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Northwest Region And The Crushing Weight Of Biya’s Poisoned Gifts 

By Jean Marie Ngong Song

On December 8, 2010, Bamenda cut the exciting image of a baby naming ceremony, a “born house” as is known in common parlance.

President Paul Biya was returning to the city, he christened his “second home”, 19 years after he was last there in1992 to “scavenge” for votes in territory that was practically mined, at least, politically, for his ruling party.

Before now, he had announced like a mimicking popinjay would do, in 1983 that he was going to personally supervise the tarring of the Ring-Road, known to be the socio-economic nerve of that Region.

Needless to state that the famed Ring-Road had not quite improved from the form in which it was when the promise was made. It remains a dirt road even as we write. A veneer of tar is systematically and reluctantly sprayed on selected patches of the road, each time the Masters of the Board occasionally wake up on the right side of their cozy beds, so to speak.

Elsewhere, road projects that were hardly ever promised are being carried out, in certain cases, hurriedly. Some of them have even undergone repairs several times, even as the Ring Road and others West of the Mungo are only tarred in palliative speeches.

Before his last visit to the city, certain conveniences that would make the President’s stay at his “second home” relatively comfortable were realized as a matter of urgency. For instance, even before Mr. Biya promised his donation of a university here, a multi-million grand stand had been constructed, from whence he would sing more lullabies and get His Royal Highnesses giggling and clapping for him like big teenage girls.

The ancestral airport renovated, monuments erected, road infrastructure completely rehabilitated, the entire city completely lighted, to last the duration of the visit.

And so his plane landed. He mounted the rostrum, the grandstand, and rattled off many more palliatives. A referral hospital was “donated” and the famous Ring Road promised in 1983 revisited with yet, more promises.

Well, after just five years, almost all the projects that were realised for the 50th Anniversary of Cameroon’s Armed Forces have melted away just like a candy given to a cry baby by the nanny. Those that were further promised only saw the light of day following street protests.

Road infrastructure

Prior to the President’s last visit the road network within the city of Bamenda and its immediate environs received enormous, nay, cosmetic transformation. The Station-Finance stretch was rehabilitated with all potholes filled; the Mobile-Mile 2 to Bambui stretch was retouched as well as the Ngeng Junction-Veterinary Junction-Ayaba Street through to T Junction, also got a fair share of the retouch.

This was the same situation in the neighbourhoods.
Should Mr. Biya abruptly return to Bamenda today, unannounced, he would discover as a fact that he is in an after war vicinity, characterised by broken roads, which were hastily patched to last just for the period of his visit.

The Ayaba Street, regularly used by local administrative authorities and visiting cabinet Ministers from Yaounde who lodge at the State owned Ayaba Hotel, is fast depreciating into a near horse track.

The case of Metta Quarters and T-junction is the worst of all. Traffic jams, potholes that take the shape of small lakes and ponds have made the T Junction- Hospital Round About stretch of the road an eye saw. Emergency civil engineers now earn a living by stuffing stones and mud onto the last traces of the tar; taxi drivers can only visit their mechanics four times in a week. And the spare parts business booms, with the owners making frequent trips to, and empowering the Chinese and other greedy world economies.

“My waist, my shocks and tires all need to be repaired. I do not know if this is a city or we are in Bawuru” said Gideon, a township taxi driver. And when it comes to the inevitable road maintenance, people like, Josue Mveset Mbengam wonder why road projects in Bamenda city are not given out to credible contractors.

“People came here with wheel barrows and pick axes to tar roads! They cook the tar by the roadside! Can that do efficient work?”

City Lighting

Bamenda at night today appears to be something that was described by Amos Tutuola in his book, “The heart of Darkness”. Before the President’s visit in 2010, the Bamenda populace enjoyed proper city lighting that even triggered low voltage at homes. Be it Bafut, Bali, Santa and Bambui, all joined the city dwellers to savour the streetlights that adorned the city. This made Bamenda to shine. Today, the whole thing is in shambles.

Streets are dark at night, including the famous Commercial Avenue, Ghana Street, Cow Street. The few existing streetlights either shine during the day time and go off at night or are completely broken or disconnected.

The situation at homes is a mess. Electricity supply in Bamenda today is the latest social amenity that has partnered with dry water taps to diminish the integrity of the denizens.
Gregory Amebe states:

“I have lost two television sets to this incessant low voltage; the situation needs immediate remedy”. A thermal plant was installed at Ntarinkon to check power cuts in Bamenda, but just after the President’s visit the whole thing was abandoned.

The airport that was completely renovated in Bafut and was used by the President in 2010, can hardly be recognized. Just before and after the President’s visit to Bamenda, promises by the authorities about how the airport would be open to public use rent the air.

It is almost a decade that city dwellers of Bamenda enjoyed the traffic light with none existing today. Taxi drivers and visitors of the city most often ask why Bamenda, baptised a city does not even have traffic lights that make driving easy to road users, especially strangers and foreigners.

The Ring Road

The people will always think of their own President as an unserious being. In 1983, the President announced the ‘personal supervision’ of the construction of the Ring Road and 32 years later, the Ring Road is still a pipe dream.

Bamenda University

One thing that added a few more grains to Biya’s elusive popularity in the Northwest, it was the “grandint” of a university. The Fons forgot themselves, with excitement jolting them from their royal thrones.

But even this soon turned as a strike action was the last measure used by Late Simon Nkwenti to force the Government to make appointments in the same university it had created in the heat of populist political pronouncements.

Today, the Northwest is still to have a fair slice of the state university, as only one Faculty, the Faculty of Science takes direct admission, with the other schools resorting to competitive entrance examinations, with the inevitable ‘cutting of corners’.

The Referral Hospital

Recently, the people of the northwest Region and Bamenda in particular woke up one morning to be informed that the referral hospital promised by the Head of State in 2010 was a near reality.

The hospital to be constructed in Nkwen, has seen the compensation of land owners who have land certificates. Coming five years later, the Bamenda man just has his fingers crossed, prayerfully hoping for the project to eventually see the light of day, for as the popular saying goes, the state machinery grinds slowly and could even halt at one moment, intentionally or because of the lack of fuel.

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