In his article, “The Novelist as Teacher”, the award-winning and Africa’s most prolific novelist, Chinua Achebe, contends that “the man who can’t tell where the rain began to beat him would not know where he dried his body”.
Arguably, the president’s message to the nation last 31 December is a glaring index to the awareness of the intense pulse of life around the nation and therefore his mental agility contrary to widespread criticism. A good dose of the speech centred on where the rain beat Cameroonians in 2016: the Eseka train accident, the horrendous activities of Boko Haram and the synchronized upheavals in the North West and South West regions of the country. These, no doubt, have been preoccupying national concerns and undeniably part of the expectations of Cameroonians even if they were presented in an abrasive manner by the Head of State. The mere fact that he has commiserated with the Eseka train accident alongside Boko Haram is praise-worthy because they were profound tragedies that touched all and sundry.
There are equally grandiose plans to revive the ailing economy, revitalize the agricultural sector, rehabilitate the poor road network and bridge the bothersome energy gap that has continued to be grimy in spite of incessant efforts. As usual, there are hopes and promises of job creation. For the4 first time, the Head of State has attested that imperfection of bilingualism in Cameroon. In effect, the president has acquiesced on the axiom that what we have is simply cosmetic bilingualism, the type of bilingualism what swallows the cultural idiosyncrasies of Anglophones, a type of bilingualism that depicts a false character of the nation to the world as a unique and successful experiment but which in reality, is simply a pageant. Lastly, the president’s acceptance of peaceful demonstration as a fundamental human right and the use of dialogue to pre-empt anarchy are quite laudable and awesome.
However, a closer look and scrutiny of the president’s message raises a few points which deserve pondering on:
On the socio-economic scale, this speech has certainly left the masses helpless, homeless and hopeless because poverty is still raging and disease is still killing many helpless souls. Many Cameroonians are not only morally and physically sick, they are suffering and humiliated by poverty, disease, misery and mendacity. Yet the president has failed to focus on this significant aspect of the society. It is true that there are interventions of job creation through a call for revitalization in the agricultural sector but there is no blueprint on how this will happen. Even the statistics on the jobs created in 2016 are just utopian concepts based on imaginary enterprises that only exist on paper. Besides, the president lost focus on the cankerworm – corruption- that has become endemic and chokes the nation at all levels. The speech has failed to put to focus the way forward for flamboyant thieves who have looted the state treasury with prehensile dexterity and rendered the common Cameroonian useless in anarchic poverty.
The Common Law lawyers, teachers and the entire Anglophone community have certainly gone amok with disappointment because they were simply referred to as “the unfortunate incidents in the North West and South West regions”. After all, teachers and lawyers are not armed with the brawns of a soldier but with the brains of intellectuals. Their only missile is the pen and voice. There is no doubt that the pedagogic and judiciary landscape of the English segment of the country has been characterised by bitterness with a despondent and dispirited people, with courtrooms and classrooms abandoned for close to a month. The University of Buea witnessed unprecedented brutality; maiming and raping of innocent children.
Parents watched in dismay how their kith and kin went through excruciating pain. Yet in all these, the president focused on calls for federalism and secession thereby arraigning the Anglophones as secessionists instead of viewing them as professionals with legitimate rights.
In the same vein, the president failed to acknowledge the existence of the much talked Anglophone problem but simply deviated to the imperfections of bilingualism. It is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that the rights are recognised, coordinated, defended and promoted and each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. Though some Anglophone cronies have become a group of spineless sycophants who have refused to see the grim reality of their country, it can be stated unequivocally that no right-thinking Anglophone Cameroonian can claim to escape the pain of the wound in the soul. This, the president failed to touch but instead became abrasive, assertive and firm on the indivisibility of Cameroon.
The venerated Cardinal Christian Tumi admonished that “he who governs should be good to princes, chiefs, the rich, the poor, merciful to all who suffer from violence, patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the powerless”. The truth is that the Anglophone future looks grim and bleak because of the incessant aberrations on its people. The president seems to have neglected the painful social and psychological realities raised as a result of the protests by the Common Law lawyers and pedagogues and the resolve it has caused in the Anglophone consciousness. This is beyond the president’s connotation as “events in the North West and South West regions” which he attributed to manipulation. There are couldn’t be a more serious monumental omission that could serve as a tragic medium in the days ahead!
The President’s excessive adherence to traditional code of addressing issues of the state in fact transforms a value into a weakness. His pursuance of views with an obsessive single-mindedness may soon degenerate into egocentricity as he seems to shut everything of the other side of the nation out of his view and instead pays allegiance to numerical value. Even the roads mentioned as ongoing are all in the Francophone part of the country. Once again, his speech shows that he has failed to take cognizance of our ethnic diversity and regional peculiarities and relegated Anglophones as doormats and puppets. He has recommended peaceful dialogue and created a national entity to handle issues raised by strikes, people he has failed to identify. Our history of commissions leaves only sour grapes in our mouths. There is no assurance this one would be different. So the speech may simple just be a cosmetic tale.
Ngugi Wa Thiongo says if you want to deprive a monkey of its young, simply throw it a handful of peanuts. For now it’s to wait and see if the monkey would be thrilled by peanuts at the expense of its precious young.