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No Trifling Matter

Contributions of an Uncompromising Critic to the Democratic Process in Cameroon

Godfrey B. Tangwa

Publication Year: 2011

No Trifling Matter is a collection of controversial, critical weekly commentary on the reluctance of a monolithic regime to yield to popular aspirations for democracy in Cameroon. In these essays written between 1990 and November 1992, Godfrey Tangwa, alias Rotcod Gobata, doesnít quibble. He comes across as a man of courage and resolve; one ready to swim upstream in a manner of a desperate midwife eager to prevent a still birth (in this case, of democracy). His column is as daring an embarrassment to Biyaís ìdÈmocratie avancÈeî as the radio programme ìCameroon Reportî (later ìCameroon Callingî), was to Presidents Ahidjo and Biya in the hey days of the ìparti uniqueî. Rotcod Gobata believes the time has come for Cameroon to graduate from a country over milked by mediocrity and callous indifference, to the paradise that it was meant to be for the poor and downtrodden. In this regard, he belongs with that rare breed of intellectuals who are genuine in their pursuit of collective betterment, and who in consequence, have opted to distance themselves from the stomach and all its trappings. This position is to be commended and encouraged, especially in a system where explanation is often mistaken for subversion, a system where the stomach is about the only political path-finder - the sole compass in use, a country where the champions of falsehood want all at their beck and call, and where a handful of thirsting palates daily jostle to share with Count Dracula the blood of the common and forgotten. Rotcod Gobata wants the new Cameroon to be rid of the ills and failures of the past five decades that have made it impossible for Cameroonians in their millions to live productive and creative lives.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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Preface To The New Edition: Background To Gobata Columns And Essays

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Table of Contents

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pp. iii-v

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pp. vii-x

My pen name is ROTCOD GOBATA. Today, an enlarging circle of readers of CAMEROON POST have come to know my real names. For those who don’t know, I will prefer to leave them undisturbed and I encourage them to...

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pp. xi-xvi

My first encounter with Rotcod Gobata’s writing was neither direct, immediate, nor intended. It came two issues after the debut of the column “No Trifling Matter”. He was recommended to me by HRH Fon Angwafor III of Mankon. I had brought back from town a...

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1 An Open Letter to Pa Foncha

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pp. 1-4

I hope that this letter will meet you in good health and enjoying your voluntary retirement from the rough and tumble of active political life. For some time now, I had thought of writing to you privately. But on...

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2 Begging the Question

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pp. 5-8

There is a fallacy which lawyers and logicians term ‘petitio principii’ or “begging the question.” Technically, the fallacy consists in assuming as a premise the very conclusion which you want to prove. If, for instance, in trying to prove that someone is a thief, you use as part of your evidence the...

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3 Mondial 90 and the Success of Success

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pp. 8-11

Before “Italia 90” takes its allotted space in the store room of memory and history, we can draw salutary lessons. One of these lessons is that nothing indeed succeeds like success. A hundred advertisers would probably have needed two decades to achieve for Cameroon...

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4 Those Billions in Foreign Banks

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pp. 12-14

Are there Cameroonians with billions in foreign banks? This is a multi-billion hard currency question. But the initial answer to this question is not far to fetch and requires no pondering. The simple answer is “Yes.” How do I...

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5 I Doff My Hat to Mr. President

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pp. 15-17

I doff my hat to Mr President of the Republic as he celebrates his eighth anniversary of accession to the pinnacle of political power. If one were to be looking for a nail in conceptual space on which to hang the last eight..

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6 The Day I Ate Fried Corn With the Cardinal

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pp. 18-20

Long time no see and happy new year in arrears!! This column has not appeared for quite some time, which might have set you wondering whether, in spite of its respectful approach, those who think that respect can...

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7 What Do University Students Really Want?

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pp. 21-23

A few days after “Youth Day” on 11th February this year, the students of the University of Yaoundé went on rampage, blocking roads and burning cars, sequel to one of their members being crushed and killed by a taxi driver right inside the campus. This very unexpected action..

