Saturday, November 17, 2018
You are here: Home » Latest News » Our MPs Are Bookmark This Page

Our MPs Are 

Interviewed by Willibroad B. Nformi — Hon. Dr. Joseph Lukong Banadzem has declared that Cameroonian MPs are virtually powerless and have been reduced to begging Ministers to insert projects in the national budget to benefit their constituencies.

In this exclusive interview, the university don, SDF Parliamentary Group Leader and MP for Kumbo Central says corruption is still a cankerworm in the nation and wonders whether the Vision 2035 propounded by President Biya will ever come to pass. He calls on all Cameroonians to take the forthcoming biometric registration seriously, lapses notwithstanding, so as to bring the much-needed change in the nation. Read on:

The Post: You’ve been in Parliament now for quite sometime. As an intellectual and politician, could you assess Cameroon’s Parliament vis-à-vis other legislative institutions?

Hon. Banadzem: I’ve been in Parliament for ten years now and I will say that ours is not really the parliament I would have loved to work in because all the other institutions are subservient and submitted to the executive. This is unlike in a real democracy where there is separation of power – the legislative, the executive, the judiciary and now the press. However, luckily for us in the opposition, we struggle with the limited means we have to push and get what Parliament should be doing.

As a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association I travel a lot and when I see what other parliaments do and how they work, even African Parliaments like the South African, Tanzanian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and so on we are far from having a parliament. For instance, very soon we’ll be going for the budget session. In South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria etc, it is parliament that establishes the budget. They are free and capable of shifting the budgetary heads from one to another, reducing, increasing and so on.

They, therefore, have the power and when government is coming before them, it knows that if they don’t defend the budget well, it will not go through. But with us here, as we are going in, what comes in goes out. So you have that frustration when you are going to parliament people think you are going to vote us a budget, bring us this or that project. You see that the Cameroonian Parliamentarian ends up shopping in various Ministries, pleading, begging Ministers to create a school here, give credits there and so on.

Those are things that we as parliamentarians should be able to insert in the budget ourselves so that when you are going for a budgetary session, you are capable of fighting for something which you will obtain from the budget. But our parliamentarians queue up before the Ministers in their cabinets begging for projects to be inserted for their constituencies. So I think our parliament still has a long way to go.

As a frontline militant of the SDF party, what do you make of the development projects such as the Mevele, Lom-Pangar dams, the Bamenda ring road, the University of Bamenda lately embarked on by the National Chairman of the CPDM and President of the Republic, Paul Biya?

If they are doing it, the better for the country. I think we will be very happy if they get to completion. For me, I do not want to view it negatively. It is very good that they are on them now. But as a politician and somebody who has to be cautious, I will ask myself; the regime and the present Head of State has been in power for 30 years and it is now that they are engaging in these projects?

So, what have they been doing in the last 30 years? Something wrong must have happened. If they were to be asked to account for these 30 wasted years, then I will say that they have no reason to jubilate over what is coming after this very long period. This is because if he is launching those projects now, laying the foundation stones now, when will he inaugurate them?

If we were inaugurating these projects now, I would have been more comfortable. But that they are launching them now, it means they will be inaugurated in five to ten years. And if I were to take the example of the stretch of the ring road from Ndop to Babungo, less than 10 km apart, for five years, they have been unable to do it but they launched it five years ago. So are we convinced that this will be done?

My greatest wish is that we need to see them done because it is for the interest of Cameroonians and the fact that he is launching them after 30 years still makes me to ask a question: What happened in the last 30 years? Except he was accumulating all that money for 30 years to use now or else the money that would have been used for those projects, we would have been somewhere now.

And to say that we have launched three major electricity projects in the country: Mekim, Mevele and Lom-Pangar, all of them costing billions of francs CFA. I think if I am not exaggerating, at the tail end, we are going to spend probably several thousand of billions francs before these projects are completed. It would have been logical to begin with one, see loopholes, the lapses and correct them before we launch the next. So this pomp over the projects baffles me.

