Cavaye dribbles MPs on elections delay bill

Against a backdrop of effervescent anticipation from the public in general and lawmakers in particular emergent from a Presidential edict to Senate and House of Assembly Speakers urging them to facilitate postponement of parliamentary and municipal elections, Speaker, Cavaye Yegue Djibril took lawmakers and the lone Government Minister in attendance on Tuesday during deliberations at the National Assembly complex completely off guard when he instead announced the lone item on the agenda to be a bill authorising upward review of the 2018/2019 budget.
The surprise evoked by failure or deliberate eschewal of discussion on the much anticipated bill stems from the monumental import it ill will eventually have on Cameroon’s political landscape and, more significantly, the fact that Government statutorily had up to yesterday midnight to table the bill to the national assembly for eventual deliberation and promulgation into law. This is in addition to common knowledge of the eventuality of such a discussion, given that it had already been posted on social media and by that token would be accorded priority.
In the event, pundits are lost in contemplation as to whether a regime not known for respect of constitutional provisions will keep to its requirement that the head of state consults the National Assembly and Senate presidents for such an issue to be discussed and eventually given quietus for enactment into law.
Cameroon’s constitution, the supreme law of the land provides for postponement of elections under special circumstances including palpable insecurity and acute treasury malaise that may impinge on hitch free organisation of the ecercise. In the event that the constitutional provisions are met, the head of state has the prerogative to postpone elections for up to 18 months. And, this must be done 40 days before expiry of current mandate of the body whose mandate is to be extended or abridged.
This currently being the case in Cameroon, it is not surprising that the head of state had to write to the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly intimating them of his intention to postpone parliamentary and municipal elections for a period of one year, predicating his decision on the impossibility of organising three elections of universal suffrage within a month.
However, badmouths have been adroit in gainsaying the president’s inclination on grounds that he was very much aware of the task ahead of Government and confirmation of this is his allusion to it during his end of year’s message on December 31, 2017. How come it is only now that he is realising it shall not be possible?
They further contend that Biya is just a trickster who is seeking legality to perpetuate his stay as head of state after being convinced by prevailing circumstances in the country that he has lost legitimacy. More so, they continue that given the intensity of the crisis pitting his regime against Southern Cameroons separatists, Boko Haram insurgence in the Northern Regions and dire straits financial standing of the national treasury, he ought to have also, postponed the presidential poll.
The general impression is that postponement of the elections although justifiable at face value is a ruse to keep afloat a moribund regime that has been disavowed by the citizenry. They give teeth to their contention with occurrences like the invasion of the social media by a memo from the presidency that was yet to be acted upon by those to whom they were directed.
The president is said to have even been dumped by staff of his office who are supposed to have maintained a level of confidentiality commensurate with its stature and status. It is upon realisation of this uninviting turn-around of events and his avowed determination to cling to power until death that he has resorted to the current election roguery.
By Sampson Esimala

Akere sees Esso’s hidden hand in Muna family feud

It is certainly not what the venerable Honourable Solomon Tandeng Muna would have loved to be happening. Unfortunately, it is the case. But, thank God he did not live to see it.The media is awash with news of Akere Muna accusing the Government of attempting to foil his presidential ambitions by prodding his younger sister, Ama Tutu Muna to engage in a succession battle over their father’s estate.
Akere, who has declared to run for the Presidential election, was dragged to court earlier this year by sister and former Minister of Arts and Culture.
The former head of the Cameroon Bar Association, Akere, has since denied charges of forgery and attempts to side-line his sister in the partition of property left by their late father, one of the architects of Cameroon’s reunification, Solomon Tandeng Muna.
In a press conference to give his own version of facts on Thursday at his Bastos residence, Akere Muna didn’t pull any punches in addressing his sister.
Akere does not believe his sister would have engaged in such a battle after the family stood by her in all difficult moments, paying her debts and saving her from going bankrupt on several occasions.
He, also, dismissed the notion that he and his brothers are ganging up against their sister to side-line her from the family property.
“All the family has done is to assist her in her business, pay her debts all along, the only person who has benefitted to that degree from the estate is her (Ama Tutu Muna),” Akere said.
“She has risked two buildings to be sold; my brother, Humphrey (Muna) sold his only property…to pay her debt, my brother Humphrey was put to ridicule in Dakar (Senegal)…Hussiers (bailiffs) came to her house and carried all the things outside to sell because of her debts.
“So to think we will be ganging up against her is unfair and untrue,” Akere cried out.
However, the former Bar Council President feels the ensuing legal battle today is the handiwork of the Government through Justice Minister Laurent Esso, who wants to foil his presidential ambition.
“I am a declared candidate for the presidency, the Ministry of Justice is campaigning for another candidate (incumbent Paul Biya) If I am sentenced to jail (then) I am disqualified to be a candidate. I can only assume that if I am sentenced to a prison term, it will serve the other candidate, hence his surrogate,” Akere lashed out.
“So I don’t think there is any doubt about the fact that this matter is being handled from somewhere else and I can only see the Ministry of Justice.”
He went ahead to reveal the case has l taken a heavy toll on him financially as well as in his various legal battles but has vowed not to give up and even promised a “tsunami” if he was to be disqualified from the presidential race as a result of the succession battle.
Ama Tutu, last born of the Munas has remained tight-lipped since her brother’s outing but, a close aide who was contacted by The Rambler dismissed all claims made by Akere and promised to retaliate at the “appropriate” time.
By Francis Ajumane

