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Biya Should Open Dialogue On Form Of State- John Mbah Akuroh



Compelling Reasons Why Biya Should Immediately Open Dialogue on the Form of the State

Sometime ago, a news publication (Cameroon Tribune) quoted President Paul Biya as saying he would like to be remembered as the man who “brought democracy” to Cameroon. That sentence or call it a declaration was scorned by many and some were quick to coin it otherwise; “President Biya is a big lover and advocate of democracy, but he only wishes it to be really functional after him.

I am not a judge of intentions; like Spinoza Tractacus Policus, I prefer to understand human actions rather than condemn or judge them. The President certainly cast those intentions and it is left for him and his creator to know whether those thoughts were genuine and if circumstances barred him from standing tall in that line. I say so because I also read from books that he said in the early days of his Presidency that people “would no longer have to hide under their beds to express their opinions, whatever those opinions are”.

A school of thought holds that if the most populous opposition in Cameroon were not manned by Anglophones, power alternation would already have taken place in the country. This scholarly current insists that in as much as the French (they are reputed to still decide everything in Cameroon) have been weary of Mr. Biya for a long time now, their frustration has been the conviction that going by democratic means , the only other choice would be a Southern Cameroonian; an “abomination”.

Every other election since 1992 has come home with the very same message and in 2004, the foreign ambition to move from threats to action in effecting regime change in Cameroon was seen in skewed tactics to force a French speaking Cameroonian (despite the smallness of his following) to be the unique candidate of the country’s opposition. Again, it failed because the Social Democratic Front with its large following decided to pull out of the alliance which it judged as biased.

That 2004, current Communication Minister and Government Spokesman, Issa Tchiroma Bakary said this in an interview: “You know, really, Fru Ndi was elected as Head of State but he was deprived of his victory and he self-proclaimed himself as the elected Head of State. If you can recall, a state of emergency was declared at that time; we had to choose between saving the republic which was on the verge of collapse and civil war or to stick by our principles which consisted in saying that no, Mr Biya did not win the election and to join Mr. Fru Ndi and the consequences might have been unforeseeable. We decided to save the government; to save legality, not legitimacy and this prompted us to even violate some of our principles in order to save peace in the country”.

The question that arises here is would it have been the same if the winner of that election was a Francophone? What would have been the French position and how would the country have reacted across the board? I do not have answers to these questions, but my guess could well be yours, reason even councils won by the SDF in the nation’s capital- Yaounde were all turned back to the ruling party on such grounds as; some of their candidates had not resigned from the CPDM and their mere presence on the lists made the victories those of Mr. Biya’s party. The overall understanding was that it would be improper for an Anglophone-led party to hold councils in the capital city.

Anglophones in Cameroon have complained ceaselessly over the years of worsening conditions; they have expressed disgust at policies meant only to demean and make them less human, such as causing large companies to pay taxes only in Douala and Yaounde, but no one had ever bothered to listen. The All Anglophone Conference brought interesting proposals on how a return to the two-state federation could rescue the country from total collapse, but the organizers were scorned and martyred.

Unable to comprehend how the AAC I failed to produce results that could make Southern Cameroonians feel a sense of belonging, the Anglophones who loved the union to heart, returned to yet another conference- the AAC II, even that did not convince President Biya that the only thing indigenes of the North West and South West wanted was to be recognized as his ‘children’ in the same light like people from the other eight regions. Mr. Biya’s refusal or failure to understand this fact led to worsening conditions, marked by the hard and disgusting fight that resulted in the creation of the GCE Board- a gain that is being eroded in the current fray.

I like to draw the attention of President Paul Biya to this statement by J. F Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to programs of action. But they are far less than the long range risks and cost of comfortable inaction”. The people are crying and their ‘father’ is either silent or taking his holidays around the globe; he seems not to understand that his roof is on fire. That inaction may lead to irreparable damage and history is most likely, as I have seen during my scholarly years, to hold only my beloved President Biya responsible and not all those who are feeding him with stories that have no connection with the real situation on the ground.

