Barely a few days to the elective convention of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, party, on October 28 and 29 in Yaounde, Honourable Joshua Osih, co-opted National Chairman of the party and a candidate for the chairmanship unveils his vision for the party. He also succinctly replies to accusations levied against him and explains lingering worries bothering some militants and observers. He spoke exclusively to The SUN’s CEO and managing Editor, Norbert Wasso Binde
Thank you for finding time to granting this interview to The SUN newspaper despite your very busy schedule. How has it been like running the SDF after the death of the founding Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi?
It has been a very challenging time but I think all of us have been up to the task. Transitions are always fragile moments for groups and the most important engagement at this time for all of us is to maintain the actual group dynamics. Our late National Chairman, may his gentle soul rest in peace, did his very best to make sure that the Party lives on. He had planned to retire from his role of National Chairman in July and this position was clear to everyone in the Party, but unfortunately the cold hands of death stroke before. This has made things a bit easier than if these responsibilities fell upon us without any prior grooming.
During the NEC meeting before the most recent you were co-opted as National Chairman. Why?
The Party Constitution provides for the replacement of a position in case of vacancy. A Party cannot work without a head and so the National Executive Committee, decided to co-opt its 1st Vice President to the vacant post of Party Chair. Without this technical move, we would not have a vote holder for the Party.
The constitution had envisaged this scenario why weren’t you simply confirmed and not co-opted?
Section 18.6 talks of doing a replacement. The constitution requires for a member of the concerned executive, in this case the National Executive Committee, to replace so in our case the National Executive Committee chose the 1st Vice reason why you can talk of designation or co-option. It is not an automatic exercise.
You have overseen the last phase of the re-organisation at the regional levels. How do you describe the various outcomes?
The nationwide reorganisation of the Party has been a huge success with mobilisations in most places exceeding expectations. We have 10 new regional chairpersons with who we’ll redeploy to win.
Before the regional elections there are reports many electoral districts especially in the Northwest and Southwest regions were either not profoundly re-organised or the exercises were rushed? Are these not worrying signs to the weakening of the party especially with elections in the horizon?
Well, I don’t think so. The North West and South West regional conferences had the necessary quorum of at least 2/3 of the structures in the regions so that means that the work was done. Furthermore, reorganisation is not a static exercise, the regions will pursue this where the NEC teams ended.
The elective convention comes up in a fourth night. How prepared is the party?
Well, it is our 10th Ordinary Convention so I would guess that experience is on our side. We had the unfortunate demise of our late National Chairman that has made things a little bit complicated with preparedness but I remain very confident that we will have a successful convention.
Logistics insufficiencies have marred previous conventions of the SDF. Are we sure delegates are going to be well lodged and fed this time?
I do not recall any previous logistical shortcomings. This is a convention and so delegates are delegated by their structures to attend the convention. The Party at the National level comes in to support these structures as much as it can. It is the Party’s convention not a convention party. However, we are doing everything humanely possible to support our delegates as much as possible.
Who is to attend the convention? Any high-profile guests to attend?
Invitations have been handed out. We initially invited our friends and then had to postpone our convention due to the passing of our late National Chairman. This change of date created some degree of planning conflicts for many of our guests. We are not yet in possession of a list of confirmed guests at this time.
What is the budget of the convention and how much has been realised?
This question should be directed to the Chairperson of the Convention organisation committee.
Campaigns are being launched for elective positions, meanwhile the deliberations of the Investiture Committee have not been made public, neither do we know the composition of the National Advisory Council, NAC.
The National Advisory Council’s composition is known since 2018, its mandate is valid up and until this convention. The list of candidates will be published 10 days to the convention as stipulated by the constitution.
You’re one of the candidates for the position of National Chairman. Is Osih his own man or you’re running on the legacy of the late Chairman. What is your vision?
The most important aspect here is that we are presenting ourselves as a group, within a group dynamic. It is important that you understand that being a National Chairman with an unaligned group at the National Executive Committee makes it simply impossible to lead the Party. The legacy of our late National Chairman must be upheld and preserved. I think that having worked with him for more than two decades gives me the necessary ability to do just this. Furthermore, this legacy should be a bedrock on which we can transform ourselves to be more determined to win in the future. This is the tribute we owe him and I know that he is watching.