Inside Aso Rock: The Day Abacha Died

Friday June 5, 1998, was a cool bright day. Before we left the Villa, the Press Corps was informed that the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, would be making a brief stop-over at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, en route to Morocco. And he was expected to hold a brief discussion with the General, Sani Abacha.
We were therefore expected to be at the airport to cover the event on Sunday, June 7. It was a topical assignment in view of Nigeria’s neutral position in the Middle East conflict. Besides, the rest of us were keen to meet Mr. Arafat, the man at the centre of the storm.
That Sunday morning, the Press Corps headed for the airport to await the arrival of Yasser Arafat. We did not have to wait for too long before the Palestinian leader arrived, accompanied by a very modest delegation. President Arafat and General Abacha immediately went into private discussion at the VIP lounge of the Presidential wing of the airport. The Press outside waited curiously for the possible outcome of the talks between the two leaders, a kind of joint press conference, on all issues involved in the Nigeria-Palestine relations.
After the meeting, which was very brief, there was no press conference. Rather, Yasser Arafat inspected a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the 3 Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army, and departed for Morocco. The whole airport ceremony lasted about two hours and we all returned to the Villa (Aso Rock).
Before leaving the Villa, I decided to cross-check with protocol officials if the Head of State would still be traveling to Burkina Faso to attend the OAU Summit, which was already at the Ministerial Session in Ouagadougou. The advance team of the Head of State’s entourage had already left on Friday night. I was to be in the main entourage expected to leave for Burkina Faso on Monday morning, after Abacha would have declared open an International Information Conference expected to begin in Abuja Monday June 8. The Federal Ministry of Information organized the conference. It was normal during General Abacha’s regime, that his movement was always kept topmost secret. As a matter of fact, those of us who used to travel with him would not know until few hours to our departure. So was our trip to Burkina Faso. They told me it was still on course.
With that assurance, I drove straight to NICON Hilton, Abuja where I had passed the previous night as a member of the Organizing Committee of the Information Conference. Six o’clock in the morning, Monday June 8, I 1eft for the Villa, with my luggage to join the delegation to Burkina Faso for the OAU Summit. General Abacha was to head the Nigerian delegation. At the time I got to the Villa everything appeared quite normal. I met some of my colleagues who were also to be in the Head of State’s entourage to Burkina Faso. At 7 a.m. that fateful day, we all assembled at the Press Centre waiting for the necessary directives. However, when it got to eight o’clock, and no signal was forthcoming about our movement, we decided to go and have our breakfast and reconvene in the next one hour. At that point everything in the Villa still appeared normal. Various officials were seen in their duty posts doing their routine jobs.
From the Villa, I drove straight to my house, had a quick breakfast, and decided to go through NICON Hilton hotel to inform my colleagues in the Organizing Committee about the uncertainty of our trip. On getting to the hotel, I saw people standing in groups, discussing. But I did not give a thought to their attention. I imagined that some of them were delegates or participants at the conference. So I quickly dashed into my room, returned immediately to the Villa to join my colleagues, to wait for further developments.
On driving to the Villa gate, a new atmosphere had taken over. The first gate had been taken over by new set of security operatives. I was not familiar with virtually all of them, except one Major whose name I could not remember immediately. The Major knew me by name. He was fully in charge of the new security arrangement, dishing out instructions in a very uncompromising manner. Initially, I did not take it as anything very serious. As a well known person in the Villa, I was confident that my entrance was just a matter of time more so when I was hanging my State House identity card around my neck. All my expectations were wrong as I was bluntly ordered to go back. All explanations and introductions on my mission to the Villa were helpless. The instruction was clear: ‘go back! go back!’ they shouted at all visitors. At that delay many cars had formed long queues. My immediate reaction was to seek the assistance of the Major, whom I had identified earlier, to save me from the tyranny of his men. Before I could approach him he shouted, “Ogbonnaya go back!” While I was still battling to wriggle out of what was seemingly a hopeless situation, I noticed a woman right behind me, almost hysterically screaming, that she had an early morning appointment with the First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Abacha. The woman apparently must be coming from the National Council of Women Societies from her dressing. My shock was the way she was instantly assaulted by those stern looking security operatives. At that point, I quickly got the message; I drove away from the scene as quickly as possible. Though my mind was everywhere but my immediate conclusion was that there was a coup because I could not imagine any other thing that could have caused such a high level of security alert. I therefore decided to drive straight to the International Conference Centre to alert my Director General on the latest development. He was attending the conference as a participant.
At the International Conference Centre, I saw some Ministers standing at the lobby in anticipation of the arrival of Abacha and his team. Immediately they saw me, they became very agitated, and almost simultaneously asked me, “is the C-ln-C already on his way?” I said, “no, I am not really sure he is coming. But let us hope he will still make it.” I knew, as a matter of fact, that I had not really provided them with the desired answer, but that was the much I could tell them. While they were still pondering on the uncertainty of my reply, I left and quickly walked into the hall where I met my Director-General, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Michika. He was already seated with other participants. I called him aside. “Sir, I don’t really know what is happening in the Villa. I suggest that you leave this place now!” Without betraying any emotion, he quickly asked me what was the situation in the Villa like, I told him all that I saw. I repeated my advice and that I had not been able to confirm what exactly was happening. I then made it clear to him that it was no longer safe for him to continue staying in the conference, and so should quietly take his leave. Alhaji Michika immediately went back to his table, took his pen and papers and followed me out of the hall.
The moment we were outside, I asked him if he came with his car. He said yes, but because of the extraordinary security arrangement put in place in anticipation of the arrival of the Head of State, it was difficult locating his driver. I then suggested that we should use my car which he obliged. I drove him straight to his house instead of the office. Both of us agreed that he should remain at home for the time being, while I promised to keep him informed about the development. This panic measure was as a result of the usual trauma which Radio Nigeria Management Staff often pass through each time there was a military coup d’état in Nigeria. The first target usually is the FRCN Broadcasting House. The management and staff on duty usually pass through hell in the hands of the military boys in their desperate effort to gain entrance into the studios at record time for the usual “Fellow Nigerians” broadcast.
From my Director-General’s residence I decided to get to NICON Hilton Hotel to assess the situation there before heading back to the Villa. At the hotel the atmosphere was rather sombre. There were a few clusters of people; some of them who recognized me, rushed and demanded to know what was happening at the Villa. “Orji, is it true that there is a coup at the Villa?” they asked. I said, “Well I don’t know”. At that time, the BBC, CNN and International Media had begun to speculate on the confused situation.
From their countenance I could see they were not satisfied with my answer. They thought probably that I was withholding some information. But they never knew I had none. I felt very uncomfortable. As a reporter covering the State House, I was equally restless that I could not give a valid answer on what was happening on my beat. I recognized too that it was utterly wrong to depend on others for information about events unfolding in my beat. I instantly felt challenged to get back to the Villa. I was equally aware that such an adventure was fraught with a lot of risk. But that is the other side of journalism as a profession.
