Professor Enoh Tanjong: His last Recorded Interview
Professor Enoh Tanjong has a wide knowledge of communication and development in the third world.
He has over the years worked on consultancies with national and international organisations, some of which are Heifer Cameroon, PLAN Cameroon, WWF, and ROMPI Project, to name just a few. In 2007, he received two awards for outstanding communication training in the country; one of them by the Cameroon Union of Journalists and the other by the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists.
Professor Enoh Tanjong was born in 1955 in Fotabe. A village in Manyu Division, Cameroon’s Southwest region, is where he grew up to attain his primary education.
In 1967, he moved over to pursue secondary education at Saint Joseph College Sasse under the supervision of his elder brother. He holds a B.Sc. in mass communication from the University of Lagos in 1979; a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin Madison, USA, in ’83; and a PhD in mass communication in ’86 from the same university. Following his employment in The Ministry of Information and Culture, Tanjong designed the undergraduate Journalism and Mass Communication Program at the University of Buea in 1993 and is often regarded as the POPE.
This name came about because he was the architect behind the creation of JMC as well as the pioneer head of department. He was the pioneer from ’93 to 2005.
Enoh Tanjong has trained thousands of media professionals both in Cameroon and abroad. He officially retired in October 2020 at the age of 65.
Throughout his career, he was not only a lecturer and head of department but also an author, with one of his most revered publications being “Media Balance in Sub-Saharan Africa”. He was also a researcher and still is.
He is a journalism trainer in the media sector who remains the father of JMC and an icon who has trained most of Cameroon’s fine brains in the media field, one of whom I happen to be.
Larry: Hello, Prof, Welcome to the program
Enoh Tanjong: Thank you very much
Larry: Your CV, does it really resemble you?
Enoh Tanjong: It resembles me, but I want to say the book is “Media Balance in a Fragile Democracy.” You should emphasise that democracy is fragile, and they want to see how media balance works.
Larry: And this book has sold several copies already.
Enoh Tanjong: Yes
Larry: What was the motivation for you to come up with such a book?
Enoh Tanjong: It came from my experience in journalism training, journalism education, and day-to-day interactions with my students – you have to widen your scope – and my international exposure. I needed all of these to bring that package, that book, “Media Balance in a Fragile Democracy.” It is “Media Balance, Fragile Democracy: an Analysis of Journalism Practice in Cameroon.” It’s like a summary of my life at the University of Buea.
Larry: You are a man of concept, as most of your students know. As you have already picked out the concepts of “media balance” and “fragile democracy,” if you were in a classroom now, that would be an assignment. Luckily, we are not in one. So can you tell me about your early years in Fotabe? You hold Fotabe so dear to your heart.
Enoh Tanjong: Let me tell you, I come from a very remote area; Fotabe. There was a time when vehicles could not go there. At the end of the day, from Fotabe, I went to Sasse. Thanks, as you said, to my father, and a father is not biological. Anybody who initiates you into the adult world is your father. He brought me up and sent me to Sasse, Bambili, Lagos, and America.
Given that, you cannot believe that my mother and father could not read and write. But I got it. I got the message from the time they gave me the push-up.
Larry: Your years in Nigeria, how challenging were they? One Fotabe little boy who just left Sasse, CCAS Bambili, and was thrown into an experienced world.
Enoh Tanjong: Nigeria was one of my most exciting periods. I met great minds! Most of my lecturers were American PhDs, about 10, but one stands out: Professor Alfred Opuboh, of late blessed memory. He was my godfather. He hired me as an undergraduate under a UNDP program. I used to have UNDP checks when I was in Lagos. You can say he was so close to me. He initiated me. That was my first contact.
My academics were very exciting; my social life and my activities, my activist life. I was the editor of Veritas, a newspaper in Lagos (UNILAG). And we made things happen for both boys and girls.
Larry: What things did you make happen?
Enoh Tanjong: Like the social fabric, I give you an anecdote: we would take our social responsibility when you want to mess up the society. We would go for you, whether you are a man, a woman, a boy or a girl. We go for you! We even went to the university to talk about good governance. Good governance is not this.
In my days in Lagos, we were working on good governance at the University of Lagos through my newspaper, Veritas. It was me; it was Enow, Kasalawo; we were three who made things happen for both the university administration as well as for boys and girls in UNILAG. I had a very good time. My brother is a medical doctor. He used to come to look for me in Lagos. He was in Ibadan. He would not find me. He said, “Where is Enoh?” Enoh is somewhere printing his paper. I had my best times there as an undergraduate.
Larry: So, while at the undergraduate, you were already practising print journalism?
Enoh Tanjong: Oh yeah! It was in my blood. It is in my DNA.
Larry: The ink is in your blood. And now let’s take a flight from Lagos now to Wisconsin.
