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Who Is Fooling Who: Biya or IMF? 

By Barnabas Mbonde

President Biya is world-famous for his speeches. The President’s speeches continue to grow in apathy and irrelevance for the ordinary Cameroonian.

On one day, he flies high in the sky with a dream of grand realisation. On another day, he joins his cronies to pander greater achievements without quite saying with exactitude and concreteness what has been achieved. On yet another day, he may speculate on inertia and corruption, or with political spin doctors on the existence of huge potentials in the economic sector or with sociological soothsayers that the best is still to come and will be enjoyed in 2035.

In his last speech to IMF Christine Lagarde, Biya said, “Our objective is to achieve strong and sustainable growth”, as if he really meant what he said. Then, as usual, Biya went into a lecture of wishing IMF Lagarde “a very warm and cordial welcome”. Warm and cordial. Convivial words. Then he stretched into telling how being with his genial wife in the palace symbolises Cameroon’s unity.

Thoroughly excellent laboriousness. This speech was carefully worked out to sound diplomatic yet serious to help Cameroonians visualise the fascinating relationship between probably the biggest world money seller and economy “fixer”.

Biya’s speech and Lagarde’s were like two unlikely characters each sitting on their side of a seesaw – Biya’s 6-percent economic growth plus 300,000 new jobs on one side (which was almost true; like all lies always are) and Lagarde’s 2-percent economic growth and low petroleum prices on the other side of the diplomatic seesaw.

In effect, Lagarde was the mobile doctor doing her round, visiting her patients, monitoring and assessing the progress of their recovery, or decline in economic health. The patient was Biya, who tried to convince himself and the rest of the nation that he was already fit enough to walk about.

But Lagarde, the physician, who was the one running the tests, doing diagnosis and dolling out prescriptions for Cameroon’s ailing economy, disagreed and said Cameroon’s economy is actually a sick patient and needs a quick cocktail of treatments.

Lagarde was an acceptable guest. She spoke with the usual detached concern of an investment banker, who in actual fact is a polite loan shark.
Lagarde came to Cameroon, perhaps at the behest of President Biya, not so much from the need to treat the sick economy as to announce the grave dangers it faces, if she was not sending the early signals for a grave to be dug in advance.

The high points of Lagarde’s visit were the “decollage” and “atterisage” and pleasant royal cocktail dinners but not the unpleasant economic issues nor their solutions. Whatever Biya and Lagarde discussed in their sagacious wisdom as to the proper course for Cameroon ought to take, to escape economic suicide, will, for a long time, if not forever, remain a mystery.

Outside Biya’s and Lagade’s speeches, other famous talking heads were the great Professor Presleys, who rather than discuss relevant content in the President’s speeches, preferred to settle on the Presidential tone. Tone.

How does the tone of a leader solve burning economic, social and political problems?
Whenever the Presleys spin the President’s speech, they are mindful of the fact that their place in life in Biya’s circle is always precarious.

They are careful about what they say that concerns the President, always saying loudly that Chairman Biya’s ideas are those which Cameroon really needs for its existence. The other ideas are narrow in intellectual sense and only drag Cameroon backwards.

Theirs is a faith as that of the belief in God. NO need to exercise intellectual agility or diversity nor seek another faith or even seek solutions to the myriad of glaring socio-economic and political problems afflicting Cameroon. Just sing for your supper.

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