On getting back to the Villa, I decided to avoid the main gate because of the heavy security presence there. Instead, I used the maintenance gate through the Asokoro District. I was amazed that no single security man was there at the time. There was therefore no difficulty in passing through into Aso Rock. I drove my car to the Administrative Gate and parked there, and decided to walk. Initially everything had appeared normal in some parts of the Villa until I met a Body Guard (BG). I queried, “old boy wetin happen? Why una boys full everywhere?” It is easier to obtain information from other ranks with informal English. “Ah! Na wa oh! You no know say Baba don quench?”. The boy answered also in Pidgin English. “Which Baba?” I shouted. “Baba don die, Baba don quench just like that. Na so we see am,” the boy concluded, clutching a cigarette in his left hand. I still could not understand what he was saying. “Which Baba do you mean?”, I queried further. “Abacha don die! You no hear?” He shouted at me angrily. It was a very funny way of announcing the passage of a man who was feared and dreaded by all. I was nonetheless confused by its reality. My immediate reaction was that if truly General Abacha was dead, it meant the end of an era. What future does it hold for Nigeria? I pondered over the development as I advanced further into Aso Rock. As I moved down, the reality became evident. The environment was cold, cloudy with uncertainties among the faces I met.
They confirmed it was a reality. General Abacha was truly dead. All were in groups discussing it with fear and subdued silence.
I quickly reached for a telephone to relay the sad story to my Director-General who must be anxiously waiting to hear the latest. Moreso, I was still far away from my news deadline at 4 p.m. But I was disappointed to discover that all the telephone links to the Villa had been severed. There was no call coming in or going out, the Villa at that critical moment was almost totally isolated from the rest of humanity. It was a deliberate measure. When I could not get through on telephone, I decided to drive out fast to break the news. But on reaching the gate through which I had earlier entered, I discovered that some fierce looking soldiers who told me that nobody was allowed to go out or come in had effectively barricaded it. This was happening at about 9.30 a.m. I was helplessly trapped in the Villa from that time till about 5 p.m. when we conveyed the remains of General Abacha to Kano for burial.
I felt particularly disappointed that I could not break the news to anxious Nigerians early enough. It was even more embarrassing and certainly very disheartening to learn that some foreign broadcast stations like the BBC and CNN, which had no accredited correspondents in the Villa, were the first to break the news of General Abacha’s death. It did not entirely come to me as a surprise because the system we operate in Nigeria respects the foreign media more than the local ones. It is equally a well-known fact that most foreign media subscribe to policy makers in our country, who always feed them with first-hand information about any event or issue in the country. The foreign media organizations are no magicians. They pay for news sources especially in situations where they have no correspondents. The pay is usually so attractive that the source is efficient. Thus, generally, access to information in developing countries is fraught with discrimination against local media in preference to foreign ones.
That morning, June 8, 1998, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer to General Abacha, was said to have called key members of the Provincial Ruling Council (PRC) including strategic military commanders for an emergency meeting. We learnt he refused to disclose that Abacha was dead. At about 11a.m., members of the PRC had begun to arrive at Aso Rock for an emergency meeting. Most of the members were informed only on arrival for the meeting except the very powerful ones.
That day, Major Al-Mustapha looked very sharp and smartly dressed in his Army tracksuit and white canvas. The Major was simply too busy running from pillar to post, looking confident but certainly confused about the future without his boss. He was finally in charge, distributing orders to the rank and file to get the Aso Council Chambers ready for the meeting. We watched at a distance in utter disbelief of the turn of events. For Mustapha, the situation was a bleak one. The fear was a possible fall from grace to grass for a man who was dreaded and respected by both the lowly and the mighty. But that morning, he conjured such a pitiable image as he presided over the wreckage of a collapsed regime.
Emotions took over the whole environment. One of the female Ministers worsened the situation when she arrived the Villa by shouting and weeping openly. Nobody looked her way to console her as everybody was simply on his/her own. Cigarettes were a scarce commodity that morning, the only immediate source of reducing tension and grief. Most PRC members who were informed on arrival immediately asked for cigarettes, but none was easily available. Those who had some hoarded them jealously. Elsewhere in the Villa, a gloomy atmosphere, mingled with subdued excitement and relief pervaded. Flurry of activities were taking place at breathtaking speed two crucial meetings were in progress simultaneously. One was a meeting of Principal Officers in the Presidency and the venue was Aso Rock Wing of the Chief of General Staff. The other meeting of members of the Provisional Ruling Council, PRC, was shifted to Akinola Aguda House. The two meetings later merged at Aso Council Chambers for another crucial session. The joint session began at 2 p.m. and ended at 4.45 p.m. I imagined that the items on the agenda of that meeting were:
_ Selection of a new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.
_ Arrangements for the burial of General Abacha.
While the separate meetings were in progress, we in the Press Corps were held hostage. We had all the information but no means of communication. Hunger was also a problem. However, for the first time we were free to assess the regime openly and objectively. The open discussion and arguments centred on what Abacha did and did not do.
While the meeting at Aso Council Chambers was in session, Major Al-Mustapha sat in the chair at the entrance, holding a newspaper in his hands, which he occasionally glanced at. He looked rather relaxed after ensuring that every necessary arrangement had been put in place. He occasionally responded to our discussions with selected and reserved comments. His aides quoted him as saying that nobody would leave the Council Chambers unless a new Military Head of State was selected by the meeting. His fear, I learnt, was that a vacuum was dangerous before General Abacha’s burial later the same day. Mustapha declined all efforts by the few Pressmen around to narrate how General Abacha died. All efforts to bring him fully into our discussion also failed. Insiders at the “red carpet” revealed that shortly after Abacha died, Major Al-Mustapha took some strategic decisions that were of national significance. One of such decisions was the immediate evacuation of the condemned coup plotters in Jos Prison to a more secured place. The measure was probably to pre-empt any intention to summarily execute the plotters by possible overzealous forces.
From morning till 5 p.m., no official press statement on the death of General Abacha from any quarters was issued, even when the incident was already known all over the world. It was difficult to reconcile how such a major sad event could happen in the country and up till that time, nobody deemed it necessary to issue an official statement. We then decided to mount pressure on the then Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu, to make a pronouncement. It was after much pressure that an official statement was eventually issued. The press statement was five paragraphs in all, issued at about 5.25 p.m.
The atmosphere in the Villa then was overcast. On June 8 in Aso Rock, hierarchy of command collapsed. It was a day everybody was free. Shortly after the statement was issued, people began to troop towards the Red Carpet area (official residence of the Head of State). I immediately imagined that the body of the General might be Iying in state. I quickly followed, not certain if it was going to be possible to be allowed to have a glimpse of it.
However, on getting to the house, I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity”. His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.
I returned to the Aso Council Chambers to wait for the outcome of the special session of the Provisional Ruling Council. The outcome of the meeting was all that the media was awaiting. The meeting was to answer the question “who succeeds Abacha?” But before long, the picture of who succeeds General Abacha began to emerge. Shortly after the meeting at Aso Council Chambers had ended, I saw General Abdulsalami Abubakar walk out of the meeting ahead of other senior military officers. This immediately conveyed the message that he had been chosen as the new leader. My conclusion was based on the tradition in the military, there is much respect for hierarchy and seniority. All other military officers and PRC members lined behind Abdulsalami, confirming the saying in the military that appointment supersedes rank. Besides, I watched and saw that he was dishing out orders which all complied to, even his seniors. He took control of the ad-hoc arrangement to convey the body of General Abacha to Kano for burial. He was seen giving orders to both high and low to arrange vehicles for movement to the airport.
The journey to Kano was already far behind schedule, given the fact that the burial must take place that same day in keeping with the Islamic injunction. We left Aso Rock for the airport at about 6 p.m.
