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The Passing of Pa MB Kungang: Baobabs Too Fall, Alas!
Category :- Obituary Author :- By Ferdinand Mbecha 
Posted on February 13, 2018, 12:02 pm
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Most probably, the passing on to glory of Pa MB Kungang on December 11, 2017 closes the curtain on the drama of life for a generation of Lebialem men who were not shy to construct their identity as hybrids of a rigorous British colonial education and the enduring dynamism of their Bangwa cultural heritage.  This combination produced some of the most astute but also glamorous personalities that have ever emerged from, what Asonglefac Nkemleke fondly calls, the cascading hills of Lebialem.
 
One of the enduring legacies of colonialism in British ex-colonies was the use of name initials. Most British colonial administrators often abbreviated their first two names. In the British Cameroons, for instance, there were colonial administrators with names such as J.O Fields, D.A.F. Shute, and P.G. Harris. Somehow, the practice became fashionable, and even classy, among the emerging indigenous elites of the pre-independence period. A trend that would only die out with the depletion of the generation that popularized it in the first place. 
 
Some of the most prominent Southern Cameroons politicians who copied this trend, and have now immortalized it in the annals of history included S.T Muna, EML Endeley, JN Foncha, and NN Mbile. Among the Bangwa (present day Lebialem) the most prominent people who abbreviated their first and middle names were politicians, teachers, or big businessmen. Among politicians, the most famous were PM Kemcha and BTB Foretia. Among the businessmen, there was MN Atabong and JN Fomenky. As for the social icons of their time, the names that most readily come to mind in this category include RW Asaah Fontem and JA Mbecha (my own father). And then for teachers, they were quite many of them. However, the most prominent teacher addressed mostly by using his initials was MB Kungang. His peers just called him MB, children and the younger generations below him addressed him as Pa MB. And in this write-up, I refer to him as Pa MB, not only because I am young enough to be his child but also for the respect I had for him. 
 
All these great people referred to above, sturdy baobabs of their time, have all bowed to the whirl of the wind of age and fallen. These are people whose walks on the sands of time have been great in shaping the destiny of either their immediate communities or the wider Lebialem and Cameroonian community. They literarily and figuratively towered high in their community. As teacher, Pa MB Kungang was a household name. His name constantly featured in soccer related conversations. When the announcement of the death of Pa M.B. Kungang hit the social media platforms it triggered an avalanche of comments from people who knew him as well as friends of his children who stepped in to offer their condolences. 
 
The baobab tree is like a tower. There are people who can testify of its grandeur because they are standing under it. Meanwhile, the majority would only experience the splendor of the rugged tree only from a distant perch. As concerns Pa MB, I can say I fall among the latter category. I did not know Pa Kungang much, but throughout my life, whenever and wherever his name has come up there has always been nothing but glowing tributes. He was a teacher for over forty years and the most part was at a time before the rampant creation of schools in every nook and cranny of the national territory. Thus, the few schools that existed used to cater for pupils from far off places. In Bangwa land, it was not uncommon in those days for children to trek every day for ten kilometers to get to the nearest school. This meant that teachers (especially the star teachers) in those days were widely known far beyond their base of operation. Moreover, Pa MB worked at a time when teachers, especially very talented ones, were like celebrities. They were household names. Pa M.B Kungang was a star teacher not only because of his excellent teaching skills but also because he was an astute disciplinarian a formidable football coach. Pa taught at a time when the dogma of “spare the whip and spoil the child” was the order of the day. And from testimonies by his former pupils, Pa MB applied the doctrine to its fullest measure – in classroom as on the soccer field.
As normal, the death of a person often inspires the outpouring of eulogies from people who knew him up close.  Apart from the usual “RIP” that readers on social media often quickly write in response to a death announcement, a large chunk of the messages posted on the Facebook walls of Pa MB’s children were celebratory of his productive lifespan, putting into perspective the wonderful qualities that the late man embodied for more than eight decades. Fonkwetta Fontem (AKA Fontem Richard) aphoristically captured Pa’s legacy in this universal truism: “Good men go; their good deeds remain, to continue to help humankind!” Indeed, elsewhere, Takundeh Ndosong took it closer home by boldly asserting that: “The name MB Kungang can’t ever be forgotten in the history of Fontem ... Everything he ever stood for was the best.” Ndosong goes on to illustrate his bold statement with a personal experience as a former pupil of Pa MB: “In 1981-1982 his School G.S Fontem came first in a match past in Menji on the 20th May. He led the school against CS Mbindia in a Football match and his school won. The same MB Kungang led us against GS Nchenfem in a boys’ handball and we equally won.” Such a feat could be accomplished in one day only by a man with the mind of a genius, the character of a disciplinarian, and a near obsessive attachment to success. That was Pa MB Kungang. 
 
From another social media platform, the comments of Ndosong above are confirmed by a eulogy from someone who knew Pa MB as, what I would for the lack of a better term, call an outsider. Thus, Dr. Nicholas A. Jingwa (Ndi Nkemanteh N.J.), remembers Pa as a veteran teacher whose career began in the 1960s. However, as a former school soccer player, Ndi Nkemanteh could not help but recall “vividly that as a football player in Catholic School Fotabong, we used to meet with pa during the famous empire days. Pa M.B. was the coach for N.A. School Fontem and no team in the zone will easily beat his team. His team was always qualifying for the finals… Mr. M.B. Kungang would be remembered by many men and women, whom he had trained during their educational ladder in Lebialem and beyond.” 
 
 Indeed, even after going on retirement from the public service, Pa MB was always ready to mentor any young person that approached him for assistance. As for the publisher of LeGideon (Asaah Fortuchang), Pa MB no less contributed immensely to the establishment of this budding media giant, albeit, and probably, indirectly. “All the management skills I have today were either acquired or honed during the period Pa worked for me as Secretary General of Fuandem Technical College, Njeh Fontem,” the publisher confessed. As a young entrepreneur, in 1995, Asaah Fortuchang opened Fuandem Technical College in the road junction village of Njeh, just two kilometers away from Azi (the Lebang traditional capital). The vision was to set up an organization that would potentially operate in the educational, health, religious, and media sectors. The school was like a sort of laboratory for eventual branching out into other domains. Pa MB was recruited to assist in realizing the vision. Already moving towards the seventies in age, Pa still accepted the duty. Asaah Fortuchang remembers Pa in those days as an erudite bookkeeper, and a strict promoter of the respect for the texts and ethical principles upon which the institution was founded. Looking back in hindsight, the publisher believes that even though the school did not work, due to factors that have no space here, Pa MB completely changed his outlook on life and, above all, taught him how to balance consistency with flexibility and dynamism in the management of people and resources.
 
As for me, I worked personally with Pa Kungang between October 1997 and March 1998. I was a rooky graduate, fresh out of the university, called up by Asaah Fortuchang to be principal of his school. In hierarchy Pa MB was my boss, even though the day to day running of the school was in my hands. He was mostly in charge of financial issues and matters beyond the academic life of the institution (especially exploring possibilities of branching out into other sectors. What did I learn from pa Kungang? Commitment to service, honesty, and mutual respect. He was far older than I was but treated me with an admirable level of professionalism. However, one of the sides of Pa Kungang that I inculcated within the short time was his storytelling skills. Pa was a consummate storyteller who used an apt combination of drama and imagery to make even a seemingly uneventful incidence seem like the reenactment of the battle of Nsanakang (the bloodiest battle in Cameroon during WW1)!
 
In conclusion, I can only reiterate the legacy Pa MB leaves behind by borrowing words from Fonkwetta Fontem to say MB has gone, his good deeds remain, to continue to help shape humankind for the better!
 
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