THOMAS NGWANE EDIAGE
By S. N. Ejedepang-Koge
On Monday July 26 July 2010, at the hospital in Yaounde, Synod Clerk Emeritus of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, the Reverend Thomas Ngwane Ediage slept peacefully in the Lord.
Thomas Ngwane Ediage was born in Tombel in 1932, of Conrad Ediage Mpako and Helen Ebane. After primary school, he taught for a while, and then had an internal call to serve God. From 1950-53, he pursued a rigorous three year course at the Basel Mission Catechist Training Institute Nyasoso. On graduation, he served as Catechist for two years and had admission to the Basel Mission Theological Seminary Nyasoso in 1955. While still studying, he married Elizabeth Nlende Akwe in 1957. In 1958, he brilliantly graduated with the coveted Diploma in Theology. On the completion of one year of probationary service, Thomas Ngwane Ediage was ordained Pastor in 1959. Following this, he taught for a few months in the Catechist Training Institute Nyasoso and, then went to study German in Switzerland. Subsequently, the Presbyterian Church in West Cameroon seconded him as a Pastor to the Church in Germany. During his studies and foreign work experience in Germany, he strengthened his vocational commitment, broadened, and deepened his intellectual. Returning to Cameroon, he served again as Pastor and teacher before the call to serve as the Synod Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in West Cameroon, 1968-1985.
When the Reverend Ediage acceded to the post of Synod Clerk in 1968, he was only 35 years old. He was stepping in the shoe of the Reverend J.C. Kangsen, respected pastor and former member of the Southern Cameroon House of Assembly. The Rev. Kangsen himself had succeeded the Rev. Aaron Su as Synod Clerk. Leaving the post of Synod Clerk, the Rev. Kangsen succeeded the retiring Moderator of the Church, the Right Reverend Abraham Ngole. By the rules of the Church, the Synod Clerk succeeded the Moderator. The Synod Clerk was the executive head of the Church, while the Moderator who was hierarchically superior, had a symbolic role, as in the British political system, where the Queen or King is a Constitutional Monarch. Furthermore, by convention and tradition of the founders of the Church, the Moderator and the Synod Clerk did not have to hail from the same Church District (Forest and Grassland).
Based on the above rules, tradition and conventions of the PC in West Cameroon, the Rev. Abraham Ngole served as Moderator from 1968-68, with residence in Kumba. He came to the Synod Office periodically to do his work. Moderator Ngole served with the Reverends Aaron Su, Moses Fondo, and JC Kangsen in succession as Synod Clerks. The Synod Clerks exercised executive powers: wielding the power of Attorney, and keeping the seal of the Church. Strangely however, when Reverend Ediage became Synod Clerk, all this changed stealthily, unofficially.
Now serving as Moderator, former Synod Clerk Kangsen continued to occupy the office space that he and his predecessors had been using as Synod Clerks. He continued to keep the seal, which only the Synod Clerk had the authority to keep. Technically and practically, therefore, he was reversing the roles of Synod Clerk and Moderator. Few would have been able to tolerate this marginalization of a man, an office and, the informal single-handed change of an institution as the Reverend Ediage did. The respect for seniority and age and, the aura of Rev. Kangsen’s former positions as MP and Southern Cameroon Government Minister may have intimidated Rev. Ediage. It is also possible that these same considerations impelled the Rev. Kangsen to see himself, the Moderator as better assuming the executive powers than the honour crammed and symbolic role assigned the post.
The Reverend Ediage was a man who would not hurt a fly. On the contrary, he would, in obedience to Christ’s teaching, ‘turn the other cheek’. Dutiful and very respectful of elders, authority and, the hierarchy, he assumed his duties with enthusiasm and diligence without complaining. Whenever he raised the problem of the trappings of the post that were eluding him, he received the admonition, “hold on”. He held on patiently, without bitterness and, the Church watched unconcerned, as its Constitution changed. Inquiring into this episode of the PCC’s life, a few clergy, and the lay dared to say that the Reverend Ediage was naïve to have accepted such a situation until it changed the social contract of the Church. That senior Ministers and Lay of the Church would utter such an assessment of the situation is a very demonstration of how deeply ordinary civil and political behaviour have quickly invaded the Church. In this case, what can we still call decency, even in the Church? What can we call essentially religious or Church behaviour? The difference between reverence and power, between reverence and posts of authority and, between reverence and material wealth and, the difference between the reverent and the profane, have become so blurred and distorted that it is becoming difficult to distinguish between religious and mundane behaviour and matters. Confused and distorted as the situation is, to recover one’s bearing, one must rhetorically ask constantly, “Who are we? Where are we and, where are we heading to?”
Putting all this behind his back, the Reverend Thomas Ediage continued to work as his
life-vocation dictated. He lost the trappings of power and the office space that his
predecessor Synod Clerks had enjoyed, but bore the title Synod Clerk.