It was indeed a big tragedy for the members of former first family as they packed their belongings to join the convoy which took the corpse of the once powerful General home. I wept when I saw Madam, Mrs. Abacha being helped into the waiting car. She stared at Aso Rock in tears, a most difficult and tragic way to say good-bye. Tears rolled freely from all gathered as Madam was driven out of the Villa with her husband’s corpse in front of her in a moving ambulance. The ambulance is normally one of the last vehicles in the usually long Presidential convoy. But on June 8, 1998, the ambulance was in the front with General Abacha’s corpse. All other vehicles lined behind in a day-light reversal of history. The ambulance drove through the IBB bye-pass connecting the airport link road as the entourage made its way to Nnamdi Azikiwe airport. I was surprised that there was instant jubilation by passersby. Taxi drivers lined up at major junctions shouting shame! shame!! as the convoy drove past. Men and women ran after the convoy in utter disbelief of the turn of events. Some other people formed queues in groups with green leaves in their hands singing solidarity songs in a loud tone that suggested liberation from bondage. It was a day in which my biro refused to write and the lines in my jotter went blank. The journalist in me was overtaken by emotions as most of us in the convoy found it difficult to speak to one another. We simply lacked the words or the topic for discussion as our minds went blank and our brains went asleep.
On our arrival at the airport, the body of General Abacha, which was still wrapped in white cloth was carried into the hold of the presidential aircraft, zero-zero one. There was no particular arrangement on who should be in the aircraft, except that members of the first family and some PRC members were given priority. I however noticed that most PRC members at the airport were not even keen in accompanying the corpse of the late General to Kano.
While the aircraft was being positioned, Madam and her children waited at the Presidential lounge with a cluster of relatives and very few associates. The usual crowd around the first family had begun to disappear. That day, it was as though the Abacha family was for the first time in many years on a lonely journey to an unknown destination, even though the aircraft was heading for Kano. It was incredible to imagine the Abachas without General Sani Abacha. As the saying goes, “when the big tree falls, all the birds will fly away”.
The aircraft ready, Madam and her children left the lounge with the heavy burden of making their last flight on the presidential jet, with the corpse of the former Head of State on board. Mrs. Abacha climbed into the aircraft in tears with measured steps. Her children joined too, then some few friends and relations.
Inside, the plane was taken over by grief, tears and open weeping. We had already boarded the aircraft and almost getting set to take-off when General Abubakar curiously asked, “where is the corpse?” He was told that it was kept in the hold. “No, no, no, bring it inside!” the General commanded. And it was brought in and kept few seats away from where I sat. As the journey progressed, whenever there was turbulence, the body would shake, exposing the legs, which were partially covered. I sat in that aircraft speechless. My reflections were on life, death, power, influence and the vanity of human desires.
Our flight to Kano was barely thirty minutes, but I felt it was more than two hours. The usual conversation and jokes in zero-zero one was overtaken by subdued silence, grief, pain and weeping. Everybody on board was on their own. I could imagine how other people’s mind worked at that sober period. But mine went into a comprehensive review of the Abacha era beginning from the night of November 16, 1993 when the General took over. Within my reflections, my mind was everywhere, the good, the bad, the very bad and the ugly. My mood was interrupted by a sudden announcement from the cockpit that we were few minutes away from Aminu Kano International Airport.
The situation on our arrival at Aminu Kano International Airport was rather chaotic. There was no precise arrangement to receive the corpse on arrival. Apparently, our arrival caught Kano and the people unaware. Apart from the first family, and few officials, everybody was expected to sort out his/her own transport arrangement out of the airport. Eventually I had to arrange for an airport taxi to convey me and two others to the private residence of the late Head of State. Unfortunately, there were few taxis at the airport. While this arrangement was on, the main convoy had left with the corpse. We therefore quickly hired a taxi at a high fare dictated by the driver, who was very rude and uncooperative. We were shocked that the driver showed little or no sympathy, but was rather quick to explain that he never benefited anything from the Abacha regime. In his view, his condition had even worsened. We discontinued the discussion as it was becoming volatile.
The Abacha family house on Gidado street, GRA, Kano is a modest twin duplex located in a rather small compound. By the time we arrived there, the place was already besieged by a large number of sympathizers struggling to gain entry. As there was no time to start identifying who was who, we were all being pushed by the security officials who had a very hectic time trying to contain the rapidly surging crowd. In the midst of the pushing and kicking, I suddenly realised that the person who was being pushed against me was the highly respected Governor of Lagos State, Col. Buba Marwa. It therefore became clear to me that at that moment, everybody was regarded as equal, courtesy of the security at the gate. I was then encouraged to continue pushing, until I finally managed to squeeze myself inside the compound.
Inside the compound, I observed scanty presence of newsmen, because security was deadly. I also discovered that the grave was still being prepared, an indication that no proper arrangement was made. Earlier, the body of General Abacha was taken to Kano Central Mosque for prayers. From the Central Mosque, the body was laid on the floor of his private mosque just by the gate with two soldiers standing on guard. I peeped several times to assure myself that it was actually the former powerful Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that was on the bare floor. One was expecting a more dignified presidential burial, with due respect to the modest way the Muslims conduct their burials. Even at a point, a soldier asked, “Why is there no burial party here?” I immediately wanted to know what burial party was all about. I was told that it was the usual twenty-one gun salute line-up of soldiers will give to a fallen officer as his last military respect. But before any of such arrangement could be made, the body of General Abacha had been lowered into the grave. There was certainly no fanfare in the burial, it was simple and brisk. In simple comparison, I had accompanied General Abacha himself to the burial of a top military officer and member of the Provisional Ruling Councils who had died sometime ago and was buried in Minna during his regime. I observed that all the procedures at that burial in all consideration was better managed, more respectful and dignified than that of the former Head of State, their difference in rank and position notwithstanding.
There were quite a number of very important personalities who witnessed the burial. But I particularly took notice of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida and his wife Mariam, who were seen talking with Mrs. Abacha, probably trying to console her. There were also some Emirs and other top Northern leaders who were able to make the trip at such short notice. At about 9.48 p.m. when Abacha’s grave was being covered with sand, a powerful businessman from one of the South Eastern States who was very prominent in Abacha’s campaign for self succession arrived and broke down weeping and wailing openly. Some faithful Muslims who dominated the burial reacted negatively to such an un-lslamic approach to the dead. They threatened to whisk the man out of the premises if he failed to comport himself. The businessman was among those who threatened to proceed on exile or commit suicide if General Abacha failed to become President.
As the burial ended at about 10.05p.m., we hurriedly left for Abuja. I expected that there could probably be some other ceremonies. But I was wrong as we left barely 20 minutes after the body had been interred. We arrived Abuja a few minutes to 12 midnight and drove straight to Aso Council Chambers in the Villa for the swearing-in of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the new Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces.
The swearing-in ceremony was rather brief. It was preceded by a formal announcement by the Principal Secretary to the former Head of State, that General Abubakar had been appointed to succeed the late General Sani Abacha. General Abubakar was then invited to step forward and take the oath of office and allegiance at about 1.43 a.m. on June 9, 1998. That ceremony marked the end of the Abacha era.
After the oath-taking, General Abubakar signed the register to herald the beginning of the new era. That era ushered in a new dawn, a brighter future and hope for a sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The rest is now history. Back to the newsroom at 3 a.m., June 9, with series of events that had taken place in the past 24 hours, my diary was full. It was difficult to decide a headline for the 7 a.m. news bulletin. I do remember that, that morning, at the FRCN Network News studio there was a problem over which of the two important stories should come first; that Abacha was dead or Abubakar has been sworn-in as the new Head of State. Coverage of the events of that day without food and water was among my most challenging assignment.

