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CAMASEJ Elects First Female President 

By Ernest Sumelong & Elvis Tah

The Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, has a new President, Tricia Oben.She was elected Saturday, May 23, during an Elective General Assembly meeting of the Association at the Synod hall of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC, Buea.


New CAMASEJ Exco:(From L to R) Olive Ejang, Moki Charles, Kini Nsom, Olivier Coldey, Sone Bayern, Norbert Wasso, Choves Loh and Tricia Oben

Oben beat two contenders; outgone CAMASEJ President, Francis Wache, and CAMASEJ Yaounde Chapter President, Clovis Atatah. She becomes the fifth CAMASEJ President and the first woman to be elected to that position. Oben’s election comes almost a year after the last General Assembly failed to elect a new executive bureau for the Association.

The Bamenda Chapter President of CAMASEJ, Choves Loh was voted Vice President by acclamation. Two members of the outgone executive were re-elected; Norbert Wasso from the Limbe Chapter succeeded himself as the Secretary General and Olivier Colday Ndofekeh of the giant Bamenda Chapter retained his place as Treasurer. Meanwhile, Franklin Sone Bayen from Yaounde was elected Vice Secretary General. Kini Nsom from Yaounde grabbed the position of the Financial Secretary. Charles Moki Linonge from Douala was elected the Public Relations Officer, while Olive Ejang Tebug Ngoh got the lone position for Kumba, as she was voted Social Secretary of CAMASEJ. 


Tricia (First from right) with some CAMASEJ members after her election

In her inaugural speech, Oben described the election as a defining moment in the life of CAMASEJ. She promised to bridge the gap between journalists of the public and private media and raise the standard of journalists by providing training and job opportunities. She also called for unity and a team fight by journalists for their rights and betterment to be achieved. She urged journalists to look ahead and be optimistic. The newly elected CAMASEJ Chair announced that she would set the ball rolling with a meeting of the new executive scheduled for Bamenda on June 11, 2009.

Meanwhile, outgone President, Wache, who inherited the association in 2006 with a little over FCFA 100,000, left the coffers with some FCFA 400,000, according to his financial records of up to Saturday, May 23. Wache said during his tenure, revived and increased CAMASEJ in terms of membership and branches. He organised seminars nationwide to hone journalists’ skills as well as connected the association to several diplomatic missions in the country.

In an interview before the election, Wache said he wished to see the association grow from strength to strength. Conducted by the Southwest Regional Delegate for Communication, Chris Eno Oben, (not a relation of Tricia Oben), ace journalist, Victor Epie Ngome and Dr. Mike Yanou, Lecturer of Law at the University of Buea, the election was said to be one of the freest, fairest and most exciting in the history of CAMASEJ.

In the elective General Assembly, the journalists showed determination to vote a new executive by pre-empting the obstacles that stalled elections at the last assembly. Thus, all delegates to the May 23 assembly were financially up-to-date and ready to see a successful election.
Following the results of the elections, most delegates who talked to The Post were unanimous that the association had made a great leap forward and will wax even stronger. 


Wache addressing fellow colleagues

However, many have expressed their reservations about the fact that the Presidency is going to someone who works for a state-run media, Deputy Station Manager at CRTV Littoral Complex.
They articulated fears that the President might not safeguard the independence of the Association considering her allegiance to government. But, others argued, strongly, that Oben is of reputable character and independent enough to take a stance in defence of the association.  They said her go-getter attitude and firmness on her beliefs can guarantee the independence of the union.

Campaigns, Intrigues, Negotiations

In the build up to the elections, Presidential aspirants used both fair and foul means to get across their messages. They used all kinds of invectives and mudslinging. The campaign language and strategies used by many, betrayed the fact that there is more than the interest of CAMASEJ that the aspiring Presidents were gunning to protect.

One of the candidates, earlier known to be audacious, vocal and hot-blooded, Teche Nyamusa, could hardly stand the heat when the electoral oven was turned on. He did not as much as call his own name for nomination, nor did any other person nominate him. More in the election was the negotiations behind closed doors, between the various chapters as to who gets what and why. Following the results of the elections, the new CAMASEJ exco comprises representatives of every chapter of the association except Buea, the constitutional headquarters of CAMASEJ.

The Buea Chapter did not only go home empty handed, but it also played the unfortunate host, who failed to use her home advantage, to negotiate or get anything. While the Bamenda, Douala and, to an extent, the Yaounde delegations travelled to Buea with well laid out plans, Buea was divided, weak and unfocused. Hence, the results of the elections were not a coincidence, but the result of pre-election negotiations. While Bamenda made it clear that they wanted the positions of Vice President and Treasurer, Buea could not tell whether they wanted the position of Secretary General or the Vice. And, so, they lost, woefully.

Reactions: If We Work Together, We Can Go Places
First of all I want to thank everybody who took part in the elections. I think it is about time that we become more visible. I think it is about time that we have more things for our members in terms of scholarships, exchange programmes, press clubs and media centres. I think it is also about time people know about CAMASEJ. The association should become a household name but unfortunately it is not the case and has not been the case for the past three years.

I have told everyone that this cannot be achieved by me alone but through the collective efforts of our members. We will all work together. The potential is there.  As every journalist knows that there is power in the pen, there is power in the word and so I think if we work together we can go places.
Tricia Oben, Newly Elected CAMASEJ President

Kudos To The Chairman Of The Occasion
I am so impressed with the way business was conducted. You noticed that the deliberations went on hitch free. There were no passions. People were very orderly and disciplined and I give kudos to the Chairman of the occasion, Chris Oben, who marshaled the business of the day with some dexterity and some tact and diplomacy.