Enoh Tanjong: Maddison…
Larry: Maddison. I remember back then, in one of your lecture classes in 2010, you used to tell us it’s not Wisconsin, it’s Wisconsin and the way you would pronounce it, you pronounced it with so much passion.
Enoh Tanjong: And the Fotabe accent!
Larry: And Fotabe accent! So, how was life in the United States in the early 1980s?
Enoh Tanjong: Yes, in 1981, as a child—a child of God, when I went to Madison, I fell into the hands of a great mind. I was his first Cam-African PhD. He is a quantitative researcher, Professor Jack McCrow. He took me again like Opuboh took me and gave me the best. I had a teaching assistantship. I was working 18/24, 19/24, and 20/24. Me! As you see me here, I used to work very hard to make things happen, to keep my citizenship, pay my fees, go to school, and have a good life. It was very exciting! I have had a very exciting life. God gave it to me. I thank him.
Larry: You returned home, and you began working with the then Ministry of Information and Culture, and from there, I am sure, when the University of Buea. Yeah, you were called to bring out this framework.
Enoh Tanjong: The Structure of Content
Larry: Exactly! Give us an anecdote of how this unfolded.
Enoh Tanjong: I was in Yaoundé when I got a letter from Professor Njoma, Professor Eyoh, and Professor Job Nchumbo saying I should design the journalism program. I did the preliminary work. I went and met my friend, George Ngwa. I gave the document to him. He looked at it, added and subtracted, and then we sent it to the University of Buea.
That’s the genesis, the beginning of JMC. As I was a man of travelling, I had a consultancy. I was in Madagascar working when one day, I got an email or text message through my father, Pa Tanjong. The university could not locate me in Cameroon, so they gave it to him, and he sent it to me.
Then, around October, I got another letter inviting me to come and start. I returned to Cameroon, went to Yaoundé, and called George Ngwa and said, “Let’s go; I can’t go to Buea alone.” I must go with you. We went down, and we came and started JMC from scratch with my books and George Ngwa’s book. When we came from America, I bought 21 cartons of books. Twenty were my books and one carton of presidential speeches. I had prepared myself.
It is God who prepared me. Presidential debates from 1960 to when I left America were in those big things that used to have technology. We came and started; George’s library and my own. We gave it our best shots. We gave JMC the best we had. Ask my early students who I was: a warrior, a Fotabe warrior.
Larry: Let’s divert a little bit and come to one of the concepts that you brought about. Most students who have been in your classes can remember you telling them “surviving JMC”, “survival instincts.” Well, is it…
Enoh Tanjong: It comes from my own background. When you are a man, how do you survive? You cannot survive by having a continental breakfast. You take eggs and sardines? No! The thing goes down in about an hour. I told them to have a tropical breakfast. What is a tropical breakfast? Eru and Garri! That Eru and Garri won’t digest until the evening. You take your food, you come to school, and you are closing at about 5 or 6. Uh, uh, you are moving around. You go to the library. That is how I made people survive JMC.
Survive it and fight your war. If you are a JMC student and you cannot fight your war, who will fight it for you? You want something? You go get it! That’s what I say to my students. And if you see my students, nobody can challenge you. You want something; you go get it. That’s an American slogan. And you survive the world. Not any Buea! You survive the environment, you survive Cameroon, and you survive the world. I have students in Dakar, in London, in Germany, in Finland, Switzerland, America, and South Africa. I am telling you! The boys are working hard and surviving. Some of them did not listen until they went there and saw. And experience has said this man gave his best.
Larry: There are a few students who, when you talk about Enoh, say, “Yes, Enoh is fun, Enoh is comic, but I never understood any of his lectures.” Especially the undergraduate students, they’ll say, “Enoh will just come to class, and by the time he leaves, you’ve not grasped any concept.”
Enoh Tanjong: When you have 19, 20, 15, 12 points, you will understand my lectures. They come in anecdotal form, they come in comic form, and they come in humour. That’s the way I demystify communication. Don’t forget communication is currently very young. It is not even 100 years old. It is not sociology; it’s not psychology; it’s not law; communication is very young. So I am in the third wave of PhD communication in America. The first was in ‘65, the second wave was in ’70, and the third wave was in the 80s. We were given these skills to come and demystify and make communications scholarships. You must make the children pick up. Some of them laugh the whole time, and they don’t even know that I am teaching them selective exposure, selective retention, or agenda setting. They don’t know, but when they go and read, they’ll know.
Larry: Let me recount one of the jokes you told in a lecture class. You asked a student what the meaning of a dummy was, and the student said, “I don’t know.” You laughed and said, “Eh, Enoh!” Then you turned and said, “A dummy is a loaf of bread in a local bakery.” Have you heard of it? And the student accepted that a dummy is the name of bread. Very few students could really unwrap the concept embedded in the example you gave. And this was Enoh. Enoh is always humorous and…
Enoh Tanjong: Comic and fun. The same day they shot that Pakistani girl, Malala. I came to class early in the morning, “What is Malala?” They did not know. It’s a kind of food you eat when you are going to school. Until they went and referred and checked who Malala was, and then they came back and said, “Thank you, Enoh.”
