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My Wish Is To See CAMASEJ Grow From Strength To Strength – Wache 

Interviewed By Elvis Tah

Francis Wache, incumbent National President of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, is looking forward to a better CAMASEJ in the days ahead. In the following interview, Wache takes stock of his mandate, discusses difficulties confronting the Association and calls on all members to put hands on deck to chart a way forward for a virile and respected Association. Excerpts:

You were elected National President of CAMASEJ, in 2006. What is your appraisal of the mandate this far?

The first key thing we should remember is that we pledged to move the Association forward from where our predecessors left it. Now, I can only say that, in terms of appraisal, you would agree that CAMASEJ waxes stronger. Globally, since CAMASEJ did not die and it is more vibrant, the appraisal should be that it is doing well, very well, indeed.

Now, besides CAMASEJ being more vibrant than it was in the past, what are some of your achievements?

You will agree that this is definitely not the appropriate place to present our balance sheet. Nonetheless, let’s cite some of the key accomplishments of our Exco. We focused on capacity building and, because of this, we organised workshops throughout the nation. We had workshops in Yaounde, Douala, Buea, Limbe and Bamenda. We trained members on elections reporting and the principles of good writing. I think this went a long way in honing the skills of our members. Also, one of the achievements of this Executive is that we put in place a Publishers Association under the leadership of Nhon Zachee Nzoh Ngandebou. This Association is expected to put some order in the more or less prevalent chaotic situation in the profession.

I am also proud that we now have vibrant chapters in Douala, Yaounde, Bamenda ,  Buea, Limbe  and Kumba. All the chapter Presidents and their members are making invaluable contributions for CAMASEJ to resonate as a responsible, respectable and respectful Association. We equally exposed the Association to the international community. In a nutshell, during our tenure CAMASEJ has been given some visibility.

I want to believe that it has not all been a bed of roses. What are some of the hitches and hurdles you encountered as President during your tenure?

There have been tremendous hurdles. One of them is that members did not honour their responsibility of paying their dues. You can imagine, therefore, that, for an Association like CAMASEJ to be able to function well, it needs to be self-sustaining.

Failure by members to pay their dues actually stifled and stymied any other activity that we would have loved to carry. Secondly, and, inexplicably, communication channels have been clogged. For example; a member decided to create a discussion group. It sputtered for a short while and then went comatose. Yet, this was supposed to provide a forum where issues concerning the Association would have been debated and discussed.

The Elective General Assembly is around the corner. Some contenders are bracing up to gun for the post of President and many other executive positions. Are you also nursing hopes for another mandate?

My guiding principle is that I cross my rivers when I get to them. For now, the election is not a river that I have reached yet. So, I don’t think that it’s a preoccupation. Rather, what I am preoccupied about now is ensuring that the Elective General Assembly holds and that it holds under a serene atmosphere where there are convivial exchanges; where membership is of quality as well as quantity. I am concerned about issues that will be discussed very openly to foster the Association. Elections, to me, are peripheral. It is a river, definitely, and I will cross it when I get to it.

The grapevine has it that you are planning to run for a second mandate and that you have been lobbying at certain quarters to gain followers?

Well, I just told you that I cross rivers when I get to them. All I can say, for now, is that if there are rumours, you know what rumours are and I can neither confirm nor refute what is being said. I have made no declaration and I have told you that my preoccupation now is to handle the organisation with other executive members to ensure that things go on well.

You see, we have issued press releases urging members to pay their dues. We have done the groundwork like hiring the hall. Let us focus on the substance and not the shadow. Whoever emerges as President should contribute in ensuring that the Association grows from strength to strength. One thing I won’t do is to unusually criss-cross the country because I want to run for an election.

Don’t you think that declaring your intention in the hall on the D-Day would have been belated for you to have ensnared majority voters?

Perhaps! But the Constitution does not require that people should submit their candidacies prior to the election proper. If that was a proviso then, of course, I would have done that. So you can’t say for sure who the candidates are even though you have heard rumours. The real candidates might only step up on the floor.  

Last year, the General Assembly was not a complete success. What measures have you put in place to ensure total success this year?

The General Assembly of July 2008 was a resounding success. In fact, even critics referred to it as historic.