Some people fault the Rev. Ediage for having abdicated and surrendered these powers.
By this sort of thinking, we find ourselves in the face of civil and political invasion of the
religious, the divine domain. Until then, the selection of Senior Church leaders was by
consensus. On the contrary, in 1985 when Moderator Kangsen was retiring, and the
renewal of the structures of the Church began; it gave birth to another trick. A ballot was
conducted and, contrary to convention, the two senior offices of the Church went to the
the Grassfield District. Because greed and political methods had infiltrated the Church,
the PCC was in turmoil.
Not only was an individual made a victim of this greed and politicking methods, but the
whole Church has been suffering the effects for many years. And, it still suffers the
effects at the approach of, during, and shortly after the selection of new Church leaders.
Yet, the Reverend Thomas Ediage, victim of the unbalanced behaviour of the Church,
was the very one who began to work hard at calming those who claimed to have
perceived the offensive and intolerable dirty treatment that Rev. Ediage had received.
The most aggrieved man, the one eluded by the post of Moderator, remained less
perturbed. Rather, he turned to appeasing his angry supporters. He returned to Buea,
served in less visible positions, then had a transfer to Kumba. In 1992, Rev Ediage
retired to his humble home in Nyasoso. Because it did not have enough pastors, the PCC
continued to use him, as pensioner on duty (POD) at Nyasoso.
In 1957, Reverend Ediage married Elizabeth Nlende Akwe, a calm and simple but
dignified woman, and they had many children who were nurtured, as it is wont of a
Pastor’s children. Surprisingly, it is through the sickness of his wife and later his eldest
son that the forces of evil tried to break this man of God. Word spread that he dabbled or
someone introduced him into some secret organization through which he sacrificed his
wife and son.
It is an irony of life that in his peaceful retirement, a man who had worked so hard and
faithfully in God’s vineyard and, nurtured a family, could be transformed into a monster
overnight. It is shocking that even some of his close associates bought these fabrications.
Initially, shaken by this turn of events in his life, in spite of his vehement denials of the
rumours and accusations, he finally came back to his theological training and the
certitude of his conscience, comforted by his faith and at peace with his God.
However, the physical body has a limit to what it can endure. We may refuse to believe that it is on us, but stress is a terrible burden on human life. No one can dismiss it easily. It drags its victim slowly, creating unsuspected complications. Undoubtedly, the moral, psychological, and physical strains that Reverend Ediage bore in his circumstances during the last ten years must surely have also taken a toll on his health. We thank God that he had faithful and devoted children who gave the best medical care that could be, and carried him to this stage. Hannah of his second marriage, three daughters Margaret Mesode, Mrs. Dorothy Ndille, Esther Fule Ediage, two sons Herbert Ediage and Richard, 13 grand children, sister, nephews, and cousins, survive the Rev. Ediage.
The civil world does not consider humility as a virtue but it is capital in the religious realm. As such, we will remember the Reverend Thomas by his humility, peaceful nature and dedicated service to God and man. He taught us that the holding of posts and the wielding of power, the craze of civil and religious circles today, are not synonymous with positive service.
Since he viewed in a lighter mood the unbalanced treatment he received in and from the Church but forgave, may the Almighty so treat the Reverend Thomas Ediage and give him a peaceful rest in his Kingdom. We also pray that by his peaceful passing, at a fair age of seventy-seven, let no more guilt and reminders of what had happened to him and the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon haunt the people and the Church. May the Lord look even more kindly on the Church and give it a childlike heart of balance and forgiveness in its decisions and dedicated effort to spread the good news faithfully by the inspired word and action. Glory is to our loving, forgiving, and faithful God.
ALL BAKOSSI CONFERENCE BANGEM 2008
PART I: PREAMBLE
The All Bakossi Conference meeting in Bangem from December 11 to 13, 2008 with the view to forge a new path for development in Bakossiland:
i. Conscious of the lack of concertation amongst the Bakossi and more so in matters of development;
ii. Considering the existence of abundant natural and human resources in Bakossiland;
iii. Considering the enclavement of Bakossiland and the deplorable state of the road infrastructure;
iv. Conscious of the need for an improved communication network in Bakossiland;
v. Considering the need for adequate educational and health systems;
vi. Considering the need to integrate the woman in all dimensions of Development in Bakossiland;
vii. Considering the need to alleviate poverty;
viii. Conscious of the need to establish constructive dialogue amongst all active forces of Bakossiland;
ix. Conscious of the fact that agriculture is the major occupation in Bakossiland and for this reason there is a need to revamp the sector by the provision of inputs and good roads.
PART II: THE ABC RESOLVES that the Bakossi should:
In pursuance to the above mentioned aspirations, a standing committee is hereby set up to sensitise and mobilize Bakossi of all walks of life to work in the implementation of these aspirations.
Done this 13 day of December