* Excerpts from the book, Inside Aso Rock, written by respected broadcast journalist, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji who for seven years covered the State House for Radio Nigeria. Published by Spectrum Books Ltd. It is available in major bookshops.
By Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Sani Abacha: Anatomy of a sadist, dictator

“I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity.” His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.”
Ogbonaya Orji, a seasoned broadcast journalist who covered ‘Aso Rock,’ Nigeria’s Presidential Palace summarises the ephemeral nature of power in the above statement after he watched the lifeless body of the tin god being exposed like the cadaver of a disease-ridden animal declared unfit for human consumption by veterinarians.
Like Abacha, other “natural leaders” in Egypt, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia refused to come to terms with the transient nature of power and fell from it like overripe, nay, rotten mangoes. The lure of power and perks that surround the authority it generates derailed them into the erroneous belief that such reverie could last for eternity.
Abacha incarnated the very essence of power. He participated in several coups d’état before he actually ascended the Supreme Commandership of the Nigerian Armed forces in 1993. His stay in the army up to the time of his swearing in as Head of state was a product of serendipity. Like other cunning, sneaky political spiders elsewhere in Africa, the not so brainy Abacha schemed, bided his time.
Sheer bravery and commitment to purpose endeared him to his superiors and, in particular General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, then Army Chief of Staff, who, through a special dispensation permitted him to ascend the rungs of senior officer. As head of state, Abacha looted billions of dollars from the state treasury. He hanged human rights activists and jailed everyone with a dissenting voice for life. Obasanjo, who became first civilian head of state following his demise, served time in Abacha’s gulag.
His reign of terror will remain indelible in the minds of several generations who saw in him an unrepentant and irredeemable autocratic dinosaur.
When he died, Nigerians mourned him on dry cheeks; in fact, they poured into the streets in celebration. The story told in our inner pages reads like the “anatomy or framework of a sadistic dictator.” It is a collector’s item.

