Who wants Fru Ndi’s head?

By Ngoko Monyadowa

Today’s epistle is an offshoot of the recent calamities visited on the person of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi and, by extension the already dwindling prominence of the party. Interest here inheres not so much in the newsworthiness of the party as the issue of their contemporaneity with political upheavals in the country. The fact that his recent abduction comes on the heels of other public relations fiasco emanating from the Chairman’s unreasoned visit to SONARA and the unfortunate aftermath of being muddied by a low cadre administrator fit to be his grandson is quite telling and, raises the spectre of a man at the helm of a party that acts on impulse instead of laid down strategy. Indeed, the pendulum swings of fate have not been kind to the SDF and its maverick Chairman in the recent past as epitomized also, by the saga of key to Limbe metropolis handed to him by the John Elufa Manga Williams, first class chief in waiting of the OPEC city.

Contrary to the perspective many have leaned on-that is Fru Ndi deserved the loathsome treatment showered on him during his botched attempt to show concern for the incendiary occurrence in Cameroon’s lone refinery, the contention here is that we must always make a distinction between political correctness and simple rules of decorum or etiquette. While admitting that Fru Ndi’s idiosyncrasy might have induced him not to exhibit concern much earlier for the more than 14,000 workers unceremoniously driven into penury by the activities of separatist militias, such a slip in diligence has nevertheless, impacted negatively on the viewpoint many Cameroonians hold on his person and the party he incarnates. Is he telling the public that he did not hear about chopped off fingers from the hands of workers who attempted to dare the separatists by going to work? Did the inferno at SONARA have to sprout for him to be jolted to sanity?

Oh no, Mr. Chairman while not pandering to the objectionable behavior of the officials at Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, headquarters who ensured that a low-keyed, if not, snobbery reception was reserved for you during your almost afterthought visit to their premises, conventional wisdom would have impelled a more civil approach to issues of protocol and administrative niceties by ensuring that your visit is duly programmed.

 Even more embarrassing is the fact that a prominent personality like Fru Ndi, at least, considering antecedents relating to the restoration of multi-party politics in Cameroon and other sacrifices bearing on chivalry and erstwhile charisma, was reduced to a mere pauper by the agency of an upstart administrator passing off for Sub Divisional Officer for Limbe II who barred him from achieving his public relations stunt of visiting the charred remains of the once vibrant SONARA.

This incident readily brings to mind the impertinence of administrative officials especially, those sent to function in the English speaking part of the country. With a pigeon-holed mentality or mindset that predicates every issue on state authority leaving no room in its wake for personal initiatives infused unto them while in ENAM, there can be no gainsaying the fact that wet-nose administrators will be prone to unleashing abominable acts of indecency even to evidently respectable citizens. And, this is precisely the case with Fru Ndi, who advertently or inadvertently, opened his flanks to the exuberance of a “one and indivisible Cameroon” fanatic.

With the current situation of descent to free for all and his sometimes unguarded statements that exude indictment of the government for incompetence in handling the Anglophone crisis, it is not surprising that even without orders from above, fanatical Biya apologists could seize any available opportunity to drag the iota of honour he still possesses into opprobrium.

Coming back to the Key to Limbe metropolis issue, the wonder here is that the very chiefs who are unrepentant about Fru Ndi being disrobed of the honour of being in possession of the Key to the OPEC city are the very ones who had championed an earlier move that materialized in the bestowal of the same honour on the Senior Divisional Officer for Fako, Engamba Emmanuel. When chiefs reduce themselves to serfs and poodles of administrators and illegitimate politicians, the upshot is not surprisingly, the condescending posturing akin to what the governor of the Southwest region Bernard Okalia Bilai indulged in the advent to this year’s May 20 celebrations.  Moreover, if it is true as has been postulated that the persona dramatis John Manga Williams, had been summoned to Yaounde by a regime top brass and forced to recant his previous act of civility to Fru Ndi, then the issue is one of premature obsession with being seen to be in the good books of the paymaster-in this case Emperor Paul Biya.

