I’m not a stranger to arrests by the police. In fact, I have slept in a police cell three times in Cameroon. I know even the thought of it scares many people so when a police officer tries to intimidate them, they quickly do whatever it takes to get out of the situation. That usually entails a few minutes of feeling like less of a human and paying a bribe. The most publicized of my arrests was the one orchestrated by Syndy Emade after a very random set of events which I am not going to go into here. What I realized then was that the average Cameroonian is not even aware of the law and how it works. It is actually an extension of the distrust we have in our system that most people believe none of our institutions actually work. The fact is that corruption itself is really not that easy to navigate.
People here in Cameroon do not know simple things like “do not talk to the police” especially when you have not been caught red handed in a crime. Many of us binge watch TV series on crime and we hear that statement over and over again but I think most of us in Cameroon think that it is something that only happens in movies. It could also possibly be because we never really imagine ourselves in a serious situation with the law. Most of us are used to ID card problems; and for those who drive, vehicle document issues. Yet our jails are full and many of those people did not wind up there without due process. I know there are a lot many being held outside the bounds of the law but let us try to assume here that the system works more often than not.
In my case with Syndy Emade, I ended up staying in a holding cell for five days which was all because of the use of loopholes in the law; but for my freedom, all I had to do was give a statement. I was picked up by undercover police and brought to a police station where I was informed of why I was there. I was given a document to give a statement which I refused to give. I was told that if I gave a statement, I could walk away right now but if I didn’t, they will have to hold me until the case is processed for the courts. My co-accused had apparently been picked up before me and by the time I arrived, she had already written her statement. I decided to take the days in cell over giving a statement and the co-accused was right there with me being held in a cell after giving her statement.
After two days in the cell, I got a visit from not one but three commissioners who each came to try and convince me to give a statement so the case can be over. I still held that I will only speak in court and I was rather worried why they were suddenly so concerned about my freedom. The family of the co-accused came to me again to ‘plead’ with me to give a statement so we can all be released but I was like “why is nobody else thinking what I am thinking?” Long story short, the whole case turned into a fiasco after that and the last I heard, it was thrown out of court – obviously. What I know for sure is that had I tried to give my own part of the story on the first day, it would have been game over for me. I had no one to call, so I trusted God to make the law work this time and it did.
I want you to know that the law works, even in corrupt Cameroon maybe not most of the time but knowing how it works will definitely take you out of one or two situations. Before Tenor’s accident, I have alway been thinking about how much people, the young ones in particular, don’t know about the law. Cameroon is corrupt and for many things, if you have money, you can get away clean and free. However, the dynamics are a little more different. Just before Tenor, on the 14th of July, famous sports journalist, Martin Camus Mimb, was hauled to prison to await trial for the charges of pimping and cybercrime, in relation to the leaked sex tape from his office. In the early hours after the scandal broke the internet, his public utterances had some invincibility that we did not see days after, when he probably realized the full weight of what he was being accused of. Even ties to the president in his case will not make the situation a breeze for him. International organizations, Universal Lawyers and Human Rights Defense, are part of the young girl’s team going after Mimb and his friend Wilfried Eteki who was also in the leaked video.
When the news of Tenor’s accident broke, amongst the discussions was speculation of the legal consequences to Tenor. From most of what was being said, you could tell many people were just being emotional and misinformed about how such cases are investigated and what the legal provisions are. Of course, drunk driving is something that many people take for granted in Cameroon. I remember once I traveled from Bamenda and at the rest stop, the bus driver got himself a beer. When I tried to call his attention to the inappropriateness of what he was doing, many people looked on to me like I was being unnecessarily obnoxious. I am certain most of the accidents we have on our highways and roads, especially at night are as a result of drunk driving. Drunk driving accidents are usually all good in Cameroon until when someone dies, then the whole thing becomes a nightmarish situation.
Tenor’s fans will love to see the parents of the girl who lost her life in his car forgive him and forget. Well, that grieving father can forgive Tenor quite alright but it is not his place to decide Tenor’s fate. Reckless driving and endangering lives is a criminal offense so it is a matter for the legal system to decide on. The system here is pretty broken so I believe Tenor can easily beat the drunk driving part of the case as I doubt there were any procedures taken to determine his blood alcohol level when he arrived the hospital; even if that was done, it will be cake to get that falsified. I highly doubt that is where his fall is going to come but if it is still in question in the case and his legal team does not know how to get it out, they can hit a boy up.
One thing we forget which is what I believe will be the ultimate evidence that can send him away is the CAMERAS. One thing about Cameroon is that it is turning into a police state and trust me, when it comes to things that keeps the current government in power, you will see Cameroonian ingenuity fly. The government has invested a lot in one of the most extensive fibre optic networks in Sub Saharan Africa, and believe me that all those Cameras we see around town do work. There are Cameras at each of the two roundabouts that tail the road where the accident occurred. I don’t know if his lights were on, or what but for him to drive straight into the roundabout means he was first of all distracted and for the car to wind up the the condition in which it did, he had to be moving on quite some speed which was above the recommended speed for that stretch of road and I’m sure that camera footage is going to be used as evidence. I can’t say much more on the case as it is still open and under investigation.
What I want the young people reading this to know is that many of the things they take for granted could have serious implications. I say this especially as fame mongering is becoming a real thing. I bet Tenor gets out of this easier if he wasn’t famous. Unfortunately in this case, he is famous and everyone is following up to see what happens. We all know Tenor’s image, which is nothing but what will be expected from a young man in his position. He is not the only young man wilding out in Cameroon. His case is not simple because it is the one that will send the message about what the government wants to promote as a desirable attitude for youths. What I know for sure is that, he’ll get a lot of people mounting pressure to ease his punishment but I highly doubt he’ll get a pat on the back for this one. Martin Mimb could also have gotten away easily but he is also famous, so everyone is looking and it is harder to twist things.
At this point in his life, we will get to know just how Universal Music can take care of their artist. A company of that standing must have bought an insurance policy for Tenor, I mean, his job description involves jumping off stage. You also want to hope here that he read his contract and signed a good deal because this might see him ending up with a huge debt to pay to Universal Music. I can only wish the young man the best. No matter what happens, he has the privilege of youth and he will come out hopefully stronger, more focused, with his career waiting for him to continue from where he left off.