Ayah Paul Abine is an embodiment of many things: he is a magistrate of exceptional class in Cameroon; he is a philanthropist, running an orphanage in Buea;he is the Paramount Chief of Akwaya town ;he’s a two-term MP for Akwaya, a 2011 presidential candidate and currently Secretary-General of People’s action party(PAP).
Widely noted for his outspokenness on matters of national and common interest, Hon Ayah Paul Abine sat down, Friday May 10, in Buea, for an exclusive interview with Recorder Editor Christopher Ambe.
He spoke on Cameroon’s pioneer Senate, the new-found love between the ruling CPDM and the SDF, the so-called reunification of Cameroon and more. Following are Excerpts
How is your party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) faring a few months to Legislative and Municipal elections?
First of all, I want to thank you for coming to talk with me .It is not our style to be telling people what we are doing .And that is the trick that worked wonders in the 2011 presidential style elections. If you would recall, we were simply dismissed as a party but the presidential results baffled everybody; so are we today working on the ground without making any noise. We only go to the press when we are pressed; for instance you are here now and we have to talk. But, generally we don’t disclose to people our strategies; we don’t tell people our strength.
Honourable, apart from the fact it is provided for by the 1996 constitution, do you as a political party leader thin that Senate is necessary in Cameroon?
I don’t know if I am in a position to take a decision in the place of Cameroonians. But if you are asking my opinion –as you rightly said, as an opinion leader, I would say it is unnecessary; unnecessary in the sense that the money we are wasting in the name of senate would be used better elsewhere. I have a friend who just came from Konye and the way he described the road between Konye and kumba is very horrible.
In Cameroon, we leave the substance most of the time and chase the shadow. The National Assembly has never really taken a decision in the interest of Cameroon. The Senate is going to be composed of the same Cameroonians. I see no difference between the National Assembly and Senate, except that we are going to have another place where people will go and sleep all the time and just wake up and clap.
In the days of the Senate for Cameroon it is going be worse in the sense that the people are too old if you look at the average age. I know, of course that in places like Britain, if you look at the House of Lords you have people who are barely walking, with their hats and pipes on and walking sticks. But then, most often these are people who are very seasoned, retired people who are patriotic, who worked for the betterment of their country. In the case of Cameroon, there are people who will simply go there to sing praises to the President of the Republic-especially those appointed who have -properly speaking- no legitimacy. And like in the National Assembly, I don’t see ever their accepting a private member bill.
What is your opinion about the apparent new-found love between the SDF and the ruling CPDM demonstrated publicly during campaigns for Senatorial election? For example, the CPDM was campaigning for the SDF in the West Region and the SDF was doing same for the CPDM in the Littoral Region.
If anything has happened to Cameroon today that can be decried it is the relationship between the SDF and the CPDM.We are on the field and since Monday I have held about six meetings …and in all those meetings each time a question has always come up: if SDF has betrayed the people, do we have any other hope? Are there other parties that are different? That is the worst thing that would have happened to our country.
When SDF came up it attracted so many Cameroonians. This is because when Mr. Biya took over from Mr.Ahidjo he made us believe that things were going to be different. I was in Bamenda in 1983, when he said one of the first things that he was going to do was to stop the chasing of dossiers.Today, chasing of dossiers-and for non-Cameroonians, that means somebody goes from office to office, from table to table in government offices following up papers. Chasing of dossiers today in Cameroon is an institution, a business. Many are teachers today who have abandoned the classrooms and are only chasing dossiers. They do it for you and they are paid 30% of whatever amount is paid to you eventually. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t see anything that Mr.Biya has promised that has come to pass. To be honest to ourselves we have not seen any. And for any party of the opposition –working for change, to go to bed with the very institution that has grounded Cameroon in all aspects because Cameroon today has embassies that are closed down, Cameroon has embassies they cannot even fund; in almost every quarter of a town in Cameroon today you have gendarmes /police harassing everybody to collect money to put in the state coffers; no body today is talking about the HIPC I funds; we were told to wait for the completion point .It is a taboo today to ask what has been done with those funds. So, for anybody who has had the confidence of Cameroon as a party of opposition, to go back to the very evil that we want to get rid of, to me is an abomination.
And so do we tell Cameroonians, that today there is only one opposition party that is most trustworthy and that is Peoples Action party (PAP), which is the Third Option. Third option in the sense that, there is the ruling CPDM, there is the so-called opposition and PAP is the third option.
