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We caught up with a veteran in the journalism profession who has conducted in-depth investigations and interviews with public figures. Many newspaper, radio and television journalists owe their stand in journalism to this humble and ever hardworking seasoned journalist, who developped contacts and researched stories within a particular beat, such as politics, culture or economy. Most newspaper editors see Mr. Ephraim BANDA GHOGOMU as an icon and role model.
MR EPHRAIM BANDA GHOGOMU IN HIS REGALIA AT THE RESIDENCE OF THE GOVERNOR OF THE PORTUGUESE ISLAND OF MADEIRA LAST YEAR.
1. Administrator: When we listen to the name Ephraim BANDA GHOGOMU, we think of ‘This Week in the News’, ‘Cameroon Calling’ and Special Live Broadcasts on the CRTV, Who is the man EBG?
Answer: Ephraim Banda Ghogomu is a lucky prince born in 1957 in Bambalang palace. My parents, the venerated Fon Mingo Ghogomu and Queen Anna Ngwafu, are both of blessed memory. I obtained primary education in Cameroon Baptist Mission Schools in Bambalang (1963-1966), Kumbo (1966-1967) and Mbem (1967-1969).
Joseph Merrick Baptist College (JMBC), Ndu, which turns 50 next year gave me the first cycle of secondary education. I did the second cycle in the Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology CCAST) Bambili from 1974 to 1976. I worked in The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications from 1976 to 1984. During that period, I met my first wife, Elizabeth Utiaboh Fonkemban, who gave us a first child I named Amy. The Bambalang royal family head, Fon Fosi Yakum Ntaw II gave the name Ngwangunu to Amy. It was in 1984 that I yielded to my vocation by going to the Advanced School of Mass Communication in Yaounde, graduating three years later with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, specialising in television broadcasting.
After a brief transit in the then Ministry of Information and Culture, I was posted to the North West Station of Radio Cameroon (which became CRTV NW) in Bamenda, where people say I made a mark on the local weekly news magazine programme in English, This Week in the News, in which I contributed regularly and later anchored for ten years. My service in Yaounde resumed in 2002 when I got transferred from Bamenda (after 14 years of uninterrupted service) to the CRTV national station where I presented Cameroon This Morning for nine months non-stop, and taking up the anchor of Cameroon Calling for for four years. My style and innovations endeared many, including my British friend Peter Hiscocks of Thomson Foundation who loved my end signature: KEEP THE FAITH! That was when I began doing live coverage of presidential events which I continue to do. I moved to the TV newsroom as editor in chief in late-2005. In early 2008, I was posted to the TV Programmes Department where I have served in various capacities till date.
In a nutshell, this is the noble but simple, patient, tolerant, understanding, compassionate, kind, caring, generous, sociable, strict and disciplined, yet humble interlocutor!
2. Administrator: What inspired you to choose this profession, and who were your role models at the
Answer: The inspiration for broadcasting began in 1965 when I went to school. One evening, our father switched on his new Sharp transistor radio. All I remember is the voice of a man (most likely, late Dr. Peter Akum Fomum) asking: Where are We? Later, I learnt that the station was Radio Buea where the leading critical programme was Where are We. While living with my sister Mrs. Julie Shwieko Ghany, I developed an interest in current affairs, and followed live the first broadcast of the announcement of our father’s demise on Wednesday 27th March 1968. In JMBC, the Information Prefect, Adamu Musa, appointed me into the editorial board of the school newspaper, Merricoll Magazine, after only one year of my arrival there!
I stayed on the board till I graduated in 1974. While in CCAST, Bambili, I served as Secretary General for the YCNU Football Competition, developing my writing skills to communicate properly. One of my English Literature teachers, Mrs. Motanga insistently encouraged me to go into broadcasting, such that my classmates nicknamed me His Master’s Voice. From then on, I borrowed a radio from my a classmate, Richard Fombah to follow the news.
From 1976, newspapers (Newsweek, Time, New African, etc.) took the best share of any revenue I had. Thanks to the American Cultural Centre in Yaounde, I watched regularly the weekly TV rebroadcast of prime-time news from the American networks by Dan Rather of CBS and Peter Jennings of ABC. At CRTV, I have admired the daring such as, Eric Chinje, Adamu Musa, Tricia OBEN, Beatrice Animbom Monju, Epsi Ngum, Akwanka Joe Ndifor, Victor Epie Ngome, etc.
