However he is perceived, Azong-Wara Andrew remains a strong propagator for the redemption of Anglophone educational values. He knows how, where and when to unleash veritable killer punches to his opponents.
He employs appropriate, apt methods to ensure the inviolability of the Anglo-Saxon sub system of education which has been a recurring decimal in the tortuous relationship between the regime and resolute educationists.
And, he does so with the right pedigree that spans leadership positions in the National Union of Cameroon Students, NUCS, in Nigeria, fire-spitting President of Teachers Association of Cameroon, TAC, and pioneer Registrar of the Cameroon General Certificate of Education, GCE Board.
By some pendulum swing of fate, he was also, among the privileged crew Government solicited to draft the statutes of the GCE Board with Sylvester Dioh, seasoned and hors-pairs educationist who, coincidentally, emerged as pioneer Chair of the Board.
In this interview that is rooted in one of his ‘uppercuts’ unleashed on the current administration of the Board, Azong Wara casts aspersion on the cavalier approach to the management of the institution he and many parents and students risked their lives to bring to fruition.
He also takes a swipe at managers who are of the erroneous belief that pandering to the whims of political authorities instead of asserting the independence of the institution will guarantee longevity of tenure. This, to him, has led to cowardly disregard and eventual erosion of safeguards to unwarranted intrusion by political hustlers into routine management of the institution.
Personal ordeals emanating from his nature as someone driven by altruism rather than the lure of perks that go with appointments, is also highlighted in an inexplicable vow by his erstwhile friend and university schoolmate to ensure that he serves jail time, besides being disgraced out of office. Surprisingly, it is his avowed tormentor Minister of Education, Robert Mbella Mbappe, who ended up holding brief for him.
It is, yet, one of those compulsory reads that can only come from The Rambler stable.
We must establish that this interview has been inspired by the open letter you wrote to the Chairman of the GCE Board. You pointed out in what looked like a treatise that the Board is in a topsy-turvy. You feared the eminent transfer of its Headquarters to Yaounde. Since there is hardly ever any smoke without fire, how founded is this transfer claim?
From the beginning we thought that since the GCE Board was positioned in Buea and the whole of the Anglophone public had fought for it especially, in the Northwest… We have to be frank about that. The fight was very much intense in the Northwest than anywhere else. It happened that when it was created, we started thinking openly of compensating people and places where the Board had actually been fought. The idea was that to facilitate the functioning of the Board, we had to create liaison offices around the country. We thought that we should create a regional office in Bamenda to take care of the Northwest Region, one in Yaounde to take care of all the other eight Regions of the country which were not English speaking and the Head Office in Buea. It was a very difficult task for us because the Chairman of the GCE Board coming from the Southwest Region, being an elderly man who had spent time within the education cycles and known what had happened in the past, thought that idea was trying to carry to carry the GCE Board from Buea to Bamenda. He was citing CCAST Bambili which as he said, was originally meant to be CCAST Kumba. He blamed Foncha and others for taking CCAST to Bambili instead of Kumba. He thought that this idea of creating a Regional office was a second attempt to take the GCE Board from Buea to Bamenda, so he stood very powerfully against it. However, we reasoned together and opened a Regional office in Yaounde and one in Bamenda. The two Regional boards were kept away from the ministry so as to give them an autonomous status.
But when I left the GCE Board, Dr. Omer Weyi Yembe, who took over, decided that those Regional offices were unnecessary; he was the first person who scraped the one in Yaounde but he found it difficult to scrap that in Bamenda. He placed the one in Yaounde under the Ministry and left the one in Bamenda at the Credit Union building. Under Abety and Monono, it was moved to the Regional Delegation of Education where they were not paying rents. The Regional Delegate of Education was now like a boss of the office. They didn’t move into it as if they were renting the premises, so it made the delegate like the boss. So that’s how the first step of moving the Board was.
Let’s refocus the transfer issue. Your open letter said Yaounde…
And to Bamenda, yeah; the idea of transferring the Headquarters of the Board had been rumoured all along even within our own education cycles. People have been saying that the GCE Board is being invaded by the Ministry of Education and the idea is that when it is not working, they will then take it to Yaounde especially, now with this stalemate in the educational process, if we are not operating properly, they can say okay, since the Northwest and the Southwest are in turmoil, let’s just transfer the GCE Board to Yaounde and if a Francophone is administering the Board at that time, it will be a simple thing.
