Cardinal Tumi @ 90: Untiring Peace, Justice Pathfinder

Cardinal Tumi @ 90:

Untiring Peace, Justice Pathfinder

Story, Cham Victor Bama

Respected Catholic priest, Cardinal Christian Tumi turned 90, October 15. At 90, Tumi has remained agile in spirit, strong in tone and physically reassuring.

He has remained one of the  few moral voices  that  continues to echo in the strongest terms possible  across the board. This often is in quest for justice  and peace  in his fatherland Cameroon and beyond.

 Tumi has spent 54 years in priesthood and still counting. This is a man who has proven his worth and might beyond political, tribal, vocational, and personal lines.

This priest of rare  repute means more than just an icon in modern day democracy, many have acclaimed. Has authored several books. As a trailblazer, he came up with a 400 page document as proposal to solve the Anglophone crisis.

He is also the brain behind the Anglophone General Conference, AGC. When President Biya convened the Major National Dialogue many were of the opinion that Tumi was to boycott since he was already bargaining on his AGC.

Far from fiction, as a show of approval Tumi immediately subscribed to the announced Major National Dialogue. This was because the same worry to be addressed by the AGC were in reality not different from the aspirations of the Major National Dialogue. Tumi has a sentimental attachment to his convictions and beliefs, tradition, doctrine and passion for moral uplifting. He has never minced words  in telling truth to power and other  interest  groups  irrespective of how  they perceive and receive his message.

 At 90, he remains a rare source of inspiration to millions across the World.  Despite his age, the Cardinal speaks refined wisdom and gives hope to the depressed. His senses are all intact. His disciplined lifestyle has earned him great admiration from within and without the country.

Tumi’s Role In Nation Building

Cardinal Tumi is a household name not only in his country, Cameroon but Africa and the world at large. His societal philosophy is unique and undiluted.

Telling truth to power has characterised his approach of holding government accountable which reflects the much desired changed that many clamour for at the economic, political, social, spiritual, cultural and diplomatic levels.

 Tumi has contributed enormously in shaping and reshaping state policies through his objective criticisms on certain key actions initiated by government. In 2004, shortly after the Presidential election that year, Tumi condemned the electoral process and pinpointed possible faults that were inconsistent with the electoral imperatives. It is assumed that this criticism inspired subsequent amendments that has given birth to new laws and bodies. 

Common good of nation first

Talking to Municipal Updates recently, Tumi said it is each and everyone’s responsibility to foster the common good of the nation. In line with his pastoral mission, the Cardinal posited that as Christ’s representatives, living in peace with one another is of utmost necessity. “I believe that the problem is not between Cameroonians; French and English-speaking Cameroonians otherwise the English-speaking Cameroonians will not be running for safety to the French-speaking part of the country where I have been Archbishop for decades. I have been a priest for 50 years. Working as a priest for nine years in the English-speaking region and 41 years in the French-Speaking part of the country. I was born in the French-speaking part, brought up there and I know the area,” he narrated.

Inclusive Peace, justice Advocate

Tumi is a refined peace advocate on the basis of practical and religious outings. Since the outbreak of the current Anglophone crisis for example, Cardinal Tumi has never stopped suing for peace. As a mark of strength and zeal for peace to return to the restive North West and South West regions, Tumi would never turn down any offer that sacrifices personal interest to work towards resolutely finding a peaceful end to the upheavals.

 When President Biya convened the Major National Dialogue in 2019, Prime Minister, Head of Government, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute,  who was appointed Chairman of the historic come together immediately swung into action with pre-dialogue consultative talks.

To show his approval and belief towards this concrete action aimed at restoring peace through palpable moves as an offshoot of this national discussion, Cardinal Tumi did not hesitate to answer present at the Star building.

He did not only come in person, but came along with a 400-page document which contained proposals on how best government could resolve the crisis.

 To further show his devotedness to walk towards achieving peace in the North West and South West regions, Tumi accepted his appointment as Chairman of Committee No Four (4) on Assistance To Returning Refugees And Displaced Persons.