Larry: At least then they would know who Malala Yousafzai is.
Enoh Tanjong: eh! Malala is a superstar. From then till now, Malala is a big girl now. They shot her at the age of 14 or something in Pakistan. She survived. I come to class very early in the morning. I take BBC; I take VOA. I take Cameroon radio. On your own, I take obituaries, that’s Radio Buea because somebody can die from my home town and they need me to know; to send money. I also take Luncheon Date. I take all of those things before I come to school. I used to come to school at 6 a.m. and go back at 7. The only person who knows is my wife. I gave the whole thing all I had. The same with George Ngwa until he left. We were there. I hired all of them. Everybody who is there; I was on the panel for their interview.
Larry: When you look at the field — the practice of journalism — let’s forget about the market forces and everything. When you look at your graduates, are you pleased? Do you have full satisfaction with what is happening?
Enoh Tanjong: I am super happy with what I wanted to see and what I am seeing. When I send out the best students, I can tell you, Larry, that there are some days that 10/10 of all the top airing anchors are from JMC. Henry Ekambi is my student, or call any name. Veronica Benyella is my student. Call Larry Effande; it’s Enoh! Is Enow Njie Ebai not me? I am the happiest person in my life. I’m very happy. God has given me a second chance, and I am very happy with it. I see the fruits of my labour. You don’t know. They bring money here; they bring food; they bring everything: fruits, drinks. My students…
Larry: Is that why they call you “Pope?”
Enoh Tanjong: No, that name Pope came from the second batch, and I can trace it to that boy called uhm… his name cannot come now. The second batch had Chris Ebeson, Vero? No, Vero, I think it was in the first batch. But I think that boy who started calling me the “Pope”… his name cannot come now. When I think of his name, he is in Yaounde. I was very authoritative and omnipresent, and I knew my stuff. I know it to date. I know my stuff. I know who I am. If you don’t know who you are, a Manyu man has just sung a record called “nchempti.” Go and play it. I’m not advertising for him. He said that if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know where you are going. I was omnipresent. The children saw me. I used to know up till where your placenta is buried. Because in my tribe, when they deliver you, where they bury your placenta, they plant a plantain. It is that plantain that they’ll use to give you circumcision. I knew all my students in the early years. I cannot even handle Buea now that you have a class of 400. That’s not JMC! You can tell them it’s not JMC to have a journalism and professional class for 400 with two teachers. Those are rouges!
Larry: You are really well-drenched in research, and you try to impart that to your students. I’m sure JMC is one of the few journalism institutions in Sub of the Sahara which covers a whole lot of advertising, public relations, journalism itself, and research.
Enoh Tanjong: When I wrote the program, there were two philosophies: either give students a broad base program and when they go out, they start finding niches or start with them specialising. I don’t take the second option of them specialising. I took the broad base. That is called B.sc. Journalism and Mass Communication. You have journalism there, and you have advertising, public relations, you have research, and then all this your radio and these nyama nyama things.
Larry: So that means people come in like cassava like you used to tell us, and then they’ll leave like garri or mitumba.
Enoh Tanjong: Yes, when you come in like cassava, but the by-products are many. It can be Miyondo; it can be accra; it can be garri; it can be mitumba. That’s how I did the program. Students went out in their own areas of interest, and when they are out again, they now reinforce that area and go for their graduate programs. I have students who are medical doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, you name it.
Larry: Look at the media landscape in Cameroon and beyond. You said most of your students—some of them—are out of the country. Some are in the US, Switzerland, and everywhere…
Enoh Tanjong: Germany, America…
Larry: Let’s talk about the media landscape. Is it really pleasing? If you see, there is sometimes partisan, untrue information. Are you sure some of these students even go into the research like you taught? Do they authenticate?
Enoh Tanjong: You know, in every phenomenon, there are many graphs. Let us take the worst ones. The worst in terms of cyber criminality and sexual harassment. They are only.001%. They may seem insignificant, but they are very dangerous. But you will not see a student of mine who will not take his professional ethics seriously. We put ethics into the program. You can go and ask the two former VCs, Njoma and Tita, about it. I kept emphasising religion as a subject because certain courses did not take religion as a subject for evaluation. I took religion as the basis of ethics. Whatever the case, there are always gaps. There are always some shortcomings.
I will not dwell on them. I will tell you about the crowd who are performing. You at Radio Buea, whether it is Wasa, whether it is you or Agbor, call any name. They are my students, and they are doing well. Go to Equinox. You will see my students. I have lost count. Go to Radio Yaounde, go to Douala, go to Garoua, all over. Even the private media. Go to the Post here, and you will see some of the best minds. I will dwell on that because I live for hope. I am a child of God, and I must live for hope and keep hope alive. That is one of my slogans, “keep hope alive”.
