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We Are Putting In Place A Strategy For 2011 – SDF Vice Chair 

Joshua Osih, National Vice Chairman of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, and President of Kumba Lakers Football Club, was in Buea Monday, April 13, to take part in Regional FECAFOOT elections. In the sidelines of the elections, The Post caught up with Osih, who reveals that the SDF is putting in place a strategy for 2011 Presidential elections. In this exclusive interview, the SDF Vice Chair, among other things, says they are comfortable with the leadership of the party and that the SDF remains the only political party that can bring change in Cameroon. Excerpts:

The Post: After the 2007 twin elections, not much has been heard about the SDF in terms of activities; what is happening, especially in your constituency, Ndian?

Osih: After the elections in 2007, we had to go through an internal process. We came up with the decision to reorganise the party and we are working on that. Because of the tactics of the CPDM, the SDF is not really financed as it should be. So, with limited means we are making efforts to reorganise the party in the whole country.

I just came back from the Far North and the North Regions of Cameroon. Ndian has not yet been reorganised but very soon it would be. Meme has completely been reorganised and I think Fako as well. As soon as all the electoral districts in the Southwest are organised, that is mid May, we will hold our Regional conference, and, at that point, we will have a new Regional executive that will take care of the Southwest.

You are reorganising at a time the party is dwindling with your militants decamping to the ruling CPDM Party; how do you view the situation?

I don’t believe that when someone wears the T-shirt of the CPDM he has decamped. The values of equal opportunities and justice which are the values of the SDF are values you have in your blood. If somebody moves from the SDF to the CPDM it means the person doesn’t have those values; it means we do not need him because the CPDM is exactly the opposite of that. If somebody moves from one party to the other, it doesn’t need to be on the cover page of a newspaper when he is doing so. Look at the figures of the 2007 elections, you will see that the SDF is very strong in the entire nation.

I guess that if we did not have all this rigging and voter apathy we would have won a majority in parliament and the majority of councils. We are sitting here today in Buea where you knew the results and there is absolutely no doubt that the SDF won, but you know what happened thereafter. Before the 2007 elections, someone in the media told me that Buea is dead, but I think that if the Buea electoral district got the results they had in 2007, then it is very lively. I can assure you that the SDF is very lively inside.

Besides reorganising, what other things is the party doing to keep militants alive?

At the National and even the Regional level, we had this fight against the modification of the Constitution. We are the only political party that was very active in this.It took us about three months. After that we had a number of other issues.

We had the February 2008 strike and the SDF was the only party in Cameroon that was at the forefront of that strike and I think we did our part to bring back peace in Cameroon because we could have reacted to the President’s insults. But we didn’t do so. We have been doing a lot of things. We have had more NEC meetings than we are supposed to and most of the districts too are holding their regular meetings as well. The life of the party is not in the newspapers, the life is not on the streets; the life is in the way we are going ahead right now.

We have various think tanks working towards 2011 and we are putting in place a strategy for 2011 to address the issues Cameroonians are concerned with. We had a very successful seminar with the grassroots in Douala about two months ago. We are holding another seminar next week in Kribi, South Region. We are basically on track. We are not a party that wakes up two days before elections. People should not believe that we are an NGO. We are a political party and we are in a country where democracy does not really exist, and we find it difficult to do what we are supposed to do.

Your detractors and even party militants criticise the leadership of the party. They think that after 19 years the leadership should have changed and given way to a rather vibrant person. What do you say about that?

This is proof again that we are a democratic party; nobody of the CPDM can say a thing like that for their own President who has been there for 20 or more years. It shows the maturity of our party and I welcome those critics. We have elections and I stood an election and won during our last convention, and I am Vice Chairman of the party. So, if anybody wants to stand as Chairman of the party he has to prove to us that he has five years of membership in the party, he has to be elected in his local primaries in his ward, in his District and his Region and, then, he can present his candidature.

We had in the past refused one person for the post of Chairman of the party not because he wasn’t an important person but because he did not go through the primaries. Even our presidential candidates go through primaries and you saw what happened. Our National Chairman stood, Ben Muna stood and one other candidate stood and you saw the results.

If these people think they can change the SDF through the summit then let them show us who can carry this party forward. Those people would be welcome. For now, the National Chairman still has an important role to play; he is charismatic, he has the respect of the population, which is an important thing when you are at the front of a political party in a country where democracy doesn’t exist.

Are you comfortable with the fact that Ni John Fru Ndi is still Chairman of the SDF after 19 years?

Nobody asked me to be the Deputy of the Chairman. I did it because I knew that I could contribute something to the already big work he has done and I am very comfortable with it now. People always mix up presidential candidates and party candidates. Ni John Fru Ndi is the Chairman of the SDF, he chairs the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party and I know no member of NEC who has come up to say he doesn’t like the way it is managed.

One more thing that you have to understand is that the National Executive Committee, in the absence of the congress, is the governing organ of the party. If he does anything wrong we all bear the responsibilities collectively; if he does it right we all reap the fruits collectively as well. We should now be looking at how we face 2011, how we bring the government to accept more of democracy and how we oblige the government to bring elections that are a bit more fair and transparent. That is the fight today. The fight today is not who is leading the SDF.

The SDF today is very comfortable with its leadership, at least the National Executive Committee. In 2010, if I am not mistaken, we will have the congress of the party and any candidatures would be welcome. We are still comfortable with our National Chairman and in 2010 he will tell us if he is ready to run or not. If he doesn’t file his candidature, then we would have a huge problem, but, then, we will see what we will do. We do not lack people. Today, in the party, we have up to 100 people who can lead the SDF in case the National Chairman wants to retire.

How strong is the SDF now, I mean in terms of militants? Can it stand 2011?

If the SDF cannot stand then who can? There is the government apparatus called the CPDM and there is a political party called SDF. Every other thing is minute besides it. People have to come up and help the SDF be that party that can bring change. Politics is not about sitting in your parlour and waiting for somebody else to do the work. Politics is about participation. So, there is no other party in Cameroon today that can do that and no party can be created in the present circumstances in Cameroon and win those elections. I call on Cameroonians of good faith, who believe, that change can happen as the SDF does believe to join hands with the SDF to make that change happen.

The CPDM, to me, is not a political party; it is a government apparatus to keep some people in power. The SDF is a political party offering alternative to dictatorship. We have a situation, fortunately for us in the SDF and unfortunately for many other opposition leaders, where we have a very big amount of support from the population that is shown by the result we have had since 1992. All those who want change should come and help the SDF to obtain that change. I believe that there is no other party that can change Cameroon than the SDF.

Besides the criticisms, do you think that Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, can organise elections that the SDF can win in 2011?

Yes and no. I strongly believe that if all those who are supposed to register, register for an election, nobody can beat the SDF. No, because these people have been appointed to rig elections. They have not been appointed for free and fair elections.

What, in your opinion, could be done by ELECAM to organise free and fair elections?

You should have a platform of people Cameroonians trust. Today, already, it works in disfavour of the CPDM to have people nobody trusts because even if they rightfully win elections nobody would believe it. I think it is in the paramount interest of Cameroon and peace and democracy that these people, whom nobody trusts, are changed. I think that we need to look again at our electoral code and that we put in place an institution that truly reflects the aspiration of the Cameroonian people and I sincerely wish this would happen before 2011.