3. Administrator: What was it like at the beginning of your career?
Answer: Having been privileged and blessed to have a wide background with divergent views, I did not succumb to any attempts to detract me from my focus which has been professionalism. Apart from my first Station Manager Peterson Chia Yuh and his Editor in Chief Philip Bawe who interacted freely with me, many of the others seemed to fear and dislike my presence. Those who replaced them tried by intimidation and abuse of power to frustrate me, but I stood firm and kept working, whether assigned or not. That is when I developed a flare for human interest and investigative reporting, using my salary as means. The worst of it was on 16th March 1990 when I was completely excluded from the coverage of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Charles as he came to inaugurate the British funded rural electrification project for the North West Province then. That was the day Ni John Fru Ndi deposited his declaration forming the Social Democratic Front political party in the office of Governor Magloire Nguiamba! I took it as one of the drudgeries of my vocation.
4. Administrator: How will you describe the evolution of the media, back then when you started, till today?
There is no doubt that the media have evolved since then. Coming from a monolithic practice for decades, it would have been crazy to expect any revolution in the media by the late ’80s. Objectivity was subjective, balance anathema and accuracy elusive. That probably explains, at least partially, why my hierarchy almost got me arrested on 29th May 1991 when on Luncheon Date I made a balanced report on national day celebrations in Bamenda at two venues being the official at the grandstand and the unofficial at the Big Mankon Catholic Mission premises. Rather than frighten me, the negative attitude of my hierarchy motivated and strengthened me to persist in my crave for professionalism. I had thus begun building my reputation. Today, nobody bothers much about objectivity because the concept bothers. Despite the embarrassing sensationalism and growing infiltration by non-professionals, efforts are being made toward fairness, balance and accuracy. I believe that that is why many media establishments, be they public or private, are opting more and more for debate programmes or opinions that ar divergent. So, we have come a long way; but we have a long way to go!
5. Administrator: Being an English speaking journalist in a Bilingual Country where French is dominant,
how has this affected your work?
Answer: The bilingual and bi-cultural character of Cameroon does not hurt my performance. On the contrary, it enhances my work. My wide travel took me to Canada with the reverse similarity: crushing majority of English speakers and minority French speakers. I refer to this as dichotomy which gets compounded in Cameroon by other heterogeneous realities. In all this, what matters is personality and conviction. I have always been proud identifying myself as a speaker of English, even though the French rate my Francais as excellent! And truly, I write and speak good French. But I work in English without any complex.
6.Administrator: To you in all these years of work, what have been your biggest stories you have reported
Answer: Big stories? I wish I knew what you mean exactly. Nevertheless, if big means a blend of professionalism that culminates in some positive difference, then in Bamenda about which I have already mentioned the 1991 national day, I remember my Cameroon Tribune stories 1985 while still in school about a Momo man named Bah who died in his girl friend’s house; a rancorous meeting with men of law by the their then Minister of State Andre Ngongang Ouandji and Governor Alexander Ngomba Motanga’s management of the Anglophone problem that was rife then. Back to CRTV Bamenda, I remember my live comment from the heliport on the arrival of President Paul Biya followed by my first commentary on Cameroon Report on the significance of the gift of a table and three chairs from the population presented by the Government Delegate Jomia Pefok; reactions to the appointment of Hon. Simon Achidi Achu as Prime Minister, Head of Government; his visit to Boyo Division and later, his return home in 1997; a 3-PM live story from Kumbo with voice of Senior Divisional Officer Tanyi Tiku Bayee Arikai Martin on presidential election day that motivated heavy participation before the polls closed; many tours and visits by Governors and ministers; the funeral of the mother of SDF National Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi with Governor Adrien Kouambo representing President Paul Biya; visit of Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musonge whom I interviewed for Cameroon Calling on that occasion; state funerals for Dr. John Ngu Foncha and Hon. Solomoon Tandeng Muna, both of whom I had interviewed for Luke Ananga’s TV documentary on Bakassi… In Yaounde, because of the demanding management positions I have held, I regularly did live coverage on President Paul Biya’s outings.
7.Administrator: What has been your major Challenges in the Journalism Profession?
Answer: My major challenge has been professionalism which builds a reputation that establishes integrity. This is why I fight relentlessly against influence peddling in all forms, call it gombo. I preach and strive to practise this in and out of newsrooms, at professional meetings of the Cameroon Union of Journalists and CAMASEJ, and even at bilateral level.
8. Administrator: I will like to take you back to the early 90′s when a lot of English Speaking Journalists
believe that they were ill treated, notably at the time with CTV and
How would you describe this period for you and where were you at the time?