It would appear you are taking these flying rumours hook line and sinker.
They actually have their bases from the GCE Board itself.
Are you not being unnecessarily apprehensive?
The first thing is that some workers have come to the GCE Board from the Ministry of Education and they have been known to say in corridors that they are the ones who are supposed to administer the Board since they are the ones paying for the running of the place. Slangs like these have been making the rounds and have raised a lot of hairs because they filter out to the public. During our education forum we discussed these things.
Whose bidding would you imagine, GCE Board authorities are doing in a case like this one? The government or the mass of young Cameroonians whose foundation it is charged with laying?
It is clearly the Ministry of Education which we can then class as Government.
That is what the Board authorities are doing?
Yes, they are taking their instructions and doing exactly what the Ministry is saying because the text of the Board makes the Council of the Board the supreme governing body. The Ministry of Education exercises only supervisory authority so, all decisions of the Board are taken by the Council and not Minister. Minister in his supervisory authority has 15 days within which to reject or send back the resolution to the council for reexamination else, it becomes law. For instance, if the Council decides to introduce a technical examination scheme for examining say shipbuilding; when they take that decision and have a syllabus already, they now inform the Minister in writing. The Minister has 15 days within which to write back and say; yes, I accept that you should do shipbuilding or you should review the decision. If he doesn’t reject or send it back for review within 15 days, he cannot challenge it again.
But given the regime’s authoritarian antecedents, could you think of a precedence whereby the Minister, [mere supervisory authority] instructed the Board authorities to comply or be fired?
Yes, there has been especially, at the time when I was the Registrar.
And did you capitulate?
I introduced Technical GCE in 1995/1996. I submitted the Council’s resolution to the Minister, then Robert Mbella Mbappe. He wasn’t prudent enough to read and reply because he never wanted the GCE Board to have anything to do with the technical examinations at all.
He didn’t want the GCE Board at all. It is on record that he said it would be created over his dead body.
Yes. He didn’t want it created in the first place and then in the second place would not accept that the GCE Board should get into exams like the technical education. So when the council took the decision in 1995 to start Technical GCE, I submitted the resolutions to the Minister but being a very sluggish and lazy man, he did not read them. So, when the exams were coming up, Mr. Ntoko was Delegate of Education in the Southwest, Chief Martin Fobuzie was Delegate of Education in the Northwest at the time. We submitted this and then we met at the Ministry and since he did not reply, we went ahead and issued the syllabuses for the examination. When we met in the Ministry a few weeks to writing the GCE and the two Delegates betrayed us by giving reports to the effect that we were now trying to organize the GCE Technical which was not within our competence. The Minister then discovered that so these fellows are trying to do GCE Technical, where did it come from? We quarreled with him. When he later asked ‘how did you come about the Technical GCE?’ I said I submitted the resolutions to you, he removed his file from the drawer and the resolution was there. I showed him the text of having to reply within 15 days. After quarreling with me, he sent instructions down that we should not proceed with the Technical GCE. But we went ahead and conducted the GCE Technical and published the results. He was saying that the certificate should not be recognized. We took it up with the Prime Minister and when it was going to create a problem in the country, he now compelled him to issue a different statement stating that the exams would be accepted but that a new syllabus would be revised and a new decree made for it. That’s the way we actually succeeded in getting it.
But there is also the practice of the GCE Board Registrars rushing like school boys to get the Minister of education to declare results. Is this not childish? Doesn’t it go against the grain of the so called autonomy that the Board is purportedly enjoys? The Minister is political, the Board technical, literal.
One of the provisions of the text says that the Council publishes results of the GCE Board. It gives authority to Council to publish results. The first results that were published in 1994, we exploited that text and Mbella Mbappe was in Yaounde and only heard Radio Buea reading the results. I followed the provisions of the text and summoned a press conference in Buea and the next day the results were appearing in the English speaking media.
