REST IN PEACE, MOLA JOHN ITUTE TAMA
By Dr Louis Egbe Mbua, London, Great Britain
This writing pertains to Mola Johnny Itute Tama who passed away on 29 March 2020. Mola Tama was a big brother, uncle, socio-cultural icon, close friend, and in fact a family member. His family have been friends with my family for generations resulting in many relations of mutual beneficence.
I came to know more about Mola Tama when he was engaged --by tradition --to my sister. I was very excited and pleased because my sister always rejected eligible suitors who stood very little chance if they did not meet up with her impossible “standards”. It was, therefore, a great relief, as a small boy, to have had a young aspiring and charismatic man to be near; and to listen to his elaborately interesting and captivating stories of prowess in many aspects of life— an inspiration and motivation of great value. However, these exciting times were cut short by his sudden appointment to work with the then newly created Cameroon Shipping Lines combined with a Cameroon government scholarship in Marine Engineering at Hamburg, Germany. I remember him coming to the house in Tiko, and announcing the wonderful news, a fascinating development as I never knew anyone who had been to Germany since most people studied in the UK at the time. His departure caused a break of communication; of which the engagement fell through. The last I saw of him in Cameroon was when I was on my way down to Sasse College, for my first day. He had returned home for holidays, residing in his native village of Soppo. Despite these long silences and lack of communication thereafter, I kept Mola Johnny Tama in mind.
I had gone to visit my cousin who was studying at Liverpool University, UK, in the mid-1980s. Within hours of my arrival, he quickly informed me that Mola Tama was living near to his flat in Liverpool, a stone’s throw away, and that they were neighbours. After dismissing his claims for a strange joke, and arguing that he was but in Hamburg, Germany, he insisted that we visited him. At 85, Ponsonby Street, Liverpool, there we met Mola Tama again, after a decade and looking as young as I knew him.
Mola Tama was so elated and pleasantly surprised to see us after such a long time that he took us out and introduced us to all of his friends in Liverpool – the entire Liverpool knew him to our great bemusement. We were so baffled by his incontestable popularity that we kept looking at ourselves together with other Cameroonian students who happened to be present. He would call on one of his friends who was a doctor or an accountant or a university professor and introduced us to them; beckoned to a lady or gentleman there and proudly introduced us as his small brothers from Cameroon; and would announce with pride in his voice what we were studying in universities in England. He would always take us out to nice places, bought us drinks and dinner. He told us that his house was our house, and that we were welcomed there at any time. He would hand authority of his house to my cousin while he went to sea for work as a marine engineer.
When he moved to London, he was a pillar of the Fako Community in the UK. He offered advice, financial help and cultural impetus to the Fako Community which was unshakably united at the time with everyone knowing everyone, and all in good terms here in the UK. A supremely fluent Bakweri language speaker, a cultural icon, he was co-founder of FECA UK in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Together with Mola Sammy Meano Kale of blessed memory, Mola Sako Burnley and a host of others who have not been mentioned, they founded FECA UK (Fako Elements Cultural Association UK) . In his time, FECA’s cultural celebrations were the talk of the Cameroonian, African and London Communities. Usually held in Ashwin Hall in Hackney, more than 1000 people of all persuasion and origins would pack the hall to see the richness of the Fako culture at its best with top level dancing, drama, fist class singing and traditional dishes of five star standards.
Mola did not forget us and his community after he settled in London from Liverpool. He continued to be sociable to the very end of his stay on earth. When my uncle and his wife visited London in 1993, Mola Tama was there, treated them with the utmost respect they deserved when they arrived Heathrow, all through their month's stay and when they departed to Cameroon. He welcomed everyone in his house, his soft-spoken mannerism always convincing, not given to anger but always proclaiming positive ideas and promoting good social norms.
Mola Tama’s sudden and unexpected passing away shocked friends, family members, well-wishers, the Fako community, and in fact London and Liverpool cities, the latter where Mola Tama could win a mayoral election in the 1980s and 1990s for his unrivaled people skills, popular appeal, social and professional connections, charisma, clear communication and contribution to the community. His death is a great blow to the Fako Community in particular, the Cameroonian, UK, and African community in general, his like of which we would not see again.
His first son, and my nephew, Mafany Sullivan Tama, has posted a memorial link below for anyone who would like read more about the life and deeds; and to express their condolences to the family and memories of Mola Johnny Tama.
Good Bye, Mola Johnny Itute Tama. Thank you for all the good works. Rest in peace, Mola.