Big, jovial and always smiling, Joki Manga is one of the fresh faced youngsters who registered and started school as part of the St Joseph College Sasse 1979 batch.
35 years later, Joki is now a successful entrepreneur and a Maritime/Oil & Gas Logistics Coordinator with general electric, GE Oil & Gas in UK. He personally conceived the Sasse College Sickbay project 14 years ago and says everything is being done now to make sure the project is completed on time for the 75th anniversary celebrations in December this year. He chairs the Logistics and transportation committee of the anniversary planning committee and is actively involved in making sure the thousands of former students who will be attending the celebrations do so hitch free. He was elected pioneer Vice President General for Europe in August 2013,in Cameroon.
What behind the scenes preparations are going on as the oldest secondary school in Cameroon begins planning for its 75th anniversary in December, how has he been interacting with other Soba chapters in Europe and what will he do if he is appointed principal of Sasse?
Joki Manga answered some of these questions in this chat with Francis Ngwa.
Q With 75th anniversary celebrations of Sasse College only seven months away, how have you been coordinating the Europe branches of SOBA to make sure they actively participate in the occasion?
There are some challenges with some of the chapters, but I am trying my best. It is not an easy task as you need to make calls to various chapter presidents, update them on what is going on at the national level back at home and what the leadership of soba expects from them. I try to make them understand how important this 75th anniversary celebration is for Sasse College and to us SOBANS. I believe we are moving in the right direction as there are some chapters I need to revive and in some countries I need to either open new chapters like Austria.
I am also working towards reviving the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium chapters. I will be making a meet the people’s tour in July to the various chapters in Europe so we can discuss about their participation at the upcoming 75th anniversary celebrations.
Q. What are some of the behind-the-scene actions you are doing to make sure the anniversary itself is successful?
I am working tirelessly because SOBA expects a lot from me and I don’t intend to disappoint them. That is because I am VPG in Europe, considered as the heart of the world, with a large Soban population. I am also the chairman of the logistics and transport committee that will be overseeing the entire logistics and transportation during the 75th anniversary and that is a very huge task. I am up to the challenge though.
I have to liaise with Mr.Kenneth Foncha, Vice chairman of the logistics and transport committee based in Cameroon on a weekly basis to make sure everything is moving on fine. I am also a member of the Souvenir committee which means I am also have to work closely with the chairman of that committee, other members of the committee and Sobans to get appropriate souvenirs for the anniversary.
Q. Apart from SOBA UK and SOBA Germany, which other SOBA Europe branches are active and you are working with now?
I am in contact with Soba chapters in Ireland, Holland and Belgium I will soon help get a chapter functioning in Austria . Let me also say I have also made contacts with some Sobans in some Eastern European countries who are anxious to have a functional chapter in their countries and how they could participate in the anniversary celebrations.
Q. Making people to feel they belong to an ex student organization like SOBA can be very challenging and I presume that is why you were chosen in the first place to be SOBA VPG for Europe. What are some of the challenges you face in your role?
Some of the challenges are mostly related to ignorance of my functions by some of the chapter presidents, I am supposed to be working with. They don’t really think I should be advising them on certain issues concerning SOBA. A good example is a case where chapters are using a different logo other than the approved logo from the National Exco in Cameroon. I stepped in to tell them they have to abide to the rules and regulations governing SOBA because the SOBA brand and trademark is registered with the African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI) and needs to be protected.
Q SOBA UK recently had very bruising but democratic elections which Ayuk Akoh Arrey easily won. Most people expected that as SOBA Europe VPG, you should have installed the new EXCO but that did not happen. Why was that the problem?
As I said earlier, some chapters don’t really know my role as VPG for Europe. I guess the SOBA UK outgoing executive felt they could just hand over documents to the new executives without an installation ceremony which would have been great. I believe when the new constitution of SOBA general is ready, all chapters will get copies and the roles of the VPGs will be well outlined. There must be some confusion because this is a newly created role.
Q From all intends and purposes, some SOBA Uk members are not comfortable with your position. How did you become SOBA VPG for Europe ?
I became Soba Vice President General to continue the work I have been doing for my alma mater Sasse College for a long time. An example is the Sickbay Project which I conceived some 14 years ago when Fr. Nkeze was principal of Sasse. The old sickbay was in very bad shape and I wanted to do something to remedy the situation. I told Fr Nkeze about plans to get a good sickbay for the school and also spoke to many other Sobans. Someone however had to
take a lead if wanted to get the project off the ground.
Fr Nkeze then showed me a possible building site for the sickbay but this was later changed by the proprietor Bishop Bushu. The first thing I did was to get a surveyor and an architect who drew a site and building plan for the sickbay. I paid for all this from my personal funds and that is how the sickbay project started.
I believe I was elected in this post by some senior Sobans who had seen my hard work for the past years and wanted me to continue but this time with a proper mandate which could help in raising the needed funds. The Limbe chapter proposed me for the position (Joki is registered with the Limbe chapter) Some well-known Sobans then endorsed me for the position including two former president general,Dr. Edmund Agbor and Dr. Nyamdi,Former PTA President Cdt. Njotsa Augustine
Q. Will the sick bay be ready for use before the anniversary celebrations and why has it taken so long to construct?
I can assure all Sobans that the sickbay will be ready for use during the 75th anniversary. We are working very hard with the sponsors to see that the project is completed. Soba UK is the leading sponsor of the sickbay at the moment but other sponsors include Soba America,Soba national in Cameroon and the Diocese of Buea. The President General, Prof Ngwafor is also working very hard with some of his contacts to see that we realise this project in time for the anniversary celebrations. The project has taken long because of the has not been any constant flow of cash.
Q. How will you say your time as a student in Sasse shaped the man that you are today?
My time in Sasse helped shaped me really well to be what I am today as a responsible Dad and husband and also a hard working entrepreneur. I
am proud to be a soban and I am proud to serve under the leadership of our
dynamic leader Prof. Ephraim Ngwafor
Q. Who really is Joki Manga?
I am a humble, friendly, motivational, family oriented and a very enterprising person. A native of Bona-Bile Bimbia, a husband and a father of two beautiful daughters. During my spare time I play Tennis, golf and I like travelling.I am a project coordinator of Sasse Sickbay project and a member of Sasse heritage management board,representing all Sobans in diaspora.
I hold a BSc (Hons) Maritime Business, MSc in Oil and Gas Operations Management and a Chartered Member (CMILT), chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.Presently I am a Maritime/Oil & Gas Logistics Coordinator with general electric, GE Oil & Gas in UK
Q. This is technically a hypothetical question because it just might never happen. What type of changes will you introduce in Sasse if by some luck you became principal?
One of the first major changes I will carry out will be to put a cap on the number of francophone students we admit in Sasse because the college is fast becoming a French college rather than and an Anglo Saxon institution. I am not trying to discriminate the French speaking Cameroonians, When you drive into Sasse on a normal day when the students are doing sport (either playing football or a school re-opening day) the language spoken around is mostly French. This has to stop. I will also reduce the number of students admitted into the college. The present number of students in Sasse is three times more than when I was a student there. Only one or two new dormitories have been built to accommodate this large numbers. With old dormitories like St Augustine, St Aquinas and St Peter no longer existing, there should be fewer and no more students in Sasse.
Some of Joki’s 79 classmates include Ayuk Iyok, Dohnji Richard,Namaya Godwin,Val Molulu,Agbor Sylvanus,Mpafe William and Ayuk Akoh-Arrey.
He has a BSc (Hons) Maritime Business,MSc in Oil and Gas Operations Management and is a Chartered Member, chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. Joki Manga is happily married with two daughters.