More ‘Anglophone terrorists’ to face military tribunal today

Just over a week after the Yaounde military court slammed heavy jail terms on seven Anglophone suspects, another batch of them is expected in court today.
Five of them are being charged with secession, actions of terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, revolution and insurrection, amongst others.
Abeng Gerald Ndam, Tamina Terence , Ignatius MbendeWenda, Braidnard Fongoh alias Fiango and Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe were all arrested in Bamenda at the start of the year and ferried to Yaounde where they will be appearing before the court for the second time since their detention.
Each of the five was arrested under different circumstances but that of Chungong Kelly Stecy Ngwe has left many wondering.
The lady in her late 20s, married and a mother of one, was reportedly arrested in Bamenda as she was visiting her sister’s fiancé, Tamina Terence who had been arrested for illegal possession of arms, one of the defence counsel, Barrister Honoratus Ndi Shey said.
Sources say she was caught filming the detainee she was visiting before being bundled into the cell and later accused of complicity in acts of terrorism.
After spending over a month at the judicial police in Bamenda, she and the other four were moved to various cells in Yaounde where she will be later assaulted at the Judicial Police at Elig-Essono, a family friend told The Rambler.
Though her lawyer claims not to be aware of any assaults carried out on his client, he has vowed to thoroughly investigate the matter and prosecute the perpetrators if the allegations are proven.
Kelly and the four others will be appearing in court for the second time after their case was adjourned on May 8, by the judge for a proper constitution of the file by the State prosecutor.
On June 6, it will be the turn of the trio of Ade Kenneth Chi, Anyangwei Lelly Anyangwei and Fonyuy Terence who will be appearing before the Yaounde military court for the eighteenth time as the court is yet to establish any clear charge against them.
For the moment, the military court has taken just under two years to sentence about a dozen Anglophone activists arrested within the ongoing crisis with over two hundred detained at the Kondengui maximum security prison.
By Francis Ajumane

MP donates to refugees

Impelled by the plight of displaced persons that have flooded Kumba, Meme Divisional headquarters in the wake of the fratricidal war pitting Government against Southern Cameroonian separatists, Honorable Atinda Martin Mboni, sitting Parliamentarian for Meme West constituency has donated a consignment of food stuff comprising of bags of rice, family Maggi cube packets and some cash.
He did this recently at his Barombi Kang residence to close to thirty families who were present at the occasion.
To him, it is a show of solidarity and concerns for his people. He told them that though his donation cannot solve all their needs it will nevertheless go a long way to help them in one way or the other. He equally called on them to be calm and stay away from any negative activities during this period.
Just a few months behind Hon Atinda donated some farm inputs like ‘gamalin,’ and other tools to some farmers. He promised that in the days ahead he would be extending his generosity to some other families within the Division.
Note should be taken of the fact that Kumba, has become home to more than 50,000 internally displaced persons, IDPs, who have been pushed into destitution by the ongoing attacks and counter attacks on villages and persons by both Government and separatist forces.
Their plight of the IDPs has been aggravated by persistent burning of villages in retaliatory expeditions by Government forces that have left desolation in their wake on many villages that have now sought solace in bushes of Kumba and other urban areas of the Division.
By NGENDE ESTHER

2018 Presidential: MINAT rules, ELECAM reigns!

The recent strategic movement of personnel at Cameroon’s election management body, ELECAM has been linked by wary observers to manoeuvres meant to perpetuate President Biya’s rule via the upcoming presidential election, which the head of state has insisted on advancing his candidature despite growing dissident voices advising the octogenarian to quit the stage before what is left of any ovation completely dies down.
The signs are apparent, even glaring for any discerning observer to see. Pundits read the intension behind the recent move as paving the way for the new Ministry of Territorial Administration, MINAT, currently manned by a Biya fanatic, Paul Atanga Nji to run the election with ELECAM barely fronting.
They claim that listing of the recent appointments by the head of state and internal schemes bespeak wholesale dumping of ex MINTAD upscale functionaries on the election management body. From the Director General Erik Essouse and his assistant Abdel Karimou to internal arrangements that brought in Zang III, retired Fako SDO to replace Barrister Okha Bau Okha as Head of Division of Electoral Operations and Referendums and the Head of Administrative and Finance Division headed by another MINTAD veteran Ngole III Patrice, the stage is said to have been set for manoeuvrability to ensure victory for Biya.
While admitting that simmering incompatibility of attitude to management of public affairs between the Board Chair Enow Abrahms Egbe, another MINTAD old-timer and the former Director General Abdoulaye Babale had reached a head with persistent recourse to the Presidency for solution not yielding any dividends, there is, nevertheless, reason to believe that Babale fell prey to a well-orchestrated plan by opening his flanks to the MINTAD and ENAM boys’ onslaught through opaque management of the institution.
Many informed observers contend that Babale was too much of a neophyte to have lasted in such a sensitive position in the prevailing circumstance of must-win for Biya in the upcoming presidential election. With his henchmen at the Presidency, he kept harbouring the illusion that he could weather the tsunami ENAM boys had prepared against him.
Unfortunately for him, there was someone, a hatchet man, who sorely needed to ingratiate himself to the head of state. And, that person, we leant, is the current Minister of Territorial Administration Atanga Nji Paul, who is alleged to have personally carried the grievances of the Board members and a well-articulated petition by ELECAM staff to the head of state.
The staff demotivation aspect of the petition was deliberately played up to read ploy by Babale to perturb victory for Mr. Biya during the looming presidential election. It is this fear, pundits reckon, that caused the dramatic exit of Babale, warranting his office and those of key associates to be sealed with immediate alacrity and paving the way for the MINTAD and ENAM boys to have a free lease over ELECAM.
When Enow Abrams Egbe, former Governor and Inspector General in charge of Elections at MINTAD was appointed Board Chair of ELECAM sometime last year, it was with a clear mandate to deliver on promise the upcoming presidential elections no matter the odds. This explains why Zang III and Ngole III Patrice were immediately drafted in as Research Officer and Technical Adviser in the Board Chairs’ office respectively, awaiting the opportune moment to ram them down the throats of other board members and staff.
With a serene atmosphere of ENAM classmates and former colleagues at MINTAD prevailing at ELECAM, the stage is reportedly set for manipulation of the electoral process to secure victory for Mr. Biya, whose desperation to perpetuate himself as head of state has been pushing him to ignore the constitutional provision that supports postponement of elections in a situation of heightened insecurity as currently obtains from a war he personally declared against Southern Cameroonian separatists.
By Sampson Esimala

Anglophone Crisis: Bishops advocate speedy return to normalcy

Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon have called for immediate an immediate end to killings, restraint, and dialogue, saying urgent mediation is the only way out of the crisis stalemating the Northwest and Southwest Regions of the country. The caution of the clergymen contained in a “Cry of the Bishops” Communiqué signed by their President, Archbishop Samuel Kleda recently.
Reiterating that Cameroonians are brothers and sisters, regardless of their Regions of origin, the Bishops, pleaded that the paths of dialogue, reconciliation, justice and peace should be retraced as a matter of urgency, for a speedy return to normalcy.