The Minister called me; he had heard Radio Buea reading the results. He called me to Yaounde and said ‘what is this?’ I am supposed to declare results and I hear results being read on the radio. I just opened the text and said it is the Council and not you Sir; He asked, ‘how can I be the Minister of Education and not be associated with the results?’ I said it is the Council that declares the results. He was now quarrelling with the text but the results had gone out.
When the subsequent Registrars came, they now decided that they would be obeying the Minister; whenever the results were ready they would go to the Minister present before they publish so that they do not have problems with the Minister. That is how the Minister came into the situation; otherwise, it is the Council of the GCE Board that declares the results.
Even though subsequent Registrars cut the tragic figure of errand boys of the Minister, back in the Regions they were demi-gods. Howbeit, they would decide that if CRTV Yaounde hadn’t had it, it would be like nothing was published. Other media like newspapers, especially the private ones, practically crept on all fours to get the results. They would be “reluctantly” sold to them for cut throat amounts. Don’t you find this as mean, even stupid?
My position on that is that it was stupid for people to try to give preferences to press for publication of results. Some of them thought (Registrars after me) that Yaounde was the centre and that as the saying goes; when Yaounde breathes the rest of the country is whatever. I think they thought that by going to Yaounde and having the thing read that their potential would be higher than using local radio and…
We think otherwise. We think that they were reinforcing their visibility to their paymasters as opposed to the students whose interests they are supposed to be serving unreservedly.
That seems to be the case with everything that goes on here. Even the ordinary Delegations of Education feel that when they talk from Yaounde they are more important than when they talk from their own local areas.
We are saying that they could be out to please a clique of greedy individuals, not the teeming numbers of young Cameroonians put under their care.
I don’t think that for the students it matters who is giving results. All they care about is to have their results.
It matters to us. If the GCE Board provided every single candidate with a transistor and compelled them to tune in for their results on a given day and time, then we’ll understand. If the Board compelled state controlled radio to practically cover every single village in Cameroon, we’ll equally understand. What is wrong in us agreeing that these fellows are often more concerned with upgrading their potential of being given a bed in office as it were.
I think I should let you understand that the idea of publishing GCE results on newspapers, reading on the radio is a publicity idea. GCE results are the property of the children and the Board. In the days of London, your results were sent to your school which gave you your results. They were not sent into any…
London was better organized.
But the idea was that the result is your personal property …
But the probability is that the London results, despite the inadequate technology that existed at the time was more likely to get to students faster than the GCE Board…
Yes, because Cameroon adopted the position of publishing the results through news media. London did not send them on the day the results were ready. They took the disposition to send the results to the centres well in time so that when they were announced, they were also already at the centres. If for instance GCE is ready in the first week of August, they print all the results and place them at the centres and announce at the beginning of the second week that the GCE results are now made public. The students rush to the centres and pick their result. But if you announce on the day the results are ready that they are ready then you have to turn it out newspapers to turn it to students very fast.
Whichever way we look at it, publishing the way that they are doing; targeting a few pampered media houses and handing them the results much earlier and for free is, to us, outright centralization and corruption. To give ‘Media A,’ for free and compel ‘Media C’ and the rest to cough out sums ranging from FCF 300,000, to FCFA 600,000, that is appalling.
That is rotten. If you decide to publish the results by giving to the press, let every press have it, and let every press have it at the same time.
There is further stupidity in how the results were diffused. If, as you say, it was a personal thing meant for the organizers, then you don’t as a Registrar, arbitrarily decide that every candidate must possess a phone and proceed to publish via MTN or Orange networks. We see this as absurd, if not outright fishy?
That is also very absurd and again it is rotten because they use it to make money which is not supposed to be the case. The students paid the fees for the examination and that fee is comprehensive enough for them to get their results. If you want to give it out through the press, it should be given out to every press at the same time so that the failure of a press to carry it to the field should be their failure and not that of the GCE Board or say the GCE Board was bias.
Away from results, those we would want to refer to as sycophants and Judases; those who fought fiercely against the GCE Board creation later made themselves available for positions at the institution. Did this strike you as odd?
