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.

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