By Peterkins Manyong
"Laws are made by man and can be changed by man". Late Gilbert Andze Tsoungui, a former Minister of Territorial Administration, was more prophetic than he knew when he uttered this statement in 1992. He was speaking on the eve of the March 1, 1992 Election that might have marked a turning point in Cameroon’s political history if the SDF, since then the country’s opposition colossus, had taken part: The SDF boycotted because the electoral law was bad.
We are on the eve of another very crucial election and Biya is about to prove as he has been doing before that he is not only Cameroon’s constitutional Maradona, but also Africa’s most unpredictable political Hamlet, the Shakespearean tragic hero noted for unpredictability.
Biya’s gymnastics which began with the creation of Elections Cameroon, ELECAM (whereby almost all members were known CPDM stalwarts) reached a crescendo when MINATD whose banishment from the electoral scene was greeted with shouts of joy by a majority of the country’s electorate, returned like a ghost from the nether world, to haunt the living forces that cherish free, fair and transparent elections.
So great was the abhorrence for MINATD that its return to handle just a portion of the electoral process forced a change of mind on ELECAM to an extent that, Joseph Mbah Ndam, one of SDF Chairman, Fru Ndi’s lieutenants, saw the absolute necessity to sheath the stigmatisation of ELECAM as CPDM appendage and begin to view the new election managing body with, Dr. Samuel Fonkam Azu’u as Board Chairman as the lesser of two electoral evils.
ELECAM has since then been gradually warming its way into the hearts of Cameroonians because of its Board Chairman’s pacific approach and Fru Ndi’s visit to its Bastos headquarters. But to the embarrassment of unsuspecting Cameroonians here comes the ruling CPDM party with its Machiavellian antiques. Perhaps the point is not clear enough, necessitating a more explicit explanation.
Last Saturday, November 6, militants of the ruling CPDM in Babessi, Ngoketunjia Division, placed the issue of voter registration above the celebration of President Biya’s 28th anniversary. The logic, which no sound mind can dismiss without uneasiness, was that the best proof of affection for the CPDM Party Chairman is to register and vote for him in 2011.
Professor Uphie Chinje Melo, CPDM Central Committee delegation leader to Babessi CPDM, portrayed herself as an indefatigable pacifist and symbol of pragmatism when she launched a fund raising exercise which culminated in the contribution of FCFA 3.5 million. This was a colossal amount by sub divisional standards and given the abruptness of the fund raising decision. With logistic thus available the logical process of installing a committee to carry out the registration of voters followed.
But what jolted many was the call from Isa Bouba, former SDF Mayor of Babessi who defected to the CPDM when his political fortunes turned Turk with the SDF. Isa Bouba, to be less equivocal, thought the best approach to ensure a CPDM victory is through a selective registration process. He called on the members of the newly installed committee which had as duty to ensure voter registration, not to assist persons in suspected opposition strongholds in obtaining national identity cards, an indispensable weapon in the voter registration process.
His argument was that a holistic approach to voter registration would result in unwittingly arming the opposition with the electoral bullet (the ballot paper) to floor the ruling party. He substantiated his point with an anecdote. He recalled how CPDM campaigners facilitated the registration process for some 800 voters in an opposition fief in Babessi subdivision and reaped only 300 votes at the end.
Declarations like these from CPDM barons, some of them political turncoats, have a tendency to derail ELECAM’s call for massive registration. On the same occasion, CPDM stalwarts emitted other even more dangerous signals. They insisted that all registration be done between November and December 2010 and that the militants had eight months to register and polish up the exercise. Following a simple arithmetical calculation, it means elections should be holding in June 2011.
When we consider that ELECAM only began voter registration on August 15, whereas it was created last December, it would not be out of place to conclude that the CPDM barons who made the announcement meant more than they articulated. This, in familiar phrase, means that the ruling CPDM has a hidden political agenda which is to catch the opposition napping.
Now, if the New deal Government desires massive participation at elections, what is more logical than to give the electorate all the time and support it needs for registration. The present voter registration began on August 15, eight months later than it should have done. The announcement that registration will take place only for eight months suggests that the time for the exercise has been shortened.
To make up the figure that can make the election results credible, millions from the land of the dead would be summoned to appear in it. That is another way of saying that the registers have to be swelled with ghost voters. If dead people can occupy such active positions as charges de mission in CPDM campaign teams, getting their names into the electoral register would be a much easier task.
Dr. Fonkam dispelled this idea of rigging at the level of registration during a press briefing he held on Tuesday, November 9. The press conference marked the beginning of his outing into the seven divisions of the Northwest to meet stakeholders in the electoral process. He said tentative voters’ registers would be posted for those who registered to crosscheck their names before the final ones are published. He also dismissed the idea of anticipated elections. He may be genuine that ELECAM wants all Cameroonians of voting age to inscribe their names in the electoral registers.
But then Paul Biya, our political Hamlet cannot be relied on given that MINATD is again mischievously seated on the table of election management. Biya altered the political agenda in 1992 when he made the presidential election hold before the municipal. In 2002, the municipal election held on the same date with the Parliamentary whereas it should have come earlier. Even while the voting was taking place on June 23, he ordered a halt to the exercise with the pretext that electoral material had not arrived remote parts of the country.
Kongou Edima was then MINATD boss was made the scapegoat. He was instantly sacked and replaced by Marafa Hamidou Yaya, a more enigmatic political sophisticate. The plot which was to see the trend of voting was so well conceived that even Fru Ndi mistook the intention for genuine and praised Biya for it. The rigging that followed was unprecedented.
Biya’s capacity for changing laws unfavourable to him was demonstrated in 2008. Enough invectives have been heaped on him for defiling the same 1996 constitution he midwifed. The only observation worth making here is that claimed to have been called upon to do so by "a majority of Cameroonians". We all know what the word majority means in the CPDM in the dictionary.
The "plea" effectively came from a dozen position seekers of Santa origin passing for Biya’s apostles from Santa. (The champion of those who made the prayer is in jail today with all his property seized and bank account frozen). Granted, all Santa people "pleaded with him to take another term or threatened to boycott presidential elections if he did (courtesy John B. Ndeh) this could not by any stretch of the imagination constitute the majority, Santa being made up only of nine not quite thickly populated villages.
The New Deal has taken Cameroonians for granted for t longer than rational thinking should permit. If Cameroonians were not insensitive epicureans who place the welfare of their stomachs above all considerations, the manipulations, overt or subterranean, now going on would only help to hasten the bloody catastrophe which according to the International Crisis Group would take place in 2011 as a consequence of improperly managed elections. But let the New Deal not forget that the French Revolution was more the outcome of practical needs than political theories.
As the economy continues to nosedive and unemployment soars, there is no fathoming what could happen in 2011. Biya couldn’t foresee February 2008.When it happens again he may not have the opportunity to heap the blame on amateur sorcerers. Biya should be careful not to be remembered as the man who brought bloodshed and untold mayhem on his people.