Do you see Cameroon achieving the Vision 2035 with the launching of these major projects?

If it will be an emergent country, it will be good for Cameroon. I wish them luck. You cannot be a leader and wish you country not to progress. But when you want to see the way we do things, you wonder whether the team is capable of taking us to 2035.

How long how have we fought corruption, but where is corruption now? And then, of course, the very methods that were used in other things yesterday are being still used today. Take CAMAIRCO. We shouted foul and CAMAIR sank. Now they have created CAMAIRCO and it is the same process which is going on.

That is why I say it would have been good to take one thing and get to the end of it before engaging the other. More so, the mentality has not changed, because you cannot be taking new wine and putting it into old containers and still expect it to stand. The very people who destroyed our economy yesterday are the very ones to whom this things are mandated. I do hope we will be an emergent country and if that happens, it will be good for all of us.

Legislative and Municipal elections were supposed to hold this year but were postponed. Were you comfortable with the postponement?

Not at all. Nobody can be comfortable with the situation, neither me nor aspirants. This is because so many people had prepared and spent a lot of money. With the postponement, all what they spent and the preparations they did is all destroyed.

Psychologically, you are not at rest when elections are coming. So we are not comfortable with it. And then we in the opposition especially want to go in for elections to improve on our numbers in Parliament in order to change the state of things in the country. So we are very dissatisfied with the postponement.

ELECAM is preparing to ensure that the biometric system goes functional. What, according to you, are the shortcomings of this system which is highly acclaimed as the panacea for election rigging?

The SDF is the party that put as a precondition for good elections the biometric registration. We stood firm for it. But like this Government will always do, they will subtract what is important in a proposal and retain the chaff.

It looked like a panacea because the virtues of the biometric system is that you have some natural signs in you like finger prints, photos etc, but we would have loved the biometric to be inserted in the whole electoral process whereby you register, get your card and at the polling station you vote biometrically and at the central place it is biometric. But the biometric system has just ended in registration and you collect your cards later on. The same manipulations which happened in the past will still take place.

Elections as we did mention were postponed giving you another one year for preparations. How prepared are you for the 2013 polls?

Personally, I was already prepared in 2012 if elections were to take place. Taking it to 2013 if it does come at all, all of us will be in the field. Every politician should at any moment be ready.

Your party has often used boycott as a political strategy. How successful has this worked in the Cameroon context?

Well, it has been successful in a way. It is good to know the level of activities in political action. We are in parliament and there we accept bills, debate them in Committee, bring amendments and we can either vote or reject them in Committee. Later on they come to plenary. We can vote, debate, agree and vote or reject them.

And at times when we find out that those actions have not yielded fruits which we expected, we now tell Cameroonians that all our efforts in Committee and in plenary are not bringing anything. And at times when we withdraw, it alerts the attention of the international community, the national community, even of Government to say that this thing is not moving on well. I take the law on ELECAM.

When we boycotted and withdrew from plenary and went to our office, we were communicating with the Commonwealth Office in the UK, which in turn was communicating with the Presidency and the minimum which we asked for was granted. This was because we withdrew. So when we boycott it is a hard political action. So, boycott is a strong weapon which we use and use only when we know that there is something really grossly wrong.

Any word of advice to Cameroonians and your constituents?

My advice to Cameroonians and particularly to my constituents/electorate is that the biometric registration will soon start. Everybody should be ready and prepared to follow the system right to the end to make sure that something good happens to our country, at least once. This is because Cameroon has dragged on a very bad image for too long and we are very uncomfortable with it.

Look at our football. That has been our image. Look at how it is going on because of the system which we live in and it is only through elections that we can create a system that looks like Cameroon. So we should take our destiny and future in our own hands and go ahead with it.

First Published in The Post print edition No 01372

    Add a Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *