Age is a very satisfying experience. To some people of course. I mean to those who use their age to reflect and positively impact the society in which they live. Others just dread age, being old, that is.

Age has really had a great impact on my life. It has changed me very considerably. It has matured me into someone who sees several aspects of life from very different angles, some of which can be really contradictory. Like my stand on the idea of wealth during a debate with some colleagues in Yaounde the other day.

You see, Cameroonians have their various warped ideas about wealth. To most Cameroonians, wealth is perceived only in terms of material things and cash. That is where I failed to agree with my colleagues during that debate in Yaounde.

It is not as if I don’t consider material wealth and cash as good things. They can be. But they can only be good to the extent that they are honestly acquired. And like Balzac said: “Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime”. It is almost impossible for someone to come into the kind of opulence being thrown around in this country without having committed a great crime.

I believe very strongly that honestly acquired wealth cannot attain certain figures that we hear in this country, especially in a third world country like ours. When I hear people celebrating the acquisition of billions without showing an honest corresponding means through which they acquired the wealth, I just get sorry for such people as well as for this our cursed triangle.

Like I have written several times before, there is hardly any bigger thing God endowed the human being with than conscience. That is why I am always sorry for those who illegally acquire wealth and pretend to be happy. Such people cannot possibly be happy. The happiness they exhibit outside is a hoax. They live nightmares and can hardly have sound sleep. And sleeping soundly is one of the most precious gifts on earth. It is precious wealth in itself.

So, when I come across people who think they are wealthy but who can hardly have a wink, I get sorry for them. Sound sleep makes the body develop well and fresh. It bestows a lot of good things to the individual and enables the one to have the peace that passeth all understanding. It enables one reflect well, plan well and achieve healthy goals that can be worth a lot of gold if transformed into material wealth.

People who sleep soundly, to me, are the wealthiest people on earth. And sleeping soundly can only come with a clear conscience. And that is a rare commodity that wealthy people can hardly boast of.

Me, I sleep very soundly. And that is why I consider myself a very wealthy person. Whether you believe it or not, some people with whom I have had the occasion of sleeping together with, have envied me for my sound sleeping. Like this Peruvian young man I had to share the same room at the Aharon Ofri International Study Centre situated in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Rachel, Israel some twenty years ago. (1996).

I had won a UNESCO Fellowship to study in Israel and we had arrived Jerusalem in the night and the previous course participants in the Centre were due to leave the following day. In fact we arrived when their graduation party was on. We new arrivals were thus forced to share rooms with the graduating batch that one night. I shared my own room with the young Peruvian journalist and at dawn, I got up to meet him staring at me with some admiration and envy.

Finally he asked me the question: “Can you let me into your secret of sleeping so soundly? I hardly had a wink last night and I spent much of the time watching and admiring you sleep. I hardly sleep, you know”, he said.

After a long conversation with him, I discovered he had been involved with a terrorist organization in his country that had done some killing of innocent people, including women, children and old helpless people. The dark spot on his past brought him nightmares whenever he covered his eyes.

Repent, I told him. Pray to God and take your problems to Him. He would not forsake you, I admonished my young friend. And this is the advice I give to most of those who have nightmares whenever they cover their eyes. They wrestle with their consciences because of the evil things they did or continue doing.

Like the Bible says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdome of God”. I guess the Bible is right there and it could still be very right if it had added “rich thieves”. Those today looting our public treasury should think. Think, compatriots.
Chief Bisong Etahoben

International Investigative Journalist

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