TODAY IN CAMEROON’S HISTORY
This day in Cameroon’s history marked a watershed moment for the republic and for West Cameroon in particular. It was on this day (February 6, 1972) that Ahmadou Ahidjo issued proclamation DF72-270 of 2/6/72 by which he abrogated the Foumban accord, abolished the Foumban constitution and imposed upon West Cameroonians and the entire country his own constitution which had been drawn up unilaterally and in secret.
The document which became known as the constitution of the United Republic of Cameroon or the Ahidjo Constitution, gave him powers to rule by ordinances, thereby ushering and ensuring the establishment and consolidation of a dictatorship. With the powers offered him by the constitution he dismantled all the institutions of the Federation, that is, the legislature and government of East and West Cameroon, and the West Cameroon House of Chiefs.
In 1991, Albert Mukong writes in “A tale of a lesson learned too well” that the Federation was expected to be a permanent feature of the Republic, but the discovery of commercial quantities of oil in West Cameroon spurred France to urge Ahidjo to dismantle the Federation for fear that the discovery in itself will lead to the secession of West Cameroon. One of the reasons for which West Cameroon was not given the option to gain independence as a country on its own was because of the assessment by the British colonial government that its economy was nascent and fragile to stand on its own. The discovery of oil therefore was sure to turn the tables in its favour.
Albert documents that the conditions under which the referendum of 1972 was questionable. Like the presidential elections of 2018, it held under emergency conditions, with an intimidating display of military might and coercion. “No opposition voice was heard; those who dared to disapprove were arrested and detained,” states Mukong.
In his 1985 book, New Social Order, Fogum Orji Dinka posits that after the 20 May 1972 referendum, the country expected Ahidjo to forward the text of his proposed constitution before the Federal National Assembly for debate in conformity with Article 47 of the constitution. However, Ahidjo bypassed the assembly because he feared it would reject the constitution.
Is it safe to say therefore that the Anglophone problem took on a different dimension and intensity due to this proclamation?