As for the abduction of the SDF chairman, it is taken here with a pinch of salt. While condemning such an action that projects nothing short of moral depravity, there is every reason to believe that in a country that has exhibited undisguised signs of descent into a failed state, given that even known armed robbery gang leaders, money launderers, and all sorts of mobsters find their places within the governing class, nothing comes as surprise. While Fru Ndi’s post release narrative evokes clear signs linking his abduction to Ambazonian separatists, there is also the possibility of an unseen hand from the lunatic fringe of government that may want to affix an image of extremism on Anglophone separatists that is stalling the much desired inclusive dialogue. Fru Ndi, deposed that the crux of his abduction is his inability or refusal to withdraw SDF parliamentarians and senators from the current national assembly. This assertion is brought to naught by the fact that the concerned lawmakers, or is it breakers, won election in different constituencies and their stay or withdrawal from the national assembly does not depend on the Chairman. It has to be an individual decision.

What is certain is that whoever is behind the abduction of the SDF Chairman does not have a firm grasp of the issues at stake. Fru Ndi, is not a separatist and so whatever he does with the Biya regime should be of no interest to the Ambazonian cause. In fact, if as Fru Ndi claims, his abductors are from the Ambazonia fringe of separatists, then, such a lunatic clime is doing a disservice to their struggle. How then can they exculpate themselves from the stigma of extremism that has hung on the throat of president Biya like a sword of Damocles? On the other hand, if the hand of Jacob is impersonating that of Esau then we are in for an endless struggle because there are hawks even within the “one and invisible Cameroon” fringe of the political arena who do not want the war to end and by that token come up with antics that postpone meaningful dialogue. Whatever turns out to be the verdict, these are very trying moments for the SDF and its national Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi. A more mature vision and communication strategy is sorely needed to erode the recent gaffes by the Chairman and the party if at all there is hope for rejuvenation in the pip

Those clamouring for Federalism are indeed “walking in the footsteps of our founding fathers.” They are the real patriots imbued with the transformative power to build rather than break the blocks of a unity in diversity nation; they are the genuine foot soldiers content with rewriting on the blackboard of our fifty-five years of uneasy coexistence, the erased memories of a fractured dream. For whoever silences the voices of Federalism only ends up amplifying the whispers of Independence.

Mwalimu George Ngwane,

The Rambler newspaper, January 7th 2017

SDF: Between suffering masses and political correctness

By Ngoko Monyadowa

Prevailing circumstances in the political arena of the polity seem to lend credence to the fact that hindsight may have for once been accorded premium within the ranks of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Cameroon’s erstwhile preeminent opposition party.This can be adduced from the party’s decision subsequent to its immediate past National Executive Council, NEC, meeting that has put paid to the brouhaha relating to eventual participation during upcoming elections in Cameroon. In terms that are not amenable to equivocation, the party has made clear its resolve not to partake in subsequent elections in Cameroon unless government reverses its current lukewarm attitude to the Anglophone crises and brings forth sturdy and permanent solution to bear on it.

 The issue here is not so much SDF’s concern for the contemptible, if not, fatal plight of their most reliable constituencies in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, but more significantly, it is the fact that for once, the party will spare its devotees and adherents the noxious experience of being seen as sheep shepherded by blind men. The war President Biya has declared on Southern Cameroonians and the concomitant pogrom may be as atrocious as it is, but the fate and esteem of the party enjoy pride of place in whatever reckoning that is being brought to bear on decision making. This is so because decisions emanating from SDF’s NEC sometimes emit putrefaction and elicit interrogation as to the sanity of its members. This is certainly not commendable augury for a party that had raised the hopes of many a Cameroonian as a veritable repository of men with integrity that would eventually bring about much sought after change.

With the supra decision, the party seems to have begun evoking strategic thinking as guiding principle to decision making. Perhaps it has begun dawning on its management that the race for power is a process and by extension, elicits strategy and not immediate and expendable tactics. Strategy comes to play when planning envisions a long-term project while tactic is for immediate implementation after which it is consigned to the dust bin. Strategy also deals with planning, execution, evaluation and implementation of corrective measures in cases of failure.

