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Night Travel Ban: Killing Businesses While “Curbing” Accidents 

By Peterkins Manyong

Good governance entails that any decision arrived at should be in the supreme interest of the governed."Government of the people for the people by the people" as Abraham Lincoln defined democracy, can never be a physical reality because we can’t have a nation made up of presidents, prime ministers and members of parliament.

The appropriate and realistic definition of democracy is "government of the people for the people by representatives of the people". The majority of Western governments subscribe to the latter definition. A few African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Liberia also do.

Not Cameroon, which is not only governed by an anti-people regime, but is one of the worst on the African continent. Without any exaggeration, there is hardly any decision the New Deal Regime takes in which the overall interest of Cameroonians is considered first. The ban on night travel issued by Transport Minister, Bello Bouba Maigari, is one of such decisions.

To begin with, the Biya Regime has never shown any regard for the lives of ordinary Cameroonians. This is an oligarchy which saw nothing wrong in gunning down hundreds of Cameroonian youths in February 2008 for protesting against hikes in the prices of basic commodities. Concern for human life cannot, therefore, be the motivating factor for such a decision.

The Regime’s failure to construct wider roads is a deliberate ploy to reduce the country’s population through road accidents. Poverty is not a convincing excuse from a regime which pays a government official (the Secretary General at the Presidency) FCFA 2.5 million as allowance every day. A double-lane road linking Bamenda and Yaounde as well as Douala and Yaounde is not impossibility for a country that has everything, including oil and forest reserves.

Besides the fact that speed brakes exist on our major highways, hundreds of billions are spent on security forces who should man these highways, and control vehicles to ensure the road worthiness of vehicles, as well as sanction drivers for overloading and high speed. Unfortunately, most of these officials are administered the sacrament of corruption right from the time they write the entrance examination by being made to buy their way into the force.

Being therefore moral bankrupts forced by necessity to be so, these law enforcement officials easily reconcile it to their consciences to become unscrupulous money hunters so as recover what they spent before being enrolled in the training schools. A digression on the art of hunting may help illustrate the point. There are three major categories of hunters: dogs, security men and prostitutes. We shall begin with the last category.

Prostitutes, "fishers of men", as they are derisively termed, lure their victims through direct application when body language fails. They haunt drinking spots because they know that beer takes away the guard of reason, transforming those who are cautious spenders into prodigals.
The first two categories have in common the fact that they don’t seek the consent of their victims and make no attempt, through wit or sophism, to persuade these victims to see reason why they should be preyed upon.

Security men are particularly gifted because they possess an infinite capacity for identifying faults and creating     "motifs" where there are none, to extort money from drivers. The Regime, which has never organised free, fair and transparent polls, lacks legitimacy and, therefore, relies on these security men to stay in power. This explains why a recent decision that they should stay off the road was reversed only a few months after it had been taken.

Coming back to the travel ban decision, the Regime knows that night travel is common with people of a particularly part of the country who rely so much on movement for their survival. This portion consists of the Northwest, West, Southwest and Littoral, the majority of whose inhabitants, by some historical accident, belong to the opposition.

Connivance with hotel owners is therefore, believed to be a contributing factor to the decision, at the expense of struggling Cameroonians. It is also no secret to Regime insiders that most of these night voyagers are "buyam sellams", dealers in perishable goods like vegetable, who need to deliver the goods to their costumers soon after harvest and night journeys enable them do so early enough.

The Regime knows just too well that there is a booming market at transport agencies at night, and that petty trading which takes place there is a source of livelihood to those unfortunate Cameroonian youths denied access to the public service by a system which has made government employment the preserve of those who can afford it.

Finally, the Biya Oligarchy knows that leaving one’s home at or before 5 am to travel is as dangerous as arriving  the visiting town at 9 pm and above. By obliging people, business persons especially, to leave at the former and arrive at the late hour, the Regime has actually made business operators the prey of armed robbers who will conveniently waylay them and fleece them.

If we agree with an allegation published in one of our renowned English Language newspapers that authorities of the Transport Ministry demanded FCFA 500 million from transport agencies so that the ban should not be instituted, then the ban is at best exploitative and at worst vindictive.

There is, however, some advantages in the ban, like drivers resting and having more time with their families. Drivers have often been associated with the spread of HIV and AIDS because they feel bound to keep concubines, while their wives embark on amorous adventures because of their spouses’ unavailability when needed.

But on the whole, words can hardly describe the scene of desolation that greets the eyes of a visitor at any of the transport agencies at night. Night business hawkers, especially food sellers at stopovers like Makene and Melong will be really hard hit by the ban. That is the price Cameroonians must pay for condoning an egocentric and anti-people kakistocracy.

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