By Peterkins Manyong
Samuel Fonkam Azu’u. Few Cameroonians cared about this name before December 30, 2008, when the pollen grains of seemingly real power were sprinkled on him. In plain English, when President Paul Biya appointed him Chairman of ELECAM.
The public reaction to his appointment was so sudden and acerbic not because he is personally known to be less tolerant and accommodating than most politicians, but because his inclination to the ruling CPDM was too glaring for anyone to doubt the cause he would serve at ELECAM.
Another reason why the appointment of Fonkam Azu’u met with so much hostility from the public is that, although he operated from behind the scenes, his attachment to the "Santa Mafia" was not a matter of conjecture.
Those who attribute his appointment to Achidi Achu’s "godfatherism" are not mere speculators: the former PM had demonstrated an open phobia for Ntumfor Nico Halle who was seemingly too strict on electoral matters for his liking. Given the esteem Biya reportedly still has for Achidi Achu, it is inconceivable that the "Old Fox" could have recommended a replacement for Ntumfor who is his (Achidi Achu’s) adversary.
Fonkam Azu’s reaction to his appointment was sober, even sanctimonious, heaping encomiums on Biya and God for the privilege. His observation that Cameroonians loved peace and stability and should work hard to maintain these virtues meant that he rated peace over justice. Less equivocally put, Fonkam was for peace and stability in Cameroon, leaving electoral fair play for other nations that value them.
When the story of Fonkam’s involvement in a visa fraud was first published, Fonkam reacted in the same manner as most level-headed persons in the same circumstances. He denied the allegations and said the police were investigating the matter. Claude Nyassa, National Assembly Secretary General, and Gregoire Owona, Minister Delegate at the Presidency of the Republic in Charge of Relations with the National Assembly, came to his rescue at his hour of need.
Francis Bochong Nkwain has observed that blackmail is always against the strong. Nkwain used the word "blackmail" to mean painting somebody black, which correct English users know is semantically erroneous. But the sense of the former Minister’s statement is that persons in powerful positions are usually the subjects of attacks and they should not overreact to them.
Fonkam Azu’u has either known this adage or does not believe in it judging from allegations that Fonkam is contemplating legal action against those newspapers that first published the immigration fraud story. If the allegation is true, the ELECAM Chairman is acting in line with the philosophy of the puff adder.
Those who have lived in rural areas certainly know the peculiarities of that most venomous of serpents called the puff adder. It is the slowest snake in existence. Even when stepped upon, the snake does not move. Rather, it accumulates its venom and loosens all its seven fangs. When it finally attacks, the puff adder buries its fangs so deep into the leg of its victim that no weapon which is made of iron can dislocate them. Needless to say that survival after a bite from the puff adder is something close to a miracle.
It must be noted, for starters, that the four young men who claimed to have been duped by the ELECAM Chair, have not only been denied bail, but have been transferred from their original detention camp to the dreaded Kondengui Maximum Security Prison, demonstrating that, not only Biya, but the nation’s judiciary, is an army of knights with shining amour at Fonkam’s side.
Fonkam is, certainly, not stopping there.
This analyst has been reliably informed that all those who championed the propagation of the allegations that he issued fake immigration papers will have to prove it in a court of law. When we recall the words of Gregoire Owona, one of Biya’s lieutenants, that the press was trying to replace the police and the courts, the outcome of such a legal action can be predicted.
Why Biya Has Not Sacked Fonkam
Biya is an obstinate man. Even all those advocating Fonkam’s sacking know this. Those who lived the return of multiparty politics in the early 90s could not have forgotten how obdurate he was on the issue of a Sovereign National Conference. He equally stood his grounds in 1993 when the Union for Change group of political parties marched, demanding the return of their "stolen victory."
The Constitutional amendment and February riots are still very fresh. To sack a person, he is supposed to have appointed after "consultations" with all segments of society, would give the impression that Biya was mistaken or acted on a wrong/misguided premise. He would, in effect, be yielding to the "dictatorship" of the press.
It should be noted that Biya is more at ease with appointees rejected by the opposition and the private press. Such a person is viewed as a CPDM potential martyr and a loyalist of his regime who should be supported with all the vigour a President with overwhelming powers is capable of.
At the time of writing, preparations were underway to install the newly appointed ELECAM members. It would be in the interest of Fonkam if he lets things go and proves that he is not the puppet-on-the-string which the public considers him to be. Instead, he should understand that criticism is the price he must pay for the enormous financial advantages he will reap as Chairman of the newly created, even though discredited, election monitoring organ.