Journalist Atia Tilarious Scores ‘Excellent’ Grade At PhD Defence

Dr Atia (in suit) flanked by defence panelists and wife

By Hope Nda, Esam Mmah & Blessing Nkeanglefack

Former Political Desk Editor of The Sun Newspaper, Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, has earned a Doctorate Degree in Political Science at the University of Buea with a grade of ‘Excellent’.

He defended the thesis on August 3, at the conference room of UB’s Faculty of Social and Management Sciences before a six-member panel that included his two supervisors: Prof James Abangma Arrey and Associate Prof James Kewir Kiven.

Atia’s thesis, entitled: “Intra-party Democracy in Cameroon: A Study of Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) and the Social Democratic Front (SDF)”, concluded that intra-party democracy was still far-fetched within Cameroon’s two oldest political parties.

The study revealed that the administration of these parties is centralised and grassroots militants have little say.

Explaining what he termed as “significant deficits in democratic choices of leaders”, he said both parties have never had a change of leaders since they were created over 30 years ago. They also lack proper and independent mechanisms to handle internal conflict.

“If political parties are supposed to enhance democracy, they have to start from the house. Charity begins at home. But the political parties themselves appear not to be as democratic,” Dr Atia noted.

“I took the example of the CPDM, which is the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, and the SDF, which is the Social Democratic Front. The parties all have ‘democratic’ in their names, but when you go into practice you see that there’s something lacking. The institutionalisation of democracy does not exist. Intra-party democracy remains a myth,” he argued.

The study, he furthered, had aimed to investigate factors that affected intra-party democracy within the ruling CPDM and SDF political parties.

His review of the parties’ activities and interviews with politicians and other personalities revealed that ethnicity and regionalism significantly influence decisions within the CPDM and SDF. He also found out that the parties’ existence has been marked by a lot of internal corruption and intimidation of dissenting voices, which are not in line with democratic principles.

“We recommend that the SDF, CDPM and other political parties should be internally democratic. They should ensure that what is in the party texts should be respected. If the party text says elections should be every five years then it should be respected. If they say elective convention should be every four years, they should respect it,” he recommended.

The problematic of the study was anchored on the proliferation of multiple political parties in Cameroon (329 according to MINAT), whereas democracy remains immature and limping in the country. He sought to find out why democracy in Cameroon was considered dangling, despite the huge number of political parties. He contrasted this with countries like the USA, which has a thriving democracy with just two main political parties.

His supervisors, Prof Abangma James and Associate Prof James Kewir Kiven, noted in their interventions during the defence that the work was timely and relevant to Cameroon’s political discourse.

Prof. Abangma said: “The work is innovative. It is also topical because the candidate went into findings that the two parties, which are considered to be the main parties in Cameroon that is, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement and the Social Democratic Front, all of them have the word democracy inscribed in their names, and so the candidate went to find out whether internally they are democratic.

“So the work is actually trying to put what is assumed to be and what is actually practised and the candidate came out with a lot of interesting findings.”

He further remarked that the work was “an invaluable material” for the SDF and CPDM parties.

For three hours, Jury members took turns to grill Atia Tilarius on the research and the conclusions he had arrived at. The jury members included: Prof Guy Mvelle (Chairperson); Prof Joseph Nfi and Associate Prof Peter Sakwe Masumbe (Rapporteurs); Prof John Ndefru (Members); Prof James Abangma and Prof James Kewir Kiven (Supervisors).

Before recommending him for a PhD in Political Science with a Grade of Excellent, they were unanimous that the work was relevant and that he had demonstrated a finger-tip mastery of the subject matter.

Before earning his PhD in Political Science, Atia previously earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in the same field some years back.

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