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President Biya’s Visit Is Opportunity For Northwesterners To Reconcile 

Interviewed by Bouddih Adams

Ntumfor Barrister Nico Halle has said President Biya’s visit offers an opportunity for Northwesterners to mend fences. He also talked about what the Northwest Region would benefit from the visit and the achievements of the Armed Forces, in the following interview.

The Post: What would you say is the significance of the Northwest as the choice for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Armed Forces?

Ntumfor: We can only guess, because, I have not had an occasion to discuss with the Head of State for him to justify his choice of the Northwest. But as a Cameroonian and a son of that region; we know that the Northwest has had a chequered history. We know that it is from the Northwest that so many good things have happened to this nation, but also that it is from the Northwest that so many funny things have happened to this nation.

I am just conjecturing that the Northwest, for now, was the President’s choice; it could be some other region; it has also happened to the Far North Region, and so is happening in the Northwest. He doesn’t give reason for his choice. It is a choice which everybody has appreciated. It therefore means that the Holy Spirit led him in the choice of the Northwest. I can only say again that he is the only person who can justify the choice.

What in your view are the most significant achievements of the Cameroon Armed Forces in the last 50 years?

Since 50 years, they have been executing their mission, lapses notwithstanding. They have defended our territorial integrity, in the sense that, so far, there has been no invasion. That is a major achievement. Then, there is peace – peace that they maintain; you know that the gendarmes are working very hard to maintain peace within the towns and the military are working to quell any disorders at the borders.

But if I may situate this event within its proper context; within these 50 years, there was a major event that happened four years ago, that is, the conflict at Bakassi, which necessitated the mobilisation of the army who had to make sure that they preserve Bakassi. You would remember that most of them lost their lives; those are heroes and martyrs, they died for the sake our nation. So I think that the celebration is meaningful because if we are here and talking now, it is thanks to the fact that there has been no war.

And you cannot congratulate the Army without congratulating the Supreme Commander of the Army who is H.E Paul Biya, who also showed a lot of restraint, patience, tolerance and peace, with his colleague and brother Olusegun Obasanjo, to reach the Greentree Accord. We can also pray for the man who brokered the peace, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Atah Annan. I think it is time too for me to praise the media for the restraint because you could have, in your articles, provoked the conflict to escalate into a war situation which could have been difficult to manage.

What do you think the Northwest can benefit from the President’s visit?

The first thing that the Northwesterners are going to benefit is that they are compelled, more than ever before, to desist from dog-chop-dog attitude.  You know that there is a handful or very few elite with PHD: ‘pull him down,’ some of them went to the university and majored in destruction. There are just about nine or ten of the elite in the Northwest.

This is the moment for them to talk peace because nobody benefits from hatred, mudslinging, backstabbing, jealousy, envy, greed and all the bad blood that exists. The fortunate thing is that the Northwesterners know them. This is the moment for them to be reconciled, confess, repent, receive forgiveness and rethink their ways and should change so that as we receive the father of the nation, we should be seen as one and indivisible, because when the father comes and finds that his children are divided his heart would be bleeding all through.

The second thing is that the infrastructure, roads, etc. should be improved upon, while I take exception to anybody who thinks that it is only when the Head of State is visiting a place that they should carry out development projects or plans to improve on the town. But I think this is the moment for that to happen in the Northwest; the roads, including farm-to-market roads should be widened; the hospitals, water and electricity and all those power cuts – those are the basic needs – that should be improved upon.  I am happy to hear that the CRTV Regional Station has been improved upon; because the last time I went there I was so disappointed. Disenclavement that is being done now should continue when the Head of State must have visited the region and returned.

I heard that FCFA 5 billion has been set apart for the construction and refurbishment of infrastructure. I have the impression that this amount is not good enough. Whoever made the proposal to the Head of State might have underestimated the dimension of the immediate needs for the event. I am sure if the Head of State were well informed he would have ordered for a larger amount to be budgeted for the work to be done.
The other thing is the long awaited university.

People are expecting that it would be granted. I have just returned from Bamenda and I was so happy to notice that work on the Ring Road has been launched. This is definitely good news not only for the Northwest, but for the entire nation, because the road will boost trade in particular and economic activities in general between the two brotherly nations of Cameroon and Nigeria. People will also come in from all over the country, members of government and the diplomatic corps, civilians and all other stakeholders will be there, so this is an opportunity for Northwesterners to meet and make new friends.

Fourthly, the number of visitors coming would boost the economy, because they will spend and the money will stay there. We also expect the diplomatic community to be there. We expect our neighbours: Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa, Nigeria and Gabon as well as economic investors from all other nations. There is also a spiritual fallout. I did appeal that the men of God should be praying that the event should be a big success. Let there be no hitch and let love, peace and harmony reign before, during and after the event.