Yeah, that happened especially, when the board was created. We were aware of it. We knew that there were people who carried the question papers while the fight was going on and went and dropped them in Bamenda. We know that there are people who took them overnight and sent them to Yaounde. We knew all of those people. When the marking started in October 1993, we also knew that there were people who went to the Ministry when the teachers had decided not to mark until the GCE Board was created. They went to the Ministry and followed the Minister’s instructions like ghost markers; we knew all of that.
Including the principal who purportedly prevented his school premises being used as a marking centre…
Exactly, but when the GCE Board was created, I, as the leader made a statement. I said we have all fought, some positively, some negatively but the important thing is that the Board has been won, so let us not go chasing… and it is on that basis that I recruited one of the people who ferried questions to Yaounde. I recruited him and worked with him, although he turned out to believe that he was recruited because of his expertise; but I recruited him because I did not want anybody to feel left out that he or she did not fight.
Later on, some people started apologizing. When the first GCE was being marked, the teachers came up saying; ‘no, this one was a ghost marker, this one was a pirate, you have to leave them out or we will not mark the exams at all.’ At that time, we didn’t have money and were relying on the benevolence of the teachers; they said ‘since we are coming to do the job since we have fought for this thing, we will not allow anybody who had fought negatively to be on the marking list.’ If they do that we will not mark. I actually called some of them and told them to withdraw but they didn’t take it kindly. They went to the Minister to report me that I had tried to stand against them. The Minister knew that he couldn’t fight and so he told them to go away and stay quiet. They didn’t ever come back to the GCE Board. There are people like that, but today, those ideas have been forgotten to the extent where somebody can just sit in Yaounde, go around the Minister, go around the Prime Minister and without even coming to the Council of the GCE Board, without even lobbying with the Councillors to get appointed, the next day you get the Prime Minister signing a decree that this man has been appointed to the Board. You have even Ministers who have passed through the Ministry and left, who signed decrees and sent to the Board which are being implemented. Like the decree signed in February by the Bibehe now Minister of Transport; he signed a decree in February and in May some Regional Delegate picks it up and is acting on it when there is a new Minister in the place. So, these are roundabout ways of getting into the Board and everybody knows that it is not right. If they are doing it, it is because they cannot come through the right means. The Registrar of the Board or Chairman or anything has to be somebody who is highly knowledgeable in the English education system.
Have all these intrigues and indecent lobbying compromised the standards that were set from the onset of this Board?
They must have compromised somehow because at the beginning all the officers who were appointed went to court and took an oath. Justice Macaulay administered the oath at my behest. All of us went to court and took that oath of trust to maintain the authority of the GCE Board, its integrity, its sacredness and everything else about the Board. We took an oath to do that but now nobody takes oath any longer. So now if you had to go to court and take such an oath, you can be prosecuted immediately for any illegality. But now there are people there who… I mean how you can imagine that the chairman is not there and an authority of the Board just appoints some people. The Registrar of the GCE Board has authority to employ ordinary staff of the Board but functional positions of the Board must pass through the council of the GCE Board. He has no authority to appoint administrators of the Board without passing through the council. But it is happening, so the integrity of the Board has been compromised.
Maybe as purse holder the Registrar might have dangled the tempting carrot, getting the Chairman to fall for it.
But we should decry things like that because if the chairman sees a purse and sets his responsibilities aside, then we must… no, it is not correct. That Board must be such that those things should not take precedence.
But how can you decry that and succeed with an overwhelming centralized system that operates from Yaounde and nowhere else?
I think you have a point there because the difficulty that we have now is that the teachers and the teachers’ unions are no longer functioning like TAC was functioning when the GCE Board was created. The Council of the GCE Board is supposed to have Councillors representing teachers and after every discussion at the Council, they are supposed to go back and summon their peers and say this is what the GCE Board has decided upon, this is what they want to do; and receive authority from them to go back and do it or otherwise… But this is no longer happening because in such a situation, the administrator of the Board who is the Registrar will find difficulty convincing the council of 16 people or 17 to do things according to his will. That is where you can easily dangle carrots around these people and you find that the representatives become gullible and they just take.
For instance, we are in the rainy season; a councilor can build his house and is waiting for money to buy corrugated roofing sheets; the registrar wants to put something into the GCE Board, he just summons them and before you sit in council, you stop at the finance office and sign for envelop. It can be something near what you need for roofing sheets in your house, so you sit in council and you are guarding, caressing your envelop. You are asking yourself when the council meeting will be over so that you can rush and buy the roofing sheets for your house. You are no longer concentrating; your integrity has been compromised, it has been imprisoned by the envelope.
