Ayah Paul Abine ,a former Member of Cameroon’s National Assembly for ten years, is currently the Secretary-General of People’s Action Party(PAP) and an iconic critic of the Biya Regime.Last September 30,he stood for reelection to serve a 3rd five-year mandate as MP but did not legally win.This career magistrate of exceptional class who was a 2011 presidential candidate,has gone without monthly salary now for almost a year ,seemingly because he is an ardent critic of the Biya Regime.Also an advocate of the Independence of Southern Cameroons,Hon Ayah is now bombarded with clarion calls to take over the leadership of the SCNC,which champions the restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons .He sat down last July 3, in Buea, for an exclusive interview with Recorder Editor Christopher Ambe. .Following are excerpts of the interview:
Honourable Ayah Paul, after the September 30,2013 parliamentary election which you legally lost after serving two five-year terms, how have you been campaigning now for the development of your constituency-Akwaya subdivision, considering that as MP you campaigned vigorously for government projects in the enclave subdivision?
I must first thank you for saying I lost legally but not in fact. It is true that we did not win the election legally because the commission was set up by law. That aside, the least I can say as you rightly said is that I did what I could for the development of Akwaya subdivision. And, when on the 19th February 2013 I drove to Akwaya-for the first time without passing through Nigeria, you can imagine the degree of self-fulfillment I had. Now that I am not in Parliament, I have not relented; the antennae for Orange and MTN are completed, I hear very soon Akwaya have telephone network. We have completed the structure for a community radio station; I have been discussing with the powers that be to make the Mamfe- Akwaya-Wum road a national road ,so that can help to fund the clearing of the road every year; in fact ,simply to maintain the road every year. So I am not relenting, I am doing my best, to continue what I did while in parliamentary.
Has your successor as MP, Chief Elias Igelle, already approached you so that together both of you can better fight for the development of the subdivision?
I think a week to the election he lost the mother and I went to his house back in the village to condole with him and I told him that it is good that we are in different parties so that which ever party wins, we should be represented in Parliament. But since his election, he has neither met me nor talked with me. They treat me as an “opposant”(opposition) since I am not in the ruling CPDM. So since his election we have not had any exchanges.
Are you still willing to work with him for the development of Akwaya?
I have always held that whatever your position, once somebody is elected you have to work with the person elected. Whether rightly or wrongly, the elected person represents the people; he speaks in the name of the people; what he says carries more weight than what an individual says because he talks in the name of the community. So I will work with any body who represents my community-even if he is not there because the people voted for him.
Now that you are no longer an MP but had served as a two-term MP doing much for your constituency (Akwaya) and Cameroon as a whole, how do you earn a living? What is your source of income now?
Well, after election I said that as a matter of law, when you leave your ministerial department and you are in parliament, you are said to be on detachement-translated by some quarters as secondment. But I do not know whether that is an English word:I prefer the French word detachement. And, that at the end of your detachement you are supposed to go back to your Ministry of origin. And that is said to be automatic; but when they stopped my salary some ten months ago from the National Assembly, I compiled a file and submitted to the Minister of Justice, saying my mandate is over in the National Assembly, and by law I am supposed to come back to my ministry; I have not attained the age of retirement, so I have to come back as of right. But the Minister has been silent since then. But I don’t regret it, because my children have made up their minds that I must be happy. But the truth is that for ten months in my own right I have not had a Franc as salary, contrary to the provisions of the law.
Do you see the non-payment of your salary as punishment by the CPDM government, conscious that some high authorities liken you to a thorn in the flesh of the Government in power?
There is no authority that is above the law, not even the President of the Republic. They have no right to punish anybody who has not been found guilty by a court of law.I have not been before any court. I did just what I thought was in the interest of the nation and I continue to work in the interest of the nation.
So far, have you got any unofficial reason from any authority why the Magistrate of Exceptional Class (Super scale Judge) that you are has not been receiving his salary for almost a year?
Not all. I have been invited to Yaoundé on about three occasions. Some people tried to prevail on me to go back to the CPDM or to join the Presidential Majorty or to accept a ministerial post, but I made it clear –I said this even on TV, that I cannot serve under Mr.Biya.If it is a government of national unity, I could reconsider but working under Mr. Biya, that he sits and appoints me-especially at a time that they are on their way out, I definitely cannot!
Do you think that the CPDM Government is withholding your salary because you are a leader of an opposition political party?
The law is that those in uniform and administrators and so on cannot do politics. I have not seen anything in the law that if you are a member of the judiciary you cannot do politics. And I have not seen anywhere in the law that if you are in the judiciary, you cannot be head of a political party.
You remember that during the last election, it was the Legal Department that fought against us (Peoples Action Party) in Lebialem. Those are members of the judiciary just as I am. And if they do that I do not see how the mere fact of being head of a political party precludes me from earning my salary as civil servant.
As a magistrate of exceptional class, are you saying that you are going to sit quiet and rely on the generosity of your children to keep you going when as of right you are entitled to a monthly salary from the State? What do you plan to do next?
