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General News of Thursday, 5 February 2015

Source: The Recorder Newspaper

How death chased and caught professor Michael Yanou !

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Director of Dialogue in the Ministry of Higher Education, Associate Professor Michael Akomaye Yanou known for his dialogue missions between lecturers and students of higher institutions of learning especially state-owned universities is dead.

He was the former President of the Higher Education Teachers’ Syndicate, SYNES, University of Buea Chapter, and a law lecturer as well.

The outspoken Prof. Yanou's mortal remains is now in the Mortuary of the Regional Hospital, Buea, pending funeral and burial arrangements. Prof.Yanou died in a car accident on Tuesday, January 27 along the Edea-Yaounde road, described by many critical observers as a death trap.

On a mission to Buea last Thursday, January 22, Prof.Yanou, driven by his own wife Musi Nicoline, narrowly escaped death when their car got involved in a road accident, leaving it damaged. The couple however came out safe.

According to The Post, he managed to get [the car] for repairs and continued his journey to Buea by public transport.

The Director cum law Don, The Recorder gathered, was coming to Buea to teach at the University of Buea post-graduate students.

He is reported to have taught the students on Friday, Saturday and Monday before embarking on his return journey on Tuesday to Yaounde. This time driven by his private driver (since he was yet to be assigned an official one) only to meet his sudden death, as his car was trying to dodge a speeding truck, somersaulted into the bush.

“I succeeded in giving way to a truck that appeared abruptly in front of me and actually swerved back to my lane. It was like a dream when I realized that the car had somersaulting into the bush”, Prof. Yanou’s driver, Joseph Ediaga, who was hospitalized for injuries by press time), is quoted by The Post as saying.

The deceased was “hated” by some officials of the University of Buea (UB) for the several strikes SYNES UB Chapter (under his leadership or instigation) organized, pressing for improved work conditions of lecturers.

The University administration saw the SYNES strikes as a threat to what it considered as the smooth functioning of the University, whereas Professor Yanou was considered a hero by many teachers and students for always defending their rights to decent working conditions.

It is widely believed that, because of the deceased’s outspokenness on the governance of the University of Buea instead of elected officials as the text creating the University states, and his fight for lecturers’ rights, Prof. Yanou won the admiration of the Minister of Higher Education, Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo, who appointed the former months ago as Director of Dialogue in the ministry, a post Prof. Yanou held until his demise.

Speaking to The Recorder on Thursday January 29 at their near-GRA Buea residence, Prof. Yanou’s wife, Musi Nicoline said his husband as Director in the Ministry remained true to himself, always expressing his views on matters of higher education without fear.

Asked if Prof. Yanou as Director ever complained to her about any threats to his life, a heart-broken Mrs. Yanou answered in the negative, noting that, “I was not only his wife but confidant as well.”

Before becoming a law teacher at the University of Buea, the soft-spoken but critical Prof Yanou lectured in the faculties of law of the Universities of Uyo and Calabar in Nigeria respectively.

Prof. Yanou who bagged his PhD from Rhodes University, South Africa, was also a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge University and a practicing advocate of the Supreme Court of Cameroon and Nigeria.

He was not only an admirable law don but a good researcher who published articles in highly accredited journals.

When the news of his death hit the university community in Cameroon, both lecturers and students were shocked.

Associate Professor Ernest Molua, who disagreed often with Prof. Yanou on the approach of handling strike actions in the University of Buea, expressed regret over the sudden death. Prof. Molua told The Recorder, “Considering his intellectual stature and caliber this is a great loss to the university community in Cameroon.

Despite his militancy in the teachers’ syndicate, he was still a fine teacher in Higher Education. It takes years to train somebody up to that level. His death has brought to fore the issue of lack of infrastructure in our country, where we are losing not only poor Cameroonians and wealthy ones including intellectuals due to road accidents, poor infrastructure, poor traffic and also the lack of duty consciousness of the police.

In fact, our roads have become death traps. The death of Prof. Yanou is a big loss to the higher education family in particular and Cameroon in general. My condolences to his family.”

According to Prof. Victor Julius Ngoh, now Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Bamenda, who was also Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Buea, when Prof. Yanou was very active in SYNES, “It is not only sad news, it is a big loss to the Higher Education family both an Associate Professor of Law and a director in the Ministry of Higher Education.

“I recalled there was a general assembly meeting of SYNES in Bamenda three weeks ago and he as Director of Dialogue, representing the Ministry of higher Education met me and we were talking about SYNES and I told him my position about SYNES and he said ‘Prof, since 2001 when you told Dr. Fonyam and me about your position about SYNES you still are consistent’. And I said yes.’ I have experienced sudden deaths in my family; I know how painful this can be. It is really sad news.”

Dr. Shu Fontem, a SYNES UB member and close friend of the deceased, described Prof.Yanou’s demise as a huge loss not only to the higher education community but also to the judiciary, where he played several roles such as a practicing lawyer and consultant.

The Recorder learned that Prof. Yanou’s students and some lawyers have since been weeping for the irrecoverable loss.

Prof. Yanou has left behind his wife, three children, relatives, colleagues, students and well-wishers to mourn him.

It is worthy of note that in the last several years, road accidents have claimed the lives of many renowned University of Buea dons such as Dr. Bate Besong, Dr. Hilarius Ambe and Prof John Ebanja.

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