If you ask me to advise the new team, I want to say that I would not advise any executive especially when it has not even got into office. I will prefer that when they get into office and they need my attention, then I will be able to come in and advise them.
Francis Wache, Outgone CAMASEJ National President

The Team Is A Very Dynamic One
Well, I think as a member of the association and having taken part as member of the electoral body, I feel very satisfied that the election was done in a very clean and transparent manner. When I look at the people who were elected, I have the satisfaction that the electorate actually knew where they were going, because I think that Tricia is a very dynamic and forward looking person and the team around her is a very strong one; so I think they have everything it takes to succeed.
Victor Epie Ngome

Constitution Was Not Respected
I think this is one of the greatest days in my life in the history of CAMASEJ. We needed this change to move CAMASEJ forward. I had even gone the extra mile to advise my out-going President to step down because of public reactions but he wouldn’t listen. Apart from the fact that we would like to see CAMASEJ grow from strength to strength, we still think that what he did also contributed to the association in one way or the other.

We are not saying that he did not work; he worked but not up to the way we expected. I worked but not up to the way others expected. We hope that the new President will move CAMASEJ to higher heights. The only observation I want to make here which would have marred this very impressive general assembly is that Professional Advisers have never been appointed.

We always elect Professional Advisers who are journalists of high standing, and then they can now appoint Patrons and Legal Advisers. I have contacted the Chairman and he said the people were tired. That is a very big flaw on the constitution which I think it was a monumental error particularly coming from the Regional Delegate of Communication.
Nkemayang Paul, Publisher, The Star Newspaper

Election Was "Ruthlessly" Democratic
Dr. Fonkam Azu’s ELECAM could very humbly ask the trio of Chris Eno Oben, Michael Yanou and Victor Epie Ngome how they handled CAMASEJ elections that both winner and vanquished shared drinks and bantered. It was so well done. Tricia is a lady of class and conscience and CAMASEJ members are safe and protected under her professional authority. I know her too well.

She’s the solid rock upon which CAMASEJ members can very safely build their trust for now. As President of the Cameroon Union of Journalists, I’m looking forward to working with her executive. Let me reiterate that I was pleased by the cheer with which the losers took their defeat. This, to me, is "ruthless" as opposed to the reluctant democracy that has been the bane of this country for decades.
Charly Ndi Chia, Cameroon Union of Journalists, CUJ, National President

I am Happy
I am glad that this election is taking place today in Buea, at the time that I am taking up my tenure as Regional Delegate of Communication. I have not been assigned here by the Minister as spokesperson or to represent him, so I am not going to make any statement on his behalf.
Chris Eno Oben, SW Delegate of Communication

Acceptance Speech, CAMASEJ President, Buea, May 23, 2009
Presented by Tricia Oben

To the Chairman, special guests here and all my colleagues, it is with profound gratitude and humility, that I accept your confidence in me as President of this coveted association of English-speaking journalists CAMASEJ.Let me express my thanks to the other candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest, our outgoing President Mr. Francis Wache.To you other pioneers, thank you for your confidence and support. I am grateful.

Cross section of CAMASEJ members

Let me quote Barack Obama, "This is a defining moment in history…" This is a defining moment in the history of this association. Not only because 2009 is a year of dreams, But because journalists are beginning to practice what they preach. Journalists are suffering from the sickness of dry pockets. More have jobs but cannot afford health care for their families. You have jobs but cannot afford tuition for your kids.These challenges are not all of the association’s making but the association can respond to them and work as a team.

This evening, I say to all English speaking journalists, whether of the public or of the private media: Enough. This is our chance to make things right again. We are here because we love this association too much and will not let the next two years look just like the others.
It’s time for us to change CAMASEJ. And that’s why I ran for president.

When I hear someone talk about the difficulties getting a contract at work, I think about what CAMASEJ could do to make things right. When I think of scholarships available out there I think of what CAMASEJ can do to make it possible. My team and I can promise you that this association cannot solve all our problems. But it can protect us from dreadful work conditions and bad bosses. This association should work for us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunities not just for a few, but for every journalist who is willing to succeed.

That is the CAMASEJ I want to see. We are responsible for ourselves, but we can also rise and fall as one group. We can practice the fundamental adage of being a brother or sister’s keeper. That is what we need to remember. That is the difference I intend to make. Let me spell out exactly what a difference would mean with me as president. A difference will mean working together as a team. It will mean putting our common goals ahead of individual gains.

CAMASEJ now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every journalist with refresher courses because it will take nothing less to compete in the global village. Our sights are not set beneath our noses. Our sights are on the global playing field where only professionals survive. We will help every journalist, if they commit to serving this association. My team and I will make sure you can get all the opportunities you need to succeed in this profession. But you have to be prepared to do your part.

Many of these plans will cost money. But we will achieve if each member pays his or her dues on time. In the past by design or by neglect, policy has ended up squandering the legacy that other journalists have built. We are here to restore that legacy. Together with you, I will restore our moral standing so that English journalism is once again that which everyone finds credible.
These are some of the things I will pursue. The work will not be easy. The challenges we face require very tough choices. But I stand before you now because of your faith; because you want something different. For something that can make a difference collectively and individually. Change happens because people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership.

You know, we can have the most powerful pens but not be strong. We can have wealth but not be rich. We can have degrees in journalism, but that is not what keeps the young ones yearning to join the profession. Instead, if we have something binding us together despite our differences; if we have a force pushing us forward even when the way is not clear; if we can find that force within these two years and keep it, then our generation will be the greatest.

Right now, we must pledge once more to work as one. We must pledge to look ahead and be optimistic. Let us hold firmly on to our values and refuse to be sidetracked. Let us hope for the best and promise to do everything each and every one of us can do to keep the hopes of this profession alive. I thank you again. I shall continue to count on the support of each and every one of you because together we will achieve.
Thank you

God bless you
Long Live Cameroon

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