A tribute to Christian Cardinal Tumi by Roland Ngong

Some random tidbits: I was woken up early this morning by my sister, Ann. She just said three words: Tata has gone. (Tata was the Cardinal).
I first met Cardinal Tumi sometime in 1955 at a place called Kaduna Vom (which had a veterinary station where Pa Tumi Tumi the Cardinal’s dad was employed as a worker) in the then Northern Nigeria. The Cardinal himself was a teacher. Nothing to do with priesthood. I remember him being very fluent in Hausa/Fulani. At the time, my father was a Police Officer in Jos (Minesfield Station).
I subsequently met the Cardinal at the Bigard Memorial (Senior) Seminary in Uwani-Enugu in the then Eastern Nigeria sometime in 1959/60. Most of the very first Roman Catholic priests in Southern/West Cameroon ( James Toba, Lucas Atang, Ivo Ndichia, Henry Mesue, Francis Lysinge, Clement Ndze, Nicholas Malonge, Louis Nomi, Paul Verdzekov, Pius Awa etc..) were trained at Bigard Memorial. I knew them all as I used to carry food on my head on some Sundays from our home and trek all the way to Uwani where they lived. They in turn visited my parents when they were free.
My family goes back a long way with the Cardinal. My mother was the only one I knew who would call the Cardinal by his first name – Christian – no one else did or dared. I was shocked when I found him on one occasion actually sitting in our local kitchen and engaged in some seemingly serious discussion with my mum.

I have also met him times without number at his residence in Douala, his village – Kikaikelaki – and at the Pastoral Centre in UpStation Bamenda where he spent time with my uncle and his brother-in- Christ Monsignor Clement Ndze.

The Cardinal as I knew him was willing and ready to discuss any issue: politics, his alleged désire to stand for elections in Cameroon, réunification, corruption, homosexuality etc. Some local newspapers even alleged he had a girlfriend in Douala. The lady in question turned out to be his late sister, Mrs. Pufong nee Celine Tumi – a stunning beauty in her own right.

In the Cardinal’s presence, you knew you were dealing with a man of vast learning, knowledge and experience, humble and willing to listen. A real good man who loved Cameroon not only in words but also in action.

Ninety years of steadfast commitment to life and priestly vocation is no mean achievement. And anyone who met the Cardinal will tell you he was no hypocrite. He spoke his mind to the high and mighty because he stood by and on the side of the truth and justice. I honestly believe he was one of the rare personalities in this country who, by virtue of their character and réputation, could have secured peace in the current crisis through the inclusive dialogue he so fervently stood and fought for. Cameroon now has to find a man of the same calibre and charisma.
Ghan kijung Tata (Go well Papa).

Mzee Roland NGONG

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