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8 The Two Faces of Mongo Beti

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pp. 23-26

In the ancient mythology of the white races, there is a deity named “Janus” who had two faces, one in front, the other behind, which were as diametrically different as they were opposite. The expression “The two faces of Janus” has...

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9 Now That the Opposition Is Really Here

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pp. 27-30

With the legalisation of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), there is no longer any doubt that there is a credible opposition party in our political system, signalling the end of a quarter century of one party dictatorship. The...

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10 Is Mr. Paul Out Of Touch Or What?

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pp. 31-33

It is now established tradition that for serious policy statements of stupendous import, we have to wait until our Head of State a takes trip to France and then listen to his answers to questions posed to him by French journalists. Of course, back home here, no journalists will dare pose questions...

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11 The Past Tense of Shit

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pp. 34-36

Children fascinate me. A growing child must be one of the most fascinating mysteries in life. There is plenty of evidence to sustain the view that human life is one interminable series of pain and anguish, punctuated by fleeting...

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12 The Questions Eric Did Not or Could Not Ask

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pp. 37-39

Children fascinate me. A growing child must be one of the most fascinating mysteries in life. There is plenty of evidence to sustain the view that human life is one interminable series of pain and anguish, punctuated by fleeting...

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13 Mitterrand Must Be a Mediocre Teacher

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pp. 40-42

If Mr Paul Biya is a pupil of Francois Mitterrand, then the latter must be a mediocre teacher. So, since the former has openly declared himself the latter’s best pupil, it can be safely concluded that Mitterrand is a mediocre teacher. To buttress this reasoning, we need not go outside of Biya’s...

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14 Tribalism

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pp. 43-46

Second to kleptocracy, tribalism is one of the problems that has bedevilled post-independent African countries. Tribalism, however, is essentially an artificial problem, a problem at the level of false consciousness, created and sustained by false...

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15 The Foxes of Loo

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pp. 47-49

A relation or friend of yours is arrested (without warrant), detained (without charges) and finally locked up in prison (without any conviction). A detainee or prisoner has the right to eat. But, no, this is Cameroon. Word reaches you that your relative (friend) has been starving for so many days....

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16 Jean Zoa’s Conceptual Problems

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pp. 50-52

His Lordship, Archbishop Jean Zoa, of the Metropolitan See of Yaounde, does not support the idea of a National Conference. This is no interesting piece of news. No one would have expected Jean Zoa to support the idea of a...

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17 The New Universities

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pp. 53-55

I am writing this piece on the 26th of May, 1991 - the first anniversary of the struggle for genuine democracy in Cameroon. It was on Saturday, May 26th, 1990, that the Social Democratic Front (SDF) was launched in Bamenda, the political Mecca of Cameroon, against a backdrop of serious...

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18 Memo to the Endeley Commision

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pp. 55-58

In an earlier edition of “No Trifling Matter,” this column had added its mellow voice to that of university students and lecturers who were calling for a judicial commission of enquiry into the university crisis (see CAMEROON...

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19 Where We Went Wrong

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pp. 59-62

I once described Cameroon in this column as a potential paradise. But in the last few months we have wandered to the very edge of a precipice and looked down below and seen a veritable hell, the hell that our potential paradise...

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20 Gobata on Gobata

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pp. 61-64

My first name is “Rotcod” and not “Rodcod” or “Rodcot” as some people who talk as though with water in the mouth like calling me. Even CAMEROON POST was sometimes printing my name wrongly as “Rodcod.” Was...

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21 From “La Democratie” To Democracy

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pp. 64-67

President Paul Biya’s recent address to the nation, from the podium of the National Assembly, is so far the greatest psychological blow that the democratic struggle in the country has received since inception early last year. I once remarked, while...

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22 Nigeria-Cameroon: No Problem?

