If there was any doubt as to the level of disaffection that Cameroonian nationality evokes among youths, the recent escape of athletes for the third consecutive time after being officially ferried to the Commonwealth Games has come to dispel such illusion. Come to think of it. The young men had been nursing dreams of going to countries where at least some attention is paid to budding talents who are nurtured and pampered to become assets to themselves and to the corporate image of their countries of origin.
Moreover, unlike others who have had to brave the vicissitudes that inhere in trans-Saharan misadventures through northern Cameroon to Chad and Libya and, eventually, life-threatening sea crossings between Libya and Italy or Spain they have had genuine travelling documents prepared by the state and transport fares paid from the public till. So why would they have bothered about coming back to drudgery when hustling out there bodes better prospects of livelihood improvement. Little doubt therefore that no matter what stigma is imputed to the deserting athletes, the unequivocal message they are sending is that “Le pays va mal.”
In a country that pays lip service to the youthful segment of its population, the reaction could not have been otherwise. Generations upon generations of youths have been sacrificed on the altar of greed and nepotism to the point where some people have reached the statutory retirement age of 55 without experiencing the ‘luxury’ of serving Cameroon even in Office Cleaner capacity. One contrivance or the other from the repository of Government magic represented in a skewed system of public service recruitment via competitive examination keeps knocking them off until frustration sets in and relegates them to permanent hangers-on to the apron strings of more fortunate school mates.Beer and food at least are hardly in short supply. And so they become executive beggars. This means that settled family lives of husbands, wives and children become unaffordable luxury. The drudgery, inexorably, accompanies them to their graves. How frustrating?
Oh yes, our youths have been sacrificed by a cabal that has raised gerontocracy to statecraft. Witness the recent clamour by traditional chiefs for President Biya’s candidacy in the upcoming presidential election. Can anything good be expected of chiefs who, out of unbridled sway to pecks from a moribund regime would sacrifice the wellbeing of their subjects? How would we expect youths not to rise against chiefs who spite their existential malaise just so that they may continue to await crumbs under the table? What these aggrieved youths are saying is that life has become unbearable in Cameroon and the only solution is a change of guards by any means.
Little wonder then that at a time when the rest of the world is capitalizing on tertiary industries’ contribution to generate wealth, we are still obsessed with second generation agriculture mantra in the face of abysmal incapacity to even engage first generation agriculture. That is our vision for our youths while oldies sit in state- of- the- art furnished offices, producing nothing but preying on the public till. Instead of creating avenues to engage the vitality of this rugged segment of our population, we contrive avenues to enrich kinsmen and regime loyalists. And so every means is sought to entrench the already asphyxiating centralized system of governance just so that a few sycophants with their youthfulness behind them continue to cling to the commonwealth like leaches. Where then is the place of our teeming youths? Why would they not see opportunity in illegal sojourn in more developed countries?
This explains why the Ministries of Education- Secondary, Basic, Civic, Higher and Youths and Sports that are all meant for the development of our teeming youths are all manned by individuals who have celebrated their diamond jubilees. Moreover, given that our statecraft makes no room for appointment of youths, all the Directors and Service Head positions are allocated to much older people. As if that is not enough, there are ministries in charge of development-Plan and Regional, Agriculture and Rural and very recently Decentralization and Local Development. Whatever this are supposed to mean remains a question to be answered by Biya’s spin doctors. If you add the Senate, and other moribund institution like the Economic and Social Council and Commission for Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, the picture of how the youths of this nation are deliberately fenced off becomes more glaring. These are moribund institutions whose leitmotif is reward to toadying the Biya regime. How then would the youths be encouraged to stay at home?
Were we expecting these frustrated youths to be patriotic on empty stomachs? Of course no! Patriotism stems from recognition of the value that the state attaches to the wellbeing of its citizens. It is certainly not a commodity that is sold in the open market and as such available to all and sundry. It is earned through governance that endears itself to the citizens via institutionalized populism. When this is raised to the pedestal of statecraft, obeisance to state emblems and constitutional provisions becomes automatic. Even in the circumstance where attempts have been made to concoct a simulacrum of concern for the youths, our pervasive inclination to line our pockets instead of serving the public deflects such initiatives into nothingness.
We do not plan for the benefit of the country but, for designated individuals and in the course of such insouciance, the country drifts into cataclysm. When the youths rise up in revolt as was the case in February 2008, the riposte from President Biya is that they had been under the instrumentality of some misguided political upstarts since they are not endowed with reasoning faculty. This explains why they have been taken off guard by Anglophone youths who have reached the point of sacrificing their lives for the improvement of governance in the country. Their resolve is informed by nothing else than the wellspring of frustration that has taken hold of their segment of society.
The situation has degenerated to the point where death means nothing to them. Whether it comes from joining the regular army or separatist forces, hesitance has been relegated to the background. Those who see no hope in fighting have opted for the misadventure of crossing the Sahara desert into Chad and Libya and eventually to Europe, with all the attendant risks of being sold into slavery, murdered or marooned on the high seas.
The country’s leadership has indeed lost legitimacy but, would not want to admit their condition and make way for a more dynamic system, powered by vibrant forces, whose youthfulness is an invaluable asset. Surprisingly, its headship keeps parodying the notion of youths being the leaders of tomorrow. Very impressive selling point, indeed! However, the reality on the ground is that our youths remain endangered species until such a time that they will take responsibility of being the potters that handle the clay to shape their destinies. This is very easy. They do not need the barrel of the gun as is currently the case. Let them register massively on electoral registers and vote out the Biya political rubble into obsolescence. This way there will be room for building a new Cameroon in which they will be pioneers.
By Ngoko Monyadowa