Answer: In the early ’90s, I was in Bamenda. I do not know that many English speaking journalists at CRTV and Radio Cameroon felt marginalised beyond what I may term the manifestation of the Anglophone problem. If that is what you mean, then my answer is that I lived it and continue to live the phenomenon where we are considered only as assistants. I have worked as deputies to colleagues who did not meet me in school. But, I have also had occasions to boss my seniors, even if such are rare.
I have always accepted every situation with stoicism, knowing that leadership and management positions have their demands and requirements, including the criterion of discretion exercised by those who have the prerogative to choose. The fact that I have a grade I worked for leaves me satisfied, whether or not appointed.
9.Administrator: The Media has considerably evolved in the last two decades, what is your analysis of the media in Cameroon today?
Answer: Yes, the media in Cameroon have evolved. But we are now living in a global village. It is difficult to undertake an analysis of the situation now, given the constraints of time and space. However, summarily, in comparative terms, the major problem with our media is not their sentimental polarisation, but their relative lack of professionalism in terms of language proficiency, fairness and accuracy. One big problem is training. There is some disorder in the media in Cameroon which some blame on poverty and lack of access to sources of information. Some say that we have too much freedom of expression being misused by some quacks. We need some independent self-regulatory structure to lay down the basis of consensus for practice, as well as suggest and control training course content. Our goal is not having everybody see the same way, but enabling many professionals to have access to and use the same professional techniques.
10.Admimistrator: What is your take on the next generation of English Speaking Journalists, especially
with the fact that, they work both in the private and public media?
Answer: The next generation of English speaking journalists in the public and private media… This suggests an undertone of another dichotomy between the public and private sector, young and elder, English speaking and French speaking. They are ALL journalists, but with varying degrees of experience. I find across the establishments many young promising journalists imbued with clear talents and enthusiasm. Their common problem is the lack of mastery of the language they use. They can overcome this handicap by being reading widely, listening to stations and watching networks of reference like the BBC, Sky, CNN, VOA, DW and even RFI! Note of caution, however popular they become, they must remain HUMBLE!
11.Administrator: Many people in different professions don’t talk about life after they stop working, have you given a thought to what you will do after you stop active work?
Answer: Stopping active work? You mean stopping work at CRTV? I am a workaholic; so I can only stop working when my brain stops working. I consider leaving CRTV as changing activity. Where next? I have been thinking about that. Where I go will be where I consider my work to be most useful to mankind.
12.Administrator: Having Being an Editor-in Chief and Director of Programmes for many years at the CRTV: How can this new generation benefit from your enriching experience?
Answer: Indeed, my experience has been rich and enriching. In my one generation of experience, only one year at the beginning went without a post of responsibility. I started with Acting Editor in Chief in Bamenda, moved through effective assistant editor to Editor in Chief before leaving for Yaounde to take up Editor in Chief in the national radio central newsroom, then the television newsroom, Deputy and Acting Director of TV Programmes, and finally going out as Sub-Director of TV Programmes. All along, I have contributed to building up and guiding those on internship and other young colleagues wherever and whenever we meet. Thanks to the British High Commission that awarded to me a Chevening Fellowship, I hold post-graduate diploma in Democracy and a qualification in training trainers.
With my passage on professional missions in Canada, USA, France, China, UK, Ghana, Kenya and Monaco, coupled with my experience in Cameroon, I have much to share with interested colleagues, young and elder, provided they are interested. I keep learning… and sharing!
Administrator: We also understand you have been given a new traditional title at the Mbaw Yakum Fondom, what is the significance of this noble recognition and how do you handle it, with your busy schedule at work, home and the village?
Answer: With regard to your question, following the enthronement of HRM Fon Kevin Shomitang II as monarch of Mbaw Yakum, the Supreme Traditional Regulatory Society, Kweifuongh, crowned me as Duke, Special Counsel. The significance is that I am ranked not just as a prince, but among the top ones with special responsibilities, rights and prerogatives.That distinction gives me the right to move with a special traditional bag, own an oxen-horn cup and enjoy prerogatives of that rank in all other kingdoms. The duties are quite demanding in time, intellectual and other resources. However, by GOD’s grace I carry on rather well just like the successful polygamist that my father was.
Administrator: Thank you veteran for sharing your exploits with us.
Answer: Thank you. I have hope in you. Good luck in this ungrateful but great and glorious profession.