“It is not the length of life, but the depth of life” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I sat still, shock electrifying my whole body and hairs rising on my skin as I tried to process the news my mom had just told me. I should have suspected as I did at other times that a call from my mom in the middle of the week was no good. The tone of her voice and her unusual questions gave her away but I would have never guessed what she was about to tell me. How could Elvis Mbene be dead? He was only 33 years old with a brand new wife. So how could he be dead?
As I sat there frozen, trying to process the horrifying information; memories began flooding me all at once and I started to reminisce on his beautiful soul.
Anyone who knew Elvis would attest to his charm, his ability to warm everyone’s heart with his contagious smile, his kind nature and the dexterity with which he pulled a crowd. Elvis was a special being; determined at a young age to charter his own course in life, leaving impressions on multitudes everywhere he went.
I met Elvis when I was 11 shortly after we relocated to Limbe and became neighbors. Through our parents’ friendship, we became acquaintances which quickly translated to attraction towards each other. I remember when I got my first kiss very vividly because it was the Christmas of 2001 and it was from Elvis. It was also the first and last time I got the beating of my life from my dad because he saw him kissing me. I had never regretted that day though, at least not the kiss and I remember it now like it was just last week. Over the years, the “crush” and “attraction” towards each other gradually turned to mutual admiration.
Elvis wasn’t just the son to Chief and Mrs Mbene, he was a son to every parent in Alpha club. He wasn’t just the brother to his sisters but a brother to many in Alpha club and a friend to all. It is very easy to see how and why Elvis was so likeable. He was the first person in our neighborhood who made something out his life. He had joined the Cameroon army as a sub-lieutenant after graduating from military school young. He was the envy of some but an inspiration to many and kids were aplenty who looked up to him for mentorship and friends abounded from every corner.
Gradually he climbed the ranks through dedication to his work. The army uniform never looked so good on anyone before and he wore it with so much charisma. As beloved as he was, so he was revered. His presence commanded a room but his personality, his smile shown through and drew people in. Every one, old and young, family and friends. He was “notre Capitaine”.
Dying at 33, some may say he lived a short life but everyone who knew him would agree that Elvis lived his purpose on earth. He loved his country so much he did all he could to serve it in the army. A look through his work archive shows a man who had so much tenacity, courage, determination and love for his job. The very thing he loved doing, ironically is the very thing that claimed him unexpectedly.
Elvis had just been recently deployed to Northern Cameroon to assist the fight against the terrorist insurgent group known as Boko Haram. His vehicle was on tour of the area when it ran over a bomb, believed to have been planted by the sect, killing him and the driver, another officer too instantly. http://news.yahoo.com/two-cameroon-soldiers-killed-suspected-boko-haram-bomb-141758514.html
Boko Haram has always been real to me. I stood with Nigeria and the rest of the world when the Chibok girls were taken and still pray for their safe return. I mistakenly watched a video of them slaying a human like it was goat they were slaughtering for soup and my mind has never been able to unsee that horror again. Almost every week, I hear of a new video released by their leader threatening the peace of their targets. What might have started as a cruel joke has gradually spun out of control into the beast now known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram has always been real, I have never doubted their existence or taken lightly the images of pain and suffering inflicted on the masses by them.
They have always been real, but on Tuesday they got realer when they hit so close to home. They got realer when they snatched at a very young age, one of the promising leaders of tomorrow’s Cameroon. They got realer when they took Captain Elvis M Mbene from his parents, sisters, wife, friends, neighborhood, city, province and country. Boko Haram got realer than I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.
Boko Haram needs to be stopped before they cause further harm to innocent families. Whoever stumbles on this tribute, please keep the #stopbokoharam alive on social media platforms; maybe when it is seen enough times, we would have adequate help to combat them and/or maybe, just maybe our leaders will decide to take them seriously and find a solution to this madness once and for all. Surely, their lives and that of thousands already lost in this battle are not in vain.
His colleague’s family is in mourning too, for they too have lost a son, brother, friend perhaps a husband. Like us, they are trying to make sense of this senseless tragedy. One thing is sure, that though they died in the line of duty, they died heroes. They died defending the motherland from the thugs who call themselves boko haram. Cameroon didn’t just loose soldiers, the South West province, the town of Limbe and the neighborhood of Alpha Club lost a son, a brother, a husband, a friend and a hero.
The nation of Cameroon and anyone who knew Elvis personally is aggrieved, for we didn’t just loose a great compatriot, we lost a wonderful human being. In death as in life, he continues to draw people in but this time is different; because there is a huge void, emptiness that we would never be able to fill except in our hearts. I am grateful for the time I had with him and I will forever treasure those memories. He may be dead but his star shines bright forever, in our hearts.
RIP to all the soldiers who have lost their lives fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.