But elections did not hold…?

That’s right. That was the one item on the agenda that marred an otherwise impressive General Assembly. You will recall that the problem could not be attributed to me or the executive. A member raised a legal point that made it impossible for the elections to hold. I insist that this is the Elective General Assembly and we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that it is successful.

There are rumours making the rounds that you are the only person in possession of the CAMASEJ Constitution and that the reasons why you are hoarding the Constitution is to prevent members from reading it between the lines to challenge some of your plans?

As you know, there is a flurry of rumours flying around. How can I be the only person in the Association who is keeping the Constitution when we took them to the hall during the last General Assembly and invited members to buy their copies? In fact, when we visited the Chapters last year I remember that the Secretary General harped on the issue inviting members to obtain their copies. So such an accusation is preposterous.

There is a publication from a Bamenda-based newspaper alleging that you purportedly threatened your entire staff members that, if they don’t vote for you, they will be sacked…?

I am surprised that this question is coming from you and you are a member of The Post. You just asked me why I’d not made my candidacy public. Again, these are some of the preposterous accusations, innuendos, rumours which we should consider as in the nature of things. You are talking to me about this issue for the first time. I told you that I didn’t consider it urgent to declare my candidacy. Yet, without declaring my candidacy, I am supposed to have threatened you! Such gossips should be dismissed with a lot of scorn. Let me ask you this: Am I going to sit in the voting booth to see who is voting who?

You know voting will be done by secret ballot. If voting were by show of hands, then, that allegation could have some substance. You know, when you are running for public office, you should expect detractors and critics to use every available opportunity to create doubts and confusion in the minds of people. It becomes distasteful when such statements are puerile and blatantly malicious.

We also found it strange that, last year, you were gunning for the post of President but you never openly declared your intentions to your staff members and maybe ask for their support?

This is the point I am trying to make. And I will stress, it ad infinitum, that if I call you, Tah, and ask you to vote for me, it will be interpreted that I am trying to browbeat you. I believe that my collaborators are mature enough to understand that, if their collaborator is gunning for some office, he doesn’t need to call a campaign rally and take them to a place to eat fish and drink beer before they will vote for him. That, to me, is patent common sense.

But many did not know that you were a contender and, maybe, if you told them on time, they would have rallied other supporters to vote for you.

I agree with you. Maybe, it was an error on my part. But, I am saying that, the way I look at things, I do not think that I need to drum up support from my collaborators on issues like that. Possibly, this might be a problem of communication because none of you came to me to ask about the election. Tacitly, it is understood between you and I that we are each others keeper. Wouldn’t it then be redundant for me to call a meeting in the house and start telling people that I am campaigning for this or that post? In any case, I didn’t find that approach decent enough.
There is also a publication from a Yaounde-based newspaper in which the interviewee, who is also a CAMASEJ Presidential hopeful, described your mandate as a total failure. What is your reaction?

Would you have wanted the contender to throw flowers at me? If there is a contender, he must paint me in such bleak terms so that I emerge as no candidate. If somebody said that, it is definitely his or her right to do so. And, as a contender, he or she must prove that they have what it takes, rather than the flair for hurling ad hominem diatribes at others.

I consider that as part of the game, though. And you know, I don’t want to consider members of CAMASEJ as a team of numskulls. Just the very fact that they voted me in the first place, tells you that you can’t just shove me aside with vitriolic criticisms. A good number of CAMASEJ members that I know and have interacted with are not simpletons that could easily be swayed because they have heard this or that about me.

They are, by and large, critical, listening between the words and reading between the lines. These accusations and underground rumours, as I said before, are meant to destabilise. But, I remain civil about it all. I don’t take objections to anybody because I have learned that a good leader must expect and accept criticisms. A good leader develops thick skin, is magnanimous and keeps a sense of cool and calm when the tempest is raging.

Any last word to CAMASEJ members?

Whatever happens on Saturday, May 23, should ensure that CAMASEJ emerges stronger. I don’t think that there is need for any bickering or skirmishes. We are dealing with an Association and that Association should be given the pride of place. Any other thing should be considered secondary. CAMASEJ members should come to Buea massively, participate constructively and ensure that the Association charts a course for future battles.

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