The need to return to the two-state federal option as proposed by Anglophones for decades, but rejected brutally by the regime has pushed many to think it does not make any sense thinking of it any longer. When the lawyers and then the teachers came up with that request again in 2015 leading up to 2016, it seemed laughable and they were mocked out of proportions. Five of our ministers held a press conference and described them as clowns; in fact a new and uncanny definition of who an Anglophone was emerged; some ministers told their audience that they had Anglophones in their homes. Months only afterwards, Minister of State, Laurent Esso who was actively present at that press outing came away with a new definition that gave Anglophones in Cameroon a geographical definition.

I wish to recall to our President that if his security and intelligence services decided to do their work properly and delivered to him the raw results of their findings, he would realize much to his dismay that no one in his government had ever told him the truth. The truth would have been that neither lawyers, nor for that matter, the teachers who ignited this revolution have the power to determine how it ends anymore. The government got some union leaders to call off the strike and it did not work, they got the University of Buea SYNES President, Prof Abangma to do same in the university system and the result is still so mitigated and that is likely how new attempts to get the jailed Consortium leaders released to come out and end things could definitely end up.

If the intelligence services also reported honestly, Mr. President would understand that schools are not going on in the Anglophone regions. The three, four or five students who run away from work art home to get taught in classes of 70 or 80 students in the name of schools resumption is like telling oneself lies and believing same. Let us graduate from this farce and face the reality in the supreme interest of the republic of which the President is the guarantor.

Another very important detail; if the intelligence services work well and report exactly what they certainly know by now would be that less than 10% of Anglophones still want any form of union with French speaking Cameroon on account of what has happened since the 17th of January, 2017. That 10% of federalists appears sincerely to be dwindling by the day, especially as news is awash that the GCE Board may have its office moved to Yaounde, that the BACC Board which was never asked for, but got created before the GCE Board over which people lost their sights from splashing waters through water cannons, may organize GCE examinations this year and a lot of other uninteresting news.

The time to rescue the union is fast running out and the struggle which may look like dying Mr. President should know, seems so only in the eyes of those who want to obtain vain favours from the situation. Evidence could be found in the fact that anti ghost town marches have been organized in Kumba (2 days afterwards ghost towns returned), in Buea (three days later the situation remained unchanged), in Limbe (with mitigated results) and then the ridicule of last Monday the 24th of April, 2017 in Bamenda where less than fifty people paraded the streets with placards against ghost towns and were later caught on camera at the Governor’s Office receiving stipends for the ‘dirty’ job.

Anglophones, the President should note, are currently running on the principle enunciated by Harriet Beecher Stowe that; “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you till you cannot hold on a minute longer, never give up then for that is just the place and time the tide will turn”. The steam of the revolution is growing and only a courageous decision from the most authorized office of the state can make things seem different.

That is why Dr. Mrs Cecilia Ibru says “Risk taking creates opportunities for growth, development and competitive advantage. Any venture, social, political or economic that has no risks, is not worth doing. What is needed is a better understanding of the risks and design strategies to cope with the likely problems”.

This is the time for the President to count the cost and pay the appropriate price, otherwise he runs the risk of re-enacting a historical figure well known of scholars; Joseph II of Austria who demanded that the following words be written on his tombstone: “Here lies a prince whose intentions were pure, but who had the misfortune to see all his plans collapse before his own eyes”. Mr. President inherited one country and to find himself leaving behind two when the bell tolls for him to go off-stage may be a not-too-glorious end.

I have written this opinion piece with so much verve and no fear because I know my President stands for freedom of expression and would not also want to be seen as one who spent the last years of his reign destroying all what he stood for in the early days of his Presidency. Yes, Mr. President, I do not need to hide under the bed to say what I think in a way that can help move us forward; you had abolished repression of public opinion since 1982 and I respect you for that.

By John Mbah Akuroh

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