Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mayor Langsi: The Fon of Bafut and I don’t talk politics but focus on development

Award-winning Mayor of Bafut, Langsi Abel Ngwasoh, has said no part of his municipality will be left undeveloped if the council has the funds.

Following the creation of state-owned University of Bamenda, and subsequent public debate as to where the varsity structures be located, Mayor Langsi says Bafut has all it takes to host the University of Bamenda .

The SDF Mayor discloses that he works well with Fon Abumbi II of Bafut, who is a bigwig of the ruling CPDM party, when it concerns the development of the municipality.

He talks on council finances, tourism in Bafut, his development drive, the Bamenda-Bafut-Airport and much more
Mayor Langsi who was in Buea recently to receive his award as The Guardian Post 2010 Mayor of the year, sat down for an exclusive interview with Recorder Editor Christopher Ambe Shu Following are excerpts of the interview:
The Recorder: Mr. Mayor, congratulation on your election as The Guardian Post 2010 Mayor of the year.
Mayor: Thank you.

Mayor Langsi Abel

How did you feel when you learned that you were voted 2010 Mayor of the Year?
 It was a pleasant surprise to me. I did not imagine I could be chosen as the best mayor. All along I have been struggling to do my best to enhance development in Bafut municipality. I did not know that people and the media were monitoring my activities. So, learning that I excelled among the many mayors of Cameroon was a pleasant surprise.
Which are some of the projects that you have realized that you think caught the attention of the monitoring public?
I wish to say that for the little time that we have been in office, we have done much. We inherited a council that was indebted –owing salary arrears; social insurance dues were not paid and so the workers could not receive their benefits. So when I took over the office of mayor, I made it as a priority the payment of salary arrears. I am a civil servant and know what it means to go without salary.
So far, I have cleared all the salary arrears to the tune of about seven million francs. Salaries are now regularly paid. I also paid social insurance arrears to the tune of about eleven million francs.
I have constructed speed brakes in Bafut.You know that the Bamenda –Bafut highway is a tarred road and all the trucks that carry sand from lower Bafut ply that road at terrific speed. As a consequence, many deaths have occurred on that road, and I had to construct these speed brakes to check speeding vehicles. Since the speed brakes were constructed, no death has occurred on the road.
We now have street lights in Bafut-something which did not exist before. Almost all the major road junctions in the municipality are lighted. I have improved roads in Bafut.I have organized four editions of agricultural shows in Bafut, amounting to several millions of FCFA.
In collaboration with the Bafut Elite Association, the council has been donating scholarships to the poor and needy. The initiative started three years ago. Last year we spent over one million francs for scholarship in secondary schools in Bafut. We also provide holiday jobs for students.
I have also been able to organize the Bafut Council Unity Cup Competition, which brings the youth of Bafut together for football and handball-so to give them the chance to develop and exhibit their talents. This competition led to the revival of Bafut United Football Club last year, which last existed in 1992.We revived it last year from the players we selected from the Bafut Council competition and they excelled and represented the Northwest region at the INTERPOOLs, even though we did not qualify for Elite Two. We have been giving financial assistance to health centers such as Makwi, Nsoh and Akosia for purchase of essential drugs for needy patients. We have donated cement to Njinteh Integrated Health Center to facilitate rehabilitation. We assist in all mother/child vaccination campaigns-providing vehicles, fuel and some remuneration to those carrying the exercise, in collaboration with the District Medical Officer. We have constructed toilets in some markets. We have water projects; we have this giant Agyiati-Nsoh water Project with the assistance of FEICOM.We also has water projects in Akofunguba and Tingo.
You may be aware of the New Bafut Council Chambers, which have just been realized. We have been using the new structure now for over eight months. Observers say it is a masterpiece.
We also have the electrification project of the Mambu-Mankanikong-Makwi villages. These villages don’t have electricity. We have secured funds from FEICOM to give them electric energy.
There is no doubt that we have improved hygiene and sanitation in the municipality. Everybody is now aware that they must keep their surroundings clean, must have good toilets at home. Our sanitary inspectors go round and bring defaulters to book.
We recently planted 4725 trees in Bafut following a convention we signed with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. These trees are going to change the face of Bafut.We planted some ornamental trees along the roadsides, planted water-giving trees in  catchment areas; planted some herbal trees and timber in the Bafut Council forest.
We have signed a convention with Plan Cameroon for the execution of various projects in Bafut.
That convention stipulates that every year Plan Cameroon will assist the council with thirty-one million francs, for projects that are child-centered. We recently signed a convention with the national Community-Driven Development Program (PNDP) worth about FCFA 107 million, whose process starts with the elaboration of the council development plan and after that the execution of some micro-projects.
In April last year, I was in the USA to forge partnership with the Lansing City Council, which they accepted. This March officials of the Lansing City Council will be in Bafut to see the situation on the ground and how we can concretize that partnership.
We have also given assistance to various schools. We have donated zinc to government schools such as GTC Nforya, GTC Mundum.The achievements are so many that I cannot enumerate all here.
You seem to have achieved much for so short a time. One may think Bafut Council is having a huge budget. Is this the situation, Mr. Mayor?
{Laughs}To me what matters is not the money you have, but how you use what is available for the benefit of the community. I want to say our budget for the past three years has ranged from 100 to 120 million francs
What is the council budget for 2011?
The budget for 2011 is FCFA 487 million. This figure includes all the conventions we have signed. We have one with Plan Cameroon which gives us FCFA 31 million; we have another with PNDP to give us 107 million francs. Then you have locally generated revenues. Add all you would have 487 million.
You have cited projects so far realized. Which are those in the pipeline?
We have water projects to be carried in the near future. We have been looking for funding. We have a working cooperation with SNV-a Netherlands organization that encourages judicious management of water resources. And through them we have contacted the African Development Bank (ADB).They have assured us they‘ll approve some of our projects. We hope to execute four water projects in four localities in Bafut. The project of street-lighting Bafut   and electrifying other villages will continue. Improving on the road net work in Bafut remains a priority concern.
You find so many tourist sites in Bafut, but to get there is quite difficult because of poor roads. Farm- to -market roads beg for improvement.
Everywhere now you hear of climate change. When the issue of climate change started, many people doubted it. But now, many have witnessed and seen its effects-change in food production and climate.
My council is determined to fight this climatic monster. And how can we do it?  The best way  is to implement the Green City program-encouraging people to plant more environment-friendly trees .I look forward to any donor or organization that can assist us in this domain-so to change the face of Bafut  so that by 2020 Bafut can be a completely green municipality.
Bafut is generally described as a tourist attraction. What makes it a tourist attraction?
The greatest tourist attraction here is the beautiful Bafut Palace.UNESCO has classified this palace as a world heritage center. It is an open secret that thousands of tourists flock yearly to Bafut to visit this palace. The place is made up of a tradition of about 600 years old. Besides that, there are many other tourist sites here. I don’t even want to mention Menchum fall, which is around the boundary between Bafut and Menchum.
There is the Nta’ayah area, which is beautiful greenery site for tourists; you have caves in Bafut and water falls. The only problem we face is accessibility to these sites. The most accessible is the palace, but for the other sites, we need to improve their roads
You are an SDF mayor. The Fon of Bafut is a CPDM bigwig. There are usually clashes between the SDF and the CPDM.How is your relationship with the Fon of Bafut?
I want to make it abundantly clear here that, in Bafut the Fon and I don’t talk politics but we talk development. Development has no political coloration! I am the mayor of Bafut, elected on the ticket of the SDF.But when it comes to making contacts with people who are resourceful for development purposes, I don’t consider political affiliation as a criterion. I look for development agents or partners. The Fon is a development partner.
Fon Abumbi II is very supportive of my efforts. He does everything to assist me succeed with the development program I have for Bafut.I equally do well to support his cultural activities. In fact, we work hand in gloves to ensure that development comes to Bafut.Hardly, do I sit with the Fon talking SDF/CPDM politics. When we ever do that, it is just to create fun and jokes so to laugh. The two of us always concentrate on development; that is why we are calling on all Bafut people to support our development endeavors.
When the time for politics comes-that is election time, we can now mount the podium to shout CPDM and SDF for the population to judge.
Bafut is a subdivision, a tribe and a language. How would you present Bafut people to the public?