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pp. 68-70

President Paul Biya’s recent hurried “state visit” to Abuja, Nigeria, was most surprising. Coming so shortly after Biya was in Abuja, Nigeria, for the OAU summit, there is no doubt that it was occasioned by something...

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23 Anti-Democracy Fails in Russia, Succeeds in Cameroon

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pp. 71-73

The same day that the anti-democratic coup d’état failed in Russia, the anti-democratic forces in Cameroon fired on the leader of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, Mr John Fru Ndi, and a crowd of demonstrators in Bafoussam. That day, one really felt like singing with one eye for Russia...

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24 To Hell with Culture

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pp. 74-76

Yes you heard me quite alright. Your ears are not deceiving you. I say, “To hell with culture!” What is culture? It is the total way of life of an identifiable group of people. The elements of a people’s culture are: their food and manner of eating, their clothes and manner of dressing, their songs, dances and musical instruments...

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25 What Will He Say at Limbe and Bamenda

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pp. 76-78

The son of GOBATA is not a prophet or an astrologer, not a ball or star gazer, not a dreamer or seer, not a four-eyed wizard, nor a gifted futurologist of any other kind. This genre of gifts has never manifested itself in the family line, going back as far as it can be traced. The “predictions...

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26 Me Voici A Douala

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pp. 79-81

Even Anglophones who are completely dumb in French and those who have a strong psychological aversion towards it have recently learnt a beautiful French expression: “Me Voici.” Yesterday (Wednesday, 25 September, 1991), I went into a shop called SHO in down-town Yaounde to look for...

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27 A Basket Full Of… Promises

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pp. 82-84

Just for one moment, imagine the following hypothetical situation. Suppose all the baskets in Cameroon were one single basket! What a big basket it would be! But, if we put all the promises that President Biya has made, since inscrutable...

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28 The Does of Africa

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pp. 85-87

Remember Samuel Doe? Yes, Master Sergeant Doe! He was a Master Sergeant when he felt the call to save his people from tyrannous dictatorship. It is quite probable that, at that point in its historical time, Liberia really needed...

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29 The Exorcist

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pp. 87-90

A magician who conjures up ghosts from the nether world should also be able to send them back to the nether world - their proper abode. For several months now, seventy per cent of our country has been occupied by ghosts...

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30 Beyond Elitism (Including a Reply to Tande Dibussi)

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pp. 90-92

My piece entitled “A Basket Full of Promises” (CAMEROON POST Oct. 11-17, 1991) was not an attack on SWELA, let alone a “vicious” attack, as alleged by Tande Dibussi, in his piece: “SWELA and Gobata’s Vicious Piece” (CAMEROON POST Nov. 6-13, 1991). I am not a “detractor...

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31 Professor Obenson Was Right

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pp. 93-95

I would not allow Prof. Gabriel Obenson’s article “Lake Nyos, Neutron Bomb, Alarm Bells, Boundaries And All That” (CAMEROON POST, Oct. 24-31, 1991, page 6) to be filed away without an appreciative comment. I enjoyed the article immensely, no less for its tinge of...

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32 From the Fruits We Shall Know

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pp. 95-97

The tripartite talks, or what some people have preferred to call “Non- Sovereign National Conference,” have come and gone. It is too early to say with complete confidence whether these talks have been a miraculous success as claimed....

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33 Democracy, Kakistocracy and Meritocracy

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pp. 98-99

The most fundamental assumption of democracy is the equality of all human persons. To say that all human persons are equal is not to say that they all possess exactly the same descriptive attributes. It is not to say that all human beings were born at the same time and place, are of the same...

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34 The Pre-Conditions of Meritocracy

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pp. 100-103

The last time, I talked about meritocracy within the context of democracy and kakistocracy. This time around, I wish to touch on what I consider to be the pre-conditions, the indispensable requirements of a meritocratic system. Based on the postulate...

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35 Meritocracy Continued

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pp. 104-106

Today, I am constrained to continue with the theme of meritocracy for two reasons: (1) the issue is extremely important in our context, (2) I am not yet satisfied that I have demonstrated it sufficiently convincingly. The last time I identified formal education as the most important criterion of...

