Hello people. TGIT..Hope you are have had a great week.
A few weeks ago, Make up artist and Fashionista, Anyi Asonganyi and family lost their father, husband, brother uncle and friend….The academic, political spheres and Camer as a whole lost a hero….Professor Asonganyi..
Professor Asonganyi was born in Nkah Tabeuh – a village in Lebang Kingdom of Lebialem Division – in South West Region in Cameroon, to Mbe Jackson Asonganyi (Asong’Anyifua) and Mama Regina Nzengung. He was the last of his mother’s children: others were in decreasing order of age, DD Asonganyi (who died 13 April 1990), Emefua (she died 19 August 2001), and Charles Nkeze Chiazo (who died in 1984). Two other brothers (Tanyiatem and Lekealem) died before he was born. Apart from the brothers and sister mentioned above, there were step sisters and brothers too.
He started and completed his primary school Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) in Tiko He graduated with the class that was the last batch of Standard Six. In 1964, the school system was modified and a seven-year “standard” was introduced with instruction being given to “class” no longer “standard.” He passed the Entrance Exam into Saint Joseph’s College, Sasse and was part the entry class of 1964. His Sasse Batch is therefore named “The September 1964 Transition Class” because they constituted a transition from the Standard 6 system that started in January to the Class 7 system that began in September. He graduated from Sasse in 1969 and went to the lone High School at the time, Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology (CCAST) Bambili. In 1971 he got his GCE Advanced level and taught briefly at St. Bede’s College Ashing for a year before proceeding to the University of Yaoundé in October 1972.
In June 1975 he graduated as the best student of the batch at the University of Yaoundé with a “Licence en Sciences Biologiques” [BSc in Biological Sciences]. He travelled to London (UK) in October 1975 on a Cameroon government scholarship to do a postgraduate degree. He registered in the Department of Biochemistry in University College for a one-year MSc programme. By September 1976, he had passed the MSc exam and registered for a PhD programme which ended in December 1979 with the defense of a PhD Thesis titled “Biosynthesis of the lipopolysaccharide of “Pseudomonas aeruginos”.
The Laboratory of Dr. Pauline Meadow in which he did his research in Gower’s Street (SW1 6BT) was just a few meters from Dillon’s Bookshop, the second largest bookshop in London. He visited Dillon’s bookshop nearly every day that he was in the Lab, going each time to the new books shelf to look for new arrivals. Of particular interest to him was the African section (African Writer’s series, African history, Black history, the general novels section and Biographies. Sometimes he also visited the Biochemistry Section. At most visits, he bought at least a book. This was facilitated by the £10 he earned every Saturday working some five hours at Willis & Sons, a factory that processed rubber products. His friends made fun of him about the pile of hundreds of books that took considerable space in his single room apartment. He became a militant, subscribing to the rising tide of African Nationalism at the time.
He was also a frequent visit to a community centre which had educational talks and classes for African children and adults. It was like African nationalism had been built into a cult with Cheikh Anta Diop, Chancellor Williams, Haki Madhubuti, John Henrik Clarke, Lu Palmer, Wole Soyinka, Ayi Kwei Armah, Chinweizu, George GM James, Franz Fanon, Y. Ben -Yochannon and their likes as the high priests; Asonganyi was a servant of the cult who took upon himself to distribute some educative leaflets and sensitize the African community on one issue or the other. These were exiting times for the continent of Africa. There were events unfolding in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), South Africa, Mozambique, etc. Asonganyi made frantic efforts to sway the group to support the ANC of South Africa. He later write in his memoirs that overall, he spent a wonderful four years in London with friends like Clement Ngwasiri, Carlson Anyangwe, Njianjek Azefor, Martin Eseme, Simon Munzu, Dione Ngute, Azu’u Fonkam and Diane Acha Morfaw.
At that time, it was spoken in hushed conversations within the Cameroonian circles that Mr. Ntumazah lived in London. Asonganyi had heard about Ntumazah in folk tales in Cameroon, so that raised his curiosity. Although he was warned that just setting eyes on Ntumazah made one an enemy of the Cameroon regime, he decided to visit him, in spite of the risk of losing his scholarship. He visited Ntumazah on a weekly basis and obtained tons of documents about Cameroon and read them. For fear of Cameroon’s State repressive security outfit and his repressive agents, he gave out all the documents before he returned to Cameroon in December 1979.
