By Njousi Abang*
In the past two months it has been raining cats and dogs in Fako especially in the heart of the Southern Cameroon capital village city of Buea. Yes, Buea, the only regional capital whose divisional headquarters is located elsewhere with the sole purpose of making it remain backward so that some people can’t look back to it with nostalgia. This is Buea, the village city with only one main street that has been turned into a death trap. It was in this town that I boarded a taxi from Buea Town to Bakassi na Cameroon in Bomaka yesterday. While we were riding slowly and discussing about the failure of the UN to grant total independence to Southern Cameroon and thereby exposing us to another form of colonialism and annexation, it started raining heavily.
The heavy rain drops flew through the open windows of the taxi and soaked us within the taxi. When I asked the driver to whine up the glasses, he complained that the mechanism for achieving that goal was dysfunctional. He however, appealed to me to bear with him until the end of my journey. Since only one side of my body was affected, I was compelled to heed because alighting from the taxi would have meant that I would be soaked entirely before I could seek refuge under someone’s veranda by the road side. While I stayed there contemplating my fate, I began to think about how Cameroonians suffer to work and earn meager wages and suffer to spend the money they earned.
I also remembered a similar encounter when we got stuck with our beer bottles in our hands in an open air off license when the rain was falling and flowing unto the floor of the building. During that incident, we were forced to stand on our seats to avoid our shoes from being soaked by the waters. Guess what? We were actually thinking that we were enjoying ourselves in that squalid setting. Most Cameroonians don’t watch the setting where they settle down to eat or drink. Most are blinded by suffering to the extent that any thing goes. What is the use of launching complaints when nobody will listen or act in your favour?
Indeed where do we begin to talk about the woes plaguing Cameroonians? Where is the space in an article like this to state all the details? What can we do to make a difference? To begin with the latter question, it is worth noting that Cameroonians have the wherewithal to change their lot but they lack the courage, spiritual and moral authority to do so. Back to my encounter with the taxi driver as I earlier mentioned, it is worth noting that the driver did not take it kindly when I alighted from the taxi and suggested that I was not going to pay for the horrible treatment which he had given me in his taxi. He rained abuses at me and insisted on getting his due which I had no option but to pay. He said he was not responsible for the misery that Cameroonians were going through and that he was only trying his best to survive and I should not be the one to put sand in his garri. I paid for all the inconveniences which I suffered and got into Bakassi na Cameroon bar, where the blast of the music from the speakers was so horrifying that I had to caution the bar attendant to spare my eardrums from destruction. I noticed that a host of the customers in the bar were unruffled by the wild blast of the music. Some were smoking profusely and drinking themselves to stupor. On one table, I noted that a group five people sitting on it with three bottles of beer each standing in front of them. The bar man had just be ordered to take away empty bottles of similar stuff which indicated that they had been drinking for quite a while. Cheah! I thought deep within that Cameroonians where poised for a healthcare disaster. With very limited means to take care of themselves, most of them are likely going to die early.
Similarly, Cameroonians who have had the bad luck of traveling in a public transport vehicle know how much they pay for poor quality transport services. Cameroonians know how much they pay for unhealthy foodstuff displayed on the wayside or hawked along the highway. In urban areas, most Cameroonians eat on the streets under very horrible circumstances. Come to think of the shanty towns where the vast majority of our compatriots live in and pay huge amounts of money as rents. MTN and Orange networks, AES SONEL and Camwater take too much money from its clients who are constantly bombarded with adverts and poor goods and services but give so little in return for the customers’ hard earned currency. If you have ever cued up to pay any bills in an AES SONEL center, you will better appreciate what Cameroonians go through in order to pay bills for erratic services.
In addition, I would like to know if you have ever worked for an employer for a long period without a salary? If you haven’t, then ask a civil servant in Cameroon who after spending so many years without a penny finally gets a bank cheque or payslip. Just let him narrate what he has gone through before getting his arrears of salary paid. It is a story rippled with a lot of bribe-taking sprees from day one to the end where he ends up losing at least 40% of his wages. The story does not end there. He has to continuously go to Yaounde to ‘oil the lips’ of the pay masters or else he will have more hitches on his way to retirement when the dead toll rings.
Furthermore, who does not know that Cameroonians suffer get a job? Who does not know that Cameroonians suffer to keep the job? Who does not know that Cameroonians suffer to earn retirement benefits when their services are no longer needed? Cameroon has suddenly become synonymous to corruption and suffering. Although things may seem so bleak, there is hope in the pipeline as some people continue to wrestle for the good in Cameroon to stand out. Meg Biram says, “you can’t expect to see change if you never do anything differently.” A negative mind will never give you a positive life. Make a difference wherever you are. Cameroonians deserve a better life.*Njousi Abang is a senior official of People's Action Party, PAP,Cameroon and a social critic.