The Prelates, confessed to be feeling the pinch of the socio-political crisis which has since 2016 been rocking the English speaking Regions of the country. They have stood with them reassuring the victims of violence of their spiritual support.

It should be noted that it is one of several times the Bishops are drawing attention to the irreparable damages caused by the crisis. They have repeatedly noted with dismay that the predicament jeopardizes the lives of people and property, threatens security as well as social cohesion.

Many pundits have, however, been questioning who shoulders the responsibility to initiate dialogue and who is fit or not to sit at the dialogue table.
By Claudia Nsono

Shredded Cameroon can still be recuperated – Nico Halle

Barrister Nico Halle is not a run-of-the-mill personality that can be cajoled into an interview if he perceives that long earned and nurtured reliability is on the line. The current Bar General Assembly president and international peace crusader was recently in Buea for a private function.
However, his concern for immediate return to peace and by extension social justice and equity had the better part of him, leading to acquiescence to an interview to edify Cameroonians on some very burning issues pertaining to the current crises in the country and governance as a whole.
Judging by his discourse, he eschews confrontation like a plague and sees no reason why other Cameroonians should not make it part of their personal mottos, if only as contribution to a society of enduring peace and stability.
He agrees that issues have been allowed to deteriorate to current levels because of mutual display of irreverence for the word of God that is encapsulated in love for one another and country.
Nevertheless, as gloomy as the prevailing circumstance may seem, he sees Cameroon coming out of the present doldrums fired by confidence, determination and love. The peace crusader in him makes him exude an aura of implacable optimism in the eventuality of reason prevailing over the current irrationality being exhibited by protagonists in the war of attrition pitting Government forces against alleged separatists with obeisance to a yet to be midwifed Ambazonia Republic.
As euphemistic as his pronounced modesty and training as lawyer could permit him to come across, his narrative is inexorably, suffused with a consensual and urgent need for Cameroonians to sit around a table and dialogue, akin to typical Bantu cosmogony of solving intractable issues under the shade of a tree in the village square.
As usual, it is a pot-pourri of dexterity in handling complex issues in a very readable manner that can only emanate from The Rambler stable. (See inside pages)
Cameroonis on fire.If you agree, would you want to discuss how things became this bad?
For about close to 20 months there has been tension in the two Anglophone Regions,so it is not news to anybody. You know so well as a peace crusader, spanning more than 28 years, I am saddened, disturbed, troubled and worried by the situation. Since the eruption of the crisis, everybody knows I have been on the field preaching peace, preaching harmony, preaching serenity and also praying that God almighty that created this great nation, Cameroon, should look down with pity and instruct his children, Cameroonians how they can come out of this quagmire. So that is what I have been doing and requesting also that all the stakeholders; that is, Cameroonians of various orientations should act with restraint. I have, since the beginning, condemned the killing of civilians, policemen, soldiers and gendarmes, I have condemned the destructions; all the property that is going belong to Cameroonians; those who are dying are our brothers and sisters. That is why I have been pleading with Cameroonians to go on their knees, reason better and come up with lasting solutions because nobody ever benefits from violence. People benefit from peace and I always say peace is the weapon of the strong,while violence is the weapon of the weak. In my peace crusading, I have also highlighted the importance of love, justice, equity, the rule of law, the respect for human rights and liberties, patriotism, accountability, transparency, the fear of the Lord.
These are all what we call core spiritual values which will constitute the platforms for peace to exist. That is my mantra. I stand on that and there is no problem without a solution.
You just reeled out, peace, justice, fear of the Lord and all that… The common assumption is that nature doesn’t entertain a vacuum.By the same token, if there is no justice, equity, rule of law, then nature would most likely fill up, make up foran apparent collapse of leadership so to speak…
When you talk of leadership in terms of…
Wherethere is good leadership, there would naturally be a concomitantwilling followership…
I am thinking of leadership in terms of all Cameroonians. All Cameroonians are called upon to contribute towards what we might call true leadership and it is true that there are people who might be in leadership positions starting from their homes, from schools and universities. Mayors, parliamentarians, ministers, senators, the justice system and all of these are leadership positions. If each of these groups were to perform their duties with love, justice, equity, respecting the fundamental law which is the constitution, what we have just described as a falling situation would be reduced to the barest minimum. There is no perfect system in the world but there are systems that are good.Good for me, is not perfect. So, when we talk of leadership, we should look at leadership holistically. You are a leader in your office.Youare interviewing me. I am in Buea for a thesis defencebut, I am being interviewed now because you approached me. You are the leader, the way you approached me showed that you are a leader. You were cordial, you were welcoming, you were nice and that is leadership.I am thinking of leadership in terms of people who have control over units, those small units globally now make the entire nation.
One istempted to think that in Cameroon, crass authority has taken precedence over humble leadership.Leadership is serving; it is serving the people humbly and not leading haughtily. But we are like stuck with a clique of people calledparty leaders, ministers, governors, et al, dictating to the people, breathing down their necks. We think that is the reason for the protests, the uprisings.
That is another way of looking at it and you do have the right to that approach. I am looking at leadership from a holistic point of view because itis this conceptualization that brings about passing the buck.If all the homes were being well managed… I remember when I was very active as Ntumfor, I did indicate that if each village were well managed in Cameroon, Cameroon will have no problem. But if some villages are well managed and others are not, there is trouble. So, I am looking at leadership from a macro point of view because in my house, I should be able to assume responsibility.But I should understand that my wife has a role to play, my children have role to play for serenity to reign in my house. If Nico Halle alone wants to install peace in my house, it will not work; my wife must say ‘yes, we need peace,’ the children also must be part of it, my cooks too must be part…
Which is why we think, we don’t have leadership per se; rather we are stuck with a clique that is to say the very least, assuming ownership of Cameroon.
Again, that’s the way you look at it, but another way of looking at it is informing the people that each and every one of us has a role to play for that kind of leadership that is in your mind to function because leaders cannot succeed when the people whom they are leading are not contributing their own quota.
We insist that the typical Cameroonian leaderinsists for everybody else to shiver and pander; offices must shut down, road must be blocked for hours when he is moving from one point of town to the other. It is a tin god phenomenon.
Thank you very much for that take. If it is a tradition or usage that when you must move certain arrangements must be made to enable you move because you are representing the people, if the people accept that from their will, then that is what they are practicing. The only way we can depart from that is by coming up with some other form that is better than what you are describing.
Are you in effect endorsing a situation whereby a woman in labour must postpone bringing forth her babyor that access to hospitals should be blocked for hours,because a leader is about to drive by?
No, definitely…
I don’t know any system that will…
But that is what obtains in Cameroon.
If you have taken note of that…
Yes, we have,
Then it is unfortunate but I don’t think that it is proper.
Or,that state institutions should stop functioning because a leader ismoving from pillar to post?
Again, I get back to what I said.How did we get to that? If it has been in vogue, how did we get to it and why must we not depart from it because we are moving modern. Why can we not depart from it? Can we depart from it? These are the questions…
Ok, we love that and we hasten to ask you; how did Uganda get to the stage of inventing an Idi Amin? It is either Ugandans were heckled or suppressed to a stage where they couldn’t do their own thinking or, they became such sycophants, that they couldn’t point out to Amin that he was naked; they might have been cheering him all along until he inevitably stepped on a banana peeling and kismet decided his fate. The same could be said of Romania’s NicolaeCeausescu, Slobodan Milosevic of Bosnia Herzegovina and the like.The dustbin of history is full of such impulsive tyrants.
Well, you have a mastery of…
Not exactly;What we are indicating here is thatCameroonians have cultivatedthis cringing culture of deifying ordinary mortals who should be their humble servants.
We don’t mean to flatter you, Barrister Halle, but you radiate humility, your social status notwithstanding.Candidly, to get rid of the collective suicide that Cameroonians are steadily committing, we think that something has to give sway somewhere and that is a clear cut moral, leadership restructuring. It is our honestview,Sir.
Yeah it is your observation
This question may have been addressed above, but maybe for emphasis, how, do you think, the arson that has so far been visited on some 70 Anglophone Cameroonian villageswith hundreds of people murdered be checked?
I don’t know. I am not privy to those statistics but I said and continue to say that there is no problem in the world without a solution. I just think we have to take our destinies into our hands, to be honest to ourselves, get together and chart way of getting out of this situation which you have just described. Of course, this problem which you have described could have been taken care of if we had love, justice, equity; if we loved this nation, you and me and all those who have gone down to say this cannot happen. But I am sure you know so well that there are people who are not happy when there is peace because they exploit this kind of situation for political or financial gains. I really ask myself where these kinds of people are coming from. People who don’t espouse peace, who don’t promote peace, who are comfortable in violence, who are comfortable in conflict, in quarrels, in misunderstandings; they can create chaos in order to take advantage and pull fast ones. With all of that, it accounts for what we have just described. So, it is possible that we can bank on what is done.Scales have fallen off our eyes, the masks have fallen too.Let us sit down.It is the moment for us to tell ourselves that we love each other; we are our neighbor’s keeper, we doesn’t deserve what is happening; that people are being killed, there are burnings, there are destructions, refugee migration problem.It is only sordid; it should not happen to a blessed nation like ours.
Barrister Nico Halle, this is a very pointed question.It is assumed that forces of law andorder are trained to be exceptionally disciplined and more methodical that the ordinary civilian. But when at the drop of a hat, they loot, rape, kill and burn villages it is dangerous for the polity, don’t you think?
No, nobody would say it’s normal. Nobody in their right senses would say it is normal so…
Would you then advise someone in distress to run to a gendarme, soldier or policeman for protection? That would be tantamount to nursing suicidal instincts, right?
I think I have said earlier on, that situations like this are exploited.Either way, the gendarmes are dying, the police and the army; the civilians are also dying in their numbers from what…
Unfortunately, hundreds ofinnocent, hapless, unarmedcivilians are being slaughtered like chickens;not the ragtag army that is said to be fanning the embers of secession.Note that those who are fighting the bush war hardly have houses anywhere.They are in the bush fromwhere they sporadically attack…
What I am saying is that the situation is very painful. I have said that whether a gendarme, a police, an army or a civilianis dying, they are all our brothers and sisters, who should notdie. They are burning property, whether private or public.It is our property, so, we are taking ourselves many years back. When people are displaced, it usually very difficult to…
By the same token you are stating that nobody should kill.
You can be sure. Nobody has the right to take the life of any person.
And the forces of law and order, how do we bring them back to start playing their constitutional role of protecting that life and property?
I have condemned this from Day One,that whether it is the forces of law and order or the civilians, nobody has the right to take another person’s life. You don’t deserve to die. I have said this across the board. So I look at it globally; I don’t go into specifics. I will tell you that for the past 13months, I don’t sleep.Anybody who goes to bed and sleeps in the face of this situation lacks love because when I watch certain images my heart bleeds.I am one person who is empathetic and sympathetic. I am compassionate; I don’t like to see a drop of blood. I don’t want to see a corpse; a corpse of natural death, fine, but when it comes from bullets, when it comes from rough handling and all of these, that tells me… and if you have noticed,I look emaciated. I do not sleep. It is not just because I am a Cameroonian but because of my role as a peace crusader. As a peace crusader, I am asking myself questions; why can all of us in Cameroon not be converted into peace crusaders?
Are we agreed that one or two institutions, whether traditional or corporate of our country have failed in their mission, in their assigned mission to Cameroonians, which is why people are being shot at, people are not listening, people are getting into the bushes, some people are burning down others’ homes?
Unless and until our mindset is changed and unless I start looking at you as my brother with love; I am not talking about brother from the same Region, no!Brother from the same nation, we are all brothers. That is how I look at it. Now, some people like I said when they go to bed they can sleep, they can eat, I lose appetite. When I just hear that there is burning in this part, no appetite and my day is shattered, my week is shattered. And that justifies why I am permanently on the field. Last time up to including December, I used to go… but I was advised, ‘take note Nico Halle, you are doing a great job, people are appreciating what you are doing but not everybody is happy that you want this situation to stop because of what they are benefiting from it. Please don’t announce your goings and your comings, just go.’ So now, I just target groups and I go, they don’t know where I am going.
Have your interventions and preachments paid off?
They have paid off. You know if I were not peace crusading, you shouldn’t even ask that. If I have reconciled journalists, families, traditional rulers, politicians, pastors, lawyers that you know, then you can imagine. If I were not on the field,… I am not blowing my trumpet, but maybe the situation would have escalated; it might have been worse. So, it is paying off and I thank God for that. I am sure that the fact that people appreciate what I am doing because they know the impact that my peace crusading has had in all of these.
Would you say the present imbrogliohas stainedwhat ought to be the immaculate canvas of legality in Cameroon? We are asking this based on the fact that security forces are on record as having beaten up Lawyers seized their wigs and gowns, muddied them; in short, desecrated the judiciary?Has this pristine act of the khaki boys compromised the third estate of the realm role of the judiciary in this country?
I did condemn that act very cogently,
We are asking if it has watered down legal prestige.
I am saying that these were people; these were lawyers who were asking for what is good for the nation. When you saw the grievances of the lawyers there was no trifling item in their grievances; they were asking for the OHADA Law to be in both languages…
And something else
And a few other things, ok, and then for them to have been vandalized, rough handled… I came out with communiqués condemning that and I still consider that that was not proper because nowhere in the world are lawyers treated that way. I think that things have escalated beyond just the lawyers and the teachers grievances to other proportions which God alone knows and so, to be very honest with you, I have not ceased condemning in the hardest of terms the behaviour of some of our Cameroonians; be they in the civil, in the army, in the forces of law and order, I have condemned that. It is on record that I have been very constant as far as that is concerned.
You have this antecedent of checking, attending to moral, social and why not, political values;ensuring that they are on course. In crusading for peace and changing mindsets, have you approached those who referred to other Cameroonians as ‘rats and cockroaches’ that ought to be exterminated and the local authority that repeatedly referred to a cultural entity in Cameroon as ‘dogs.’Have you reached out to change the hearts of those who assembled at the Buea Mountain Hotel and preached Rwanda-type xenophobia? Remember some of the xenophobes were rewarded with appointments to top national offices.

