“One and indivisible” is a status every worthy citizen would wish for his country. That it became a war cry of sorts for the Head of state, was an acknowledgment that the integrity – indeed the very survival – of the state of Cameroon was on the line. For this to happen, the threat must come either from a strong, external force that stands to benefit from our disintegration as a nation, or from home-grown disenchantment with the health of our commonwealth. By all indications the dominoes had begun falling one by one and the main political players were not paying attention. So, did the cry come too late? And is the state rushing to put out the fire with fuel rather than water in the fire engines? Are the alleged night visits to influential West Cameroonian monarchs a sign that we are beginning to understand that “one-and –indivisible” cannot be achieved by decree or by blood and iron? Are we finally ready to come down from our high horses and acknowledge that no head is ever bigger than the shoulders that carry it? Is it finally hitting home that millions of CFA that have gone in smoke trying to corrupt people against their own aspirations have been nothing but a shameful waste of scarce resources?
If this be the case, we dare hope that the people who are in detention for no ostensible reason other than an attempt to break their will – that these will be released forthwith. Justice for them has been long delayed and thereby denied, but the people are big enough in their minds to let that pass, if the government can do the right thing while it is still time.
September is approaching, and West Cameroonian children hope to return to school. Many of them don’t know why they have been out of school in the first place. Government has been busy giving the impression that their parents are just being irresponsible, without considering that many of them had already paid fees for the time they did not go to school. In painting this kind of picture of parents, the government seems unaware that it is sowing seeds of family disintegration, thereby eroding the very foundation of the state. If the government wants to be seen as caring for the children more than their own parents, one hopes that when this whole conundrum gets sorted out, the burden of their fees will be alleviated by a substantial subsidy.
But we know that that the sticking point is that government would not been seen to lose face, and the teachers and parents are convinced that if they let up now, all their suffering and that of their children will have been in vain.
In this log jam, it is imperative to ask what it is that would satisfy the striking teachers and lawyers, as well as the masses who continue to ground their own businesses in protest. The government in his own social media outreach emphasizes the children’s right to education. West Cameroon parents are demanding, not just education – but quality education – which they are convinced this government is unwilling or unable to provide. For them therefore, “one-and-indivisible” is a figment, as far as education is concerned. And education is everything. So it looks like returning to the drawing board is Hobson’s choice for this nation.
Politically we are one country, by the marriage contracted in 1961, and we still believe that our interest is best served if we stay one, and rigorously respect the terms of our coming together. However, because of the lore and mores we imbibed from our colonial past, we are so fundamentally different that the molecules of our make-up keep repelling rather than bonding. A few examples will help.
- There is no corruption-free society, but combating corruption part of the business of governing. However, while in one of our two entities there was zero tolerance for corruption, in the other corruption and graft are the rule rather than the exception. In the course of the current crisis the media have been awash with reports of government’s sustained attempts to bribe West Cameroonian it deems influential. Fortunately, and according to the same reports, many of them have stood rock-solid in their integrity. So it seems government’s attempts to forge the “one-and-indivisible” have instead exposed the fissures between our two sub-cultures.
- Of our two sub-cultures, one is given to flamboyance, superficiality and an expansive lifestyle where the end justifies the means, and this leads inevitably to living beyond one’s means which is the bedrock of corruption and graft. The other is given to frugality, reserve and self-censure and restraint with people cutting their coat according to their size.
- With regard to the rule of law, the one subculture believes that rules are meant to be bent and broken, as long as you can get away with it. This is responsible for the near-normalisation of examination fraud for instance. In the other sub-culture those who bend rules or indulge in any form of fraud know they cannot expect mercy from the law.
- The one places principles above interests and so has a hard time bonding with an anything-goes culture where you are considered a failure for sacrificing your personal convenience on the altar of moral values and general interest.
- Both subcultures believe in the need for strong, dependable leadership but while the one fears and virtually deifies its leaders, the other respects every leader but considers him/her merely as primus inter pares, and is violently averse to leaders who expect to be feared.
- The one recognizes the people’s right to differ openly even with those in authority, while the other stifles all contrary opinions and reduces people to impotent grumblers in the face of abuse – thus sentencing them to perpetual drunkenness to drown their sorrows.
- In the one, public servants are what their name implies, while the other elevates them to the status of masters with the taxpayers at their mercy.
- The one believes in holding all elected officials to account at all times while the other allows social accountability to be swept under the rug of unquestionable power.
- The one believes in a strong sense of personal honour and reliability, while in the other institutionalized deceit is condoned, and nobody can be put beyond falsehood, not even those who incarnate the state.
- In education, the one celebrated knowledge for its own sake, allowing for personal efforts to complement what the teacher has to offer; while the other is certificate-driven and thrives on rote – on reproducing what is taught. Additional research is construed as challenging the teacher.
- The one believes in a code of social decency that respects people’s personal space while the other tolerates hustling and huddling even across gender lines, which raises the level of promiscuity and puts sexual behaviour on a very low moral ebb.
- In one the law is supreme and draws its strength from natural justice, while in the other it can be manipulated and even waived by those in power. That’s why even the head of the judiciary could confess his hands were tied (understandably by his loyalty to the president. And that is why the President can, with total impunity, tinker with the Supreme law.
- In the application of criminal law, the one holds accused persons innocent until they are proven guilty, while the other assumes they are guilty until they can prove otherwise.
- It is all these differences put together, aggravated by the arrogance of those in power, that have driven some West Cameroonians to the conclusion that the two entities are incompatible and should be sundered. It is The Rambler’s reasoned position, however, that these differences can be contained in a federal structure which allows each segment to practice the lifestyle it is used to, and to emulate whatever they like in the other’s way of life.
- This brings us to the ultimate difference, namely that West Cameroonians now know with, documented proof, that in joining their brothers in 1961 they actually walked into joint slavery under the French. While they are revolted by age-old French impositions on our country, they see themselves as being further subjugated by their own brothers. Unwilling to brook this anymore, they now seek to break away from the French stranglehold. This means that for even federation to work, the entire Republic must commit to independence with a new meaning. Does Biya dare?