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Reunification: Bad News, Good News 

By Azore Opio — The tone of this essay is not intended to be cheerful or cynical. It is the story of a vast nation doing a great wrong to a mere kidney-shaped nation, a nation so nearly insignificant in physical size as to be almost unworthy of the dishonor of being cunningly absorbed into a bogus unification. Or is it re-unification? First,  the bad news.

The celebration of the putative Reunification anniversary is taking place, ironically, on the occasion of World Day of Social Justice on 20 February. Social justice, it is universally propounded, is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.

Social justice can only then be advanced when barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability, are removed. Unfortunately, all these barriers have instead been dug in and entrenched to the benefit of a select few in the reunified Cameroon. The Cameroon Reunification anniversary, therefore, will represent probably the gloomiest festival that would ever be consummated.

“From Reunification to Integration: 50 Years of Nation Building”, goes the tetchy slogan. Fifty years indeed of nation building…if we understand nation building as going without potable water for ages, contending with epileptic power supplies and electrocuted by ‘high-voltage’ bills, having no good roads to travel on and poor healthcare, among other atrocities that are committed with impunity against the citizenry of a one-and-indivisible nation.

The charade very conveniently called Cameroon’s Reunification is attaining unprecedented levels of fermentation. If the financial resources needed to put the Reunification celebration on a memorable footing are counted as FCFA 35 billion, they are coming at the expense of the comfort and sustained development of the citizens concerned with the event. Not only are the pretenders to the Reunification issue devoting their skills and efforts to making their stay in Buea as cozy as possible, but they are also frightening their so-called brothers and sisters whom they purportedly “reunited” with.

More bad news. For some twenty years the Kidney Nation shared in the game of co-habitation; reverently, soberly, duly considering the causes for and respecting the consequences of the matrimony as it was ordained. But by the time she attained the age of thirty, there developed an ache in her bosom – she had no offspring from the matrimony. The great nation did not regret this; it was not profoundly concerned but never failed, and never relents, to plunder the flesh of the other.

Still more bad news. The news headlines of the 90s in Cameroon described the worst economic crisis ever recorded in the last decade of the 20th century…Incomes fell. National budget deficits plagued the nation. Internal and external debts became unmanageable. Unemployment ratcheted upwards more than at any time since Cameroon gained independence. This was development.

The economic crisis of the 90s and subsequent years were almost entirely the product of political stagnation and economic mismanagement; of ill-conceived economic policies, if any there were, that fuelled a corruption boom until it went out of control. Once corruption got underway, it fed on itself as the public service and corporations turned inwards and further devoured themselves.

Although the economic and political downturn exacerbated to incredible levels, their roots lie in the depletion of resources by the ruling party which boosted its use of state finances and apparatuses, putting them on a path that by definition has not been sustainable. A dramatic breakthrough in corruption and plunder occurred sometime in 1987? following a tacit denial of a list of active contributors to the game with public money. By the end of the century, the country had gone down, along with it, its partner in Reunification.

The stumbling blocks to development in Cameroon are obvious and can be explained in terms of lack of market forces, tax incentives, poor public education, government sluggishness and redundant technology or even the lack of it at all. All these are counted, by the brain-dead praise-singers of the ruling party, as development. And the head of state is always covered by his security blanket. It is not difficult to understand the success of the ruling party in bringing the country to its knees.

1984 had probably not been predicted by anybody that it would open the gates of hell to Cameroon; the wasteful era that ever made history in that country. There are two reasons for this fact – the rich vast forests and other hidden resources. Secondly, because there developed, advertently or otherwise, no semblance of law in all the broad land. Rustlers, desperadoes, men without hearts and conscience; godless men, so to speak, vicious adventurers, had flocked, or rather, invaded the government system.

Between 1984 and the time of going to print this article, Cameroon has held more desperate and reckless men than ever assembled any time east of Nigeria. This period saw the inception and development of incongruous slogans, New Deal, Rigour and Moralisation, Grand Debate, Great Ambitions, Great Achievements, Great Realisations, the Only Choice, and so on and so forth, and the bloodiest of all corruption in which some 20 million Cameroonians were “killed”.

The period saw the rise of Rogues and Co, who have had no peers in cold nerve or graft or wastefulness and lethargy. And the people were suffering and smiling as the slogans were crafted and churned out – no potable water, erratic power supply, poor road networks…. All this while, Yaounde, the administrative city, stood at the gateway through which democracy could not pass.

And then on April 26, 1984, Yaounde seemed to close its doors firmly to the public. The glamorous days seemed to pass away and the new days were raw, hard and uncertain. In 94, some football money went missing in the air between Yaounde and the US. This was the forerunner of the tornado that would tear up the country.

Then following the neglect of a list of suspected corrupt government officials drawn and tendered by the then Minister Haman Garga, corruption started spreading like wild fire over the Cameroon socio-political and economic landscape. Many are those who took advantage of the indolence and tied the apron strings of Etoudi Palace round their necks. And their waists. In short, a whirling maelstrom of plunder exploded upon Cameroon. The general dislike of accountability was Cameroon’s doom.

Things seldom worked straight. Nothing ever seemed to happen ahead of the promised time. The country buzzed with corruption and waste was the chorus. All told, the callous dismissal of the corruption list seemed to ignite stern havoc in the devil-may-care minds of state minions. They freely played tricks with accounts. They drank, they gorged themselves. They became cemented in a corruption comradeship.

The head of state’s faith in making promises and doing nothing thereafter, the spell of ennui in government offices, the laxity in the judiciary and police force; the willingness of parliament to clap laws and policies into existence without intelligent questioning and debate, the ruthless unwritten creed of graft – all these laid an inscrutable and ineradicable hold upon the primitive minds of the regime’s followers. This is development 50 years after independence and reunification.

For a variety of reasons, the image of the policeman, the magistrate, the lawyer, the teacher, the doctor, nurse, pastor and priest, the student and the cart pusher became more tainted than ever. Blindly, like pack dogs long famished, they ransacked the economy. They operated and remained comfortable as rat moles in their burrows, until the puppet master, had a sudden change of mind and started hunting them down.

To make life more miserable for the average Cameroonian man and woman, the service industries are in steep decline. Madness has been afoot at AES SONEL and CAMWATER; their billing rates are unacceptably highly, often there is a carried-over bill added to the monthly tab. One may consume two units in a month but the bill will indicate eight units. This is development.

Cameroonians encounter the same inattention to quality in many other instances. Too many service providers concentrate on cost-cutting inefficiencies while raking in huge profits rather than add value to their products. Then there is the glib rhetoric of CPDM political wizards intended to lull the head of state that everything is working well. That is bad news.

Cameroonians had always surrendered their political rights, hopefully, in return for promises of economic security. They have since discovered that it was a bad bargain because most of the promises have never been kept. Priorities wide of the mark such as emphasis on ID cards and grandstands do not add value to people’s lives. All these have made Cameroonians become very submissive.

The Bamenda ring road has been a cursed necklace round the neck of Northwesterners. The Kumba-Mamfe road and the Kumba-Mundemba road have been a source of agony for indigenes and travellers alike. The Limbe deep seaport, cement factory and fishery school; a second bridge over the Wouri River, a dead football team plus chronic corruption are all very sour baits for development.

On another key front – the quest for equality in the matrimonial home and eventual threat of divorce, as it were – there is serious repression. And this is the good news. The one encouraging development on this front has been the rising public awareness of the marginalization of the Kidney citizens and their sympathizers; public interest groups and associations have joined hands in a effort to stop this protracted marginalisation.

First published in The Post print edition no 01506

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