The Bafut municipality covers the surface area of Bafut subdivision.Bafut is about 420 square kilometers and has a population of over 120 thousand people-even though official figures show something less. I don’t understand how a population can instead be reducing without any epidemic or calamity causing deaths.
Principally, the municipality is made up of the Bafut Fondom, which covers about four-fifth of the total surface area. And then you also have the autonomous second-class chiefdoms of Mundum 1 and 2.
Under the Bafut Fondom -which is first class, you have nine second-class chiefdoms. Then you have third-class chiefdom or quarters. In all, there are over 60 villages in Bafut.
The Bafut people hailed from the Tikari Tribe and are very welcoming, peace-loving and hard-working. The main dish is achu and the main drink palm wine. We produce crops such as njinja(greatest crop),maize,beans,Cocoa,coffee,palms,plaintains,rice etc.Indeed,Bafut is one of the bread baskets of the Northwest region and Cameroon.
Almost all the sand supplied to Bamenda comes from lower Bafut.We have quarries.
Elite of other subdivisions of the Northwest have been lobbying to get some faculties or schools of the state-owned University of Bamenda located in their areas. Are the Bafut elites indifferent?
A university is not a secondary school that can be located in one small area. It is an institution with faculties, colleges, and schools .That means a university needs a large surface area of land. Bamenda is already thickly populated. I am not aware of a suitable large land there that can accommodate such an institution.
Looking at near -by villages, you see that Bali already has a university; I don’t think Santa is suitable to host it. Water is a problem there, as they are engaged in grazing; almost all of their land is used for grazing.
You know Bafut is not only very near Bamenda, it has an airport, tarred road, pipe-born water, vast level land. In fact, Bafut has all it takes to host the University of Bamenda.It has feeder schools: 14 secondary and high schools. Bafut is ready to host the University of Bamenda.
Be informed that the Fon of Bafut, some elite and I have addressed a letter to the head of state to that effect.
In whose land is the Bamenda-Bafut located?
The airport called Bamenda-Bafut airport is located in Bafut municipality. It is just like the Yaoundé -Nsimalen airport, situated in the latter locality.