Those things happen. It is not only in the GCE Board. In Parliament, when Cavayé Yeguié Djibril, wants to pass a law, he reads it and he wants to find out whether there is any objection just for formality. He puts his head down and asks if there is any objection. People are putting their hands up, they want to speak, but his head is down. As soon as he is tired, he gets up and says since there is no objection, the law has been passed. So, it is not only at the GCE Board, it runs across the entire country.
Have the teachers’ unions by any means been infiltrated, compromised in the hope of their leaders landing lucrative positions at the Board or elsewhere in Government departments?
Yes they have. It is a pity they have actually, and you cannot say no, you cannot run away from that, they have been compromised. When the Registrar is to go out for the conduct of exams; he wants to go to Batibo, Nkambe, he puts the president of the teachers’ union on his entourage. He is not a member of the Council of the GCE Board. So the teachers’ unions which had to come out and cough that there is something wrong, are already party to Registrar’s politics of stuffed pockets. As I say, teachers’ representatives have never even come back to general meetings of teachers to say this is what is going on at the Board. So, somehow, the two of them who have been there for 23 years have all been members of CATTU. I know my friends of CATTU will not be happy with me for this statement but that is the truth. They have been handpicked by the Executive Secretaries so in order to continue to stay there; they come back and give their reports to the Executive Secretary. It is the Executive Secretary that has to call the teachers together and say this is what these people have brought. But for 23 years, they have never done that. The same people have been there meanwhile the text says that they are elected for three years renewable but they have never been renewed. So, it is a compromise.
As we speak, the GCE is being written under very disgusting conditions; with gunfire here, military armed to the teeth prowling. We understand that many candidates are not turning up to write because they are afraid for their lives. We recall that long before Cameroon started witnessing the disgraceful burning of schools or before the educational pattern was compromised you had raised an alarm. Where you like prophetic? That is, you were part of a group that addressed a memo to the PM, requesting profound reforms in the best interest of the educational system of the country. Did the regime falter, bringing Cameroon to this messy state?
That is both a very interesting and difficult question. The first thing I will like to tell you is that deep down in me I have stood the grounds that this revolution we have in Cameroon today, however good it may be it has used the ‘no go to school, no examination’ as a weapon and I have made the point on several occasions that it was a bad weapon. We have a point…
Maybe it was a weapon that was handed over to whoever was using it by a failed authoritarian leadership.
I am building up to that. But why did we even get to that situation? We have the ‘Cameroon Education Forum’ which we registered in Limbe. We prepared a 53 page memorandum in which we chronicled all the problems that have beset Anglophone education since 1961 and proposed solutions; about 23 possible solutions which were scientific. We had nothing to do with the political ‘whatever.’ We took this to the Prime Minister in January 2016. By June 2016 we had no reply or acknowledgment from him. We built this thing on a decree because we had an education forum in the country in 1995. This forum led to the promulgation of decree April 14 1998. That decree by the Head of State recognized two sub-systems of education in Cameroon; the English speaking sub-system and the French speaking Sub-system and gave authority for these two sub-systems of education to exist side by side with all their independence, with each one practicing its own inheritance. That is in the decree and it allowed for the creation of an education board which will implement that decree. We saw that the PM could now proceed to create two separate education boards; one in charge of the English speaking sub-system and one in charge of the French speaking sub-system. In that case, whatever reforms are being carried out in the Anglophone sub-system, those reforms are being brought by an education board. The GCE Board will now be examining what the education board has put together while the BAC Board will be examining what the French education board has put together. Nobody has bothered to create this thing. We reminded the PM, create it, now. The teachers were part of this forum that made these proposals, and we all signed this thing together. So by the time they were meeting the PM in November of 2016, this document had been sitting with the PM for one whole year almost and nothing had happened. If this document had been addressed because all the points that were now being put up in the Ghogomu commission for study, were the exact points that were gave in January of 2016.
