4. Registration
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63 4.registration ll over the territory, 25 other Plebiscite Officers were completing the same tasks at approximately the same time. It must have been around the middle of October 1960 that we all finished the first Public Enlightenment Campaign and began the long chore of registration. For this operation, we needed to recruit a staff of clerks, train them in the job they had to do, and then send them off to all the villages we had located and get them to register the names of all the men and women over the age of 21. The registration forms were straightforward enough. At the head of the sheet was the name of the electoral district—mine was Wum Central—and the name of the village where registration was to take place. Then there was a series of columns running down the page, headed name, age, sex, place of birth etc. This last was important because the franchise was open only to men and women who had actually been born in the territory. There was dark talk among some politicians of a possible influx of illicit voters from across the borders that might swing the vote one way or the other. No doubt in some areas it was easier, but in Wum there was a great shortage of potential registration clerks who were themselves over the age of 21, literate enough to extract the required information from the would-be voters and fill in the forms accurately. Most of the possible recruits were drawn from the small number of young men who had attended the Roman Catholic primary school in Wum a few years before. Ideally, they should at least have attained Standard 6— roughly equivalent to Year 6 in an English primary school—but, because of late starts, language difficulties, irregular attendance and all kinds of other problems, many young people had to repeat a year, perhaps several years, and they often did not finish primary school until they were 16 or 17. A few might go on to secondary school, but the parents of most of them would not have been able to afford it, even if the pupils had reached a high enough grade. Anyway, there were not enough Standard 6 graduates available, and in some cases we had to settle for Standard 5. As far as I can remember I had to hire 20 registration clerks, and it says something about attitudes at the time that we (I think this probably goes for everyone involved with the plebiscite) did not even consider hiring young women, even supposing that any had been available. So I gathered all my male recruits together in the very crowded living-room at the house and rehearsed them in the task of form filling. After some hours of practice, as tedious for them as it was for me, I was satisfied that all of them would be able to do the job fairly well. I issued each of them with a small cash advance and a supply of stationery, and packed them off to the various villages in my district, with strict instructions that they should send for me if they ran into any difficulty. This A 64 meant that I would have to be on call at the house for most of the following three weeks, until the registration period was complete, so I could not go off on trek for days on end, which was the aspect of the job that I most enjoyed. However, this relatively leisured period gave me a chance to travel down to Bamenda, renew my acquaintance with the Club and do some shopping. There was a Kingsway store, like a shabby version of one of those budget supermarkets that are so popular today on the outskirts of many English towns. Here one could buy tinned bully beef, tinned vegetables, and various other luxuries unheard of in Wum. In Bamenda market we could also buy fresh vegetables, such as potatoes and cabbages, which were impossible to find closer to home. There was also a cold store, with a supply of meat in recognisable joints, which made a change from the bloody hunks we got from the Hausa butchers. Finally, joy of joys, there was a reliable source of beer by the case-full. On one of these trips I also called on the Marriotts—the kind people who had found Pius for me. Mr Marriott was due to return home in a few weeks’ time and...