Larry: Now, Professor Tanjong, you are into regulation now and advisory roles. You are now a member of the National Communications Council. I remember you were so concerned about the fragility of our country’s democracy and other democracy sub of the Sahara. What should we expect from you being there? I’m sure you have…
Enoh Tanjong: I have a role to play. I input into the regulatory board. Remember, you said we are the regulation and advisory. Anytime we have an erring journalist, I am at the forefront of punishing him, whether it is a former JMC or not. You may not have heard, but there are some former JMCs who have been sanctioned—suspended and sanctioned for one year with a fine to pay for talking recklessly, talking about people on social media, and creating non-existent newspapers. Whenever they have an issue with you, they come out to talk and run you down. We are trying to see how there can be responsible journalism. I am very much at the forefront. I do my input, and I thank God for giving me a chance to do some of the things I couldn’t do when I was at the training centre. Now it’s in policy, and I am doing my best. I think we will continue during my stay there to make sure that erring journalists are punished and good ones are rewarded. We are going to have occasions to reward excellent journalists like Princewill. He is my son. So you should have that I am still very much alive, and God has given me that second chance.
Larry: Now, let’s peep a little into your family life. You are a father; you are a husband. So just tell me how Enoh Tanjong is at home.
Enoh Tanjong: At home, my best friend is my wife, Dr Becky Enoh Tanjong. I have four kids: Maya, Egbe-eyong, Arrey, and Afon. As I am talking to you, Maya has four children, two boys and two girls. Egbe-eyong has one child, a daughter. I am the grandfather of five grandkids—three daughters and two boys. Is it not God? It is God! I come from a very liberal tradition. We argue, we talk things out, and we come to a consensus. When I am at the table with my children, they laugh. My comic is still there, my humour. We talk! Mom tell us or Arrey, Maya. Maya has my spirit, my daughter in Douala. This is how I live. God has given me this chance to live, and I thank him. I was talking with my wife this morning. Charity services are very important. I want to do charity work. I want to help humanity. I want to touch lives. I don’t only touch lives in academics but in real life. I would not like to have 10.000FRS and not give 1 or 2 out to people who are in need.
Larry: Before we take leave of you, we have two more inquiries to make. When you are not reading, doing research, or doing some policy mental work, what do you do?
Enoh Tanjong: I have two major things. I listen to music. Music is the inner part. And Shakespeare said, “Anybody whom music does not move, fear him.” I used to tell my girls in my class when you go out with a boy, and the music is playing, and he doesn’t even shake his head or his legs, carry your bag and go. That boy will kill you. I listen to music and know many genres. When you come after music, I like sports. My favourite now is Manchester City. That’s how I spend my life. And I want to do charity. I am not a very sociable person. I have Fotabe on my side, my village meeting. If it happens that I go, it’s Fotabe that will come here.
Larry: You are over 60, heading to 70 now. If you were to change something in your almost seven decades of existence, what would you change?
Enoh Tanjong: What I’d say is attitudes. We are very greedy, and it cannot help us in our development. We have to learn about how we can change attitudes towards things, even those they don’t like. Change! Attitudinal change is very important. I would like people to have good attitudes and values that they inculcate in themselves and their children and families. You sit in an office, and you are stealing money. Some of my students who are teachers in JMC go to students and ask for 1000FRS for resit. Is that what I taught you? You have to change that type of attitude. They go to students and ask them to pay.
Larry: You have been a media trainer for over 30 years, you are a researcher, you are a father, a husband.
Enoh Tanjong: Yeah, happily married!
Larry: You are happily married. You have many caps that you wear. If you were to advise media practitioners in Cameroon, what would that sentence look like?
Enoh Tanjong: Do your work. Be responsible and do your work, and the rest will follow—responsibility across the board: your profession, home, family, and society. Don’t go and take 10.000FRS and start a civil war. Don’t take a hundred thousand and castigate somebody or create a fake newspaper to run people down. Those are not people you should count on for this country, the faith and hope and the development of this country.
Larry: Professor Enoh Tanjong, thank you for being our guest on Moments of Recognition for Patriotism.
Enoh Tanjong: I am very pleased that that program is a very good program. Keep it daring.
Larry: Thank you, prof
And that’s it for today’s edition of the program, Moments of Recognition for Patriotism. Let’s do this again next week as we walk back in time to talk about the life of someone whose moments are worth recognising for patriotism. The program is brought to you with coordination from Gil Claude Mbong Etudi and supervision by Kange Williams Wasaloko. At the anchor and for production, I am Larry Effande. Let every moment of your life count, especially for patriotism.