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The North West and Biya:A love-hate relationship

in City Council Blog
1577

It is a common humahere was the fratricidal war between the French-backed Ahidjo government and the UPCists, stigmatised as maquizards. Joining East Cameroon meant being involved in the war with bloody consequences. While some of his Southern Cameroonian (Anglophone) patriots were still hesitating, Foncha made their minds up for them. His Kamerun National Democratic Party, KNDP, was in support of reunification and was already working resolutely for it. S.T. Muna, who had been sitting on the fence, saw Foncha's goal as the more realistic one and joined him. Dr. E.M.L. Endeley, N.N. Bile, S.N. Tamfu were for independence by joining Nigeria. The UN had made it clear that Southern Cameroons could only gain independence by joining La République du Cameroun or Nigeria. It was, therefore, a choice between “Oui” and “Yes.”
One other factor which facilitated things for Foncha was Dr. Endeley's arrogance. Endeley, who was then Premier with a helicopter at his disposal, told the electorate, who did not savour his stand against reunification and other vital issues, that if they failed to vote for him and his party, the stones would vote. The election of 1959 was in favour of Foncha's KNDP and, therefore, an indirect vote for reunification. Thus, as soon as Foncha took the Premiership of Southern Cameroons, he intensified his campaigns for the reunification.


Another factor that acted as a catalyst for Foncha's campaign was the behaviour of Nigerians in Cameroon, the Igbos in particular. The Igbos controlled the economy of Bamenda and Kumba, two major towns of the then Southern Cameroons. Just ask the price of a commodity in an Igbo man's shop, you were obliged to purchase it; failure to so, they would gang up to molest you. The Igbos also controlled the women in town. After all, they had the funds.
Foncha's efforts were complemented by those of Ndeh Ntumazah's One Kamerun (OK) party. Ntumazah lived at NtarinkonBamenda, but was in league with the UPC, which was for a united Cameroon independent of French influence. Ntumazah and the UPC were at variance with Ahidjo because he was a French puppet, but supported the idea of reunification. Foncha was a pacifist who was never impressed with the approach of the UPC and OK. The Foumban Conference of 1961 was a significant milestone in the move towards reunification. The plebiscite of February 11 ended in favour of reunification. October 1, 1961 officially saw the two Cameroons united. The only misfortune is that the northern part of Southern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria. Ahidjo decreed the date when this happened as a day of national mourning. Despite reunification, the two Cameroons continued to be administered as two separate entities except that they had a common Parliament.
The Federal Republique of Cameroon, as the country was called, was replaced on May 20th 1972 by the United Republic of Cameroon following a referendum championed by another North Westerner, S.T. Muna. For the above account, it can be seen that the North West worked harder than any part of Cameroon towards the unity of the country.

A love-hate relationship
Human relationship is a complex issue. Many persons erroneously think that a genuine relationship is that in which there is total harmony. No. A true relationship is one in which there are ups and downs. What is important in relationships is not to avoid conflicts, but to be able to resolve them when they occur, because they will always occur.
The relationship between the North West and Biya can be described as a mixture of hate and love, with the latter dominating. Let us proceed to show how. The first thing to note is that the North West was the first Province then which Biya decided to visit soon after becoming Head of State. A lot of ink has flowed on the statement, “Bamenda is my second home,” which he made on his pioneer official visit to the historic town. Those who perceive the statement as insincere miss the point.
As a political scientist, Biya knew the part the North West had played in Cameroon's reunification and would continue to play in shaping the destiny of this country. He genuinely admired their intellectual strength, their culture and their sense of hospitality. That is why he did not only make a reconnaissance visit, but came back in 1984 to spend close to a week attending the Agro-Pastoral Show in Nkwen. In March 1985, he was in Bamenda to launch the CPDM. There was a lot of euphoria during each visit; many North Westerners genuinely admired him. Biya did not, therefore, envisage the launching of the SDF in 1990 and the boycott of his reception by a majority of the North West population in 1991. The launching of the SDF was just the beginning of a series of clashes between the regime and the North West population. This campaign of hate continued much longer that was expected by the regime. 


The CPDM won the 1992 Parliamentary election, more because the SDF boycotted it than because North Westerners loved Biya and the CPDM. Even after appointing Hon. Achidi Achu Prime Minister, North Westerners did not warm up towards Biya. A state of emergency imposed on Bamenda because of the post-Presidential election violence that followed the 1992 Presidential election further strained the relationship.
Subsequently, all elections in the North West were won by the SDF. It was only on July 22, 2007, that the North West voted 50% for the CPDM in both Legislative and Municipal elections. Biya demonstrated his appreciation for this political evolution by once more appointing a North Westerner, Mr. Philemon Yang, as Prime Minister. The decision to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Cameroon's Armed Forces in Bamenda, and the consequent transformation of Bamenda, is a further testimony that the North West has finally warmed its way back to Biya's heart.


