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Analysis: Paul Ayah: Political Agitator Or Patriot? 

By Peterkins Manyong

Paul Ayah Abine, CPDM Member of Parliament for the Akwaya Constituency in the Southwest Region is Magistrate by training. If we go by the authority of Cameroon’s Supreme Magistrate, who is at the same time the Head of State, the judiciary is among the nation’s most corrupt services; meaning that Cameroonians should look elsewhere for moral salvation. Interestingly, the one person whose conduct has brought hope to millions of Cameroonians is Ayah, a member of that same judiciary.

Last month, the Akwaya MP performed a great feat. He alone raised his voice in protest against the emasculation of ELECAM. He was rudely interrupted by Assembly Speaker, Cavaye Yeguie, in the course of a presentation, which, in content, has, perhaps, the best argument ever raised in that house. The speech was so well worded that to quote select portions of it is to behave like the man who wanted to sell his house, but rather than present the whole edifice, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen.

In the speech, Ayah questioned how anybody could claim to see ELECAM as independent when administrators are mandatory members in all the commissions for the revision of registers of electors, commissions in charge of distribution of registration cards, local polling commissions as well as council supervisory commissions.

"How dare we talk about the independence of ELECAM when divisional supervisory commissions, regional supervisory commissions and the national commission for the final counting of votes shall be chaired by a judicial officer appointed by the President of the Republic as head of the Higher Judicial council?" He went further: "We certainly cannot claim that we have no skeletons in our cupboards when we rush important legislations through parliament like the rehearsal of vapid rhymes in a nursery school?" He rightly observes that the voting of the bill would compromise good conscience, equity and sane judgment. Despite his very sound argument, the majority CPDM voted the bill.

The argument against ELECAM has been embraced by Javier Puyol, head of the European Commission delegation. Puyol, without any euphemism, laments that 11 out of ELECAM’s 12 members, belongs to one party (CPDM) making that party both player and referee in the political game. He expresses genuine concern about next year’s Presidential Election, which he boldly says has "already lost its credibility" Every system contains in it the ingredients of its own destruction. The CPDM, as Ayah rightly puts it, thinks for the moment; it does not see itself as an opposition party in the future.

In speaking so unequivocally against the excesses of his own party, the Akwaya MP is demonstrating the sincerity of a true friend who tells you not what you like to hear, but what you need to know. Those who see Ayah as an "opposant" who to the Francophone is an unbearable nonconformist, miss the point entirely. If the ruling party has any iota of credibility before Cameroonians and the rest of the world, it is thanks to Ayah.

He alone has proven to the world that somebody can criticize the system from within. That is not to say he has got away with it. The proverb that if you can’t get somebody, go for his dog, has never been better  demonstrated than by the degree of persecution Akwaya people  have suffered at the hands of the Administration because of his frankness. Ayah has acknowledged the abhorrence of his party’s conservatives in an essay titled "Ayah the official Anathema."

His objections to the ELECAM amendment are only a logical continuation of a remedial process for the CPDM which began with his entry into the Assembly. Ayah opposed the amendment of the 1996 Constitution intended to accord Biya’s life presidency.

There are two ways to avoid temptation: chase away the tempter as Christ did to the devil after his forty days of fasting in the desert, or you go away. Hon. Ayah chose the latter and more logical approach by leaving Yaoundé when Parliament was preparing to vote the constitutional amendment bill. His decision to resign from his lucrative position as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Assembly shows just how far he could go in pursuing the dictates of his conscience and the aspirations of the people. To place somebody’s character in the right perspective, it is necessary to compare him with another person who thinks differently on the same issue. He is Musa Njingum, Ngoketunjia North CPDM MP.

Ayah And Njingum Compared

In a movie titled "Africa’s Tallest Men" Nigeria’s dwarf actors "Aki and "Pawpaw", perceive tallness not in the physical, but in the ideological sense. If we apply this argument in the present context, Ayah will be perceived to be the "taller" although in the physical sense, Njingum far "exceeds him in stature. A serious lawmaker should consider the far reaching effects of a decision and not its immediate advantage(s). Njingum defended the passing of the ELECAM bill before fellow militants in Bangolan last weekend without mentioning even one of its shortcomings.

In speech making, one of the virtues of a good politician, the supremacy must be given to Hon. Ayah. Njingum, however, uses with dexterity the lingua franca which the majority of his constituents are familiar with. The essence of good public oratory is to persuade. In this aspect; Ayah quite often surpasses expectations; Njingum often falls below it. Njingum’s entry into parliament was, however, more spectacular because he beat Emmanuel Yoyo who then appeared invincible. Winning elections is certainly not as essential as performing excellently.

As an MP for his constituency and for the nation, Ayah has proven his mettle; Njingum’s perception of parliamentary representation is rather circumscribed, meaning he hardly sees beyond party politics. Like Ayah, Njingum loves his Bamali tribesmen, who recently dethroned their Fon. But in defending their interests he forgot that as a law maker he should respect the laws regulating chieftaincy disputes.

Ayah, on the contrary, doesn’t act in contravention of the law. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that far from being a mere agitator, the Akwaya MP is a genuine patriot who places the interest of his nation above parochial, personal concerns. Njingum deserves respect, but Ayah merits reverence.

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