During a dog fight tournament a man was showing off his huge, well-fed and fierce-looking German shepherd. Gloating over its size and strength, he taunted the other contestants, none of whose dogs, he was sure, could last five minutes in the arena against his champ.
He thought it was the height of ridicule when one man stepped up front with a small, mangy, hungry-looking mongrel. “It seems you no longer want that little misery of yours and you decided my champion should get rid of it for you”, the swaggering owner of the German Shepherd said.
“Bring it on”, the other man retorted in quiet defiance, stepping back and leaving his little dog to face the giant.
At first the crowd was all sympathy for the little dog, as nobody expected it to leave the arena alive. At the end of the fight, however, it was its owner who beamed with smiles. As he stepped forward to pick up his new champ, he turned to the boastful owner of the mortally wounded German Shepherd and said, “you see, what matters is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog”.
The events of the last eight months must have taught Yaounde that by ignoring the groans of West Cameroonians for over half a century they were not only postponing the problem, they were growing the fight in the small dog.
The quick exit of the Elad, Munzu and Anyangwe soon after AAC2 must have seemed a comforting confirmation to Yaounde that the scrawny “Anglophone” mongrel could not last five minutes in the arena.
The spiral of unexpected reactions since November last year has, however, demonstrated the impotence of Yaounde’s attrition weapon against the uncanny resilience of the oppressed.
After the Elad threesome went under, Yaounde could gloat about the sporadic, bramble-fire nature of West Cameroon leadership, especially with all the splintering, and with the appointee elite putting their hearts where their mouths were – all of this making divide-and-rule so much easier for the oppressor.
That’s how ostrich politicians like the Ngole Ngoles and Atanga Njis of this world could comfortably make stock-in-trade of denying the very existence of anything like an Anglophone problem – because they knew the fight was over even before it began.
But they were selling the skin of a living tiger. And the roar of that tiger has been reverberating in the streets, schools, churches, embassies and such other unexpected arenas as SED and Kondengui.
Yaounde must have been aghast, hearing Ayah, after his release, call even more resolutely for dialogue leading to federation. His single-mindedness, undaunted by the harrowing experiences of his detention, must have been most unsettling. His and Agbor Balla’s solidarity visits to those still in detention have been sending a simple message: that whatever detention may have destroyed in them, it ended up growing them as incontestable West Cameroonian leaders.
This message is not only hair-raising for Yaounde, it is flustering for the self-serving Anglophone elite – ministers, MPs, Senators etc… who have now been clearly disavowed by the people they claim to represent.
Before November 2016, Ayah, was little more than a magistrate known for his probity, integrity and the courage to call a spade a spade. He can be said to have gone into politics by accident, as it were, goaded by people who saw Cameroon’s need for a new leadership with values. Those core values continued to be his battle horse even as he bumbled his way as a greenhorn in party politics. Somebody should have told Yaounde that by detaining and torturing him they were growing even the political fight in him.
Agbor Balla was a little-known lawyer whose concern, until November, was advocacy for a level playing field for Anglophone and francophone lawyers. Today he comes out of detention a hero for a West Cameroon nation he may not even have been advocating for in the beginning.
Fontem was teaching quietly in Buea, venting his anger about Anglophone education being diluted and compromised before his very eyes. Kondengui, has lifted him from that quasi-anonymity to such a status that, had he died in jail, his grave could have become a pilgrimage site.
Less than two months ago, Yaounde having banned the SCNC and even the Consortium, the long-expected happened. A new leadership for the West Cameroon struggle burst onto the scene and swung into action. Their accession to leadership may be unorthodox, the trappings of their authority may be rudimentary and their non-mastery of the ropes of politics and diplomacy may be evident, but they command unquestionable loyalty within a huge segment of the population, admit it or not.
A hitherto unknown and inexperienced Sisiku Tabe now has, thrust on him, a status that was never part of his wildest dreams. Few indeed may see him as the shepherd boy David, the least of Jese’s children, now called to be anointed. But he is the latest on the list of ordinary people who are stepping into extraordinary roles, and whom the regime’s mindless intransigence and brutality will end up toughening and grooming as leaders for West Cameroon. In the past few months regime surrogates and moles have thrown virtually everything at him, them and lots more is expected. But could it all just be part of God’s old game – hardening Pharoah’s heart and strengthening Moses’ hand?