It should, however, be noted that even at the height of North West campaigns against Biya, he still maintained a North Westerner as Director of Presidential Security. The recent appointment of Minister Paul Nji Atanga as Permanent Secretary for National Security is another proof of Biya's renewed confidence in the North West. There is no doubt that President Biya will have a hero's reception in Bamenda on November 28 and 29 2010. 


By chance, we caught up with Cameroon's Ambassador to the DRC, M. Chungong Ayafor, who came home to attend to certain family issues, and below is his take on the kind of relationship that exists between President Paul Biya and the North West, the style of the man and what the North West attitude really translates into:
“As the Head of State, H.E. Paul Biya, visits Bamenda and the North West Region, I seize this unique opportunity, whereby you have actually taken me unawares, considering that I rushed into town for strictly family matters, to share my personal perception of this historic moment with my fellow kith and kin of the Region.


First and foremost, we are concerned here with a strictly military event; and the Head of State is coming to Bamenda in the double capacity of Supreme Commander of the Cameroon Armed Forces and President of the Republic, thus, President of all Cameroonians. This visit, therefore, has both military and civil aspects. What is peculiar here is that the Head of State chose to celebrate 50 years of our Armed Forces where he himself may find it difficult to understand why the people have been so hostile towards him, towards his regime and policies. Yes, we of the North West hold that the Head of State has not been giving the Region sufficient attention. Believe you me, as in every great family, there are always those who want to squeeze far too much from the family patrimony, using just any means, and those who feel, and at times genuinely so, that they are not receiving enough. Most often, the line between impression and reality is quite thick.  

 
Let me ask you this question:  Can the North West sincerely say that they are not receiving attention from the Head of State? One thing many of us do not know about Mr. Biya, the man, is his constancy and humane nature. He takes his time, but he delivers. Remember, on his maiden visit to the North West upon acceding to Supreme Magistracy, we presented a litany of grievances and needs to him, among these, the Ring Road. What did he say? That he would personally supervise this national project. Today, we are quick to say that the Head of State does not make good his promises. To know the mind and nature of the man, maybe, having worked closely with him, I should share two or more instances of promises he openly made to individuals so we understand his style.


When his former chief of protocol was retiring some 20 yrs ago, he made this open statement: “I know you are there, I will see you again.”  Mr. Beleoken returned 16 years after as his Director of Civil Cabinet. We all know that Minister Joseph Fofe was personally told to be patient in 1991, and that he was appointed 19 years after. Roger Milla's story of “Je vous verai” is now a household example. So I am convinced that whatever promises he made to the North West, even 20 years ago, shall definitely be made good with time.


Come to think of it, we should also accept that our attitude towards the Head of State and his policies has not helped things in any way. It is on record that when this Ring Road project was in the pipe line, it was one of ours serving as Minister of Public Works: Mr. Maimo. Presidential instructions were given to the effect that this project be carried out portion-by-portion; but the Minister wanted the complete package all at once. Today, where are we? Look at the Bambui-Fundong Road and other portions of the Ring Road. Indeed, the whole stretch would have long been completed if we did not act the way we did. However, I still believe that the Head of State shall come back to this project without necessarily being reminded by us.


The reason I have no doubt is simple. His love and attention for the North West have been steady. For him to create a party, he came to Bamenda; and this is somebody whom we all accepted through the custodians of our customs and traditions and crowned him Fon of Fons. Again, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our Armed Forces at a time which coincides with the celebration of 50 years of independence and re-unification, he comes to Bamenda.


We should also consider that we have been too anxious in our expectations. That may be why we started the opposition in Cameroon, and right here in Bamenda. Seen positively, however, it is still thanks to this opposition that democracy remains vibrant in Cameroon; and in spite of this opposition, we have had two Prime Ministers under President Paul Biya, and two Speakers of the House of Assembly.


When we look at other Regions, we should, at least, be honest in our claims. If we were not in the President's mind, how would be choose Bamenda for the event of the moment? Let us consider the role of the Cameroon Armed Forces within the institutions of the State: They are the lungs of the State; the heart beat of the nation. The only reason peace is reigning in Cameroon is due to the disciplined Armed Forces we have, and the level-headedness of the astute Supreme Commander of these Armed Forces. So, what considerations do we give to the Head of State's decision to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Armed Forces in the North West?


