By Peterkins Manyong
Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, National Assembly Speaker, does not cut the figure of a rebel. His demeanour does not suggest that he could ever be one. But he did something unexpected on Monday, November 8, while opening the budgetary session of Parliament. He questioned the contempt with which elected Members of Parliament are treated.
"It is regrettable that the status of Members of Parliament is not respected by some members of government to the extent that they are being molested in public and refused audiences by Ministers and Directors," he said.
Cavaye’s Jeremiad over the destruction of parliamentary immunity in Cameroon became more righteously hysterical as he reviewed the injustice in executive power and, by implication, the consequences. "We are calling for a clear separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislative and it will be for the interest of the nation and the population for the relationship between the different arms of government to be mutual and complementary and not one completely dominating the other."
Until something louder than the atomic bomb be created it would be difficult to describe the applause which followed Cavaye’s declaration. Had Biya lived in the early 19th Century, he might have expressed the same surprise at Cavaye’s bombshell as Prince Metternich when a Pope whom he thought was to be an arch-conservative became a reformist.
The unanimity of the House following Cavaye’s frank talk implies only one thing: the pranks and excesses of Paul Biya and his appointees are becoming more difficult to bear, even by other CPDM cohorts. The MPs and their President are justified in being shocked that their colleagues are treated like beggars, physically beaten by the bodyguard of Ministers and no apology is given for the act. Yet the same Biya, who once said that he and MPs elected by the people are those with the mandate to speak on their behalf and not appointees, maintains an embarrassing silence when validated MPs are humiliated in public.
The examples are legion: Jean Michel Nintcheu, Vice SDF Parliamentary Group leader who was handcuffed on the eve of the Constitutional amendment in 2008, Ndongo Essomba CPDM Parliamentary Group leader and six Northwest CPDM MPs who were assaulted, and Hon. Adama, a UNDP MP killed by the thugs of the Lamido of Rey Bouba.
Cavaye’s decision to speak out is logical. It falls in line with the Freudian concept that talking has a relieving effect on the oppressed. The Biblical story of Balaam’s donkey whose mouth God opened and rebuked its master for his unprecedented brutality supports this vital concept in medical science. The embarrassment is that the person so maltreated is an elected parliamentarian who is a symbol of legislative power. When the common man sees him knocked down by a gendarme, one of inferior rank for that matter, the picture he had of MP is reversed and so is the law he makes or is believed to make.
The sentiments of this endangered species of Cameroonian politicians called MPs are echoed by the words of Francis Enwe, CPDM MP for Momo West. Hon. Enwe in a chat with The Post, places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Jean Kuete, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture.
According to Hon. Enwe, one of the MPs assaulted by Jean Kuete’s bodyguard says he and fellow victims were assured that some projects which would improve the welfare of their constituencies would feature in the 2011 budget. But what they received was a far cry from what was promised. By implication, Kuete duped them.
It would be an unpardonable instance of falsehood to say the Cameroonian public unanimously sympathised with the MP. In fact, Dr. Nick Nganyam, well known for his bluntness, went further than others to state 10 reasons justifying Hon. Enwe and his five colleagues being beaten by Jean Kuete’s bodyguard. Sentiments aside, lawmakers deserve respect even if some of them had to "pass through the back door to enter parliament" as gospel singer, Loveline Ngeh, rightly says.
Those who see in the treatment given the MPs the traditional contempt for Anglophones, are not far from the point. After all, did a Francophone MP not term Hon. Paulinus Jua, a former SDF MP, a Nigerian and he refused to apologise for his utterance? Yet nobody ever rebuked, let alone sanction him.
While heaping encomiums on Cavaye for doing what he did, let it be noted that most Cameroonians are simply bored with Biya. Cameroon is bored with Biya, much more than the French were with their king, Louis Philippe who ruled from 1930 to 1948. They are no more able to discard Biya than unarmed passengers in a hijacked plane can get rid of the hijackers.
The average Cameroonian intellectual is a 21st Century version of Vladimir and Estragon, the two tramps in Samuel Beckett’s "Waiting for Godot" whose favourable pastime is to while away time and whose only reason for not hanging themselves is because, as they say, it would give them an "erection".
Cavaye’s "rebellion" confirms what most CPDM stalwarts know but lack the courage to say, that the average Cameroonian is like the "chichi dudu", the bird in Ayi Kwei Armah’s "The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born" who hates excrement, but lives on maggots. It also makes poignant the view that most of the apparently fanatical adherents to the ruling party would stab Biya in his sleep if they had the opportunity.
The Assembly Speaker’s action might have come later than expected, but this does not exclude him from the wage that awaits the labourer in the vineyard of truth. He who works there at the approach of twilight is entitled to the same reward as the one that began at dawn. His open condemnation of Biya is a confirmation of the adage that no banana can be prevented from getting ripe at the appropriate time, even if it is placed in a deep-freezer.
Every regime, it has often been said, contains the ingredients of its own destruction. Paul Ayah has told the world the truth about it before. Some of his tribesmen have paid the supreme price for that. If Cavaye steps down today, he would have written his name in the Golden Book, not the book of Golden Jubilees where longevity of service takes precedence over achievement, but that of history which records significant achievements.