You know Mr. Biya is everything: head of the judiciary, head of state, head of the armed forces, head of the football team, and head of everything. So, may be going to court is just wasting one’s time. But I am talking with my lawyer about the situation and we may eventually go to his (Mr.Biya’s) court. Let the court determine whether I constitute an exception. For now, we have just been discussing; we have not yet taken any concrete step.
Honorable, recently you have been more vocal about the marginalization of Anglophone Cameroon. There are fears by Government that you may be sponsoring the SCNC, whereas some of us are aware of the non-payment of your salary. What is your reaction?
You say Anglophone,I don’t like that appellation any more because our schools are now flooded by people o ‘f La Republic du Cameroun’. So Anglophone now is a definition that is very difficult for one to really grasp. So,I prefer Southern Cameroon. I am a Southern Cameroonian. There is no doubt that I support the independence, freedom of Southern Cameroon. There is no doubt about this.
Unfortunately, I have gone for ten months without a salary,; there is no way I can sponsor myself much less can I sponsor the liberation movement. But if I had the means, I can assure you that I won’t hesitate to sponsor the freedom of our people. In fact, that is a right that even God has given us. But as at now I don’t have the means! But If I had, I would support.
Word is circulating that you are being considered as a possible successor of Chief Ayamba Ottun the leader of the SCNC who just died. What is your take on that?
It is interesting because I met somebody form La Republique du Cameroun, who said that Ayamba is in fact Ayah,that Mba has been added there just to confuse issues. In fact, a lot of people have met me –some people by phone from overseas and the country asking me to lead the liberation movement. What I have told them is that as at now I am not a registered member and it appears by the constitution I cannot .So I have not given my opinion concretely. But I have not said no either. I think I buy somebody’s idea that, if you don’t have a cause you can die for then you don’t have any reason to live. That is a cause that one can die for-the liberation of our people. When I look round and see my people being treated as if they are on foreign land,it hurts. So I have not said yes or no. Events s in the days or weeks ahead can give us a leeway to draw a conclusion.
Would you really say the cause for the freedom of Southern Cameroonians is progressing?
Eh, a lot! You may have heard about my letter to the Secretary-General of the UN.I am working on a letter now for the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In fact, we have dispatched somebody with a memo to the UN,asking them to table our matter before the General Assembly, because the UN Charter makes allowance for non-member states to table matters if such threaten regional or world peace. More and more people are beginning to listen to us. You may have heard of a group of British MP’s who have taken up the issue. You have heard of the Organization for Unrepresented Peoples we are working with. We are making moves. Cameroon government may minimize what is happening but they are really afraid. They know what is happening and that they are standing on shaky grounds
The cause you support is so sensitive that others prefer to hide and fight but from overseas. But you have the audacity to be backing it while you are here in Cameroon. Are you not worried about your security?
What security? At my age-I am 60 years; I think I have made my impact. I have shown you what my children are doing for me. They will do many more things. I have no reason to be afraid. People fought and died for the independence we are enjoying today. And why can’t we also fight and die for posterity to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. I am not afraid of any thing; if I were afraid I would not have stood up to Mr. Biya telling him that it was immoral for him to revise the constitution and perpetuate his stay in power. If I did that, I don’t see how staying here in my own territory I would be afraid of foreign faces.
Let me deviate a bit. I understand you are a football fan. What conclusion did you draw when the Indomitable Lions before going to this year’s World Cup in Brazil, rejected the Cameroon flag handed to them by Prime Minister Philemon Yang?
Well, he is a prime minister without power. Though I was there, and I am still ready to serve under the public service, I don’t believe that my brother, Mr.Yang is a prime minister in La Republique du Cameroun, to the extent that he can give a flag in the name of La Republique. He is a Southern Cameroonian, and the least we expect is that, he should join forces with us to fight the liberation of our state. The Francophone team that was going to Brazil had every reason to say “we don’t know you as one of us”. I think that is the implication of what they did; not because they had in mind that their bonuses had not be paid. It was clear message that “Look, we don recognize you here”. And in fact, you see that the real man taking decision, talking to the pres is the Secretary-General at the Prime Minister’s Office.Mr. Loui Paul Motaze, not Mr.Yang.
Where do you actually get your strength from to be fighting all these battles?
All you need is just the moral strength; the ability to make things happen; the ability to do things honestly. Once you are fighting for a just cause, God steps in for assistance. May be as we are talking now, tomorrow we may find ourselves liberated –even without a gun shot!
You are the SG of the People’s Action Party (PAP).How is the party faring after last September 30 elections?
You know PAP was sponsored almost exclusively by myself and I don’t have the means now.Again, remember when the Supreme Court of Cameroon came out with some kind of thing they called judgment against us, I said that they had just told me that I should go back home and I was returning to Southern Cameroons, my home territory with joy.
PAP is still there but efforts are now shifted tremendously from PAP to SCNC.We are more now on the side of liberation than fooling ourselves that we can make any headway, in what they call union with La Republique du Cameroun.
Any appeal to Southern Cameroonians?
They should know that there is only one home where you are free. Everywhere else, however the people accept you, someday somehow they will tell you or your children that you don’t belong here. Southern Cameroons is our territory. You don’t get independence by joining. We have to sit down and work for our independence!
(First Published in The RECORDER Newspaper, Cameroon,of July 9,2014)