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Bamenda/Biya: The Love-Hate Relationship 

By Peterkins Manyong

The world has often been described as a stage and human beings as merely actors in it.
Dramatic irony, a common aspect of drama, is when a character on stage makes a statement the implication of which is understood by the all-knowing audience and not the other actors. To avoid the misdemeanor of becoming painfully pedantic, let us hurry to illustrate the point with a situation which most Cameroonians understand.

Barely a few months after late President Amadou Ahidjo had ceded to him the highest office; Paul Biya described Bamenda, the administrative headquarters of the Northwest, as his "second" home".

Home is where a person feels most comfortable and secure as opposed to a house where these conveniences could be absent (marriage counselors understand this better than expert on semantics). He didn’t say which his "first home" was. Those who guessed that it was Mvomeka’a where he was born have since had sufficient reasons for a rethink because of the frequency of his ‘bref sejours’ (brief private visits) abroad which often last more than a week.

The best proof of affection for a person or place is determined by the frequency with which these persons and places are visited. Bamenda has clearly been out of Biya’s sight for long. To prove that she has not been out of his mind requires a very exquisite argument. There are two schools of thought on the issue.

The first school is that championed by SDF Chairman, John Fru Ndi, who is yet to be persuaded that a man can treat his second home the way the Head of State has treated Bamenda. He has in mind the killing of six young people when the SDF was launched, the 1992 state of emergency slammed on the Northwest and his failure to tar the famous Bamenda Ring Road which Paul Biya promised in 1991 to "personally supervise".

The fact that Biya has kept away for 19 years is ocular proof that he is no longer at ease, if ever his was, with the thought of visiting, talk less of taking up permanent or even temporary residence there. The second school of thought is led by Paul Nji Atanga, one of Biya’s members of Government.

Atanga never tires of telling all those who give him ear that Biya’s presidential heart is bursting with love for Bamenda and that the Head of State’s  love for the  the Northwest surpasses his affection for the South, his region of origin. He recalls that Biya visited the Northwest three times within the first three years of his reign and chose that town to launch his political party, the CPDM. The choice of Achidi Achu from the Northwest at the height of ani-Biya sentiments in that region is one other reason to think Biya’s heart is flowing with affection for a region that has given him the greatest headache and heartache.

The two contrasting points of view contain hard facts about Biya and his relationship with Bamenda. The only logical conclusion is that Fru has spoken half the truth and Atanga, the other half. It would be inappropriate to undertake an anatomy of the two schools of thought without a few observations on that much used and abused term called love.

Love is demonstrated more by action than by words. When Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony pleads with his concubine, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, to say how much love she has for him, the response is "There is beggary in love that must be reckoned". Biya should have shown proof of his love for Bamenda by the development projects carried out in it and by the frequency of his visit there and his remorse for violent deaths that take place there because of the excesses of his security officials.

A man who does not acknowledge a debt is very unlikely ever to pay it. Similarly, he does not show proof of remorse for his mischief leaves everyone with the impression he is likely to commit it again. This school is also convinced that Achidi Achu was appointed because the CPDM swept all 20 seats in the 1992 Parliamentary Election, thanks to SDF’s boycott. John Fru Ndi, Biya’s most astute challenger, hails from Santa like Achidi Achu; the latter was, therefore, appointed to act as a bulwark to the SDF National Chairman.

Those of the second school argue that the most unequivocal demonstration of love and confidence is to entrust one’s security in another. Biya did this when he appointed Captain (now General) Ivo Yenwo, a Northwesterner of Bui origin, as his chief of security. He later added Atanga to his list of confidants by appointing him Permanent Secretary of the National Security Council. Biya’ present Prime Minister hails from the Northwest. He took the post away from the Southwest which gave him 13 (all but one) parliamentary seats whereas the Northwest gave him only 9.

By embracing the Northwest, members of this school argue, President Biya has behaved like the father of the Prodigal Son who welcomed the spendthrift son back after he had squandered his inheritance with strumpets. In simpler phrase, the Northwest squandered its resources, human and intellectual, on the SDF, but Biya has still welcomed it back after the region demonstrated remorse by its 2007 performance.

Biya quickly embraced the region and killed for it the fattened cow of infrastructural development in Bamenda. Is that not ample proof that there was more rejoicing in Etoudi over a single region that had repented than over the other nine that are not in need of repentance?, they argue.

But whichever way the matter is viewed, there is a hidden admiration Biya has for Bamenda. If he hated the town at first, he has sufficient reason to love it now. The Northwest is the only region that has given Cameroon a semblance of democracy. Biya certainly shares sentiments most Francophone musicians have for Bamenda. Petit Pays, Longue Logue, Lapiro de Mbanga and late Kotto Bass never considered themselves really famous until they were accepted in Bamenda.

The BBC, the world media giant, by mentioning Bamenda so frequently in its broadcast, acknowledges directly the greatness of the town’s inhabitants who constitute a reasonable bulk of its listeners. Biya certainly buys the Miltonic concept that he who conquers by force has subdued his enemy only by half. Biya has been securing election victories without Bamenda, but thinks his victory would be sweetest if Bamenda voted for him and voted genuinely.

Biya has other reasons to be grateful to the Northwest. While he might have detested the bluntness of John Fru Ndi, Biya knows in his heart of hearts that the SDF National Chairman is more sincere than most of those political leaders in flowing gowns and French -tailored suits whose real home, like Biya’s, is abroad, but who pretend to love Cameroon better than Um Nyobe and Ernest Ouandie. Truth may be unpalatable, but nothing cures like bitter medicine. Biya has learned more from the Bamenda Man than from any other species of Cameroonians. The SDF is his ideological gold mine. He didn’t plead for part of the treasure.

He invaded it like a monarch an made no efforts ever after to conceal the treasure; he was formerly CPDM President; he is addressed today as party chairman, thanks to Fru Ndi on whom that appellation was first used in Cameroon. CPDM now organises primaries to choose parliamentary candidates, utters slogans and wears party paraphernalia like caps, mufflers and T-shirts.

Only a Bamenda man (Hon. Fimon Fobi) could summon the courage to caution him that members of the G11 and their sympthisers could plot and assainate him in Bamenda.
The exceptional endowments of the Bamenda Man are summed up in a book titled "Bamenda-Source of Inspiration for Modern Cameroon."