By Jing Thomas
As for Biya, he at least makes no pretensions of borrowing a leaf from Ahidjo's balanced development program. He simply hides behind the facade of "national unity" to perpetuate a similar practice of ethnic and regional favoritism. When he single-handedly and arbitrarily abolished the United Republic of Cameroon, national unity was used by some quarters to justify this action. And yet it has now become standard practice for his tribesmen, who have confiscated the nation for themselves and are exposing it to the worst economic rape, to throw non-natives out of their own region.
Before the British Southern Cameroon asserted its independence, its clamor for the initial two-state federation that constituted the basis of the now defunct union was often met with hollow talks of "unite nationale." A cabinet which clearly left out Southern Cameroonians and sounded like a Beti symphony was often justified with "we all working for the same country and we constitute one nation." If so why do all the positions go to people of the same region and the president's at that? Why all the fuss about the Bamileke taking everything? Why the outrage when a prelate from another part of the country replaces a Beti in the Yaounde diocese? Come to think of it, some Cameroonians can only be given things, they simply cannot learn to work for them. Freebies underpin Beti tenacious and vicious hold on the power that must leave them someday at a very high price. I am not a prophet of doom. It is just that greed has a way of blunting the human mind, the prelude to most tragedies.
Sometimes, when the logic of unity starts to ring hollow, ethnic imbalance in hiring is surprisingly justified in terms of education. Take the CRTV for instance, where the board of directors and staff could conveniently hold their meetings in Beti. Nobody questions the fact that the Betis are particularly gifted and proficient in the French language. The ability of local cultures to resist French colonial incursion has more to do with that, a story we shall take up in another issue. Nevertheless, the ability to speak French well is hardly a justification for any group to hijack a national radio and television station and attempt to ram its culture and opinion down the throats of others. That is Talibanic and criminal.
Every group in Cameroon is proficient in at least something good. Nor is there ample evidence to prove that the Bassas, Doualas, the Bamilekes or Peuls are not just as proficient in French, maybe to a slightly lesser degree. And if the Betis think their logic holds on this ground, could ethnic lopsidedness in hiring in the military be justified on grounds of Beti courage and sense of discipline, qualities that go into good soldiering? How many Bakweri people work for the national petroleum company or sit in its board of directors because the oil is on their land? And how many Bakweri people hold licenses to exploit timber in Betiland as a qui pro quo for their petroleum they only hear about but have never seen?
The fact of the matter is, if the doctrine of national unity in Cameroon were genuine and the country recruited the best of its sons and daughters to help with the arduous and tricky task of development, people could not care less whether all the ministers came from the same house or village, as long as they were delivering the goods. A proof of this is that at one time the national soccer team was almost exclusively Bassa but nobody cared because it was good and its numerous victories brought dignity and pride not just to Cameroonians but to the whole of Africa. Unfortunately, Cameroon has always been a country in which all the talks about national unity hardly go beyond ethnic and regional Machiavellian schemes.
For anyone with eyes to see, the game plan of the Betis is clear. First, they take la Republique du Cameroun out of the union and then are proceeding, step by step, to take Betiland out of la Republique. To give teeth to this mission, they start off by emptying national banks and treasury in a bid to create their own businessmen. Then they have many of their own recruited into the police, the gendarmerie and the army in order to build up and toughen their muscles should any attempt of their final break away lead to a showdown. They now have an international airport and are building up Kribi to a seaport, a move greatly enhanced by diverting the Chad pipeline from Victoria. They have the national TV and radio stations and all the ministries, plus enough accommodation that the state, the Bamilekes and Greeks have constructed. They have no less than three universities and most of the professional schools. When they add the new stadium that is to be built to the one they now have, which region in the country is better prepared to create its own nation than they? The citizens of la Republique du Cameroon should bother more about that instead of boring Southern Cameroonians to death with nonsensical talks of "unité nationale." What you see is what you get and the handwriting is on the wall could not be clearer.
As for Southern Cameroonians, they should simply ignore the lectures being delivered and hold steadfastly to their dream of national revival and redemption. There is no other way and they are not even leading the way.
Les chiens aboient la caravane passe!