We see it as either one or more things: Either that the regime is deliberately deaf to advice even from well-versed persons, experts; that there is over centralization with everything revolving around Yaounde which may spillover to an overdose of responsibility and too much work in the hands of the PM or that he might have been waiting for hierarchy to instruct him on what to do or not with the document.
I think over-centralization is one factor. But you see, what happens in this country is that when anybody is given an appointment, it is like he has been told… they write down something and put down his mind, that this is what you should say. Somebody is given an appointment in ELECAM for instance, which is supposed to be an independent body and he starts by thanking the Head of State who is a candidate for elections that will fall under him. And when he makes a speech out there he says ‘as the Head of State said.’ The language is like that. The Minister of Territorial Administration sees a boulder cracking on a Yaounde hill. He goes there as the Minister of Territorial Administration and says he has received instructions from the Head of State to go and see a boulder that is cracking. What is his function; to go and see that a boulder has cracked somewhere in Yaounde and he is going to report that from high instructions from the Head of State, he has gone to see a…
That could be understood; he is an appointee of the Head of State. How about those that are supposedly heading the Parliament? They are known to start every speech by ‘thanking the Head of State…’
That is what I mean; that type of thing has gone down the person, after all, who is the President of the Senate? Is it not just an appointee of the Head of State? He is not an elected president, so he must thank the Head of State. The man of the National Assembly before he is made president… he does not put up his candidature and say I want to be president, elect me. The Head of State sends a candidate to parliament and he is elected, so he thanks the Head of State. Somebody goes out to Congo, South Africa and wins an election and he comes back and is thanking the Head of State for that. That is how the system has been structured and…
Looks like a system in which millions of able bodied married adults are spoon-fed by a single tin god.
That is how the system has been structured and to speak the truth, I don’t think that the Head of State has given instructions to anybody that ‘when you go out to say something you must flatter me.’ I don’t think the instruction has been given to anybody but the system has evolved that way. So everybody thinks that if they don’t say that it is the Head of State, his counterpart on the other side will come and catch him for not saying that it. But the Head of State doesn’t even hear you saying those things. He doesn’t even hear that you have said those types of things. I don’t think that the Head of State saw the boulder cracking and assigned Atanga Nji to go and inspect it. I don’t think so.
We imagine you to be encumbered by a “lingering taste” of sour grapes. Maybe because you midwifed the GCE Board more or less but you were allowed enough time and the means to see your vision through. On the other hand, sycophants who fought to have the project aborted are hovering around and being more Catholic than the Pope.
It would be dishonest of me to answer that question in the negative. When I left the GCE Board, I felt very bitter; not bitter because I had left, but because Mbella Mbappe, after everything was a very understanding person. He waited for three years, when I finished my three years; he wanted me out because I was stubborn. So, the Council of the GCE Board met and got Yembe in and they wrote a text which the Minister had to sign. It read ‘Omer Yembe replacing Azong-Wara who had messed up the Board.’ That is what my friend Herbert Endeley as Chairman actually wrote. That was supposed to be the term of the decree that Mbella Mbappe was to sign. When I got that I was very hurt and I thought that I had put in a great effort which was not yet completed. But when this decree went to Mbella Mbappe, he said ‘what? Do you want to kill the man?’ That is Mbella Mbappe who was like my main antagonist; he said ‘no, you can’t do that to a man.’ So he sat on his table and changed that decree and said ‘replacing Azong-Wara who had come to the end of his term of office.’ They came back and they now summoned a kind of audit committee when I had left the Board; that they should audit my financial inputs at the Board. They did an audit and decided that they were going to sue me for financial mismanagement and Herbert Endeley again; my own close friend was bent on getting me into jail. He said it over and over that ‘that man is a jail man’ even in the club. So he took this resolution after he had gotten the Council to sit, he took it to the Minister of Education, still Mbella Mbappe at the time. And the Minister looked at it and said ‘what? Again?’ He called Herbert Endeley in his office and said, ‘you said this man stole money; did you give him money?’ I gave him money. I gave him FCFA 241 million for three years and you say he stole which money? I am even surprised how he managed the Board. Take the thing and go away.’ So, it hurt me.
You were not saved through due process in court then?
There was no court again; it was the Minister who saved me.
