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Parliament Is Powerless 

Interviewed By Yerima Kini Nsom — The first female MP from Boyo constituency in the Northwest Region, Hon. Honorine Wainachi Nengtoh, has said that Parliament is a strange law-making house where MPs take instructions from the executive. “I will say that for now our Parliament is a place for MP’s to go, sit down and take orders on what to do,” she told The Post in an exclusive interview in Yaounde recently.

The Post: How did you break the myth of gender to emerge as the first female MP from Boyo?

Hon. Honorine Wainachi Nengtoh: I think from the word go, the ambition was not there, but when it came to  the issue of gender, my name came up and this was because our National Chairman, John Fru Ndi, told  the party in Belo to bring out a female candidate.

So you are saying you did not have any ambitions until the party stampeded you into Parliament?


If you didn’t have any ambitions does it mean you have nothing to offer in Parliament?

It is not so. My challenge as a Parliamentarian now is to contribute my own quota to bring the change that we all need.

When did you get into politics?

I joined the SDF in 1993 as a floor militant. I did not really want any specific post until when we started a ward in my neighbourhood in Belo. I was a member of the ward up to 1998 and in 1999 I was Secretary of the ward. In 2010, I was the Treasurer of the Socialist Women in Boyo and the Vice President of the Socialist Women in the Belo Electoral District.

What motivated you to join the SDF and not some other party?

During the one-party dictatorship era in Cameroon, I was not interested in politics. But when the opposition came, I became very interested in it and that is why I joined the SDF.

What contributions do you intend to make as a Parliamentarian?

There are so many things in our constitution that we really need to change. I know it is difficult to come but, I think with time it can happen.

When you say there are many things to be changed in the constitution, what specifically are you talking about?

At the National Assembly, we have had 180 Parliamentarians for a very long time, and our population has grown and if you look at the way in which the constituencies are mapped out, I think that is something to be changed. When you go to some areas you see a very big population with one Parliamentarian and when you go to others, especially where they have carved out special constituencies, the population is few with more MPs. We need a constitutional amendment to ensure equal and proportionate representation. Look at Boyo; it is a wide geographical expression with a very dense population represented by only two MPs.

You have been at the National Assembly for a few months; is the environment enabling enough for you to be able to achieve your objectives?

I can say it is very difficult because our Parliament has no powers. Parliamentarians are supposed to have powers as stipulated by the Constitution and the Standing Orders. But, when you get in there, you discover that the place is controlled by the executive because of the overwhelming majority of CPDM MPs in the House. They get instructions from elsewhere on how to conduct affairs of the House.

So you are saying that MPs don’t have any powers?

They don’t because we take orders from the ruling party. We don’t act on what we are supposed to act on.

So you are at the beck and call of the executive?

The President…there are certain points where we will sit in Parliament waiting that they should go to the Presidency to take instructions from there before coming back to us. This makes it look like our Parliament is not a very serious institution.

Are you disappointed?

I am not disappointed because of the contributions we are making as the leading opposition party. They reject the proposals of our Parliamentary Group, but sometimes they surreptitiously come back to them and take credit. When they come back to it, they will not want to give us the credit. They will say they have decided that. So, I am not disappointed.

As a female politician, do you face any special obstacles?

I think that for now I have not had one, but at the beginning, it was not easy just with the campaigns. For now, I cannot talk of any major obstacle on my way.

So the only major difficulty you face in Parliament is the overwhelming majority of the CPDM; are there any strategies that you think you can be put across to surmount this obstacle?

For now we don’t have any strategy as such, but the only thing is that we will continue to push across our ideas in Parliament because at the end of the day, our ideas and contributions are adopted and taken into consideration.

What are some of the problems of your constituency that are on your list of priorities?

One of the biggest problems we have is that of electrification; most areas don’t have electricity and the water problem is there too. The area that really has water problems is Bum Subdivision. Urgently, this is the area that has to be taken care of because the Lake Nyos survivors are resettled there.

It lacks so many things that are keeping them behind like schools, most especially in Bua Bua. They don’t have a good primary school, and that is a resettlement area. You have an area there where a nursery and primary school operates inside a hut. Even the government secondary school that we have in Bua Bua has not been given one classroom ever since it was created six years ago.

You witnessed the election of the Speaker of the National Assembly who has been there for 22 years; how was it?

I think even the procedure they take to elect the Speaker leaves so much to be desired. They nominated one person and this nomination was final. Once they have done their nomination, whether you give another nomination or not, the deal is done. Therefore, being of the minority group, it is needless to even give another nomination because you will not succeed. Then, again, the number of years the man has put in as Speaker, he cannot be effective the way we see him.

You have heard about this thing in Parliament called party discipline; if you find yourself in such a situation, will you serve the people of your constituency or your party hierarchy?

I think when you talk of party discipline it means that you have to respect your hierarchy. In this respect, you don’t have to do something which is against what the party needs. As concerns what you are asking, when you have something, put it to your group for discussion so the group will see how this can be put across in a better way not that they can stop you from doing it.

So how do you read the future of Parliament?

I will repeat that for now it is a place for MPs to go sit down and take orders on what to do. I want Cameroonians to know that it is the way their Government is, but on our own part as the opposition, we are trying our best to put across their aspirations through the National Assembly. I think that change will come with time.

First published in The Post print edition no 01515