Issues at stake

Of Dion Ngute’s Peace Efforts, Teachers And Salary-Suspension

Yerima Kini Nsom

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The name Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute rings a bell in the minds of many Cameroonians. In many respects,  that name charms the caller’s lips, not just because its owner is a soft-spoken and boyishly handsome gentleman and the Prime Minister of Cameroon, but also because the traditional ruler of Bongongo Village in Ndian Division of the Southwest Region is President Paul Biya’s peace apostle to the crisis-hit Anglophone Cameroon.

Appointed in the heat of the crisis, the very erudite Joseph was, among other functions, saddled with the responsibility of making sure that the hoopla frizzles out to normalcy before Cameroon takes the unenviable position in the comity of war-torn nations. Small wonder that he has travelled to the two Regions twice with an olive branch. His visit to the Bamenda last week, was a double-trust outing. He seemed to have courted the goddess of the media, given the wide positive coverage he enjoyed. In stark juxtaposition, Chief Dion Ngute incidentally listened to and even nodded to the weird music of the artillery gunfire that has been animating the two Regions for five years now.

 In order to succeed in this delicate mission by effectively mediating in the logjam, the Prime Minister must fire-fight the malfeasances of some overzealous administrators and emergency patriots who are stoking the embers of the crisis in their words and actions. It is a nasty fit of cacophony when the Prime Minister is preaching peace on bended knees while some administrators are busy, declaring war on civil servants, especially teachers. Teachers in the two crisis-ravaged Regions are hemmed in the vicious catch-22 situation. The Separatist fighters are turning the heat on teachers, kidnapping for ransom, maiming and killing some of them to enforce their school boycott campaign. On the other hand, some administrators have exhibited their wickedness on teachers by ordering for the suspension of their salaries, accusing them of abandoning their jobs. They pretend that they do not know that these teachers are running away from the lethal acts of the bullet and machete army of desperate bandits and Separatists fighters. The irony is that the administrators, who are threatening the teachers and pushing them into insecurity, sneak around in armoured cars, protected by a phalanx of well-armed body guards and a cordon of dreaded soldiers.

A certain administrator in Ngoketunjia Division, whose retirement is long overdue, has taken the lead in victimising civil servants in his area. He is reported to have forwarded a list of 1,600 teachers, requesting for the suspension of their salaries. The suspension is said to have already started with some teachers whose names begin with letter ‘A’. The administrator, who goes about in a bullet-proof jacket, says if any teacher is killed because he has gone back to school, his or her name will get into the history annals of the country as a martyr who died for a just cause.

What callousness! What cruelty! Worse, the administrator, who is causing the suspension of teachers’ salaries does not live in Ndop. He has taken up permanent residence at Ayaba Hotel in Bamenda. The same situation holds sway in Boyo Division wherein the salaries of some 80 teachers have been suspended in the month of September alone. Such suspensions are quite brutal, because, the scruples of the administrative procedure are not respected.

Some unscrupulous administrators are using the suspension of salaries as a money-making business. Yours sincerely got it on good authority that teachers and other civil servants pay huge sums of money to the administrators or to a racketeering network at the Ministry of Finance for their salaries to be re-instated. In some cases, the victim civil servants pay FCFA 100,000 while others pay as much as FCFA 500,000 for the re-instatement of their salaries.

It does not matter which way it goes. The unscrupulous administrators have the proclivity of putting their fingers in every financial pie. Thus, teachers who have become victims of such a catch-22, have contracted huge debts from financial institutions, either to pay for ransoms when kidnapped or bribe for the lifting of the suspension on their salaries. Others, who do not have the means to borrow money, have just gone frustrated in misery as they await for the ultimate end. The life of the civil servant, especially the teacher, in these two Regions, is a running tale of stress, fear, harassment, victimisation and frustration. The multiplier effects of the suspension of salaries is breeding so much animosity and fanning the embers of the crisis. The administrators, under whose Machiavellian sway the crisis exacerbates, are using teachers as the scapegoats. By such acts, they are tacitly cultivating more anti-government sentiments in many families and villages. As teachers continue to reel under administrative intimidation and blackmail, it is likely that many of them are nursing sympathy for the Separatists. The administrators are quick to give the teachers a bad name so as to hang them financially.

For one thing, observers have taken a swipe on such unscrupulous administrators for imposing a reckless procession of misery and animosity on the teachers. The starved and muzzled teachers are living through an untellable horror. Victimising teachers who are running away for their lives is like chasing the shadow while leaving the object to go scot-free. It is like victimising the victim. Can the administrators who are threatening teachers all the time bring back the lives of teachers who were killed by the Separatist fighters? Can they bring back the life of the teacher who was killed in Ndop recently? Why not also give these teachers bullet-proof jackets, bodyguards and armoured cars. For heaven’s sake, not only the lives of the administrators matter… those of teachers too matter a lot.

Many administrators seem to be suffering from many ailments induced by wilful arts of greed and corruption. They keep using one injustice to justify another. One Minister urged and even threatened traditional rulers who ran away from insecurity to go back to their palaces in the two Regions. Interestingly, this very minister remained mute when some chiefs were killed in Lebialem recently. What is the plight of the Divisional Delegates who were kidnapped in Ndian? The administrators seem to have taken an oath of silence over the matter as their families remain inconsolable.

These are the malfeasances that Chief Dr. Dion Ngute should arrest to make sure that his peace efforts are not eroded by unscrupulous administrators who are incapable of transcending their parochial incubus in the discharge of their duties. As a man who has put the imperative of peace over every partisan consideration and parochial biases, Dion Ngute should shout halting orders on the undue victimisation of civil servants. For, such acts are counter-productive to the efforts he is making to bring back peace to the two Regions.

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