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36 The Panel Beaters of the Biya Regime

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pp. 107-109

The Biya regime can now be compared to an old battered car with thread-bare tyres, its suspension system and alignment out of order. It should long have had a police “OFF THE ROAD” sign plastered on it, but recklessly insists on tottering along, a danger to all other road users and to...

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37 Blueprint for University Studies

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pp. 110-112

As I predicted before, we have already all forgotten that we were promised two new Universities - one at Buea (“on the Anglo-Saxon model,” whatever that was supposed to mean!) and the other at Ngaoundere. We were all given the most convincing assurances that the new Universities would...

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38 Blueprint for University Studies

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pp. 113-114

A University is first and foremost a configuration of infrastructures and facilities: buildings, roads, housing, transport, restaurants, markets/supermarkets, banks, post offices, sporting and recreational facilities of all sorts, health facilities...

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39 Biya Plays His Last Joker

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pp. 114-115

The first thing that jolted me from my seat during this stage-managed “interview” with Charles Ndongo was the declaration: “I have given 500 million to be placed at the disposal of those parties which accept to participate in the elections on March 1st.” If Cameroon had had a credible judicial system...

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40 Our Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born

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pp. 116-118

Recent political developments in Cameroon indicate that the idea of “CHOPPING” is still the basic motive force for most Cameroonians. Our politics, contrary to hopeful early signs, is being unmasked as being largely...

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41 Basically a Fraudulent Victory

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pp. 118-120

Among the undesirable character traits of Cameroonians is the tendency to get carried away by deceptive appearances to the detriment of palpable reality. This trait has manifested itself in the world of sports, especially football, and in the practice of heroworship. Many...

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42 Shall They Make or Mar?

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pp. 120-123

As the euphoria over the hasty legislative elections subsides, it is urgent to remind all Cameroonians that the main task facing our generation at this point in our history is that of placing our country on a firm and unshakable...

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43 Two Types of Cameroonians

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pp. 123-125

As a diehard optimist, I believe that the struggle for democracy, liberalism, justice and fairness in Cameroon is now irreversible. This struggle which received a momentous impetus with the launching of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) in...

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44 The Missing Links in Nfor Gwei’s Programmes

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pp. 126-128

One of the guests on the “,em>Cameroon Calling” (CC) programme of Sunday 29th March 1992, was Honourable Solomon Nfor Gwei, the Chairman of the Government-created Human Rights Commission. This is the second time...

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45 The Anglophone Problem

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pp. 129-131

If you have read the memorandum of Dr. Simon Munzu et al, submitted to the Technical Committee for the Drafting of the Constitution, concerning the “Anglophone Problem” (See CAMEROON POST of...

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46 A Ceremonial P.M. As We Totter Along

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pp. 132-134

The recent appointment of Mr Simon Achidi Achu as Prime Minister (and Head of Government?) has not come as a surprise to anyone who has been carefully observing our political landscape. From the moment he made his now famous declaration that “Federalism would bring nothing to...

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47 This Celebration Mania

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pp. 134-137

A contemporary Ghanaian philosopher once remarked that there are three deadly diseases that can afflict any society, namely, anachronism, authoritarianism and superstition. Today, Cameroon society is suffering...

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48 We Will Dedicate a Toilet to His Memory

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pp. 137-139

As our ‘doctor’ (honoris causa) is dancing his last tango, historians and chroniclers would, no doubt, already be pondering how generally to assess and what summary title to give to his decade of (mis)rule. To faithful readers of this...

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49 Misconceptions of Federalism

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pp. 140-142

“Federalism” has become the battle cry of the Cameroon Anglophone Movement (CAM) and is only a little short of becoming a sacred hymn for all Anglophones. The demand for a return to the Federal system, that is, to the status quo ante 1972, is a simple, straightforward and reasonable...

