By Ngoko Monyadowa
Like his father with whom he shares everything except skin complexion; God has not endowed Cameroon’s Prime Minister Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute with towering physical presence. However, what he lacks in terms of stature is vastly noticeable in out-of-proportion intelligence and sense of humour that make him good company any time, be it in University amphitheatres where students acclaim his brilliance in imparting elements of the Law of Tort or conversation when hors pair infectious and affectionate bonhomie and camaraderie illumine otherwise drab moments. Indeed, nature and nurture have conspired to implant greatness in him. This explains why barring a short spell in Presbyterian Boys School Kumba Town, where he cut his teeth in the turbulent enterprise of purposeful learning, he has always been a child of providence or living on public till.
By the tender age of 12, he had wriggled his way into one of the early badges of illustrious youths admitted into the Federal Bilingual Grammar School in Man-O War Bay, Victoria. This marks the period when the seeds of “one and indivisible Cameroon” began taking root in him since many of his school and classmates had come from the other side of the Mungo. The grain of “living together” continued to blossom as he trudged on to the University of Yaounde, where students from the entire country had to exhibit mettle in distinguishing themselves as crème de crème, regarding academics with the possibility of becoming mentors of the next generation. Of course, the big brain that he is endowed with easily came into play as he emerged among those recommended for further studies in European and American Universities.
Five years later, he returned with the worthy feat of being holder of a Doctorate degree in Law. In the event, he went to the University of Yaounde as Lecturer, the obvious choice at the time, even as his former masters were still the only cocks that crowed. He, nevertheless, made another distinction shortly thereafter, by attracting the attention of the Head of State, Paul Biya who was on the lookout for competent and morally upright Cameroonians to assist in materializing a nascent dream of Cameroon swimming with the tides of newfound credo – rigour and moralization. In the circumstance, Dion Ngute, was catapulted at the tender age of 32 to Deputy Director General of ENAM. He was to be adjudged four years later to have absorbed enough of President Biya’s governance ethos and appointed Director General of ENAM.
Nine years at the helm of ENAM may be said to have been years of mixed blessings. While being devoid of latter-day admission scandals that have rocked the erstwhile elitist school in the aftermath of his departure on promotion as Minister, its products have not done much to project the moral uprightness highlighted during his stay as head of the prestigious institution. Badmouthing alludes to the putrid pottage served to Cameroonians by those who have had the privilege of going to ENAM at the time Chief Ngute was Director General. Take it or leave it, they are managers of today’s Cameroon in all spheres of national life. Some may say they are at the receiving end, merely executing orders decided upon at higher quarters. Unfortunately, that is not what reaches the eyes of ordinary Cameroonians. They are seen daily at Divisional Offices, Treasuries, Taxation and Customs. Their services reek of acquisitiveness and sleaze!
Furthermore, as Minister Delegate in Charge of Commonwealth Affairs, his undisclosed assignment consisted in dousing the embers of Anglophone irredentism that had begun rearing its head in the early 1990s. The climax of this trouble-shooting assignment was during the seizure of the African Court of Arbitration in Banjul, Gambia, by the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC and other groups advocating better governance in Cameroon regarding respect accorded the 1961 Foumban agreement. Of course, the services of a brilliant lawyer with international exposure readily thrust itself on government and the choice advertently or inadvertently fell on Dion Ngute. His “brilliant” performance in postponing the current political turmoil in Cameroon evoked the semblance of a “done deal.” Unfortunately, the verdict was not respected. The court had asked the Biya regime to dialogue with the leaders of aggrieved Anglophones. This, incidentally, was ignored because they were termed terrorists. Today, Cameroon is politically marooned!
In the circumstance, it is not surprising that being a chip of the system and having transmitted same to his students, the choice of Prime Minister had fallen on Dion Ngute on January 4, 2019. His emergence on the political scene at this critical moment is timely. Timely, in the sense that he needs all the savvy inherent in his big brain to convince Southern Cameroonians that what he had embarked on, 11 years ago in Banjul, has ceased trailing him. Yes, there has to be concrete evidence that he will not bring the government bias he took to Banjul to bear on his current assignment as Chair of the recently decreed “Major National Dialogue”. He must per force, induce confidence in Anglophones that they are not just going to Yaounde for a Safari trip-that there is much in stock for them in terms of improved governance. Indeed, he has to dispel all alienation traceable to the Foumban and Tripartite accords- cris de guère of Anglophone irredentism.
Such improvement, ipso facto, includes a complete overhaul to cordon-off the current over-centralized system of governance by complete devolution of power through transparent elections for President, Governors, Mayors and Councilors. This should, also, be preceded by a recant of the current electoral architecture by taking on board independent candidatures and proscription of the list system in favour of individual candidatures. Moreover, a two-round Presidential election characterized by limited mandate of five years renewable once, should be considered in tandem with revenue generation and allocation benefiting from autonomy at the regional level such that only an agreed percentage goes to the central government while the remnant stays to foster development at the grassroots level. On top of this, revenue allocation being the fulcrum on which development revolves should respect the principle of derivation. This means each locality that generates revenue by whatever means, deserves an agreed percentage of same for livelihoods improvement.
Another thorny issue that must be uppermost in the mind of the Prime Minister is land tenure. The current system that ascribes land ownership to government instead of Chiefs and local communities should be considered moribund. The icing on the cake in this case, will be once and for all trashing of the issue of dual nationality in favour of current victims of unwarranted vilification.
On the whole, the task is daunting even for someone with acclaimed intellectual prowess and intimidating trouble- shooting capacity.
However, despite the exceedingly faulty premise underpinning the Major National Dialogue, it is the conviction here that Mr. Prime Minister’s big brain can handle all of this and even more. The view that he is merely fulfilling a coordinating role without final say is acknowledged but given the aura of urbaneness that surrounds him, it is possible to convince Mr. Biya that a change in the governance architecture of Cameroon has become a categorical imperative. This is an opportunity to have his name written in gold just like failure to live up to expectation will obviously relegate an otherwise brilliant career of service to the nation to the repository of turncoats whose disservice to Cameroon remain indelible.