Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Decentralisation: Mere Lip Service 

Cameroon has hosted a host of decentralisation conferences initiated by devotees to that system of governance who have discovered that decentralised systems or countries are less prone to problems of governance resulting in conflict, than highly centralised systems like the one in Cameroon.

The so called decentralisation process in Cameroon was thus foisted on the regime, which is why it is reluctant to decentralise. It is abundantly clear that little or nothing has been achieved since the decentralisation process was engaged.
Decentralisation does not entail the sending of paltry sums to the local areas for projects decided at the centre in faraway Yaounde, but the transfer of resources and devolution of powers to the local collectives to decide which projects best serve their needs, and execute them.

Even Government’s own appellation of “minimum package” to Basic Education schools, which is what the highly centralised system sends to the local areas, betrays the regime. Why not “maximum package” both in the size and weight?
Like the Professor of International Law, Political Science and scholar in world political systems, Ndiva Kofele Kale, puts it: the highest form of decentralisation is federalism.

One of the philosophers and writers in public affairs management and proponent of civil disobedience, Henry Thoreau, asserts: “That government is best which governs least…” This was re-echoed by President Thomas Jefferson of the United States of America.
Cameroonians were awed when they saw the stadium where the Lions played a friendly against Supper Eagles in Akwa Ibom, with all its state-of-the-art installations and aesthetics. That stadium was constructed by the State Government of Akwa Ibom and not the Federal Government of Nigeria. That is one of the sterling beauties of full decentralisation or federalism.

We know Cameroonians are very good word-benders. But no amount of word-bending can change the meaning of decentralisation. In spite of his promise in his New Year speech to implement decentralisation this year, his unwillingness to implement it can be seen in the way he designed the elections calendar for this year. Like he did in 2013, he set the Senatorial elections to come before municipal elections, meanwhile it is the municipal councillors that elect Senators. Like in 2013, municipal councillors have elected Senators who will work but with new councillors elected at the expected municipal elections this year. In other words, the Senators are going work with Councillors who never elected them.

If he were not reluctant to implement decentralisation, logic dictates that the President would have started with Municipal elections, followed by the creation of Regional Councils and then the Senatorial elections whose electoral college is the local and Regional Councils.
Starting with the Senatorial elections is mere political mathematics where he would secure the crushing majority of the Senators who would pay allegiance to him and everything will rotate around him and his members of Government. That is eloquent, glaring, ocular evidence of reluctance to decentralise or devolve authority.

Before creating the Ministry of Decentralisation, the budget for the then Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation had already been voted at the November 2017 session of Parliament. It was as if decentralisation was not being fully applied because it was combined with territorial administration.
Now, how the budget is going to be split is not the President’s privately managed accounts. It is supposed to be public knowledge.

Also, the creation of the Ministry of Decentralisation brings to three the number of Ministries dealing with local development. They are: the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and now, the Ministry of Decentralisation and Local Development. Where does the sphere of one end and where does the other begin? One can guess that this nebulous situation is deliberate – to stall decentralisation and continue to wield absolute power.

Besides, unlike the other ministries whose services on the ground are handled by Regional delegations under Regional Delegates, Divisional Delegations under Divisional Delegates, and then Subdivisional Delegations under Subdivisional Heads; the Regional, Divisional and Subdivisional Delegates and Delegations of Decentralisation have not yet been appointed and created.

Under real (highest form of) Decentralisation (according to Prof. Kale) the Regional Governors, Divisional Officers who are erroneously referred to as SDOs instead of DOs) and Sub Divisional Officers who are referred to as DOs instead of SDOs as the abbreviation entails) would be central or Federal Government officials who would, under the same dispensation, can then be referred to, respectively, as Regional Delegate of Territorial Administration (for Governor) Divisional Delegate of Territorial Administration (for SDO) and Sub Divisional Delegate of Territorial Administration (for DO). That way, they will serve only as the eyes of the Central (Yaounde) Government, rather than meddling in the decisions of elected officials which makes them the fourth Ministry to do with local development and further encumbering development.
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