If he had taken this decision after the recent appointment of one of ours as Permanent Secretary for the National Security Council, we would have thought it was under a particular influence. And again, even with this significant appointment, what do we do? We are the ones to raise the first stones against our own North West brother, much as we are still doing for ELECAM, claiming that our own kith and kin are the “wrong” people to hold such positions. Quite embarrassing even to the Head of State, isn't it?
In my opinion, I think this visit offers all of us an opportunity to start looking at the positive side of things, and this includes seeing the good intentions of the Head of State towards us. It also includes lauding the valiant sons and daughters of Cameroon and Africa that our Armed Forces are. To them, we dedicate the peace and unity we enjoy in a sub region surrounded by unbridled turbulence.”  


One other factor which facilitated things for Foncha was Dr. Endeley's arrogance. Endeley, who was then Premier with a helicopter at his disposal, told the electorate, who did not savour his stand against reunification and other vital issues, that if they failed to vote for him and his party, the stones would vote. The election of 1959 was in favour of Foncha's KNDP and, therefore, an indirect vote for reunification. Thus, as soon as Foncha took the Premiership of Southern Cameroons, he intensified his campaigns for  reunification.


Another factor that acted as a catalyst for Foncha's campaign was the behaviour of Nigerians in Cameroon, the Igbos in particular. The Igbos controlled the economy of Bamenda and Kumba, two major towns of the then Southern Cameroons. Just ask the price of a commodity in an Igbo man's shop, you were obliged to purchase it; failure to so, they would gang up to molest you. The Igbos also controlled the women in town. After all, they had the funds.


Foncha's efforts were complemented by those of Ndeh Ntumazah's One Kamerun (OK) party. Ntumazah lived at Ntarinkon, Bamenda, but was in league with the UPC, which was for a united Cameroon independent of French influence. Ntumazah and the UPC were at variance with Ahidjo because he was a French puppet, but supported the idea of reunification. Foncha was a pacifist who was never impressed with the approach of the UPC and OK. The Foumban Conference of 1961 was a significant milestone in the move towards reunification. The plebiscite of February 11 ended in favour of reunification. October 1, 1961 officially saw the two Cameroons united. The only misfortune is that the northern part of Southern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria. Ahidjo decreed the date when this happened as a day of national mourning. Despite reunification, the two Cameroons continued to be administered as two separate entities except that they had a common Parliament.


The Federal Republique of Cameroon, as the country was called, was replaced on May 20th 1972 by the United Republic of Cameroon following a referendum championed by another North Westerner, S.T. Muna. For the above account, it can be seen that the North West worked harder than any part of Cameroon towards the unity of the country.

A love-hate relationship


Human relationship is a complex issue. Many persons erroneously think that a genuine relationship is that in which there is total harmony. No. A true relationship is one in which there are ups and downs. What is important in relationships is not to avoid conflicts, but to be able to resolve them when they occur, because they will always occur.
The relationship between the North West and Biya can be described as a mixture of hate and love, with the latter dominating. Let us proceed to show how. The first thing to note is that the North West was the first Province then which Biya decided to visit soon after becoming Head of State. A lot of ink has flowed on the statement, “Bamenda is my second home,” which he made on his pioneer official visit to the historic town. Those who perceive the statement as insincere miss the point.


As a political scientist, Biya knew the part the North West had played in Cameroon's reunification and would continue to play in shaping the destiny of this country. He genuinely admired their intellectual strength, their culture and their sense of hospitality. That is why he did not only make a reconnaissance visit, but came back in 1984 to spend close to a week attending the Agro-Pastoral Show in Nkwen. In March 1985, he was in Bamenda to launch the CPDM. There was a lot of euphoria during each visit; many North Westerners genuinely admired him. Biya did not, therefore, envisage the launching of the SDF in 1990 and the boycott of his reception by a majority of the North West population in 1991. The launching of the SDF was just the beginning of a series of clashes between the regime and the North West population. This campaign of hate continued much longer that was expected by the regime. 


The CPDM won the 1992 Parliamentary election, more because the SDF boycotted it than because North Westerners loved Biya and the CPDM. Even after appointing Hon. Achidi Achu Prime Minister, North Westerners did not warm up towards Biya. A state of emergency imposed on Bamenda because of the post-Presidential election violence that followed the 1992 Presidential election further strained the relationship.


Subsequently, all elections in the North West were won by the SDF. It was only on July 22, 2007, that the North West voted 50% for the CPDM in both Legislative and Municipal elections. Biya demonstrated his appreciation for this political evolution by once more appointing a North Westerner, Mr. Philemon Yang, as Prime Minister. The decision to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Cameroon's Armed Forces in Bamenda, and the consequent transformation of Bamenda, is a further testimony that the North West has finally warmed its way back to Biya's heart.


It should, however, be noted that even at the height of North West campaigns against Biya, he still maintained a North Westerner as Director of Presidential Security. The recent appointment of Minister Paul Nji Atanga as Permanent Secretary for National Security is another proof of Biya's renewed confidence in the North West. There is no doubt that President Biya will have a hero's reception in Bamenda on November 28 and 29 2010.

