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William Nji Tamu's Online Memorial Photo

Memorial Curator

Memorial Biography

The first son of Chi Mbindagha, William was named after his grandfather, Nji Tamu, son of Akum, of the Bemenwing Clan of Mbatu Fondom. His mother was Princess Neh Nchang, the sister of Fon Fonguh II of Nsongwa Fondom. According to the children of his age mates who are now all of blessed memory, Pa Nji was born around the year the First World War ended. Since he had no birth certificate, he was later given the birth year 1926 by his British employer who sent him to school while he was working as a Steward in Nigeria. He therefore, in reality, lived up to his promise of crossing the 100 year mark before leaving this earth, one of the very few people to do so while in a state of relative good health. He grew up as an ordinary boy in Mbatu Village, who, apart from helping his father in his palm oil trading business, also engaged in the adventure of carrying bunches of firewood from the family compound below the Mbatu palace through the jungles to Ntah-mbaghe (now Bamenda town) for sale. He recounts an incident in which it got too late to return to the village one evening, and he slept under a tree at the now City Chemist Roundabout. These were the days when the city center was at Old Town, and the present Commercial Avenue was only a foot path. When he woke up the next morning, he arrived at the decision that life could be better. So, he refused to return to Munjuh-Mbetu, and rather went searching for a job. With the help of Pa Fru Ntah whom he met at the market, he had his first job as a Yard Boy to a British Colonial Administrative Officer at Up Station. Through the practice of impeccable hygiene, honesty, dedication, economy, and the commitment to learn, young William steadily grew in his career. When his boss was transferred to Lagos, Nigeria, he took William along. In Lagos, William had a chance to attend school up to Standard 3. This gave him the preparation to read, write, and speak the Queen’s Language at a level that would tremendously affect his career. The height of his career was when he served as the Chief Steward for the Governor General for Nigeria and The Southern Cameroons. In this role, he enjoyed the privilege of being the personal host of the Queen’s Doctor when Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria in 1956. As Doctor Awasum Soh Simon reiterates, “working for the Governor General was in itself a big deal in those days. Being the Chief Steward of the Governor General meant that your father was in a rank of his own among the Cameroonian community. William was a great benefactor and mentor to many of the young Cameroonians who went to Lagos to study, do business, or to transit for studies abroad.” Some of the closely guarded relics in his treasure chest are a photograph of his onetime friend, Doctor Dorothy Limunga Njeuma when she was attending school in Lagos, his coat-and-bow-tie photo with Daniel Awah Nangah, and a Letter of Credence granting him access into the Ikeja Airport to welcome His Excellency Ahmadu Ahidju, president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon when he visited Nigeria on the 25th of September 1970. His first relationship was with the dream girl of his youth, a girl from Yuroba land who gave him two sons, Emmanuel and James. He later came home and married Regina Kieng, daughter of Barnabas Fru Awasum, with whom he enjoyed 56 years of marriage life before she passed on in 2014 at the age of 75. With Regina, William had ten more children, Alice, George, Veronica, Lucas, Christopher, Marie, Therese, Godfrey, Bridget, and Irene. These children have so far given them 23 grandchildren great 3 grandchildren. After several failed attempts, Pa Nangah finally succeeded to bring Pa Nji back home in the late 1970s. among the many settlement opportunities that were given to him, he opted to return to the trade of his father – trading in palm oil. He went into business as a whole sale distributor for Pamol but he did not last long in this domain due to the slippery nature of business of that caliber in a country from which he had been absent for several decades. As his next career move, Pa Nji once more put his Catering skills to work at the Bamenda Modern Bakery (Nangah Bakery). It is while on this job that he had the car accident that would redefine the rest of his life. He was bedridden for over a year, but eventually got back on his feet. By this time, he was no longer able to do hard work. This is how “Pa Willy’s Store”, also called “Family Store”, came into the scene. By the time he finally got tired and was forced by his children to stay at home in his 90s, Pa Willy had run the most consistent retail business in Njimafor-Mbatu for a period of close to 30 years. As part of his retail business, he introduced in Mbatu Village the concept of a Mobile Pharmacy through which he sold over-the-counter drugs and other essential/emergency needs at traditional occasions, funerals, and public events in the village. In the late 80s he earned the nickname “Papa I Trowey” because of his tendency to go to Bali and bring items for sale, such as sugarcanes, only to share them out to people for free. In the 1990s and 2000s, the school kids of Catholic School Njimafor called him “Papa Mbong-Mbong” because every child who went to his store during brake time was certain of returning with sweets in her mouth, whether or not she had money. Likewise, he and his first female grandchild, Emmaculate, coined the code name “I land” because his return home every evening was always the “landing of a goody plane”. Pa Willy survived two more accidents and a surgery from which he bounced back like a tennis ball. After the death of his beloved wife in 2014, Pa Willy convened a “Reconciliation Meeting” with his kids. The essence of his words to them was as follows: “My dear children, I apologize to you that I was not the perfect father you would have loved to have. I apologize that I did not pay your fees in good schools and give you the kind of life that your peers have. But I am grateful that God kept me alive to see the fulfillment of the covenant he and I made. Yes, to my last breath, I am proud to call you, “self-made doctors, engineers, and teachers”. People admire and even envy me, not because of material possessions but because of you, the children that are a blessing to me and your mother, as well as the community and the many friends you have. There are things about life that you will understand only later. Always remember Jeremiah 29:11.” Over the past 2 years, his physical strength has been slowly leaving him, although his mind was as sharp as ever. In August 2018, he was surrounded by his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, extended family and friends who came to celebrate a Thanksgiving for his life and share in his symbolic Birthday Cake. On Friday 16th August 2019, he was taken to Mezam Polyclinic Bamenda for a routine medical check after he had complained of cough and difficulty breathing. When it became obvious that he was going, his kids immediately called a priest who administered him the Communion of the Sick and anointed him with Holy Chrism. He transitioned peacefully a few moments later.

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