By Douglas A. Achingale*
The immediate feeling one has upon reading the above-mentioned title is that the book was penned by a single author. Far from it. It is a conflation of write-ups and interviews churned out in English and French by a cross-section of Cameroonian elite whose lives Ntumfor Barrister Nico Halle has impacted in different ways and in no small measure, during 30 years of his practice of the legal profession within and beyond the territorial tethers of the Cameroonian triangle. Each looks at the legal colossus from their own individual perspective, yet their views so easily intertwine and dovetail to the extent of forming a unified and harmonious whole.
This, the contents of the text suggest, is because in whatever Nico Halle does and wherever he finds himself, he does not preach virtue and practise vice. Be it in the law court, in his office, in church, at home, or in the street, the illustrious son of Awing in the North West region stands for the truth and shames the devil.
Divided into ten chapters of unequal lengths, the beautifully bound 310-page book, to be more precise, carries the honest and cogent views of Nico Halle’s family and filial relations, his colleagues of the noble profession, distinguished academics and scholars, faithful servants of God, politicians and opinion leaders, journalists, civil society actors, members of the business community, as well as other professionals of goodwill.
That is not all. The last 68 pages consist not only of colourful and telling photos of the hero and other eminent Cameroonian personalities (including the lovely members of his immediate family) but also an avalanche of awards that Nico Halle has earned over the years, thanks to his selfless and unparalleled contribution to nation building.
Why this publication?
But why this book? Teneng Lucas Chefor, the coordinating editor, attempts an answer in an introductory section titled “Justification”, when he writes, inter alia: “…My first encounter with Ntumfor Nico Halle [in 2001] had a magnetic grip on me, as I keenly watched him meticulously articulate fearlessly on a variety of burning issues, especially issues considered by many as taboo. I Immediately made up my mind that this was somebody whose life should be chronicled and documented for others to emulate for the betterment of society and for posterity…I decided to embark on compiling this book for two main reasons: I wanted first and foremost to break from the tradition of almost always writing memorable things about people only when they are no longer living; and secondly to seize the opportunity…to give encouragement to Ntumfor…” (P. 6-7).
Somehow, veteran journalist, Peter Essoka, fuels Chefor’s justification when he says in the foreword: “[Nico Halle] is like a morning star against a background of darkness from where he emanates light. He is one who has from his actions rejected the darkness and undercurrents of the world around him. Nico Halle is outspoken against what is wrong and he is projected as being fearless and progressive…From his utterances, this international legal consultant has always stood for the truth, for goodness and wholesomeness. He is an advocate for justice, for love, and for being each other’s keeper…I cannot tell whether he was born great, achieved greatness or had greatness thrust upon him. Nico Halle is a juxtaposition of all of these.” (P. 9).
It is in this same line of thinking that Solomon and Mercy Azoh-Mbi, who crafted the editorial, refer to the urbane and benignant Ntumfor as the “the river between”. To them, “There is a river between him. Many boats have navigated its course, many have fished in its waters, arid lands have been irrigated by its refreshing and life-giving waters of charity and largesse, and grid lines have been connected from his powerhouse of moral and intellectual energies…” (P. 13).
Other eloquent testimonies
The book is equally suffused with eloquent testimonies of Nico Halle being a caring and loving husband and father who always wants the best for his family. These views are given by his wife and offspring who are also unanimous on the point that he is an implacable disciplinarian who will not spoil the child by sparing the rod. This, without doubt, is why all four kids and their mum are success stories today, just like the punctilious Ntumfor himself.
Yes, the path on which Nico Halle treads is strewn more with roses than thorns, on account of the virtuous and altruistic life he lives. However, humility and modesty would not permit him to boastfully count his blessings one by one. Reason why he chooses to celebrate the pearl jubilee of his legal practice on the theme “thirty years of challenges with God in thanksgiving.”
Hear him in this breath-taking interview conducted by Joe Dinga Pefok: “…What man considers achievement, success, or whatever is his or her perception. God’s own assessment is different. To me, all that people consider as successes, achievements or accomplishments are in fact challenges. Every blessing that comes to you is a challenge. What we call righteousness is filthy rags before God – Isaiah 64:6…” (P. 28).
This review would be transformed into a tedious screed if I were to give nuggets of information on all the contributions of the eminent personalities and fine brains which make up this stupendous volume. That is, the views of people of timber and calibre such as Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, Rev. Humphery Tatah Mbuy, Minister Elung Paul Che, Gov. Lele Lafrique, Chairman John Fru Ndi, Charly Ndi Chia, Fai Yengho Francis, Barrister Ben Muna, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, Rev. Prof. Anyambod Emmanuel, Prof. Tazoacha Asonganyi, Prof. Willibroad Dze Ngwa, Barrister Harmony Bobga, Mayor Francis Wache, Barrister Henry Kemende, Prof. Vincent Titanji, Prof. Paul Nkwi, Ndansi Elvis Nukam, Adolf Mongo Dipoko, Chief Zachee Nzoh Ngandembouh, and a host of others.
What is striking about these personalities is that they come from different regions and ethnic groups of the country, are from different walks of life, and have different religious backgrounds as well as varied shades of opinion. All of which is proof of one comforting reality: that Ntumfor Nico Halle is a national figure whose personality cuts across tribal, professional, religious and party lines.
The review would however be incomplete if I, being a poet myself, do not quote from some mellifluous lines of terse verse scribbled by writer, educationist and politician, Tasi Ntang Lucas. Says he:
“Thirty years’ practice for Halle is time well spent
Since, no matter a good idea/ man
Dynamics makes improvement mandatory
For today to be better than yesterday
And tomorrow to go for excellence” (P. 96)
Indeed, Ntumfor may be said to be gunning for excellence. But what is certain is that he has already attained much, quite much, of it. For even the deaf will hear his story as told by “Nico Halle as I Know Him”. He has been able to attain this excellence despite his very humble beginnings. For, he is the son of a poor pastor whose only crime for not being elevated to the rank of Reverend Pastor was that he was undeservedly blackmailed and persecuted. Many also persecute and blackmail Ntumfor to this day. But as a thinker once put it, “a man may think he is buried in darkness; he is, in fact, only planted.” That is why, in spite of all the hurdles and impediments on his way, Nico Halle has been so resilient as to germinate and grow into the blooming and blossoming tree that he is today…a tree adorned with glowingly bewitching and alluring flowers of many colours!
Go, Ntumfor, go! The sky is not your limit; it is indeed your springboard!
*Douglas A. Achingale is a social worker, poet and researcher in the literatures at the University of Yaounde 1. Talk back on firstname.lastname@example.org