Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cameroon:Aminatou Ahidjo: Political Dwarf or Messiah of Reconciliation?

By Tazoacha Asonganyi
Women and men alike are known to have used their bloodlines – their lineage - to propel themselves to the height of the politics of their countries, in respect of the memory of a father, husband, grandfather, or some other relative that they feel was wronged in one way or the other by the regime of their countries. 
     The first prime minister of India after independence was Jawaharlal Nehru, who led India's political struggle for independence from British rule. He had an only daughter, Indira Nehru who later became Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi née Nehru who was propelled into politics because she served as the Chief of Staff of her father's administration between 1947 and 1964. Popularly known as Indira Ghandi, she later became India’s third prime minister from 1966 to 1977. She had a second term as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1984 when she was cut down by the bullets of assassins. 
      Following her assassination, her son Rajiv Ghandi took over as sixth Prime Minister of India from 1984 to 1989. He too was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in 1991. Following his demise, his widow Sonia Gandhi, was invited by leaders of her husband’s party to take over the government but she initially refused before she decided to join politics in 1997 and was elected President of the Party in 1998. 
      Another country, another man, Aung San who was the founder of the modern Burmese army; he negotiated Burma's independence from the British Empire in 1947 but was unfortunately assassinated by his rivals the same year. He had three children, one of whom was Aung San Suu Kyi who is today a prominent Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma. In 1990, the military junta in her country - since named Myamar to blur the memory of her father Aung San - called for snap general elections which her party won by landslide, beating the party supported by the junta. The junta reneged on their promise of democracy and put her under house arrest, until very recently. She is likely to become the next president of Myamar in 2015. 
     And yet another country and another woman, María Corazon Sumulong "Cory" Aquino; she is a Filipino politician who served as the eleventh President of the Philippines. She was married to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., the staunchest critic of President Ferdinand Marcos. After her husband was assassinated in August 1983 by the Marcos regime, she decided to join the opposition to challenge the rule of Marcos.  When Marcos later called for a snap presidential election, Corazon Aquino ran against him on February 7, 1986, following which the electoral commission proclaimed Marcos elected in an election marred by massive fraud. Aquino led the people in the People's Victory Rally that became known as the 1986 People Power Revolution and succeeded to topple the 21-year authoritarian rule of President Ferdinand Marcos to restore democracy to her country. It was to the honour and credit of the then favorite opposition candidate, Salvador Laurel, who was convinced to run as Aquino's Vice President using his political machinery, the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO), which was then the country's largest opposition party. Following the demise of Corazon Aquino in 2009, her son Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, popularly known as Noynoy Aquino ran for the 2010 presidential election, and won, becoming the fifteenth President of the Philippines, succeeding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 
     Again, another country, another man and his daughter! Zulfikar Ali Bhutto served as the fourth President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 and ninth Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977. He was deposed by his appointed army chief General Zia-ul-Haq in a bloodless coup in 1977, and later tried and executed in 1979 for allegedly authorising the murder of a political opponent. Following his death, his daughter Benazir Bhutto took over the mantle of his party, the Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP) and twice served as Prime Minister. She was later assassinated in a bombing in 2007. 
      Back here in our own Cameroon, we are presently immersed in the story of another man and his daughter.  Ahmadou Ahidjo was the first president of Cameroon from 1961 to 1982 when he willingly handed over power to Paul Biya who has been president since then. Paul Biya upon taking office fell out with Ahidjo who saw Biya’s administrative approach as a betrayal of his legacy. He later went on exile to Senegal where he subsequently died and was buried there. Paul Biya later changed the name of his party from the Cameroon National Union (CNU) to the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM). Germaine Ahidjo, the widow of Ahidjo has since remained in Senegal with her family, insisting that certain conditions must be met for her to return to Cameroon with her husband’s remains. The conditions have so far not been fully met. 
      Aminatou Ahidjo seems to be presently the girl (or woman) in town! She is the last daughter of Ahidjo, and is said to be a politician, political communicator and jurist. She has claimed that she “suffered” in exile because of her father’s conflict with Biya, and has addressed a message of “gratefulness” and “support” to Paul Biya and his politics! Indeed, she has formally joined the CPDM. 
     Well, the other women described above used their lives to show that “suffering” is in the heart of the beholder; it all depends on your philosophies, attitude, actions and the outcomes you expect. These other women assumed and defended the legacies of their loved ones abused over issues of power games, and fought relentlessly against those who caused suffering and loss to their families. So, why has Aminatou Ahidjo done what she has done? Why has she acted the way she has acted? 
      Is it about inordinate ambition and self-interest? Probably so because her concept of politics seems to be derived from rot learning from text books; and her utterances seem very like the motions of support that have become the trademark of those who desperately want political office to be thrust on them from above. 
     Is it about reconciliation and national concord? But reconciliation is not about fine speeches. It is about the truth which, as Mahatma Ghandi put it, seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves. It is truth about grievances; about the root cause of conflicts; about apologies and forgiveness. 
       Is it about compromise? But the Biya side has not shown any softening of their position on her father.  Yet, if it is political concession in expectation of the eventual honour of the memory of her father by the regime, it might end up just being another invitation to the high table without any effort to assuage the feelings of her mother and many of Ahidjo’s relatives, as well as the hundreds of widows and families left behind as a result of the conflagration that followed the divorce between Ahidjo and Biya. It might end up just feeding the ego, the arrogance and the haughty spirit of a man to whom Ahidjo offered the country on a platter of gold! 
     Aminatou Ahidjo may just be a disciple of Wilde – killing the thing she loves. For Oscar Wilde wrote in “The Ballad Of Reading Gaol”: And each man will kill the thing he loves; By each let this be heard; Some do it with a bitter look; Some with a flattering word; The coward does it with a kiss; The brave man with a sword. Aminatou Ahidjo seems to be a political dwarf, not the messiah of reconciliation she is claiming to be. She seems to have chosen flattery, and the way of the coward to annihilate the memory of her father!

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