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Answers To Biya 

By Bouddih Adams — Citizens of a country usually look up to their President, Head of State or Head of Government, for answers or solutions to the problems they face. They also expect directives from their President, in his state-of-the union/nation address, on how the statecraft would sail through the next term or year. But President Paul Biya rather than proffer solutions, often raises more questions as to what has bogged down his regime and, in turn, the Cameroons for the past 31 years that he has been at the helm.

Each year, he identifies problems but never follows up so that, at the end of the year, he would present a balance sheet showing how the problems he identified last time have been solved and, then, state which other problems have been identified and how they would be solved in the coming year. That has never obtained here. The President’s speeches sound like a broken record, a ding-dong, if you like. It is the same problems every time but no solutions.

Honestly, one cannot be addressing the same nation for 31 years without repeating him/herself. The other time he identified the problem with the civil service as laziness, next he called it laxity in government circles; another time he called him lethargy, last time he called it stagnation, inertia… This time around he called it an inactive administration. He, thereby, always seeks subterfuge in synonyms.

I wouldn’t waste precious time on this déjà-entendu from President Biya, but for the fact that we have to continue recording these issues of how the State should never be run, at least for posterity: so that when tomorrow’s nation reads it, they would try to run it in a better way.  Lest it be said that it was not said; to borrow one of ace journalist, Zachary Nkwo’s pet phrases, let me provide answers to the President’s questions.

Take for instance, when the President observes that: “We have all the natural, financial and human resources,” then, asks: “What is wrong with us?” It sounds like the proverbial man who defecated in his trousers and then turned around and asked where the shitty smell was coming from? The problem with the Cameroons [if President Biya claims is not with him], is with his ruler-ship, his style, his policies, his regime, his…

Lest President Biya and his sympathisers say it was not said or that he was not told; most of the problem is the people around him, his government and his apologists. But it is as clear as daylight that Mr. Biya hasn’t the political courage to ask his Ministers and other members of Government to sit up. So far, he has demonstrated that he lacks the political will.

The reason is that he owes them. What debt, you may ask? The fact that they are the ones who go to their villages and steal votes in order to sustain his regime, he cannot do just anything to them. If there is anything he can do, it is to lock up all of them. But can he? Those he has incarcerated are too scared to tell him the truth about the system, in the hope that he would change his mind and set them free.

But for one person, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, who has damned the consequences and continued to tell him the truth, no one has.The real enemies of the Cameroons are those who try to justify every wrong-footing or wrong-doing by the President. They do not do that because they love the President, but because they want him to keep them where they are, so that they can continue feeding fat from the system to the detriment of the country and its future.

These are the persons my co-scholar in political philosophy, Ekang Ngaki and I call, “System Sustenance Engineers, SSEs”. The way President Biya perceives issues and presents them, like in his speeches, shows that these SSEs are barriers between Biya and the realities on the ground – barriers that have created a vacuum between the governor and the governed; or the top and the bottom.

Hence, there is no information flow from bottom to top. It also depicts the fact that the President does not read national newspapers, does not listen to local radio or watch local TV stations. Mr. President talked about timelines. He, who says timelines says calendar. Again, he is asking what is stinking, when he has confiscated the calendar for everything. He should release a calendar of events so that the timelines are respected.

For example, when he plays pranks with the date for the Reunification celebration, by not even as much as mentioning it, meanwhile, he knows that everyone was waiting for him to pronounce it. He confiscates the calendars of national, political, social, economic, cultural and sporting events. No one but he knows the date any of them would hold, so, he is blaming who for not respecting timelines?

On his talk about economic take-off; the economy would be grounded until his regime relaxes its economic and fiscal laws and policies to encourage untaxed business start-ups, public and private sector collaboration, depoliticise tax exonerations and stop arm-twisting businessmen who support opposition political parties to militate but in the ruling party.

On the misuse of State vehicles and the sale of State land; if he cannot bring back Abedime, let him appoint and task someone to follow his footsteps and make the results public. We still see Government cars over weekends covered in mud or dust (as the season might be), carrying plantains, cocoyams and cassava, with goats bleating, pigs whining and fowls squawking as civil servants return from their villages or some bribe-chasing missions in the countryside.

A way forward to curb corruption and embezzlement is for him to make a clean sweep; from national institutions through regional, divisional down to sub-divisional institutions and structures, and recover all what was unduly taken from the State, accompanied by naming and shaming the perpetrators. That way, a deterrent against embezzlement would have been installed.

After that, and in order to check corruption, reinstate civil servants’ salaries and withdraw the entire bogus image the system has given them, plus the things that spur them to take bribes. How on earth can a man or woman who earns FCFA 200,000 a month own a car that costs FCFA 90 million? Where on earth, but in a dictatorship, do you have civil servants as the richest citizens?

Article 66 of the 1996 Constitution provides for the declaration of assets before assumption of any public office. This would check the misappropriation of public funds. But who is holding back the promulgation of that Article 66 into law? Is it not Mr. President himself? So, to whom is he asking the question about greed and the amassing of the common wealth into private vaults?

If all of this as well as all what has been recovered through these austerity measures are redeployed, graduates who have been churned out by universities and are roaming the ever-teaming job market, can be employed and joblessness and crime wave reduced. This, complimented with the relaxation of the very harsh economic climate in the country, would make the economic landscape fertile enough for small and medium size businesses to grow and absorb job seekers and curb unemployment.

However, if Mr. President was not playing over our mentality and truly wants urgent solutions to the problems raised, he should take the “action now!” which he prescribed by cutting down the size of government to at most 15 ministries. For example, there is no need for a Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and another for Environment and Nature Protection with both overlapping.

All the Ministries of Education should be merged with the Ministry of Vocational Training and Directors created for each component. And to solve the problem of tribalisation of administration, he should not make half of the cabinet his tribesmen as obtains in the current cabinet. He should also detribalise the other public institutions.
Are We Together?

First published in The Post print edition no 01494