Leadership is a very intriguing enterprise. It is perplexing and sometimes mistaken for opportunity to enable those called upon to pilot the affairs of organisations or states to ride roughshod on the subaltern populations. Whether it is seen from the perspective of governance, headship or helmsman, what is certain is that the image conjured up is that of leaders and others who are led. Depending on the circumstances of its emergence, each governance apparatus or leadership, has promotion of the wellbeing of its citizenry as mandate.
The materialisation of this primordial task reposes on the system of livelihood improvement that is brought to bear on the polity. By this token, leaders are able to carry their followership along, if their actions are adjudged by the latter to be inviting enough, such that peace, progress, justice and stability reign in the polity. This way, their actions are bought into and owned by the governed.
Effective and efficient leadership presupposes the existence of an inextricable mix of education, morality and mastery of the sociological composition of the polity. Unfortunately, the experience in Cameroon, over the years, has been an autocratic dispensation foisted on a hapless majority, condemned to wallow in poverty, by a privileged few, chosen and elevated to the dining table to facilitate the work of oppressors, who form the governing oligarchy.
Admittedly, this would have been looked upon with resignation in the immediate aftermath of accession to independence, when there was very little presence of qualified manpower, which in turn, occasioned reliance on the few available personnel with approximate training. This, coupled with our natural propensity to misappropriate opportunities and resources put at our disposal for the general good, have snowballed into a devious clientelism via a complex prebendal system of patronage dispensation, with tentacles that are deeply seated in the entire country.
Although statutorily not avowed, the manifest intent of leadership in Cameroon, is to maintain the unfortunate majority in a state of abject poverty. This way they shall be contented with the paltry morsels that emanate from the ‘goodwill’ of the governing class. Not surprisingly, these misanthropes are very useful when it comes to providing the necessary votes that determine who sits in whatever decision making organ of the state. They are also useful as labourers at the various building sites that embezzled funds are channeled to, by those privileged to be part of the ruling oligarchy or are related to them, in one way or the other. Oh yes, they are good enough to be employed as thugs during electoral engagements but not good enough to enjoy the proceeds of good governance like potable water, electricity, low-cost housing and farm to market roads to evacuate their farm produce. Oh yes, they are the wretched of the earth, who deserve no comfort. Their lot is that of hell on earth.
The aversion directed to the down-trodden citizens by the governing class, is such that even members of the same family experience segregation. Instead of providing them with assistance in the form of capital to start small businesses, most of these vampires in power prefer white elephant projects in enclaves and other remote areas that would not benefit their local communities. As long as this pampers their ego and by extension makes them the only ones that are seen and heard during their infrequent visits to their communities, they are at peace with the world. As further conspiracy against the poor, regime barons, after embezzling money engage in risky but incontrovertible subterfuges that enable seemingly very successful businessmen to front for them. Billions of FCFA that cannot be stashed in local banks are laundered in the businesses of chosen allies who then keep records of how much is pumped in and their evolution in profit and loss, according to their partnership agreements.
At the national level, disenfranchisement of the poor via legislation that makes a parliamentarian to be a representative of the entire nation upon election, adds to the already sordid fate of the marginalised. During polling, their massive participation is solicited with bags of rice, sardine tins and even bread and bottles of beer.
The extensive desperation that holds sway in rural areas is such that just fraternising with the so-called elite from Yaounde on polling day is enough to palliate their despondency. With the bad or non-existent roads, no electricity and poor sources or no drinking water, these Cameroonians who can be likened to abandoned luggage, wait painfully for the day the inevitable death comes to relief them of their plight. All this happens because for there to be water light, food, low-cost housing from which ordinary Cameroonians would have been feeling the impact of government, a process has to begin not with the municipal authorities but with a representation of the central government in Yaounde (Ministry of the Economy, Plan and Regional Development).
We are still in this quagmire more than a quarter of a century after the now ubiquitous mantra of decentralisation was brought into Cameroon’s governance lexicon by Joseph Owona, arrowhead of the 1996 constitution, that watered-down Anglophone quest for greater autonomy. As if to prove Owona and his cabal wrong, we are today, saddled with a fratricidal crisis that inclination to political savvy would have averted. We refused to allow reason to prevail and instead opted to satisfy our greed, to the detriment of the poor, to whom devolution of power would have been immeasurably beneficial.
Haven taken severe battering from the on-going crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions that again, affects mostly the poor, government is in a state of flux. Resources that ought to be channelled to uplifting livelihoods have gone to prosecute the fight against separatists. In the event, the vitality of the polity is gravely eroded given that majority of those who have died, whether on the side of government or separatist are the very young and poor.
Oh yes, the poor have no say in the manner which the country is run. After all, they are expendable tools that come into use when needed just like they can be ignored in perpetuity. This perception of the status of the alienated majority, by the privileged few, who gallivant in the corridors of power is the reason why we prefer stadiums to roads, water, light, food and housing. It is the same reason why money for the fight against COVID 19 would go into the pockets of the rich when many rural areas are still to feel the impact of the colossal amount put at government’s disposal. All that comes into our heads is contracts execution and 10 percent kickbacks. This sleaze has so invaded our psyche that even those who cried for special status are now exhibiting crass insensitivity to the plight of those they are supposed to represent. It is as if they are aware that they were not elected but merely called upon by their party chieftains in Yaounde to be on board another vehicle to squander the people’s money.
Is there any doubt as to why the Southwest Regional Assembly will be thinking of borrowing one billion for the construction of a hotel that has no bearing on the people of Talangayi, Toko, Wabane or Ninong. Whether the perpetrators of this conspiracy against the poor like it or not, there is retributive justice or payback time and that time is not far from now.
A word to a wise, they say, is sufficient. The earlier it dawns on the governing class that the welfare of the citizenry is the reason why they were appointed or elected in the first place, the better for all of us. We are currently wading through crisis on account of misrule. It is not an irrevocable situation. All that is needed is concern for one another, such that greed takes back seat so that the orgy of bloodletting currently sapping the vitality of our country, will be a thing of the past.