How would your chairmanship make the SDF more attractive to the youths and reposition the party as a veritable political machine comparable to the 1990s and why not go beyond that
All I can say at this point is that we will work hard together to achieve that objective. I want it to be very clear that I’m not going in for a one-man show. I want this to be a team that will deliver the goods and as such, in order to align the team, we will have to strategize together. The only thing I can already be sure of, is that we all agree to move away from Party politics which has been predominant for the past years to more of public policy development and dissemination which is how you position yourself as a Party and how you win elections. Spending time with infighting doesn’t help and actually renders the Party less attractive to new recruits. My list of proposals to strategically position ourselves is long but these proposals are to be shared and developed by the team that will come out of the convention so that we can all claim ownership of them while we unroll the strategic outcomes.
How are you going to do this with the crisis still raging in the Anglophone regions, the CPDM’s dominating force, the rise of MRC in the Littoral and West your fiefs, the imminent arrival of a new party led by Hon. Nintcheu and other SDF dissidents
Those are all normal obstacles on the path of victory. Nothing good comes easy. If all of these political obstacles didn’t exist, then we would not need to strategize. We will offer Cameroonians a pathway to a better country and we will need to market this pathway appropriately. We will have the best political offer a Party can present to our citizens and we will hope that Cameroonians will have the courage to take the right path at the next elections.
What’s all this talk about constitutional amendments? Some are accusing you of planning to arrogate more powers to yourself
Change never comes without extreme resistance but being at the head of the constitutional amendment committee doesn’t mean that the amendments are from me. They came in from all over and we simply synthesised them and put them in the right format. These proposals are not to be tabled at the upcoming convention but the next, for which I may not even be a candidate, considering our determination to win the forthcoming elections, so I don’t know how mature that accusation is.
From reports, it seems you’re having a lot of resistance from some top-notches in the Party who are even vowing to support your opponents. Are we not heading for further cracks in the party after the convention?
When an amendment is tabled on the floor of the convention, the convention sovereignly elects to approve or dismiss it. If you are against an amendment, you should inject your energy into campaigning against it with delegates instead of trying to fight the sub-committee chair who is simply the delivery service.
What’s the reason for the hike in fees for candidature forms who many link to you. How collective was this decision?
Well, you are probably right when you say it was linked to me because during that debate at NEC, many of my comrades pushed for even higher amounts for the National Chairmanship position only, anticipating that I would stand for that post. The amounts where finally obtained through consensus and agreed by all present.
Hon. Osih, how would react to accusations that you’re corky and that you’re difficult to advise
Well, being corky which actually means being lively and fun to be with can only be a compliment that come from others. Being difficult to advise is actually a quality when you are in leadership because it shows that you can not be easily derailed or manipulated. So I don’t consider any of the above as an accusation.
Many say your openness and softness to the government do not bode well for SDF’s political future
Open maybe. Soft, not at all. I am in politics to govern, and you can only govern to be able to deliver the long-awaited public policies that will free Cameroonians from the actual autocratic regime of Yaoundé. I am fighting against a system and not necessarily against individuals. This is exactly where many get it wrong. If you want things to change, it is the system that needs to be changed. If you try only to change some people, you provide immunity to the system. If just one minister steals money from Cameroonians, the entire government and thereby the president himself are a liability. In working towards a system change, you have to be able to talk to each other. This does not mean that you agree, it means that you have the courage to face each other. This is why politically, effective radicality is found in participation. Building bridges not walls. The fact that we disagree should push us to move towards agreeing to deliver something in between for a better Cameroon, rather than moving further apart. It is more difficult to accept disagreements and work towards making progress a reality rather than just disagreeing and taking opposite directions while leaving the country in the middle.
Let’s talk about National Assembly matters where you’re Questor. Are the allegations of greed, favouritism, mismanagement founded?
The National Assembly can only be a mirror copy of the executive and judicial powers. Remember as I just said, it’s a system. Look at the personalities heading the executive, the judicial and the two legislative arms and you see what I mean. Hoy can you expect anyone arm of power to be different from the other when all of them are part of the same system.
Have you had convincing explanations to the FCFA 2.7 billion shortfall highlighted in the questors’ preliminary audit report?
Your allegations, I think, refer to work being done by an Ad-Hoc committee put in place by the Right Honourable Speaker, of which I am a member. Our report is solely addressed to the speaker who put in place this ad-hoc committee. He can choose to present it to the bureau of the National Assembly and the Bureau can chose to present it in plenary at which point it will become public.
Thank you very much. Any last word to your militants?
Well, I think this last point for me should be the most important. I sincerely wish that we all move to the Convention as one family. It is a very complicated convention due to the special circumstances as well as the context. As such, each of us has a duty to make this exercise a resounding success so that at the end of the Convention, there will be only one winner: the SDF