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50 CAMBANK Is Still Owing Me

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pp. 143-145

How was Cambank ruined? The answer to this question may not be blowing in the wind, but one day we shall surely know. In fact, I do have fairly definite guesses. Don’t we all now know how SCB was ruined? The virus may be traced to a single common origin because he who pays Paul...

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51 Albert Mukong, Federalism and the SDF

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pp. 145-148

The pace and tempo of evens in this country, at present, are simply too fast for all of us. The return of Albert Mukong, after two years of voluntary self-exile on our behalf, should have attracted a critical notice from a columnist of my timber and calibre. Mukong is a patriot whose sincerity...

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52 Solomon Nfor Gwei’s Tribulations

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pp. 148-150

When I wrote on Honourable Nfor Gwei and his Human Rights Commission (see CAMEROON POST, April 2-9, 1992) I was almost certain that I would come back to the subject sooner than later. In fact, Human Rights...

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53 Wanyetoh Resurfaces

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pp. 151-153

Hope you did read the story of Wanyetoh, which I strongly recommended for your reading as far back as October, 1991. (See CAMEROON POST, October 4-11, 1991). Wanyetoh was first and foremost a clever trickster...

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54 Mbella Was Right and Wrong

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pp. 154-156

The contradiction in my title for today is only apparent, not real. In one of his immortal Reggae pieces, Jimmy Cliff sings that “you can’t be right and yet wrong, no matter how hard you may try.” That is simple Aristotelian logic...

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55 Cherchez Le Mot (For My Censors)

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pp. 157-159

Consonne D, voyelle E, consonne R, voyelle U, consonne S, consonne N, voyelle E, consonne C. Yes, Jingo, what did you get? CENSURED. Good. Now quiz time: Who can perform the impossible feat of writing an empty page? Absolutely...

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56 From Extreme to Extreme

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pp. 160-162

One thing that is wrong with our ruling dynasty is what I have before described as “lack of a sense of proportion.” Would you go for a sledge hammer to kill a mosquito? If you do, you would be showing lack of a sense of proportion...

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57 A Tale of Three Parliamentarians

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pp. 162-164

Today, permit me not just to refer you to what I wrote before, but to actually quote myself at some length. In doing so, I am conscious of the danger of boring some very faithful readers of this column. But I am convinced that the possibility of such a danger is more than compensated for...

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58 Of the General Born on Banana Leaves 55 Years Ago

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pp. 165-167

This might have been a book review but it is not. I will not tell you the title of the book that I might have reviewed but I will give you a good clue in the manner of our “cherchez le mot.” There is a newspaper called “Le Messager” which...

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59 Meditation on Death

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pp. 167-179

This year would seem to be a bad year for Cameroonians or, more precisely, for prominent Cameroonians, the well-known big-(wo)men in the public eye. The massa damnata, the Fanonian wretched of the earth, have never had it any better...

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60 Keeping Yaounde Clean

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pp. 170-172

One of the depthless aphorisms of the mundane political wisdom of Biya Bi Mvondo, for which he will long be remembered states that “When Yaounde breathes, Cameroon is alive.” Well, what Yaounde has been breathing is...

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61 Matters Arising From the CELLUCAM Affair

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pp. 172-174

The CELLUCAM scandal dates back to the first week of July 1992, when the French language weekly “La Nouvelle Expression” (No .056 of 30th June-6th July), hit the newsstands to shock our collective consciousness with screaming headlines and a most carefully documented story....

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62 Governement by Trial and Error, Bribery, Corruptionand Manipulation

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pp. 175-178

The tax-defaulting and tax-evading « business » men who were selected to intone the Government-composed and Governmentsponsored chorus that BIYA should call anticipated Presidential elections and stand as candidate actually anticipated...

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63 Critical Moment of Decision

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pp. 179-181

August 25th 1992. Time: 8.00 p.m. From what is possible, nay likely, to be Dr. Biya’s last televised address to the Nation, I have retained two short phrases which have continued ringing in my ears : … J’AI DECIDÉ…and …JE SERAI CANDIDAT… As the echo of these words fade in the ears, it should mark...

