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Our Decade 

By Akere T. Muna

This year 2010, around 17 African Countries will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their independence. As we move into the second decade of this millennium one is forced to reflect in two directions. Firstly, making a certain pilgrimage into the past, secondly, and most importantly, casting thoughts into the future. As we reflect on the past of our own country,  Ahidjo, Foncha, Muna, Jua, Endeley, Assale, Um Nyobé, Betayene Onana Owana, Egbe Tabi, Mbile, Sadou Doaudou, Ekah Ngahki, Ayissi Mvodo, Samuel Eboua, Beb a Don, Julienne Keutcha, Simon Pierre Tchoungui, Mayi Matip, Ekwabi Ewane, Fonlon, Mrs. Patricia Chilla, Soppo Priso, Tobie Kuoh, Nangah, Che, Kilo, Sultan Njoya, Fon Galega of Bali, Fon Achirimbi of Bafut and the list can go on – are all buried in our recent history now made distant by conjuncture – we must be certainly torn between reverence to the past and anxiety about the future.

As all these thoughts go through my mind, I am in awe at the resilience of the ordinary Cameroonian. Through the torments of colonization, the dilemma of independence and reunification, the hesitance with the one-party system, then the apprehension of succession, being overwhelmed with multi-parties in the form of over 240 political parties, to staggering under the weight of greed, corruption, inequity and injustice. Yet the ordinary Cameroonian through the years and through the generations has remained standing.

The Paradox

Instead of drawing from this resilience, to make his world a better place, the ordinary Cameroonian has retreated to the position of the spectator waiting for that providential man. Even those in the Diaspora are caught up in this trance, as they live in the comfort of far away lands and complain about the "something" they do not have to deal with on a daily basis. Certainly, true patriotism must go beyond reflection. Who then is this providential or extraordinary person we always seem to be searching for or rushing to anoint?

All the main actors in the opposition and in government since the advent of multi-parties "à la Camerounaise" have always been the same as much as the language and themes have never changed. The ordinary Cameroonian remains hostage in this battle between the clamour with glamour for some nondescript change and new ambitions waiting for a definition.

What Does A Decade Hold?

The child who is ten today, will ten years from now be ending his undergraduate studies at university, the student graduating today will be reflecting on the way forward, gaining a specific skill and starting life just before the decade is over, and for the 30-year-old, the anxiety that success or failure in life brings… And for the ordinary Cameroonian? He yet awaits the providential man.

The belief that somehow to do extraordinary things one has be to be extraordinary defies history. Ordinary men indeed can do extraordinary things. It is true that it is important in this process to have solid or extraordinary institutions; institutions that can stand the test of time, but not fashioned to conform to the taste of men.

It is not my intention to discount leadership but to emphasize the complicity or the symbiosis that must exist between a leader and his people. At this juncture, I can only borrow from the eloquence of the 26th. President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, as displayed in his epic speech "The Man in the Arena" a century ago to the Sorbonne in France on April 23, 1910. He had this to say:

The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.

No one could have said it better. So as we start another decade we must claim this decade as ours. Our action will determine how high the stream will rise. Certainly, resilience is good enough but it must be a transition towards a better life for us our children and our children’s children.

In the movie theaters, an amazing new film has just been screened on the life of the icon Nelson Mandela. Morgan Freeman is cast in the role of Mandela. The film is titled Invictus Latin for "unconquered". This is the title of a poem by the poet William Ernest Henley. Mandela is said to have constantly had this poem with him all the time he was in jail.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley

Yes, indeed, the "citizen is the master of his fate and the captain of his soul"
Therefore, it is my belief that this is our decade, that of the citizen, yours and mine. If we need a compass, then there was one proposed to us by Mahatma Gandhi, when he said; "be the change you want to see in the world".
One of the greatest entertainers of all time, who passed in 2009, Michael Jackson, put it differently in his song "The Man in the Mirror" when he sang:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
Happy New Year, 2010

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