Probably if it had gone to court, someone might have convinced their Lordships to have you jailed.
I felt hurt that as an Anglophone who had put in that kind of effort which was not yet complete. I had that kind of treatment from persons, most of whom I left behind at the Council, because if they took a decision that they should send me to court… for that reason, I felt hurt.
Then it moved to my own allowances that were supposed to be paid. When Yembe came, he vowed that he will never pay those allowances. We even went to court. In the end Yembe thought that he could trick me. He suggested for us to have a discussion, to withdraw the case. The court at that time was headed by Ayah Paul. Ayah Paul said ‘no, this is not normal; if you people are talking of an amicable settlement, let us adjourn the case, you go and finish amicably and you come back and tell me that you have settled amicably. Then, I will strike it off.’ Yembe asked him to strike it off. He said we will go and discuss and settle amicably. So, Ayah Paul asked me; ‘are you comfortable with that?’ My interest was the Board. I didn’t want the Board disturbed, so I said yes. Ayah cancelled the case. But, Yembe changed his mind, insisting that I was a thief.
It was only several years later that Monono came into the Board and in spite of our own disagreement here and there, Azong Wara reason prevailed and he paid me the money.
You see that I have reason to be angry. These things have hurt me, and now that I was that hurt, I want to be sure that these kinds of things do not happen to other people because it is not what we built, it is not what we wanted. Now that people are beginning to come in through the window, where a Prime Minister can just sign a decree and appoint somebody and the person can sit and sign his own orders and appoint people at the Board, I don’t think that is what we want. Those things hurt me and I want to straighten them. That is all.
Given the trend things have taken so far, can the Board survive, do you think? Surviving as a credible institution; with set values that were meant to be attained?
First, as a Board I think it will survive because as I pointed out, there is a presidential decree that created that Board and placed it in Buea. That Board cannot move from Buea unless President Paul Biya signs a second decree. That is why I say these fears of transferring the Board are just rumours. It will never move from Buea.
Are you saying it will never move or that it should never move?
Well, I don’t know why I am so optimistic that it will never move because the President’s signature is there. Unless Biya gets up one day on the wrong side of the bed and signs a decree without thinking … But to be on the safe side, I should say it should never move from Buea.
Secondly as to the Board following its objectives and attaining its mission, the text that created it must be followed very closely and precisely. That is why I hang around so that when I see things going wrong, as a founding person, I have the intention to inform the Anglophones that something is going wrong; and happily I still have a lot of credibility among the Anglophones. If something is going wrong, the Anglophones must get up to protect it and that is why beginning from now, they must correct those things that have gone wrong there and that is why in my open letter to the Chairperson, I prayed him to reject all the decisions of the Registrar that do not conform with the text. They should be rejected.
Finally, do you see the ranking administrators of the GCE Board bending the rules or breaking them for parochial exigency?
There are two things that have been broken and in very quick succession; the way they have been appointed. They have no hand in that. They have gone through the back door and they have succeeded by way of their appointment. So, there is no way we can fault them on that because if you are a good dribbler; you dibble from the back door and enter, that’s your credit. But it is wrong. That is why I am telling the man who did it that it is wrong.
The second thing is that they are now asking Delegates of Education to elect representatives of the Board. There is a sinister…
Does that amount to bending or breaking the rules?
That is bending the rules or both of them because the rule says that it has to be the teachers or the parents. So, they are first of all breaking it for their own personal gains. So, when those fellows will come into the Board, you will now have the possibility of the Minister of Education having seven representatives in a council of 16 alone. So he can just do what he wants. If he can turn around and convince one other minister, say minister of finance that his representative should vote for me for this decision. At the council, the teachers’ representatives know that they have been sent by the delegate, if they don’t vote, the delegate can take them off, parents’ representative know that, eight people can just automatically vote from one source and overturn anything that the GCE Board is wanting; which is what we sought to avoid. We needed the opinion of objective Anglophones to protect decisions of the council of the GCE Board, that is why we built it that way and it must be that way. Once you start changing those people and you have money along the way which will add to their purses to bend or change things, then it is very easy to destroy the integrity of the Board.
Interviewed by Nester Asonganyi & Charlie Ndi Chia