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64 How the Opposition Can Proceed

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pp. 181-183

The opposition parties should sink their differences, overcome their prejudices and premonitions, and form a united front against the Biya regime in the forthcoming Presidential elections. The reason for this is not that it is impossible...

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65 Very Fraudulent Procedures

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pp. 184-186

Whichever way you look at it, the middle name of the Biya regime must be FRAUD. In that domain, the regime has really distinguished itself and created an all-time unbeatable record. And yet the evidence on the basis of which we are led to...

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66 Ben Muna’s Aborttive Bid

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pp. 186-189

Ben Muna’s bid for the SDF Presidential ticket took many political observers by surprise and caused a near-panic among many grassroot supporters of the party. Ben Muna is, of course, well known to SDF militants. The diligence,...

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67 The Comedians on Our Political Stage

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pp. 189-192

Since the struggle for democracy was launched in Cameroon a little more than two year ago, we have lived through alternating moments of irremediable despair, euphoric hope and lackadaisical lethargy. These varied situations have been regularly punctuated by comic relief, whose value for...

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68 As the Countdown to Zero Hour Begins

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pp. 192-195

A flash of lightening. A clap of thunder. A ferocious lion (monarch of the forest and open savannah alike!). And the affirmation: PAUL BIYA, MY PRESIDENT. That is the genius, the l’idee original, of some Frenchman, on behalf of Dr. Biya’s re-election campaign. The fellow has done great...

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69 God Has Not Yet Cast His Own Vote

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pp. 195-197

We are in such a nervous state of suspense that, for once, the son of Gobata has found it extremely difficult to pick up his biro and continue with his self-imposed duties on behalf of the Cameroonian people. The rapid alternation...

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70 Under the Magnetic Spell of the Bookseller

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pp. 198-200

The followership behind the “illiterate” bookseller of Bamenda, as at the present moment, is simply mind-boggling, even for people like yours truly who were converts from inception. Recall the parable of the mustard seed. From little...

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71 Let’s All Avoid Mass Hysteria and Do It Again

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pp. 200-203

We must all try to avoid mass hysteria in the present crisis because, when sustained, mass hysteria inevitably leads to war, the greatest of evils, characterized by killing or being killed for no other reason than that if you don’t kill “them” they will kill you. By the time any war breaks out...

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72 Remember Nelson

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pp. 203-205

Well, you can also REMEMBER RUEBEN, if you like. But it is Nelson Mandela particularly that I want you to remember today. To remember Nelson Mandela is to remember his heroic struggle against apartheid and racism...

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73 There Can Never Be Peace without Justice

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pp. 206-209

You can quote me on that. If you want peace, forget about peace and seek justice and you will find both justice and peace. There can never be peace without justice. Justice is the indispensable condition for peace. Peace, in fact, is simply what results when there is justice and fair-play all around. And...

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74 What of Our So-Called Human Rights Commision?

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pp. 209-211

Where now is Dr. Solomon Nfor Gwei and his so-called Human Rights Commission? The blood-curdling atrocities being inflicted on the populations of Bamenda and the North West Province in general have been going on...

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75 The Pre-Conditions of Reconciliatory Dialogue

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pp. 212-214

The South African Archbishop, Nobel Peace laureate and President of the African Congress of Protestant Churches, Desmond Tutu, has paid us a “pastoral” visit and gone back. Even before the famous Prelate took off from our shores, some people were already claiming that his visit had achieved...

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76 Punishing the Innocent, Rewarding Criminals

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pp. 215-218

Last time I was telling the story of our very first encounter with gendarmes in my village. “Introduction to Gendarmes” you might call it. I told the story rather skimpily and incompletely. But it is really very significantly indicative of the difference between Anglophones (West Cameroonians) and Francophones...

E-ISBN-13: 9789956717958
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956717477

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2011