All of that is unacceptable. You will agree that it is decadence.
Have you been to them?
I don’t …
Let’s be blunt. We are talking about the ranking Regional administrator who kept calling people of a particular cultural expression dogs.
Did I need to go to the administrator? When I condemn a situation, when I condemn the violence and disproportionate words used, I don’t need to call… if the cap suits you, wear it. If I must name, then it is unfortunate. But you know what I have been doing and that is non-negotiable. I don’t compromise when it comes to the crime decadence. You know me and you have been following up and so, it is not about names.
But we thought if you don’t confront them, face to face, it would be like tacklingdisease symptoms and not the disease itself.
If I were to indicate that all of that including others is unacceptable, do I need to come to tell you that the words you used were inflammatory, were out of proportion? Otherwise, then I must visit every Cameroonian who has made a statement.
No, symbolically you might visit one or two persons, I think Jesus did it.
But do you know that I have visited people in Cameroon? When they talk of peace crusading, it means meeting people, meeting groups of people; using papers, interviews, making pronouncements on television and on radio. Once, you do that, you reach out to so many people and they understand my take on this whole thing. I think there is hardly any Cameroonian who up to, and including now has not known Nico Halle’s position.
We are also saying that interpersonal communication can only reinforce mass communication; if you came to me directly and said, ‘what you said go back and unsay it,’ you would have touched a heart.
You see, that is your own approach. I am Nico Halle and having my own approach. My approach is not confrontational. Peace crusading is not confrontational, that is the difference between Nico Halle and others. They will go confrontational, but Nico Halle is peaceful. There is no day you will hear me insulting anybody or promoting violence and it starts from my house, it starts from my office, it starts from wherever. I know that the fact that my stand for the truth is unbendable, uncompromising causes people to smear me, persecute me and blackmail me and each time I see that, I am happy, it means that I am doing something.
Would you die ready for it, if you died crusading for peace?
I am sure you know that in November, December 2017 when it was bad on the ground and I was out for two weeks in the Northwest and Southwest, I went to Mamfe; that was the boiling period.Just the day before, they had killed two gendarmes. I went to where the killings took place against all counsel. I went to all the military bases and I spoke with them. I told them that we need to respect our human rights. I prayed with them and I asked that the Lord should enable them do work for the nation. I went around; I met politicians in the Northwest, met some in Southwest and these are the two Regions that are greatly affected.
If you were to ask me if I will die, if I left Bamenda and everybody who heard I was going to Mamfe said don’t go. In any case I told them I will die eventually, if I die communing, fellowshipping with my people of the Southwest, I will not care. But I went and met the people; they embraced me and that impacted. The fact that somebody had showed concern at that time… I could have been shot if they wanted to, but to be very honest with you, they embraced me in the Northwest and the Southwest Regions where I went to.
Have the authorities recognized and appreciated what you are doing,whichothers could only set out to dowith blaring sirens in tow and for mouth watering per diems?
I want to let you know that, across the board, I have been appreciated and that is what for me is the motto; that is what motivates me to do more, because I have been appreciated for what I have been doing for peace to reign in this nation; not only in the Northwest and Southwest. My peace crusading is not limited to the Northwest and Southwest. You are aware that of recent, I had an international award for peace crusading not just in Cameroon, Africa but the entire world. It means that the ripples of what I have been doing are worldwide.
And has that included perhaps reaching out to the Diaspora Cameroonians who are like fanning the embers of the separatism?
When you preach peace, you are preaching peace for all. You don’t say this peace or what I am preaching should go for this people and this should go for the other people. You preach peace for all, because peace is good for everybody and that is my take on that. I am preaching peace and I will continue to preach until peace returns.If peace does not return, I will continue to preach. I am praying and I know sooner or later, peace will return to this nation. It is a beautiful nation blessed by God. God cannot allow Cameroon to be shredded and the state at which it is, it, can still be recuperated. I think that we just need to be confident, determined, and love and have confidence in each other, we will come out of this situation. I am very optimistic and positive.
On that comforting note, Barrister Nico Halle, we want to thank you for accepting to talk to us.
Thank you very much, may God bless you and bless The Rambler.
Interviewed by Nester Asonganyi & Charlie Ndi Chia

Internal frictions at ELECAM may jeopardize elections

A rift between a faction loyal to the Board Chair and another firmly behind the Director General could plunge the electoral board in confusion ahead of crucial elections later this year.
The tussle had been boiling within the corridors of ELECAM for the past months but came to the limelight at the weekend when board members held a meeting in Yaounde to pass a vote of no confidence on the Director General Abdoulaye Babale, accusing him of mismanaging human and financial resources.
According to a communiqué signed by the board chair of ELECAM Enow Abrams Egbe, the Director General has been found wanting amongst others, repeated failure to attend statutory sessions aimed at harmonization ahead of the upcoming elections.
According to the communiqué, Mr. Babale’s comportment has de-motivated ELECAM staff, inflicting a serious dent on the body’s image on the eve of elections.
However, the Board could only fall short by establishing the gross misconduct charge on Abdoulaye Babalaye with the decision to fire him resting on the Head of State who was at the time reported to be in Mvomeka’a for the burial of his nephew who perished in a military accident in Limbe a couple of weeks ago.
Babale’s fight back
Abdoulaye Babale had already read the handwriting on the wall even before Friday’s event and in an attempt to win part of the ELECAM staff to his side, organized a seminar for all ELECAM staff nationwide between the 22-24 May in Douala, Garoua and Yaounde.
According to an ELECAM insider, they were all placed on mission allowances and financial benefits which was the first time such was happening under Abdoulaye Babale.
During the three-day seminar aimed at training ELECAM workers on handling elections in a democratic setting, Abdoulaye Babale announced that 253,000 news voters had been registered on the electoral lists as of May 10.
He used the opportunity to distribute 720 new electoral kits to ELECAM Regional heads which would in turn be distributed at the various Divisional and Sub-Divisional levels.
Babale also addressed the status of several ELECAM staffers that were set to go on strike either because of their status within the organisation of their financial benefits. He blamed the situation on administrative bottlenecks and hitches which he inherited from his predecessor but promised them their situation would be normalized before the elections.
While Babale was giving assurances to ELECAM staff on May 24, the Board was thus meeting to charge him with gross misconduct.
Analysts hold that this tussle between the Board Chair and the Director General might seriously jeopardize the organization of elections in the country given that it has created two camps within the institution.
This is not the first time ELECAM is witnessing a tussle at the helm with Samuel Fonkam Azu’u and Mohaman Sani Tanimou swept aside from the organisation after they failed to settle their differences.
Many have since been suspecting that Babale would be swept away from the house following his publication of first figures of Senatorial results on the night of the polls only to be pressured into publish contradicting figures less than 24 hours later.
Whoever comes out on top in this latest soap at ELECAM, the real battle however lies on the field, especially in the two English-speaking Regions where violence could pose a big threat to the conduct of the elections.
By Francis Ajumane