The committee itself speaks volumes and a man of his caliber as chair only transmitted a strong message that he is a lover of peace. In fact, shortly after the successful historic Major National Dialogue took place, Prime Minister Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, in November last year, dispatched a peace mission to the North Wet and South West regions. While Cardinal Tumi led the North West peace mission, His Grace Andrew Nkea, Archbishop of Bamenda led the South West lap. Tumi in Bamenda on November 16, 2019 told the population of the North West region that peace is the only thing that can redefine the lives of a people with a four-year story of suffering and economic hardship. 

This acceptance to lead a peace caravan to the North West was eloquent proof that Tumi is an inclusive peace ambassador who matches words with actions. Since then Tumi has worked endlessly to cause the surrendering of many armed fighters in the two English-Speaking regions.

Unassuming Cleric

Cardinal Tumi as a cleric is a different bold game. He is an inspired preacher who has the capacity to sustain his Christians for hours of talking God’s word. Tumi’s career as a Priest started in April 1966 when he was ordained. Since then, his priestly vocation has remained memorable, groundbreaking and inspiring.

 Many are those who became, have become and want to become priests thanks to the unassuming qualities of Rev. Fr. Christian Tumi. He possesses a soft spoken, but deep messaged tone when communicating the spiritual interaction. 

Moral Personality

As one who specialised on moral philosophy, Cardinal Tumi has lived, taught and practice immeasurable good moral doctrine. As a priest trained back then in the 60s in Nigeria together with late Archbishop Emeritus, Paul Mbiybe Verdzekov, Tumi had the fortune to encounter great experiences that had obviously coerced him to choosing morality as a path in his priestly vocation. He has often stood for objectivity, truth and justice. These principles have made Tumi a fearless and brave preacher. 

Position on Form of State

Cardinal Tumi is a man who can be described in few words as an iron. Easy-going, helpful, but difficult to bend. His conviction and views about the political happenings have been the same yesterday, today and probably tomorrow.  He has often advocated for a federal Cameroon but united in its diversity. He has never stood for separation. He thinks Cameroon can better impact as one, but not as separate states. 

 Reconstruction of NW, SW

Since the Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the North West and South West regions, PPRD-NW/SW was launched, one of the key personalities who have given his blessings to the plan is Cardinal Tumi.

He sees in the plan an opportunity for the military and population of the two regions to reconcile and forge ahead, while maintaining goals for peace, equity and justice.

 In one of his many interviews with Municipal Updates, Tumi said: “And when it is evil at this moment, it should be avoided. And I think stopping reconstruction from going on is an evil. And it should be avoided.”

Still on the question of reconstruction, the outspoken man of God said: “Reconstruction in general; we had a proposition of rebuilding after this destruction, we should not only look at material destruction, but improving on the good of the relationship between us.” 

The cleric expressed the conviction about the reconstruction plan. “I believe in reconstruction. The problem between us now is human, our English brothers who have offended us and vice versa. How do we heal that?” Tumi questioned then answered that: “We are going to propose to the government; villagers and military should rebuild together. When they work together to rebuild destroyed villages they will eat and smile together. It will cost us less and, at the same time forgiveness will set in, because we will be working together to rebuild. The people should be involved in the rebuilding.”

Myth Behind Tumi

Tumi’s strong, irresistible and powerful spiritual and moral personality has earned him the description as a ‘mystic’ Man of God. But a closer interaction with Tumi demystifies this impression. He is humble, receptive and ever-smiling. His fine jokes dispel any form of negativity and depression.

Here Are Three Things Cardinal Has never done

Cardinal Tumi in a one-on-one chat with Municipal Updates recently said at the onset of his career, he took the decision never to do three things which he thinks can ruin a priest’s career. These he cited were; never to attend a political party rally, insult during preaching- that is use of blasphemy during sermons and, thirdly to live by the oath of his priestly vocation, truth and justice.

  A critical view and retrospective into Tumi’s life since 1966 simply reflects that all these values have never been violated. Tumi is known for fearlessly telling truth to power. He has never attended a political rally. And he has never insulted anyone during his preaching. He rises above emotions to air views.

Other side of Cardinal Tumi

Jovial, down to earth and generous paint a picture of a man loved beyond measure by many who have and are yet ever have a physical meeting with him. Tumi is a recipe for stress, a fan of Tumi, Jacob Nfor told this reporter. “It bids by imagination to know that Tumi is this humble and makes people to laugh with his great sense of humour”.

