By Charlie Ndi Chia
My baby sister, Jane-Frances was precocious. As a toddler she would often make our educated parents look kind of stupid. This was in Victoria, aka Limbe and the “trending” madmen in town were called “Mr. Peter Mr. Mbosowa” and “Commando” respectively. Each time she cried unnecessarily or simply got naughty, I, or any of her older siblings would be asked to play one or the other of the dreadful madmen. Then she would behave herself.
But one day, Jane-Frances decided that she had had enough of the bullying, scaring and cajolery. When no one least expected, Jane-Frances said: “oh oh! Everybody in this house takes me for a fool. Each time I cry, or refuse to eat, Charles, Adolf or Cyril is sent to that window to talk like “Commando. I have known all of those tricks all along, but simply played along…” Jane-Frances was barely two at the time. She’s a grown up woman today with kids and like other Cameroonians, she’s also a bully victim of the ruling class.
She, like teeming numbers of other ‘former’ Cameroonian youths has her interests subsumed by parochial interests. Like many of us before her, she was told, decades ago by the ruling cabal that she is a leader of the Cameroon of tomorrow. I do not know if Uncle Bob routinely reminded his starving compatriots that they were the leaders of tomorrow’s Zimbabwe. I doubt also if the likes of Gnasinbge Eyadema and Omar Bongo spun similar long yarns in Togo and Gabon. What I know for sure is that Omar El Bachir was this big bully who ruled and ruined Sudan and Sudanese. I know that at a point, parochial Western interests noticed that he had wasted too much of Sudan and Sudanese and decided that he should be sentenced by the International Court of Justice. I know too that Sudanese didn’t wait for the Yankees to yank Bachir off the Sudanese state house. They actually kicked his butt while he was still threatening, bullying and jailing opponents. Need we talk of Algeria’s Bouteflika who had crawled back to childhood after many decades in the state house? Or the HIV/AIDS treating Yaya Jammeh, who was practically “Kamtoed” from the Gambian state house.
Though they live in palaces, assured of being buried in gold plaited coffins, these so called leaders presume that they are secured. But they are surrounded by wretched people, living in squalor, lacking water, electricity, good roads and primary healthcare. Bandits, militias, kidnappers, unruly soldiers, emergency pastors and traditional healers are bred here and let loose to roam the place with intent. They get bullied by overlords who almost always forget that community interest is what easily guarantees their individual parochial interest.
But for sadists, hypocrites and other flimflam men, there is hardly any Cameroonian who is happy with the present state of affairs especially as obtains in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. What with hapless refugees crowding homes and scarce facilities on the flip side of the Mungo? It is trite knowledge that all the killings, cursing and tough talking hasn’t had any positive impact on Cameroonians. Not even the choreographed “living together” platitudes. What is pompously referred to as achievements is the tip of the iceberg.
True, if the polity was working and the people are genuinely happy, there would be no need for the current shooting war. Instead, the war budget would be spent on roads, water, electricity and affordable healthcare across the board. But what do we have? Massive corruption, the anti-corruption CONAC notwithstanding simply multiplying, huge infrastructural deficits typified in power outages and lack of potable water worsening. Most of Buea and Bamenda, to name but these two towns still depend on springs and other doubtful sources for drinking water. But official speeches supply millions of gallons of water across the entire nation daily.
Need we talk of unemployment, mass poverty and despair ravaging the populace. Is someone seeing how the CDC is dying off with no one really caring! Is someone taking note of the insecurity that has taken a dangerous dimension with local administrators, including governors regularly dressing like war front generals?
Agreed, the state has as responsibility to apprehend and prosecute criminals as demanded by natural justice and the law. But what do we have here? Regular soldiers and militias are arresting, killing almost at random, with some victims facing various kinds of torture and ransoms before being set free. Elsewhere, amnesty has been granted in the course of, or after minor or major conflicts to end wars, resolve a domestic social problem… Amnesty has been adopted by governments when they believe that having true peace and bringing deviants into compliance with reasonable laws are more beneficial than punishment to end a conflict or facilitate reconciliation after a conflict.
I go back to my little sister. Jane-Frances is a euphemism for those who fear but understand that madness may mean behaving stupidly or dangerously, but that the sane are, every now and again obliged to reason with the mad if they must cross certain bridges. That when the appropriate time comes, madmen must submit themselves to the psychiatrist or be consigned to a mental asylum…
Cheers, and let’s keep suffering and smiling!