By Peterkins Manyong
He is over-quoted, we mean the French philosopher, Voltaire. And with a lot of justification because he taught the world much. The work in mind here is the satire "Candide" with subtitle "l’Optisme". The theme that runs through the book is that everything that happens in this world – earthquakes, wars, accidents, is for the good.
Judged from this philosophy of Candide, last Friday, October 1 happening, the two bomb blasts in Abuja and the bad weather that made the landing of the plane carrying President Paul Biya, were fashioned for the good of not only Cameroonians, but the world as a whole. There is no iota of cynicism in this statement. Let us begin with the bomb blasts.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, had warned about the attack, saying Nigeria had nothing to celebrate after 50 years of independence. MEND thinks the Niger Delta has not received adequate compensation for the fact that the bulk of Nigeria’s oil comes from there.
The British intelligence service had also cautioned those attending Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebration of a possible terrorist attack. But because politicians generally think that they have an impregnable security network, nothing can happen to them. The dire consequence of this is that 16 innocent Nigerians lost their lives and twice that number are probably still in hospital.
Following the journalistic principle of proximity as a determinant of news worthiness, our focus here is on President Biya.
The first thing to note here is that MEND was not targeting Biya or any other African dictator. Their grudge is with the Nigerian government. But bombs and bullets have no eyes and so hit those within their range. Biya and his wife, Chantal, could therefore have died if they were within reach of the bombs.
That was not the only incident that could have terminated their stay on this earth. On their return journey their plane could not land at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaunde because of bad weather. The plane had to turn back and land in Douala. After that, the presidential couple had to travel back to Yaounde like other mortals – by road. And like the demi-god and goddess that they are, all movement along the road had to come to a standstill. This was not the first time that the Presidential plane was returning from the same Nigeria.
The last time it happened the wheels of the plane did not come out immediately and so the flying machine had to flounder in the sky for some time before it finally landed. The Albatross Affair is so serious that even the hitherto untouchable Jean Marie Atangana Mebara is behind bars because the Albatross almost killed Biya. The plane developed complications while on its way from Cameroon to Paris. When it successfully landed, Chantal vowed never to enter it again.
She was, however, too realistic to say she would never fly again, because traveling is like pregnancy. The fact that some women die through child birth or miscarriage has done little or nothing to discourage procreation. Most women, when in the pangs of child birth vow they would never get pregnant again, but once the pain is over, they start planning the next pregnancy and delivery. And, so, Chantal was again in the air from Nigeria.
The above two incidents that took place on the same day are of more significance than the previous ones because of the date on which they took place – October 1, which is the date Southern Cameroonian activists say it is their independence. All sentiment aside, let us view matters as they really are.
The SCNC and SCAPO could never, by any stretch of the imagination, be involved in the contemplation, let alone the planning and execution of that bomb attack in Nigeria which was the handiwork of real professionals. These Southern Cameroonian freedom movements have stood unshakably by the option of non-violence even after the most sublime acts of provocation perpetrated on their own territory by La République du Cameroun.
Although they perceive the imminent visit of President Biya as the invasion of their territory by a foreign aggressor, they have issued no threat to deter him and there is no indication that their position will change in the foreseeable future. All the same, last Friday’s blasts and the inability of Biya and wife to land in Yaounde provided good lessons that should not be ignored.
The first lesson is a reminder that Biya is a human being like any other and that death is no respecter of persons, including all-knowing dictators. It has been a policy of this regime for as long as it has manipulated everything in Cameroon to think it is beyond human destruction. Why would Biya think that death is only for others because it has not yet come to him?
Biya’s scorn for death was demonstrated when he told Cameroonians after a sustained rumour about his death that his compatriots wishing his demise would have to wait for twenty or more years for such an eventuality. Death is God’s guarded secret, but Biya spoke as if he has this secret, whereas he may simply be a beneficiary from God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness, whereby he allows the wicked to live long enough so that they would have enough time to repent for their misdeeds.
If the latter is true, then God has simply added Biya more time besides the seven-year bonus time he is enjoying (he is 77) so that he should put things straight before His maker calls him home. Those things he should straighten include the crooked electoral system of the country. The International Crisis Group also warned of a power vacuum in Cameroon should Biya die or become incapacitated. In other words, there would be uncontrollable chaos once the President closes his eyes in eternal sleep. But each time mention is made of Cameroon after Biya, the President and his cohorts want people crucified.
Old age comes along with deterioration in physical and mental powers. Biya knows this, but prefers not to let that perturb his enjoyment of all life’s niceties. Nobody begrudges him for that. But let him know, as we hinted in our last News Analysis, that Cameroonians may be slow learners, but they are not nincompoops.
The Niger Delta rebels are the school masters of all oppressed and exploited persons. Biya, while thanking God for once more letting him enjoy the lakes of Geneva and the splendour of French cities, think of February 2008, make Cameroon habitable and put his memoirs in order before the bell finally tolls for him. He should not forget as Thomas Gray says that "the path of glory leads but to the grave.