Once back in Cameroon he started working for Professor Jacob Lifangi Ngu who was running an Institutional Strengthening UNDP/World Bank/WHO Project on Onchocerciasis in the then CUSS, and recruited him as one of his researchers. He also went for love hunting and found it in abundance in Florence Njuzy who rapidly became Florence Asonganyi and both of them built a powerful and loving family blessed with 4 successful children namely Nzengung Asonganyi who lives in Maryland USA, Njuzy Asonganyi, Anyifua Asonganyi & Njikeng Asonganyi who live in Douala.
The post doctorate research position at CUSS made him well grounded in methodologies of trypanosomiasis research and during this time he was basically a globe trotter, travelling to attend scientific seminars, conferences as well as present scientific papers out of his research. In May 1982 he presented a scientific paper in Geneva on trypanosomiasis and between July 1982 and June 1983 this got him a job to station at the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD),in Nairobi , Kenya during which he worked to exchange scientific research methods with other scientists and to broaden his perspective on animal diseases in general . Scientific research related travels took him to the National Institute of Health , Islamabad Pakistan, Helsinki in Finland, Havana in Cuba, the International Foundation for Science (IFS), Sweden, Smith’s College in Northampton, Massachusetts , USA as well as the Tsetse Research laboratory, Bristol , UK . He was a member of many Professional Bodies to include; Cameroon Bioscience Society, Cameroon Immunological Society, Cameroon Biochemistry Society, American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and Fellow of Cameroon Academy of Science . His hard work in science did not go unnoticed when he discovered that a major global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline used a faulty method to test for Sleeping sickness in patients. The company reviewed their methods, acknowledged their mistakes and the Medical Research Council in the UK sent a team of researchers to Cameroon to work with Asonganyi to perfect their methods and that led to a modification of the approach for the diagnosis of sleeping sickness in the field.
In 1985 he got a teaching position in the faculty of Medicine and Biomedical sciences of University of Yaoundé I (CUSS). In 1986 he rose to Senior Lecturer. In 1993 he became associate Professor. In 2004 he achieved the crowning glory of academia by earning the title of Professor. Prior to his demise, he was visiting Professor at Madonna University , Elele, Port Harcourt , Nigeria and Professor at the Catholic University of Cameroon. In the mid 90s he diversified into partisan politics in Cameroon and became Secretary General of the SDF from 1994 to 2005. He steered the affairs of the SDF for almost 10 years with dignity until he resigned in 2005. In 2004 he became the Permanent Secretary of the joint opposition National Coalition for Reconciliation and Reconstruction (CNRR).
As Secretary General of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), the largest opposition political party in Cameroon he was in charge of the day-to- day management of the party acting as the main strategist and tactician of the party. He ran and managed SDF party ‘s strategies during the 1996 municipal elections, 1997 Parliamentary elections, 1997 Presidential election, 2002 twin municipal and parliamentary elections and the 2004 Presidential election in Cameroon. Asonganyi authored about 100 peer reviewed Scientific articles in world renowned science journals. A lot of people never knew Asonganyi was a natural scientist, talk less of a biochemist. Many thought of him as a social scientist because of his more impactful writings about society due to the hundreds of published Newspaper articles either to analyse government policy or to state the party’s position on matters of public policy. Of recent, he published a memoire titled “Difficult Choices in a Failed democracy in. He was highly solicited to write “Forewords” for books on political issues and recently he was a reviewer of documents by the African Union Institute for Security Studies. Recently he had been hired as an election observer in the UK, Ghana and Nigeria. Asonganyi showed unwavering leadership in cultural development. In multiple occasions he travelled abroad addressing Lebialem and Lebang conventions in the USA delivering keynote addresses and other round table conferences.
He leaves behind Children , a grandson and a wife.
*Pictures Courtesy of Anyi Asonganyi*
My heartfelt condolences to Anyi and the entire Asonganyi family.
Professor Tazoacha Asonganyi may your soul rest in perfect peace.