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Biyiti-bi-Essam, Unnerved Devil On The Cross 

By Peterkins Manyong

Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi-Essam, Cameroon’s Minister of Communication, is a fascinating personality. He is very unlike his predecessors. The difference is that most of those who occupied the position before him knew what they wanted to achieve and were consistent in pursuing their ventures even if they failed in them. Three of these predecessors are worthy of mention.

Kontchou Kouomeni, who occupied the position at the apex of opposition activism, had as mission the neutralisation of the SDF-led Union of Change group of political parties. He succeeded to a large extent in confusing Cameroonians and the international community on the true political situation in the country. 

Then there was Jacques Fame Ndongo, who seemed to have been appointed to act as a bulwark against Gervais Mendo Ze who had converted CRTV into a private estate. Despite that, the "Mbamba Essai" buffoonery continued. Rather than neutralising Mendo Ze, the Communication boss was neutralised, thanks to the patronage of First Lady, Chantal Biya, or so it seemed.

Fortunately, Fame Ndongo left without getting his neck close to the guillotine.
Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo thought he could stamp "gombo" out of CRTV, but he soon found his own events abandoned by the official audio-visual organ.  He had to accept the bitter fact that "gombo" and CRTV were like Siamese twins, difficult to separate.

Moukoko’s nemesis was brought about by his attempt to reintroduce censorship. Anger indeed has a privilege. But when it is blind like in his case who begrudged the press for stigmatizing him as gay, the reaction is unlikely to be rational. He probably thought that because Biya had frowned on the newspapers that ran the story, saying it was invasion of privacy, a vicious crackdown on the press would be welcome to the Head of State. It wasn’t.

Biyiti-bi-Essam tried his hand at press muzzling when he ordered the closure of Equinox Radio and TV. The seizure of VOA equipment from Magic FM brought the Biya regime into a headlong collision with the US government.  Biya intervened and Biyiti’s excesses in this direction were promptly checked. The Minister had expected Biya to cheer him up because his targets were those he thought added wind to the sails of the February 2008 ship of revolt.

Biyiti’s Trip To Golgotha

Biyiti had only just begun his journey towards political Golgotha, the Place of Skulls. When FCFA 770 million was placed at his disposal he thought the opportunity had come for him to prove to the Cameroon private press the depth of his contempt for them. He began by cajoling the private press to report on the Pope’s visit in such a manner as not to injure the nation’s reputation.

This appeal went down well until it became obvious that he hadn’t the slightest intention of letting the private press pick even a crumb of that piece of the "National Cake". He decided to deal exclusively with CRTV, CAMTEL and Cameroon Tribune. The Pope’s visit came. The private press did an elaborate coverage. Biyiti, believing he had pulled a fast one, smilingly sent his Secretary to SGBC to give his private account a boost. She must have received VIP treatment there.

Theft, like murder secrets, are usually unravelled when least expected; the sucker punch comes when the boxer is most confident. Biyiti had taken away too much for the owner not to see. He had gone as far as claiming that during the Pontiff’s visit, he gave a dinner to the press in the course of which each journalist had a meal that could be estimated at FCFA 48,000 although most journalists reportedly left the "banquet table" without even a drink!

"He being robbed not knowing what is stolen, let him not know and he is not robbed at all," says the celebrated Shakespeare. A woman whose corn has been devoured by fowls while she was away only begins to scream when a neighbour informs her of it. Nobody would have ever known Biyiti’s thievery if a vigilant French Language newspaper didn’t discover pilfered wealth which he claimed was there only for "safe keeping" 

Truth is like liquid in a broken calabash. When it begins to emerge, it does not stop until all of it is out. Not only is it clear that he made himself proprietor of public money, we are hearing such absurdities like hiring a giant screen for FCFA 70 million.  Why must Biyiti go to Gabon when giant screens are standing idle in video shops or private premises across the country. Why not come and hire the one standing at Thermometer Bar, T-Junction in Bamenda or the one in SDF Chairman, John Fru Ndi’s, Ntarikon residence? 

Today, Biyiti is on the cross of public opinion and deservedly so. He might not only be guilty of graft, but of capital flight if he truly hired the giant screens from Gabon. He is so scared of joining fellow pilferers in Kondengui that he recently wrote to Biya professing his innocence when facts available indicate the opposite.

Biyiti’s nervousness proves that he is still an apprentice in public thievery.  If he truly wants to escape the dungeon (and no rational being can long for such an experience) the way out is not hiring his Gabonese accomplices to defend him. He could redeem himself by confessing his crime like Mendo Ze did. Biyiti’s crime was committed during Lent, the same period when Christ forgave the repentant thief crucified with him.

Biyiti’s confession would not, however, be complete without restitution or giving back to the Caesars of the private press part of the loot which belongs to them by right. FCFA 130 million is too huge an amount for an individual to put into his pocket at this point in time when millions of Cameroonian can barely eat.

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