You must have heard claims-during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Cameroon Armed Forces, by Mankon people that the airport is located in Mankon. Why were they quiet all this while until when the Head of State was coming before they started putting signboards here and there claiming the airport?

If you see someone fighting over something when there is no dispute, it means such a person wants to claim ownership of what is not his. The airport is in Bafut –even if a very small piece of its land is part of Mankon. It is a very negligible portion of land.

I want to add that this air port has been lying fallow for quite a long time, until the 50th anniversary of the military. I don’t understand it was created when it cannot be put in regular use.
Because the airport was not in use, the Bafut council reaped no benefit from it.

But is there any indication that this airport would now go fully operational?
We were given the assurance that with the take-off of the new airline company-CAMAIRCO it will be functional. Its functioning will ease movement in and out of Bafut-Bamenda and the Northwest region -especially business people.

How far have you gone with twining Bafut council with foreign cities?
As earlier said, while in the USA  I met officials of Lansing City Council in Michigan and presented the vision, projects and problems of the municipality to them and how we this think we can work in partnership. They were pleased, and promised to come to Bafut around this March, so that we can concretize this partnership.

Are you ensuring balanced development in all regions of the municipality?
As mayor I have been struggling to effect balanced development. One of the first projects that I carried out as Mayor was the support the council gave for the construction of a bridge to go over to Buwe-an area in lower Bafut that is cut off from Tingo by the river. There is no bridge. People only swim across. A Christian organization came there to see how to assist the community construct a bridge, and they asked for 10% contribution to start the work. This poor community could not afford and the organization almost abandoned the project. I stepped & donated 1.6 million francs as their 10% contribution .I have also assisted schools down there .For example, the council donated zinc to G.S Osugho.Of recent, we donated 50 benches to two schools there. As of now there is water project going on in Tingo…even though the people are unwilling to contribute even in terms of manual labour.We have been doing our best to develop that area but it seems the people don’t want their development.
I don’t intend to leave any part of Bafut in misery so long as we have a few francs to share.

Your hands are full with projects but little means. Are you thinking of securing a second term?
I must say a second term of office is given to a mayor following the appreciation of his people. I cannot already be talking of a second term. It is my people to judge all what I have been doing. If they find that I have done well and they want to renew their confidence in me, then I will be ready to accept. If they think that I have not met their expectations and they want someone else, it is their decision. But I must add that I am really willing to serve my people and I will happily welcome a second term, especially given the vision that I have for the Bafut municipality.
There are so many Bafut elite living out of the municipality and abroad. Do you have any appeal to them?
Thank you for this opportunity. I have always made this clarion call to Bafut elite to invest back at home. By assisting your own village development association -by contributing to project realization, you are contributing to the development of Bafut in general. As mayor, I contact Bafut elite and persuade them to contribute to development. Please Bafut elite assist your local development association in carrying out projects. If everybody assists in development projects, tomorrow Bafut will become a city.
 As a public figure, are you media-friendly or media-shy?
I am very open to the press. I welcome journalist even at night. Any journalist who wants to know anything in Bafut should feel free to get to me.
Could you tell the public more about yourself?
I was born on August 6, 1968. I am the first child in a family of seven. I took office as mayor of Bafut on August 6th (coincidentally my birth day) 2007, at the age of 39.I am happily married .We have four children-two boys, two girls.My parents are all living. My father is a carpenter, who sacrificed much to send me to some of best schools .I attended primary school in PS Manji -Bafut, secondary education at PSS Mankon where I had my GCE O’Level in 1986; I proceeded to CCAST Bambili, where I had my GCE A’Level.
In 1989, I passed the entrance exam in ENS Bambili and trained as a physics teacher. I have been teaching from 1992.I taught in GSS Tinto-Manyu Division, from where I was transferred to GSS Bainakuma in 1995.I taught there from 1995-97.I moved to GBHS Mbengwi,where I taught physics up to 2007.I made ten years in GBHS Mbengwi,and I  was elected the Mayor of Bafut council. I have been pioneer Secretary-General of the Manji Youth Association, and later its president. In 2003, I was elected president-General of the Manji Development Association, and I carried out many projects in Manji.I became a councilor for Manji, and then elected Mayor of Bafut.

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