By Peterkins Manyong
The sweetness of power is best understood by the person who wields it. To keep power, the politician, unlike the prophet, must be recognised and embraced in his home town. A politician without a base is worse than a house without a foundation. But that base must not necessarily be one’s family, tribal or linguistic grouping; it should be ideological. Politics is as much a game of numbers as of ideas.
Paul Biya began well when upon ascending to the pinnacle of power he declared Bamenda his "second home" and proceeded to visit it even before the South, his province of origin. A book titled "Communal Liberalism"written by him gave the impression that Biya was a God-sent politician with a mission to transform Cameroon into an egalitarian society, a political Eldorado, in profound contrast to that of his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahidjo.
Biya’s preference for Bamenda, or at least an appearance of it, was seen to have been well thought out because the soldier said to have rescued him during the ill-fated April 6, 1984, coup attempt, was Captain Ivo Yenwo, a Northwesterner. Yenwo, now a general, has since remained close to the President’s ear and till today, is the Director of Presidential security. By investing so much confidence in someone who does not hail from the Beti ethnic group or Bulu tribe, Biya impressed on the world that he was a de-tribalised human being. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is that Cameroon Anglophones are not trusted with sensitive positions, including positions of real political and economic importance which are the preserve of Francophones, especially Beti. The ministries considered as no-go areas for Anglophones are: Finance, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Internal Security, Public Service, Education, Secretary General at the Presidency and the Ministry of Territorial Administration.
When the post of Prime Mister was occupied only by Francophones, no assistant was appointed. But when it was the turn of Anglophones, the post of Vice Prime Minister was created to strip him of some of his powers. Anglophones occupy only inconsequential posts like Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Culture, Minister of special Duties, etc. They can only be appointed Vice or Secretary of State to significant ministries.
Anglophones are also considered as unworthy to head lucrative para-statals. The dismissal from Chantier Naval and imprisonment of Zaccheus Forjindam as well as the sacking of Ignatius Sama Juma who headed the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority, CCAA, leaves Professor Uphie Chinje Melo as the only Anglophone Director of a state corporation in the Francophone sector of the country.
But many argue that it is a dead corporation and that when it would have been transformed into a lucrative organisation, as Forjindam did to Chantier Naval, she would be chased away – it being the unwritten policy of this regime that Anglophones are brought in to shoulder the huge responsibility of clearing the dirt from the Augean Stable of Corruption left by Francophone in hitherto lucrative services. The moment the task is done, they are turned away to graze in the commons like other beasts of burden.
Politically, Biya’s Region does not pretend to be the "President of all Cameroonians" as it is claimed whenever his position is threatened. The recent census showed that the South has less than 700 000 thousand inhabitants, has 11 MPs! But Mezam Division with about the same number has only three. The only domain where a semblance of equality is maintained is the appointment of governors.
In terms of development, Biya has his fatherly eye principally on Francophone areas of the country. Limbe, for instance, has a natural deep seaport, but Biya would not willingly develop it. His preoccupation is the Kribi Seaport in the Ocean Division of the South Region. Forjindam said during his trial that he was being crucified because he persuaded financial donors to provide 187 billion FCFA for the Limbe Shipyard Project. Biya accepted it in principle. The fact that he watched with arms at akimbo as Forjindam was being led to the slaughter house means he was not genuine in his acceptance.
Anglophones are marginalised even in their own territory. In SONARA, for instance, the Director and all those in decision making positions are Francophones. The language there is French, although SONARA is in Limbe, in Anglophone Cameroon. The situation in the Public Service and in the Army is no different. More than 71 percent are Beti. The language of the armed forces is French. The issue of ethnic balance is only applied in Anglophone Cameroon.
Biya clearly manifests tribalism in the case of calamities, natural or man-made. For instance, Anglophones who lost property after the 1992 Presidential Election have since been crying in the rain. But people who went to steal petrol at Nsam in the Centre Region in 1998 were compensated and are still spoon-fed every year. Victims of elephant destruction in the North have also been compensated.
But Northwester victims of the 1992 post-presidential election violence who simply performed their civic duty by voting Paul Biya, the candidate of their choice and were attacked and their property destroyed, have not been compensated. Another group of people, who have been ignored, are victims of the 1986 Lake Nyos Gas Disaster which caused the deaths of over 1 700. Not only have they been abandoned for 24 years; supplies from philanthropic organisations are diverted by those through whom they come.
In general, appointments or development projects are carried out in Anglophone Cameroon as if it is a favour, but Francophones are appointed as of right. Because Anglophones have been made to see themselves as not worthy of any development projects, they view actions like innovation works taking place in Bamenda ahead of Biya’s visit as if these are special favours. All those shouting words of panegyric to Biya forget that in his New Year Message, Biya completely sidelined Anglophone Cameroon when he enumerated projects to be carried out this year.
The people of the Northern regions can boldly give Biya ultimatums as in the case of the ENS Maroua controversy and Biya would obey them. But Anglophones have been genuflecting, begging Biya to invite them for dialogue, as recommended by the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, but to no avail. Even when it comes to the distribution of adverts to the press, Anglophone newspapers are marginalised.
However, Biya’s Beti tribesmen whom he placed in lucrative positions (the supposed G11) are those who have brought his regime to the present state of ridicule. Let this and the alleged threats of overthrow from them be Biya’s schoolmaster.