By Charlie Ndi Chia
See what they have done to Mr. President! He was upbeat. He kept insisting that Cameroon will be ready to host the 2019 edition of African Football Cup of Nations, AFCON. He swore without any prompting in practically every policy speech he made that every piece of relevant infrastructure would be in place as and when due for the hosting of this foremost continental jamboree.
But the last time we checked, ‘AFCON Cameroon 2019’ was an opium dream. Cameroon had been ignominiously stripped of the hosting rights for very obvious embarrassing reasons we wouldn’t want to bore you with for now. As we write, the chances of the Indomitable Lions partaking at this year’s AFCON due to take off in less than three weeks, are hanging in the balance. The Comoros Islands insists that Cameroon lost the legal right to partake, and have gone to equity with hands that may be cleaner than Yaounde would want to accept.
Egypt was readier at very short notice, much more so than Cameroon that had several years to prepare for the event. Media reports claimed that while Mr. President bleated about how he would personally ensure that the event holds in Cameroon as and when due, he never [even for once] [personally] visited a single AFCON project site during the entire period of his sweet pep speech making. Looting from the AFCON project budget reportedly went “nuclear,” with certain vote holders and some other individuals concerned with the realization of the project, grabbing and eating until they were regularly vomiting on their shoes. Justice is yet to hold those responsible for scuttling Cameroon’s right to host the biggest continental sporting event. Certain purportedly corrupt individuals identified and fingered instead got promoted shortly after the Confederation of African Football, CAF’s, disqualification bombshell.
Cameroon must have juggled and demonstrated ‘diplomatic contrition,’ because instead of punishing her outright for desecrating the continent’s ‘football tabernacle,’ the Ivory Coast was foxed out of their 2021 hosting rights to give football legend Samuel Etoo’s country another quick opportunity to make amends. Whether this chance would be taken is left to be seen.
Some Six months after Cameroon was shut out of the hosting, the country is busy carrying out a bloody war against Boko Haram and separatists. No doubt, the war project is costing the nation billions monthly, plus international credibility. About a month ago, work was said to have grounded at the ‘Paul Biya’ Stadium, in Olembe near Yaounde. Protesting workers complained that they had not been paid for many months. So did the foreign contractors handling the project. Elsewhere, the road infrastructure linking the hosting venues are either dilapidated or whatever work being carried out here is at snail speed.
Roads, power supply, hotel and health infrastructures, all prerequisites for hosting are inadequate by FIFA and CAF requirements. They just might not be there come 2021. And even as Mr. President has been bleating in his speeches about the nation’s already harnessed electric power potentials, what is visible on the ground is a nation virtually groping in darkness. Last week Yaounde was facing a serious water crisis and the excuse the water board gave for the embarrassment was that there was lack of electrical power supply to gravitate water in the pipes from an Akonolinga catchment.
In most parts of the Northwest and Southwest Regions, including Bamenda and Buea, a running tap is practically celebrated with wine and beer. Certain parts of the two Regions, including major cities like Kumba and Bamenda celebrate a shining bulb. Mamfe is lighted by the national grid for about four or five days in a month. The list goes on and on and applies to many other parts of the Republic, including those that were supposed to have been hosting AFCON in less than three weeks from now. The speeches keep being sweetened. They continue to reassure, and implore us not to believe the evidence of our own eyes as it were.
And we ask ourselves, is it prudent or possible for a nation to prosecute a raging war, moot an elusive dialogue, host a continental soccer jamboree, handle multiple elections, purport to fight poverty to a standstill and strive to remain one and indivisible in just a matter of months? Is it possible for Cameroon to host AFCON without working to curb inertia, ineptitude, corruption and warmongering and still claim not to be dull citizens? The answer is blowing in the wind.