 
By chance, we caught up with Cameroon's Ambassador to the DRC, M. Chungong Ayafor, who came home to attend to certain family issues, and below is his take on the kind of relationship that exists between President Paul Biya and the North West, the style of the man and what the North West attitude really translates into:
“As the Head of State, H.E. Paul Biya, visits Bamenda and the North West Region, I seize this unique opportunity, whereby you have actually taken me unawares, considering that I rushed into town for strictly family matters, to share my personal perception of this historic moment with my fellow kith and kin of the Region.


First and foremost, we are concerned here with a strictly military event; and the Head of State is coming to Bamenda in the double capacity of Supreme Commander of the Cameroon Armed Forces and President of the Republic, thus, President of all Cameroonians. This visit, therefore, has both military and civil aspects. What is peculiar here is that the Head of State chose to celebrate 50 years of our Armed Forces where he himself may find it difficult to understand why the people have been so hostile towards him, towards his regime and policies. Yes, we of the North West hold that the Head of State has not been giving the Region sufficient attention. Believe you me, as in every great family, there are always those who want to squeeze far too much from the family patrimony, using just any means, and those who feel, and at times genuinely so, that they are not receiving enough. Most often, the line between impression and reality is quite thick. 

  
Let me ask you this question:  Can the North West sincerely say that they are not receiving attention from the Head of State? One thing many of us do not know about Mr. Biya, the man, is his constancy and humane nature. He takes his time, but he delivers. Remember, on his maiden visit to the North West upon acceding to Supreme Magistracy, we presented a litany of grievances and needs to him, among these, the Ring Road. What did he say? That he would personally supervise this national project. Today, we are quick to say that the Head of State does not make good his promises. To know the mind and nature of the man, maybe, having worked closely with him, I should share two or more instances of promises he openly made to individuals so we understand his style.


When his former chief of protocol was retiring some 20 yrs ago, he made this open statement: “I know you are there, I will see you again.”  Mr. Beleoken returned 16 years after as his Director of Civil Cabinet. We all know that Minister Joseph Fofe was personally told to be patient in 1991, and that he was appointed 19 years after. Roger Milla's story of “Je vous verai” is now a household example. So I am convinced that whatever promises he made to the North West, even 20 years ago, shall definitely be made good with time.


Come to think of it, we should also accept that our attitude towards the Head of State and his policies has not helped things in any way. It is on record that when this Ring Road project was in the pipe line, it was one of ours serving as Minister of Public Works: Mr. Maimo. Presidential instructions were given to the effect that this project be carried out portion-by-portion; but the Minister wanted the complete package all at once. Today, where are we? Look at the Bambui-Fundong Road and other portions of the Ring Road. Indeed, the whole stretch would have long been completed if we did not act the way we did. However, I still believe that the Head of State shall come back to this project without necessarily being reminded by us.


The reason I have no doubt is simple. His love and attention for the North West have been steady. For him to create a party, he came to Bamenda; and this is somebody whom we all accepted through the custodians of our customs and traditions and crowned him Fon of Fons. Again, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our Armed Forces at a time which coincides with the celebration of 50 years of independence and re-unification, he comes to Bamenda.
We should also consider that we have been too anxious in our expectations. That may be why we started the opposition in Cameroon, and right here in Bamenda. Seen positively, however, it is still thanks to this opposition that democracy remains vibrant in Cameroon; and in spite of this opposition, we have had two Prime Ministers under President Paul Biya, and two Speakers of the House of Assembly.


When we look at other Regions, we should, at least, be honest in our claims. If we were not in the President's mind, how would be choose Bamenda for the event of the moment? Let us consider the role of the Cameroon Armed Forces within the institutions of the State: They are the lungs of the State; the heart beat of the nation. The only reason peace is reigning in Cameroon is due to the disciplined Armed Forces we have, and the level-headedness of the astute Supreme Commander of these Armed Forces. So, what considerations do we give to the Head of State's decision to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Armed Forces in the North West?
If he had taken this decision after the recent appointment of one of ours as Permanent Secretary for the National Security Council, we would have thought it was under a particular influence. And again, even with this significant appointment, what do we do? We are the ones to raise the first stones against our own North West brother, much as we are still doing for ELECAM, claiming that our own kith and kin are the “wrong” people to hold such positions. Quite embarrassing even to the Head of State, isn't it?
In my opinion, I think this visit offers all of us an opportunity to start looking at the positive side of things, and this includes seeing the good intentions of the Head of State towards us. It also includes lauding the valiant sons and daughters of Cameroon and Africa that our Armed Forces are. To them, we dedicate the peace and unity we enjoy in a sub region surrounded by unbridled turbulence.” 

 

 

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