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Lessons of the Past: Ahidjo/Biya and Fru Ndi/Joshua Osih Scenarios

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The Cameroons community has just received tabloid reports of serious lobbying going on within the SDF by a group known as “Group of the Wise” to see Joshua Osih, first National Vice-Chairman of the SDF to stand as the SDF Presidential candidate while Fru Ndi remains the Chairman of the party. It is too early to start assuming the position of Ni John Fru Ndi in Osih’s government should the SDF party wins come 2018 Presidential election. However, this news has triggered BaretaNews to have a recap on what happened to the country’s first President Amadou Ahidjo and President Paul Biya.

 

In November 1982, Ahidjo resigned from the presidency and handed over power to his Prime Minister and longtime associate, Paul Biya, but remained as head of the country’s single political party-CNU. It is written officially that Ahidjo resigned for health reasons, though there are many theories surrounding his resignation; it is generally believed that his French doctor “tricked” Ahidjo about his health. He was succeeded by Prime Minister Paul Biya two days later. Biya is a Christian from the south and not a Muslim from the north like Ahidjo himself. It was reported that the Central Committee of the ruling Cameroon National Union (CNU) urged Ahidjo to remain President, he declined to do so, but he did agree to remain as the President of the CNU. However, he also arranged for Biya to become the CNU Vice-President and handle party affairs in his absence. Additionally, in January 1983, Ahidjo travelled across the country on a tour in support of Biya.

 

However in 1983, a major feud developed between Ahidjo and Biya. On July 19, 1983, Ahidjo went into exile in France, The two were unable to reconcile despite the efforts of several foreign leaders, and Ahidjo announced on August 27 that he was resigning as head of the CNU. In exile, Ahidjo was sentenced to death in absentia in February 1984 for participation in the June 1983 coup plot, although Biya commuted the sentence to life in prison. Ahidjo denied involvement in the plot. A violent but unsuccessful coup attempt in April 1984 was also widely believed to have been orchestrated by Ahidjo. Ahidjo would later die of a heart attack in Dakar on 30 November 1989 and was buried there.

Paul Biya’s first government after taking from Ahidjo had no issues. It was clearly seen to be Ahidjo’s composition. Bello Bouba Maigari, a young, soft-spoken, affable Northerner who was seen as Ahidjo protégé was appointed Prime Minister. It was murmured that Ahidjo was grooming him for power. In this light, Biya would have served as a caretaker President until 1985 when elections were due and Bello Bouba Maigari would have become President. This was the first feud between them. Ahidjo willed too much Power and Biya was seen as the finisher who received orders from Ahidjo though he was the President.

Dibussi Tande, Cameroon’s prolific writer in his write-up ” How an Idyllic Transfer of Power Turned Sour (II): The Ahidjo – Biya Honeymoon Ends in Acrimony and Blood ” Wrote ” True, Biya had, on April 12, 1983, carried out a minor cabinet reshuffle. But he had earlier traveled to Ngaoundere to consult his predecessor – in the true spirit of “fidelity and continuity”. However, a piqued Ahidjo, still smarting from the protocol imbroglio during his Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize ceremony, treated Biya with disdain and scorn. Fully aware of the fact that Biya was coming to see him, Ahidjo provocatively left for his ranch and kept the Head of State waiting. And, finally, when he returned he did not view Biya’s visit as a sign of courteous deference but insisted that even if there had to be a cabinet reshuffle, he Ahidjo, would call the shots – having the last word on who was to leave and who was to come in. Obviously piqued by his cavalier treatment, Biya showed no fight. True to his erstwhile image of an unobtrusive, workaholic clerk, he tamely acquiesced.

News of Biya’s June 18th Cabinet reshuffle caused a mighty stir within Ahidjo’s entourage. For his part, Ahidjo was, to say the least, stunned, incredulous. He saw this as the height of temerity on his successor’s part and an obvious design to provoke an open crisis. Their relationship though not yet irreconcilable, was nonetheless, fraught with mutual misgivings. The rancour rankled. Those who met Ahidjo at, this time, found him ranting with rage…” Dibussi concluded.