 However, this does not seem to apply in the case of the SDF. Their errors of omission and commission have had tremendous effect on the Cameroonian political landscape. A few examples will suffice to make the point here that foresight and hindsight have hardly been accorded their rightful places by the management of SDF.

In 1992, SDF stayed off parliamentary and municipal elections in an atmosphere where the euphoria from ‘stolen victory’ rented the air in the entire country. Not surprisingly, Bouba Bello Magairi’s UNDP that was not even known in Anglophone Cameroon carried the day with all the seats in the Southwest Province and parts of Northwest. Had the SDF consented to adding its weight at a time when its popularity that hinged more on the Union for Change than the much complimented charisma of Ni John Fru Ndi counted much, the opposition would have had a huge majority in parliament and the councils and by that token, paved the way for the sacking of the CPDM. Its non participation opened the floodgate for opportunists like Augustin Frederick Kodock and Dakole Dissala to come into the fray with one-man shows that attracted ministerial appointments for them to the chagrin of embattled Cameroonians. We are where we are today because of that error in judgment, the current regime’s excesses notwithstanding. This is so because Biya would have, ab initio, not been there today to indulge in such excesses.

Another instance of SDF’s lack of hindsight is its deification of Ni John Fru Ndi, its leader.  In spite of strident calls for the party to regenerate via infusion of younger cadres into its management, particularly, at its helm where the current Chairperson keeps alluding to Biya’s headship of the CPDM instead of seeing reason in stepping down and making way for greater vitality within the party, Fru Ndi, and his cohorts have made SDF to be stigmatized as a Moghamo party where a cabal has entrenched nepotism and tribalism. After taking three shots at the presidency with results showing that he is facing diminishing returns, a discerning person would have left the mantle to another candidate. Oh no! Illusion of grandeur could not have let this happen. Fru Ndi, is larger than life and by inference could not have stepped down for another candidate within the party.  The third attempt of course, brought in the worst result.

Perhaps the worst gaffe by the SDF is its participation during the last presidential election. A combination of factors, including an aura of inflated importance that surrounded the party and, its presidential candidate Joshua Osih, coupled with lack of foresight and hindsight in the fact that Bamileke presence in the SDF was the result of lack of a credible opposition leader among their kith than true adherence and initial underestimation of the Anglophone factor pushed the SDF into its worst disgrace since its creation in 1992. From the leading opposition party, a position it has occupied unchallenged since 1990, the SDF opened its flanks for hitherto unheard of names like Maurice Kamto, (a CPDM renegade) and Cabral Libih to beat it to fourth position. This ordinarily would have never been contemplated. Oh no, the SDF is the leading opposition party! Some try to console themselves with the fact that a presidential election does not really test grassroots strength of a political party. Agreed! But does it change the fact that the representative of the SDF came fourth; two places down from its usual second?

One thing is certain and it is that SDF is not running away from subsequent elections out of concern for the plight of the callous mishandling of the present crisis pitting Southern Cameroonian separatists against the Biya regime. It is merely interested in the votes that its erstwhile sympathisers would bring to bear on its overall performance. This assertion takes root from the fact that SDF and Joshua Osih ought to have known that their main constituents are domiciled in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

 Prodded by such knowledge, they would have quietly stayed away from the immediate past presidential election.Their current detour is not out of sympathy for the plight of emasculated and suffocating Anglophones writhing in the pains of an avoidable pogrom but a political strategy driven by a quest to use the numbers of those who would survive to garnish their now dented and blemished image.

Unfortunately for them, their espousal of a ten state Federation made known for the first time after their last NEC meeting puts them on a head-on collision with majority of Anglophones who now see a return to two-state federation or separation as worst case scenario as best solution to the current crisis. Here again, they are swimming against the tide of hindsight as most Anglophones are distancing themselves from a party that was once the pole of attraction of its political class. Whether their decision is ascribable to coming to terms with the necessity to lean on hindsight or a political tactic to reinvent its attractiveness to Anglophones will remain a matter of conjecture but what is certain is that SDF has lost its erstwhile dynamism and requires urgent reengineering.