Honourable, let me bring you now to the appointment of senators by President Biya. What is your reaction to the appointment of 30 senators including Chief Anja Simon who is your own “brother” from your constituency of Akwaya?
Well, I know that I contested elections with Dr.Anja Simon twice -in 2002 and 2011, and I beat him. If, today,Mr. Biya has raised him to the office of senator, well and good for Akwaya, because that is part of the country that has been neglected all along. I congratulate him.
But on the whole it is pity that Mr.Biya has not opened up. We were hoping that, for the first time if only at the very last minute Mr. Biya was going to open up, bring in people from the civil society, bring in people from the genuine opposition. If you look at those he has appointed, all are cronies of the CPDM.All in the sense that if he has gone out of the CPDM it is parties that are said to part of the Presidential Majority. So they are birds of a feather which are flocking together. It is so sad fro Cameroon that we have waited for 17 years to have senate. And we are going to have a sham in the name of Senate.
It is highly rumored that an Anglophone will be selected or elected Speaker of Senate. Do you think that if that comes true it is going to help in addressing the decades-old Anglophone Problem that includes gross marginalization in appointment and development projects?
You see me laughing before answering the question. Of all the political figures in Cameroon today of Anglophone origin including the SDF there is only one man who has stuck out his neck in favor of the Anglophone cause. And this man is a certain Ayah Paul of PAP.Mr. Biya has already appointed his senators. If one of them is appointed President of Senate tomorrow, he is not going to depart from what he has been before. Whoever that may be I don’t believe that it is now that he will owe allegiance to Mr.Biya by reason of his appointment that he will be able to tell Mr. Biya that my people are suffering or like Moses say “ Pharaoh ,let my people go” I don’t see any effect of such an appointment on the Anglophone cause.
Let’s address the so-called 50th anniversary celebration of Cameroon’s reunification coming soon.Recently, there was a Government-sponsored conference-debate in Yaoundé during which renowned historians and constitutionalists publicly admitted that there was no legal union between la Republique du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons. What is your take on that?
I have already told you that among the Anglophone Politicians, I alone have had the courage to say that there no document on reunification. You cannot talk about 50th anniversary of reunification without talking about the starting point, then the first second, third and up to the fiftieth anniversary
I have challenged the President of the Republic to just refer to any document anywhere to the effect that in the eyes of the law there is reunification between Southern Cameroon and La Republique of Cameroun that was under French Trusteeship. There is no such document and remember that on December 31.2009 in his end of the year address to the nation,Mr .biya himself said the only documents in the Secretariat-General of the United Nations on the Independence of Cameroon are those of January 1,1960.What they call reunification is said to have dated from October 1,1961 but in the UN Charter any change in the boundaries of La Republique du Cameroun as of January 1,1960 ought to have been notified to the UN in writing ,filed in the Secretariat-General of the UN.In the absence of any such document there is nothing in the eyes of the law called reunification.
Do you agree with the claim by some very critical minds that La Republique du Cameroun is annexing Southern Cameroons?
Well we could call it Southern Cameroons…they are there. I don’t know may be on an era. And that is why I have applied a number of times to meet the President of the Republic to impress on him that force has never resolved any problem anywhere in the world. There is no war that has not ended in peace talks. It is incumbent on him if he is a patriot, if he loves peace to dialogue with the Anglophones. Outside that whatever they are doing in this part of the country is not without the law. It is not right.
Ahead of municipal and legislative elections, do you have an appeal to make to Cameroonians as a whole?
Appeal to Cameroonians? Well, some Cameroonians have sold their soul to the devil; they thought that 20 years was a long time; they forgot simply that the Bible says “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” so it is the same old people that Mr.Biya has called to the senate –just a slap in the face of the youth and women. How many women are there?
Therefore, as I have said, Cameroonians should understand here and now that the only one party that stands out to defend the youth and women is PAP.PAP was the first political party in the world to provide that once it took over Cameroon, there would be equal number of men and women in Government. The French have copied it from us-because I gave them a copy of My Vision of a Born Again Cameroon”-hand mail; I gave it to the French Ambassador. I was not alone. I led a delegation and they have applied it. So we are the third option; we are not fighting our course, we are not fighting a course for anybody, we are fighting a general course that when it comes to pass all of us will regain out dignity; all of us will be able to respect the law and get protected by the law.
(First published in The Recorder Newspaper,Cameroon,of May 15,2013)