 

BaretaNews have shown in summary the feud which happens between President Ahidjo and Paul Biya. How is this related to the SDF of Fru Ndi and Osih? We would explain

Though Mr Fru Ndi has never been the President of Cameroon as Ahidjo was to Cameroon, Fru Ndi is the strongest opposition leader. He has created a personality cult within the SDF and he is fiercely worship by the barons within the party and militants. Ahidjo was worshiped similarly and feared. Ahidjo was from the North and Biya from the South, a Christain. Ahidjo handing over power to Biya was met with many scorn from his Muslim brothers who thought by 1985 Paul Biya will bow out and that Biya was supposed to be a caretaker President. Fru Ndi is from the North West region- a no-nonsense region who thinks naturally as the major opposition stronghold, they deserved the presidency. Osih is from the South West, a region which is rich with CPDM rather than the SDF. Some SDF barons might see Osih as a threat as Ahidjo Muslim brother saw Biya from the South as a threat. More importantly, the supposed fight between North West and South West people have been showing its ugly head always

Osih as Biya does not willed any strong power within the SDF as Biya never had under Ahidjo until the Presidency was handed to him. Fru Ndi as reports suggest plans to hand over power to Joshua Osih.

Biya quickly consolidated his grip on power after Ahidjo handed over to him because Ahidjo as Chairman of CNU were ordering from behind as history suggests.

 

Should the SDF wins the Presidential election come 2018 and Osih is President, political pundits suggest a repeat of Ahidjo/Biya might resonate. Fru Ndi report claims would remain SDF Chairman. Political power will naturally want to see Fru Ndi as the father of the SDF dictating to Joshua Osih, the President on who to appoints into the government and policies to follow etc. Osih as Biya might want to consolidate his grip on power by putting those he thinks could deliver. Osih might claim to have his power emanating from the people who elected him. Fru Ndi would in turn remind him that it is because of him that he (Osih) is the President today. These assumptions according to political power and history could come to pass. If such happens, instead to take the country forward away from the mess the 34 years of Biya has caused will instead lead to an infighting which would not be good for the Country’s development. As it is often said, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 

However what could be the solution to this? What could the SDF do to prevent the repeat of the Biya/Ahidjo Scenario? Should the Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi still run as a Presidential candidate? This is what BaretaNews thinks?

  1. The SDF Chairman should announce beforehand that he will NOT be a candidate and shall NOT be supporting or campaigning for any candidate. Recall Ahidjo travelled throughout the country, campaigning for Biya. Naturally, he assumed Biya owes him that respect. That was the beginning of the problems. Ahidjo never respected Biya because of this mentality. This is a state, a country which is supposed to be above anyone interests. No candidate in the SDF should feel he owes the Chairman any dues.
  2. The SDF should come out with a clear cut out rules on how to elect a presidential candidate to represent the party. The rules should be clear and open to all militants of the party. There should be vigorous campaign and the best candidate should be elected. That said, the allegiance of the Candidate should he/she becomes President of the Republic is paid foremost to the state, party and people who elected not to any individual within the party. This is so because the notion of one person handing over to the next is a dangerous precedence.
  3. The SDF should not allow Fru Ndi remain as Chairman. The Presidential candidate should be the Chairman to avoid what happens with Ahidjo as Party Chairman and Biya as President. If Fru Ndi must be allowed as Chairman as it occurs elsewhere where the Chairman of the Party is different from the Presidential candidate, then the roles must be clearly defined. However, we think that our baby politics is still very not mature. Maybe, the party could create a whole new office for the current chairman as an advisory role. This way conflicts of interest might greatly be reduced.
  4. The SDF should come forth with clear-cut policies that the candidate once elected as President could use in administering. Policies from health care, education , security, etc must have been known before hand as the policies of the party platform. That said the President elected functions in line with the policies the SDF party campaigned with during the elections and not what person A or B wants. We, however, know that when it comes to appointments etc, consultations are done but this could be done healthily without the President elected thinking he is being dictated upon.
These are not panacea solutions, the underline message BaretaNews is trying to churn out is to avoid a repeat of the Ahidjo/Biya saga should Osih or any other becomes a candidate and eventual President out of Fru Ndi’s goodwill.
God is still saying something.

 

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