The big idea was that if we organized ourselves into a larger integrated whole, we will create some of the most important conditions for securing a more solid control over our resources, for raising our capacity to produce what we need and consequently, for raising the living standards of our people.”

This assumption is even more relevant today as life has become more challenging and complex.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I cannot for sure give you the exact date that the Oroko cultural association was formed but what I am certain about is that in 1972 an Oroko cultural Almanac was published with the picture of Late Chief Hon. Chief Victor Ngomo Obie prominently placed with the title of TATA of OROKO printed below. This simply implies that an Organization of Oroko people had been created with Chief V.N. Obie at the head, sometime before the publication of the Almanac. We need to know how the association fared from 1972 to 1995 when it changed from an Association to a Union. This is a good area of research for a PhD Thesis.

This association is today called The Oroko Cultural and Development Union (UDECU-June 1995 at BIG BEKONDO again at the behest of Tata Nganga Obie III).

The June 11th 1995 National Executive Council stood as follows:

  1. National President.  – Tata Okia, HRH Chief Henry Namata Elangwe (Late)
  2. General Secretary     – Chief Esoh Itoh  ( Late)
  3. General Treasurer    – Tata, HRH Chief John Bake Mokambe (Late)
  4. Financial Secretary.   – Tata Nganga, HRH Chief Victor Obie (Late)
  5. Organising Secretary   – Mr. Ngembane Manasseh (Late)

42 years have gone and one is tempted to ask questions as to what the situation of the Oroko people has become and what the state of the Union is.

As of February 5th 2014 when I left Cameroon for the US, one can be tempted to say that UDECU has effective existence only outside of the Oroko land. Where is exists in Meme and Ndian it is in isolated cases and even in those cases it functions occasionally in cases of deaths and some other ceremonies.

UDECU has no cells and no branches. It presently has not met even at the executive level since 1998 for there is no body to convene it. Among the older generation of Oroko people who created it only Chief Esoh Itoh and Justice Benjamin Itoe one of the Advisers and the man who supervised the writing of the constitution and Chief can do something.

My dear brothers and sisters as we can see the Oroko Cultural Association exists and functions only in the United States of America. You have to think of ways to cause the home or mother organization to be better organized and functional otherwise your efforts here to help our people back home will be in vain. Already you see what happens with projects you initiate and containers you send back home.

Another question that comes in mind is: How prepared or how ready is the next generation of Oroko sons and daughters to take over the mantle of Oroko leadership?

This Union is considered to be a Union of two hundred and five (205) villages of ten tribes in two divisions (Meme and Ndian) in the South West Region of the Republic of Cameroon as follows:

Brothers and Sisters, you can see that our association, as you still call it, is a huge body which needs greater unity, greater Oroko pride and careful handling.

We cannot afford to be divided, torn apart by internal feuds and wrangling. Unity is power and division is weakness. This by no means implies that we become a perfect group. It simply means that where internal misunderstandings break-out, every effort should be made to strike at reconciliation. To dispel any doubts, it must be emphasized that unity does not demand that we lose our individual or tribal or village identities. No. But it demands that the general interest overrides individual, tribal or village interests.

IV. Conclusion
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me quote Mr. Mosamai again “We can say that our present situation is pathetic and the task ahead onerous. To succeed, it shall be necessary for us to face these problems with a promising sense of dedication and seriousness. We have to prepare our minds and bodies for the sacrifice that is expected of us. It should be born in mind that to eradicate the poverty in which we are engulfed, the process must be undergone and the sufferings must be endured. No hastened deadline or indolent attitude will make it. We must be prepared to make sacrifices and embark on courageous decision-making and implementation.

We end by praying to the Almighty God to give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed and wisdom to distinguish between the two; these we ask in Jesus name, Amen.”

Thank you for your kind attention