By Yerima Kini Nsom
In the beginning it was federation. And federation was the only way through which the former British Southern Cameroons chose to join La Republique du Cameroun in 1961. To Southern Cameroonians, federation was the only channel through which they could jealously protect and preserve their culture, institutions, their legal and educational systems and their general way of life.
The union between the two States under the banner of the Federal Republic of Cameroon went on fairly well, until President Amadou Ahidjo and his French mentors hatched the 1972 Referendum scam. Thus, the Anglophone Problem that has kept the entire nation on anxious feet for over half a decade now, reared its ugly head in 1972. It is the dividend of the scam in which the former British Southern Cameroonians were stampeded into a certain political dungeon called the Unitary State after the abolition of federation. That is why the word “federation” continues to appear and reappear like a bad coin in the market whenever the Anglophone Problem is mentioned.
The reaction of the Yaounde Government to this, to say the least, has been ridiculous. The obscenely mighty here seem to be magnetically glued to their comfort zone of running a disguised one party dictatorship and a monolithic state. They see federation as a taboo because, in their biased minds, federation is equal to secession.
They are married to the heavy centralised system that has only bureaucracy, corruption, favouritism, tribalism, nepotism and other nation-killing prevailing vices as its virtues.
One thing the Government must learn is that, even the strongest army in the world cannot kill an idea whose time has come. The so-called 1972 referendum only scotched the idea of federation. The idea was not killed and buried or done and dusted because it remains sacrosanct in the minds of Southern Cameroonians who were tricked into the reunification raw deal.
In his book, Freedom and Unity, the late Tanzanian statesman, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, advocates the strict respect of engagements in a very philosophical manner. Hear him: “Principles have a way of revenging themselves. If you break a principle, it will find a way of breaking you. And if a people try to break major principles, those principles will find a way of breaking that people.”
The deadly wave of belligerence in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of the country is a kind of nemesis on the Yaounde regime for breaking the principle of federation in 1972. It is the pay the regime is getting for ignoring the grievances of the citizens of former British Southern Cameroons for five decades.
And let truth be told here. That the federation ideology cannot be killed with guns. Not even the sustained feats of intimidation, intrigues, blackmail, witch-hunting and hypocrisy can do the dirty trick. Worse, kidnapping people for ransom, lockdowns and ghost town operation, can only stoke the embers of misery.
The lame argument mooted against the federation ideology from the summit so far is a worn-out cliché. It states that; “Cameroon is one and indivisible”. Yet, those who take this position have failed to prove that Nigeria, Switzerland, Germany, the USA and other federal states are in disunity for the simple reason that they choose to serve their people through the federal system of Government.
When the idea of decentralisation was first brandished in Cameroon, many people jumped for joy, hoping that it will be something closer to federation if well applied. They thought that it would ensure the effective devolution of powers from the centralised bureaucracy in Yaounde to the people through the local collectivities. They were wrong! The idea was bungled from inception. The very provision that heralds the policy of decentralisation in the 1996 constitution is a mind- bugling contradiction. It states that Cameroon is a decentralised unitary state. The word “decentralised” and “unitary” are contradictory and only betray Government’s half-hearted political will to implement effective decentralisation.
Since 2004 when Parliament adopted the decentralisation law, the transfer of powers and resources to local councils as piecemeal, is virtually at the beck and call of greedy Ministers who are determined not to allow even a watt of their corrupt power go away. Even the putting in place of the Regional Councils, has not changed much. The strings are still being pulled from Yaounde.
That it was the power barons in Yaounde that imposed a certain person as a City Mayor in a certain town in Anglophone Cameroon recently, is a democratic aberration that speaks volumes as the how the so called decentralisation is equal to centralisation. Even when some drops of the decentralisation process are allowed to trickle down, they are adulterated with corruption, administrative bottlenecks and the general bad governance that the establishment is noted for.
This explains why the former British Southern Cameroonians see federation as the only way to salvation in the present dispensation. They see federation as the only lasting solution to the grievances of the lawyers and the teachers and other stakeholders of the English-speaking community. To them, the institution of federation should be the Yaounde regime’s atonement for the numerous mortal sins of marginalisation committed against Southern Cameroonians.
On Wednesday, May 20, drums will be rolled out to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Referendum. Though, May 20 is celebrated as the National Day, many Anglophone activists see it as a jinx and an albatross on the neck of the union between Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun.
They hold that Reunification is a more important landmark event in the history of Cameroon than the 1972 controversial referendum. To them February 11, 1961, on which Southern Cameroonians voted to join their brothers and sisters East of the Moungo, carries the weight and prominence of a National Day than May 20, 1972.
Nonetheless, the authorities who celebrate May 20 could assuage the stigma it carries by using it to turn things around. Next Wednesday will be a joy-filled and national reconciliation day if our President announces a wide range of measures that could lead to a peaceful solution to the Anglophone Crisis. This is not impossible because our lovely President is a very dynamic person who listens to the cries of the people. Thus, those die-hard conservatives who swear by “Kwifon ni tuh” or the “Obassijom” that federation will never be an option for the establishment, should think twice.
They should ask themselves what happened in the 90s when they danced the dimabola and swore that multiparty politics was never going to be an option for the Biya regime. They had demonised party pluralism at the time as a smear campaign to impose imported political models from the west. While they were still dancing the dimabola, President Paul Biya rather cautioned the CPDM cohorts to be prepared for competition.
He went ahead and legalised many opposition parties in Cameroon. So, those who swear by the unitary state should be careful because the President can, one day, reinstate federation for peace to fully return to this beautiful country.