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Issues At Stake: Philemon Yang Is “Criminally Un-Cameroonian” 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

In a Country where the high and the obscenely mighty miss no opportunity to fidget with public funds, the Prime Minister, Philemon Yang’s knack for rigour and decorum in managing public affairs, make him an odd figure.

To many, Yang is a strange Phenomenon in a polity that has become a citadel of easy virtues. The man, who became the Star Building tenant in 2009, has remained conservative and even “suicidally” insistence on applying rigour, probity and punctuality on issues of great national import. In the Cameroonian political setting where those who are supposed to protect the public normative pattern violate it with scorn, Yang’s commitment to republican discipline makes him look like a mere fictive construct in one of the common novels around.

Many officials, who believe that self aggrandizement from the public till is the conventional etiquette, see Yang’s respect for the public purse as stupid self-denial and abnegation. For denying himself the comfort of the “caisse noire” awulf at the Prime Minister’s Office following his appointment, many people dismissed derisively Yang as someone in an advanced stage of dementia.

They could not understand how someone with a normal mental compass could order that a huge sum of money meant for his comfort, be refunded to the public treasury.

The grapevine holds that Yang disappointed many business people who were bidding to outdo each other in “changing the wardrobe” of the new Prime Minister and giving him more pecuniary comfort. The Prime Minister was quoted as telling one of them that “I am very comfortable with my salary”. Yang reportedly blocked many tiny holes at the Star Building where State funds leaked into private pockets.

He has carefully avoided the ostentatious life style that his predecessors savoured at the Star Building.
That is why during his homecoming in Bamenda, the then new Prime Minister ordered that the bloated security armada around him be cut to size. He reportedly said he was not going to Bamenda for war, but to meet his people.

Many Gendarmes who had hoped to go on mission unleashed a free-for-all cursing of the PM. Many politicians and other people, who used to visit the Star Building and leave the place pregnant with banknotes, equally cursed the new tenant. One politician, who visited the place, came out weeping aloud, wondering why Yang is so stingy with State funds. One of them said in apparent frustration that after serving as Cameroon’s Ambassador to Canada for more than 20 years, Yang was behaving as if he is still in the Whiteman’s country.

The Prime Minister is said to have disappointed some Contractors when he went to inaugurate the Muea-Kumba road in the Southwest Region a few years back. He equally rejected a huge sum of money from the contractors as a gift.

A few years ago, Yang botched a racket that bordered on the fictitious payment of indemnities to people whose properties were destroyed during the construction of the Kribi Seaport. His intervention stopped FCFA 20 Billion of State funds from getting into the private pockets of some corrupt State officials.
When some members of the Cameroonian delegation to the World Cup competition in South Africa, were unduly paid huge out of station allowances, Yang ordered them to pay back the money into the State treasury.

This reporter equally learnt that during his tenure as the Deputy Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic, Yang stopped many State officials from travelling unduly abroad. He is said to have argued that what some of the Ministers were claiming to go and do abroad, could easily be done by Cameroonian Ambassadors to those countries.

Some people, who scorn Yang’s strictness and rigour, hold that everything would have been fine, if he were the Prime Minister of the UK or US. They claim that he alone cannot change the system. Yang has disappointed many people in his home constituency. In their mindscape, many of them had seen Yang’s tenure at the Star Building as “our own time to chop”.

They were downcast when Yang refused to play dirty soapbox ball by imposing the entry of their children into professional schools. It is reported that Yang insists on helping Young people to sit for some competitive examinations into some professional schools instead of imposing names on the admission list like some “big people” in Cameroon do.

He fought hard to crush the injustice in which it was established that only Anglophone students with three A-Level papers could sit for the entrance examination into EMIA.

Yang has defied the traditional decorum in which State officials come to public ceremonies very late and talk ex-cathedra without the slightest compunction. He goes to his office everyday at 7:30 and leaves between 6:00pm and 6:30pm. Yang’s house in native Jikijem in Oku is below a modest structure. Even the three houses he has constructed at the Ngousso, Olezoa and around the lakeside neighbourhoods in Yaounde are very modest structures on rents.

Even as a CPDM militant, Yang has not sunk to the abysmal level of sycophancy like some loud-mouthed pretenders in Government do. When Yang was appointed, there were wild speculations that he was going to do a clean sweep of some officials at the Star Building to bring in his own people. But, he transcended the tribal and regional incubus by working with most of the people he met there.

A violent wave of press criticisms hit him for refusing to play the politics of patronage. One newspaper quoted some Northwest elite as saying they would not mind if President Biya appoints even a Chadian to replace Yang as Prime Minister.

They claim they were not gaining anything from him as a son of the soil. One local tabloid even accused Yang of turning his back on his home constituency by failing to appoint people of Northwest in particular and Anglophones in general into prominent positions in the administration.

For one thing, Yang is certainly not an infallible political administrator. But he is an exceptional star in the galaxy of the few who are fighting to ensure the resilience of virtue in Cameroon’s corrupt public administration. Small wonder, President Biya is keeping him for a little longer at the Star Building than many had predicted. Yang is no JJC to the system.

He started basking in the warm glow of political power at the age of 28 when he was appointed Deputy Minister. Yet his biggest crime is that he has failed to expose State funds to the gumbo fraternity. By sticking to his guns as a man of character and timber, Yang remains an enigma and remains “criminally un-Cameroonian”.

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