Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cameroon:Adding Meaning to Retirement Life

By Mofor Samuel
Going on retirement to most Cameroonians particularly those working in the public service means total exclusion from active life. The attitude is being teleguided by the way retirees perceive retirement and particularly by the treatment meted out to these senior citizens when it comes to payment of their retirement benefits. The whole issue is that of used and dumped or better still a complete bastardization of a people’s mentality.

In spite of the services rendered to the state and their ages, they are humiliated and subjected to that cankerworm that characterizes the Cameroonian civil service- compiling and chasing of files whether newly recruited, already working or have gone on retirement. Some even die in the process of chasing files. While others die before documents for their well-deserved retirement benefits come out. A bulk of others develop terminal diseases out of mental torture and frustration. In short going on retirement in Cameroon is considered a nightmare by most people because it is like coming in through the broad main door and leaving through the narrow back door with no one taking note of your exit.

CRTV’s veteran journalist and sports commentator Njomo Kevin said “enough is enough”, when he decided to publicly announce and celebrate with other icons and stars his exit from the CRTV, after rendering thirty years of service in that corporation.

There was no better way of doing it than with the Old Timers’ Band. Any one who understands the language of music and above all the historical timeline portrayed in the music often dished out by the Band whenever it is on stage; saw Njomo Kevin’s ingenuity in blending the past and the present to produce the future. One big problem that we have in this country has got to do with the derailing the course of history. This has done more harm than good to the nation. Giving respect and honour to whom it is due also means respecting and giving history its place as far as people’s achievements and endeavours are concerned.

By going down memory lane and projecting the past glories in the likes of Mukoko Confiance, Lea Eyoum Charles, Mbom Ephraim, Joseph Ewunkem, Musinga Humphrey, Nangoh, Akwo Joseph, Dr.Ekwe Fabian, and of course Milla Roger in the area of football; Peter Essoka, Zachary Nkwo in the area of journalism and sports commentary; Wacka Michael as the first Cameroonian international referee, not leaving out Ntonga Nganda in the area of wrestling, Njomo Kevin was not only telling the stars that they made their country proud but above all that, henceforth they belong to the Cameroonian Hall of Fame as far as history is concerned. Never shall their retirement be considered as going to oblivion.

When Zachary Nkwo took the floor to introduce the different stars of yesteryears, many a listener saw history unfolding as he presented the facts as if he had a history textbook in front of him. The only history textbook at that point in time was Zachary Nkwo himself.

The stories and experiences shared by the stars kept no one indifferent as the population came in contact with raw historical facts on the history of football in Cameroon in particular and sports commentary in general.

Every star in addressing the public, found time to extend their gratitude to Njomo Kevin for bothering to personally come to their nooks and crannies to fish them out of the ashes of history and bring them to the limelight.

The public was not indifferent to the statements made by these stars of yesteryears. Each statement was greeted with around of applause from the sea of human beings that thronged the esplanade of Hotel Residence Carlos in Buea. The performance of the Band kept the population constantly on their feet with Njomo Kevin himself stealing the show, making everyone not wishing that the day comes to an end. This commentator at one point saw BBC’s Randy Joe Saah caught in between doing the coverage and dancing to the exhilarating rhythms that were been dished out by the Band. Kiven Charles of the University of Buea could not help laughing out his lungs when he saw Randy Joe Saah on his feet, doing the digging, abandoning his recording equipment on the chairs as the Band was playing one of late Eboa Lottin’s soul searching sounds.

In fact anyone who was there and did not shake his or her head could just be considered to be deaf and must have lost the sense of feeling. People danced with a lot of dexterity. There were no generational quarrels when it came to dancing. One just had to identify oneself with the music and the rest took care of itself.

One thing that must be pointed out is the atmosphere of orderliness that prevailed through out the celebration. No use of foul language, polite hostesses, a calm and restive public, a manifestation of gentlemanly behaviour, no rowdiness, people smiling from ear to ear etc. Indeed it was-a-not – to miss celebration!

Retirement comes with age, old age and old age comes with illnesses and problems. Some manifest themselves physically and others mentally or both. Organizing such a retirement bound celebration was like helping retirees to manage old age thereby adding more years to life.

Geriatrics is a specialty in medicine which studies old people. Formerly old people were cared for differently in different societies. In Africa, they were taken as normal part of society and honoured. In Europe they are cared for in specialized homes- geriatric homes. The behaviours are reversing. Progressively Africans are moving towards western civilization.

Lifespan is the duration of existence of an individual from conception to extinction or death. During this period, there is an inbuilt mechanism for sustaining vital physiology- heart function, brain function and other muscles. The process improves from birth to the age of about 25-30 years and from this optimum performance period; there is gradual deterioration or loss of vitality. The rate of diminishing performance varies from one individual to another and is influenced by several factors: nutrition, health, social condition, activity (working life), sports and physical activities, reproduction, stress etc.

The working life of an individual plays an important role in the loss of vitality, reason why much respect and consideration have to be given to those who go on retirement. This can be done through the provision of a good pension scheme, housing scheme (tenanting purchasing scheme), sports and recreational facilities, health and life insurance and of course tapping their experiences.

The tapping of experiences from the retired men and women (senior citizens) must be placed high on the agenda, if we do not want to regret the loss of several “human libraries” when these senior citizens are extinct. Njomo Kevin was just advocating for that when he assembled some senior citizens to let them know that retirement does not mean been bundled out of the scene of action. They still have a lot to offer and the time to do that is now. In short, he was like saying that one cannot get to the future without passing through the past and the present as far as human development is concerned.

Using himself as a typical example, he said he cannot leave the scene through the backdoor, having contributed enormously to the rise to stardom of many individuals. That has always been the work of journalists. But then, when they leave the stage, no one hails them.

By advocating for a forum where senior citizens can share their experiences and be given their due respect, Njomo Kevin is helping to add more years to the life of the group of people; since common problems like: sedentary lifestyle, anxiety, loneliness, nostalgia, illness etc which come with old age shall greatly be put under control. No strategy could have been better than educating the community on the need to make good use of this group of people who have often been neglected or relegated to the background by all and sundry. Using the sound of music to drive home his message was just the best way to capture people’s attention and sense of belonging.

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