Feeding Habit

Tumi eats three square meals per day and at specific timeframes, 8 a.m, 1 p.m and, 7 p.m, respectively. After a full day spent with Tumi, he never fails to respect his dietary timetable. His siesta program is strictly followed. Tumi told this reporter that he enjoys spending holidays in his Nso village.  Every year, he travels to Nso to spend at least about a month or two. His mastery of the Lamso mother tongue is enticing. 

Tumi’s Unrepentant Message To Anglophone Activists

Tumi is one truth teller to  “Amba” activists, especially those based in the Diaspora. While many pretentiously stay silent in visible compliance, Tumi has refused to be manipulated and, often takes time to shame and castigate the so-called struggle championed by few money collectors in the name of restoring the Statehood of the “Ambazonia” that never was.

“How can a small group of citizens rise up successfully and militarily against a whole army of the nation well equipped? …It’s difficult to dialogue with the separatist fighters. How can you dialogue with people who have never gone to school? The academic intellectual is lacking. That’s why they believe in the argument of force which can never work,” the priest said.

According to Cardinal Tumi, the struggle is instead against the people as separatist fighters now cut off people’s fingers, burn schools and have destroyed the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC and Pamol Plantations that were the main stays of the South West regions. He lamented that this has left thousands jobless. When asked on the Diaspora warlords that are fighting to take power in Cameroon, the Cardinal explained that power in Cameroon can only be taken through elections and not the use of force.

 “Anyone using force can’t take over power. They are only succeeding in the Bush. I told them; that those in the Diaspora that they are intolerant since they condemn anyone against their ideologies to death. Also, stopping children from going to school is bad. A girl’s hand was cut off in Bamenda because she was going to write the General Certificate of Education, GCE,” Tumi regretted.

The Cardinal advised separatists that if they want to rule Cameroon, “they can become leaders by forming a political party. To get power in Cameroon, it’s through the election. When they win the elections, they can now sell their political philosophies but force will never bring them to power. It’s only through elections that the people can accept them and they come to power,” the cleric declared. Tumi has been engaged in talks with some separatist fighters which has made others to reconsider dropping arms.

Biography

Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop emeritus of the  Douala Archdiocese, was born on 15 October 1930 in Kikaikelaki, Bui division, North West region.

He did his secondary studies at diocesan seminaries and at the seminaries of Ibadan, Bodija and Enugu in Nigeria. From 1969 to 1973 he obtained in Nigeria a Teachers’ Training Grade; a University General Certificate of Education at Ordinary Level in London; a licentiate in theology at the Catholic Faculty of Lyon; a doctorate in philosophy at the Catholic University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He is well versed in his native dialect, Nso and Pidgin, Hausa, Latin, English, and French.

He was ordained a priest on 17 April 1966 in Soppo, diocese of Buea and from 1966 to 1967 carried out his ministry as a parochial vicar at Fiango (Kumbo). From 1967 to 1969 he was a lecturer at the Bishop Rogan College minor seminary. In 1973, after having studied abroad, he returned to his diocese and was named rector of the major regional seminary of Bambui, archdiocese of Bamenda. He was also chaplain to the Association of Catholic Dames and was very involved in promoting the ecumenical movement, obtaining much esteem by Presbyterians and Baptists.

President of the presbyteral diocesan council, on 6 December 1979 he was appointed the first bishop of the diocese of Yagoua, erected the same day. He received episcopal ordination on 6 January 1980 in St. Peter’s Basilica. During his pastoral care, the local church developed rapidly, enriched with institutions and centers of formation, nursery schools and dispensaries.

Elected on 23 April 1982 vice-president of the Episcopal Conference, on 19 November 1982 he was promoted to Coadjutor Archbishop of Garoua. On 17 March 1984 he was made Archbishop.

In 1985 he was elected as president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (until 1991). President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), 1990 – 1994.

He participated in the 6th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1983) and in the extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops of 1985. President delegate to the 8th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1990); President delegate to the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops (1994). He participated in the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops (October 2009).

He was Archbishop of Douala from 31 August 1991 – 17 November 2009. Tumi participated in the conclave of April 2005, which elected Pope Benedict XVI. 

He was proclaimed Cardinal by St. John Paul II in the Consistory of 28 June 1988, of the Title of Ss. Martiri dell’Uganda a Poggio Ameno (Martyrs of Uganda at Poggio Ameno).