By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde
This time around in Paris, Paul Biya was not faced with any complicated, philosophical question which would allow him to give the demeaning response of “best pupil...”One of the questions concerned his longevity in office. In response, he repeated what he has been saying for a long time: the ballot box is there; it is the people that decide.
Such answers echo what Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the Malawian dictator who was worshipped like a God used to say at political rallies: “People outside this country call me dictator. But I tell them this: if I am a dictator I am a dictator by the people’s will...” Who can beat that? Which dictator will not borrow such a leaf from him?
The formidable Hosni Mubarack of Egypt was 82 years old and had stayed in power for 32 years when the Arab Spring caught up with him. He was elected in 1987, 1993, and 1999 each time with over 95% of “the people’s votes.” In 2005, he was elected with 88.6% of “the people’s votes.” If you wanted to listen, you were told that Mubarack was there because of the people’s design; because the people wanted him to be there! Yet, Hosni Mubarak was chased from power by the people on February 10, 2011!
At least Kamuzu and Mubarack learned before they quit the stage that the people were not really the malleable people they thought they were. One expected their still surviving Presidential comrades to learn the hard lesson from them. But for lack of any other convincing reason for hanging onto the presidency when their time is long past, the people remain their only reason. How much they look foolish and funny whenever they make these pronouncements about the people!
These dictators that continue to misuse the will of the people always ensure that the people live in fear. Indeed, Nikita Khrushchev has attested to that. The Arab Spring is a testimony of that. The dictators always remember to boast that they do not have political prisoners in their countries. Yet they always have political prisoner in all colours. It is like Clinton having a romantic affair with a woman and yet declaring with a straight face that he did not have “sex” with the woman. Our dictators have many people in prison for veiled political reason, yet they always declare with a straight face that they have no political prisoners – probably like, Bebey Eyidi and others of the Ahidjo days. No use hiding in the desert!
They also always declare that the citizens are “free.” Yet, imagine the tragedy in Mimboman where some dozen young girls were murdered under the watchful eyes of a so-called “chef de terre,” a D.O. The same D.O. had the audacity to refuse some citizens from going to Mimboman to find out what was going on. Interesting that the government abandoned the people of Mimboman to themselves; and they abandoned themselves to fate! Yet, they see on television everyday what “the people” of other countries do if as many as a single woman is abused by marauding criminal men. The people should always remember to take such problems into their own hands instead of abandoning themselves to fate or to an indolent government.
In 1982, “the people,” including Paul Biya wanted Ahidjo to stay on; for whatever reason, he refused, stating that he did not feel that he was still in total control of the affairs of the state. Mwalimu Nyerere followed suit in 1985, then Mandela in 1999, and this time, the Pope! “The people” still wanted all these people not to relinquish power, but they did. After these lessons from his peers, there is no need for Paul Biya to give the impression that he is still around because “the people” want him to be there. No use trying to hide in the desert!
Cameroon is on its knees because of rampant corruption, mismanagement, and generalised neglect. It needs new leadership to get the country moving again. Paul Biya's stay in power does not depend on how much “strength” he still has to continue; it doe not depend on "the people" as he claims. In the present state of the country, it all depends on him!