Security, peace and stability are like siblings; do you think Cameroon can actually be described as being at peace with itself, considering that the absence of war doesn’t necessarily translate into peace?

Well, whether you like it or not, we are enjoying peace. The absence of war does not necessarily mean that there is peace; it is true. But you would agree with me that what we have now as peace is praiseworthy. Except that peace for me should not only be an outward kind of peace; it should even be inward. Most wars that are fought are spiritual, psychological, emotional, economic and social. Where these components are disturbed, peace is also disturbed.

So, while somebody is not shouting and breaking, the person might be having war inside him. When you get up in the morning and you cannot pay fees or buy books for your children, may be because your file has been blocked somewhere, there is war inside you. Even though you are not breaking or fighting, you are not comfortable, you are not at peace, you are not happy and you are at war with yourself. When you are at war with yourself, you start fomenting, concocting and imagining how you can cause havoc somewhere, and when you have the least opportunity, you break loose.

I think we appreciate the peace that we enjoy, but we could have more peace, more enjoyment, joy and happiness if we can be sure that the fight which has been launched by the powers that be against unemployment, poverty, embezzlement and corruption, human rights abuse, is very effective. That the fight against corruption should end with the money that has been embezzled being recovered and pumped into the economy.

 You once advocated that President Biya should be awarded a peace prize during his up-coming visit to Bamenda, which institution do you propose should give this prize?

I did propose. When the Governor of the Northwest invited me for a consultation meeting that was chaired by the Prime Minister, I made the proposal that the two Heads of State; President Biya of Cameroon and the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo be publicly honoured during the celebration and I justified it. Later on, the Governor put in place a committee, and I am a member, to study that proposal. 

We are still working on that and I think the final say will come from the Governor. Talking about which institution; I am not thinking about an institution. If they chose a small girl to give it on behalf of the region, or some other person, there is nothing wrong in that. I had mooted that idea and it was now an idea for the region, and no longer Nico Halle to manage how it is going to be executed. So, the Governor, the elite and the committee that was put in place will determine who should hand over the gift if that idea is endorsed.

You have been at the forefront of the settlement of disputes and boundary problems in the Northwest for so many years. As the population prepares to receive President Biya, would you say peace reigns through the length and breadth of the Region?

To be very honest with you I cannot vouch, I cannot confirm, I cannot overtly say peace reigns through the length and breadth of the Northwest. But you know that for close to 20 years I have been peace-crusading, not only in the Northwest but beyond, and all my efforts have borne fruits. I hope that God will continue to bless me to continue that crusade. I have been fighting to ensure that the region that was plagued with a lot of wars, conflicts, effervescence, hatred, jealousy and envy should be rid of all these ills. But unfortunately, we still have a few misguided elite who take delight in seeing war, in seeing conflict and even sponsoring it to make political and financial capital.

It is unfortunate that while we are talking about peace, peace, peace, we are everyday hearing that this village is in war or at loggerheads with that other village, all instigated by a few elite who have vaulting or inordinate ambition, unbridled quest for money, power, position and who are destroying not only the region but the entire nation.

There are very few elite and traditional rulers. You know what Chinua Achebe says in Arrow of God, "The lunatics might be few, but they own the place." The Northwest ought to be together and making the best of the natural resources that God has blessed us with. Northwesterners are a very intelligent, patriotic and hard-working people. I am sure with prayers, the few destructive elite could be converted as Saul was converted on his way to Damascus.

As one of the prominent elite of the Northwest Region, what role have you been playing toward ensuring a successful visit of the President of the Republic? 

Yes, what other role can I play other than advising the people to act with restraint, to be more patriotic, to be loving, to be peaceful and to work so that the place is well embellished against this very important event? When I am called upon to contribute materially or intellectually or otherwise for that event to move, I will make my own contribution to God’s glory.

What message do you have for the people of the North West as they are preparing?

The message I have for them is that let us for once mend fences. Let us confess, truly repent and be reconciled to ourselves. Let us recognise that we have been derailed and instead of building ourselves we are destroying each other and consequently destroying the region in particular and the nation at large.

This is an occasion for us to get together. When you are expecting a visitor to your house and you had a problem with your wife or your children; that is the moment for you to settle it. Otherwise, the way you receive your guest will definitely give the impression that there is a problem in the house and he will regret visiting.

So, if we don’t settle our problems and become one and indivisible, the guests we will be receiving, not only the Head of State, members of the Armed Forces and our brothers and sisters from other regions, will regret coming to the Northwest. We don’t want that image to be retained of us. A change of mentality should be dramatic and spectacular and not hypocritical.

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