* Says he has never been its member!
In a previously exclusive interview with The Recorder, Hon.Justice Ayah Paul, whose services were highly solicited by the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) that is fighting for the independence of Southern Cameroons, chose not to answer questions about the pressure group, preferring to address such in a subsequent interview. In the following interview with Recorder Editor Christopher Ambe, Hon Justice Ayah, now Advocate-General at the Supreme Court of Cameroon clears public doubts about his link with the SCNC. He says that although he has been insistent and consistent that, there is no legal document on the British Southern Cameroons having ever joined the Republic of Cameroon, he has never been an SCNC member, as purported. The Magistrate of Exceptional Class, in this interview, castigates the SCNC for its lack of the sense of direction and leadership. Hon.Ayah also talks about his new job.
|Hon.Justice Ayah Paul /Photo Credit:Ayah Paul|
Honouble Justice Ayah, before serving as two-term MP, you had put in a total of 24 years in the judiciary: you were on the bench for 20 years and only four years in the Legal Department. Now you are back in the Legal Department-this time at the highest level, the Supreme Court, as Advocate-General. Professionally, how do you feel just a few weeks in your new office after your swearing-in? What is the job of an advocate-general?
Ayah: Some 37 years ago, I took the oath of the legal profession to do justice to all manner of people without fear or favour. After twelve years of recess during which I served as a member of parliament, I have now returned to my profession to continue to do justice to all manner of people in keeping with my oath. Just that my jurisdiction now is essentially appellate. That means that my new duty is to appreciate the judgments of the lower courts. In other words, cases will come to us essentially on appeal. To elaborate a little, when a judgment is given by a court for the first time, a party dissatisfied with the judgment may appeal to the Court of Appeal having jurisdiction. If that party or some other party to that same case is dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the party so dissatisfied would appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court comprises the Bench and the Office of the Attorney General, (what we call Procureur General’s Chambers in Cameroun at the level of the Supreme Court). The main duty of the Office of the Attorney General is to file submissions in the Supreme Court, stating whether the two lower courts have applied the law properly or not. An “advocate general” is a deputy of the Attorney General. He does file submissions in the court on cases assigned to him by the attorney general just as it has been explained. He then argues in defense of his submissions during oral arguments in open court or in camera (i.e. when sessions of the court are not public).
How do I feel? It is to me business as usual, having served in the legal department for four years previously. Yet is my jurisdiction far more extensive as it now covers the entire national territory. In other words, the burden may be much more onerous; much more challenging.
Whatever the situation, you are not without knowing that everything on earth grows up to God. One cannot help feeling a certain sense of fulfillment when one is appointed to the highest court of the land; let alone when, as in my case, the appointment is preceded by promotion. You may have learnt that, about half a year ago, I moved up to index 1.400 which is the highest index point in the country’s public service. Even the highest cold-blooded introvert would not remain indifferent to such a rare development. Therefore can I never ever thank God enough!
In our last interview, you did not want to comment on the widely-circulated allegation that you were elected new SCNC chairman; whether you accepted the post or not. I hope you would like to comment on the subject now to put the records straight.
To begin with, are you an SCNC member? Why do you think SCNC supporters are desperate that you become their leader?
Ayah: On December 31, 2009, the President of the Republic of Cameroun, in his traditional end-of-year speech, was emphatic that the only documents deposited in the secretariat of the United Nations on the independence of Cameroun are those relative to January 1, 1960. That was the position I had had the courage to hold publicly. The most authoritative voice of the country making such a public pronouncement in the name of the people for international consumption was a happy convergence of assertions between us; and a logical booster to me! Courageously reading everything into Article 102(2) of the UN Charter, which provides that, should the boundaries of a member state at independence subsequently change, the change should be evidenced in writing and the relevant document(s) deposited in the UN secretariat, I saw before me a road free of speed brakes. I was insistent and consistent that there is no legal document on the British Southern Cameroons having ever joined the Republic of Cameroun; and that “reunification” was consequently a fiction”. My reasoned opinion was published in a variety of media, and that apparently endeared me to a considerable number of Southern Cameroonians.
When my tour in the National Assembly came to the end, delegations upon delegations of Southern Cameroonians approached me physically, by mail, by telephone calls and/or by resolutions, entreating me to take over the leadership of Southern Cameroonians. This included accepting the position of the National Chairman of SCNC; acceding to the position of the national head of a coalition of the various groups the international community had been urging the government of Cameroun to dialogue with; and taking the position of the person endorsed by several smaller groups of the Southern Cameroons’ external elite to speak in their name.
My reluctance or, perhaps, hesitation to take a public stance hinged on three main points. In the first place, SCNC was in far too many factions: at least five at the material time. I insisted that SCNC should first keep its house in order. The counter argument was that my leadership would automatically generate order consequent upon a large following. But then, the teething issue was how to bring the various factions together to give birth to the leadership. “I never can tell people I am your leader”, I kept harping. “People should tell me you are our leader”. And there did I rest my case.
The second issue was that I was not yet a formal member of SCNC as I had not registered. Nor am I a formal member even now. As I made this point abundantly clear in my public pronouncements, many were those who contended that SCNC was not a political party, and so registration was not a legal requirement. While I was being encouraged almost worldwide to lead Southern Cameroonians, persons with sordid interest took to the press, claiming I wanted to enter a storey building through the window. Just imagine the contradiction: whereas many persons were virtually begging me to take up leadership, a tiny few claimed I was using unorthodox means to accede to leadership!
Also did sectarian publications take the central stage – warning that “another South-westerner” would only become the next national chairman of SCNC over the dead bodies of “north-westerners.” A certain Nwachan Thomas even unilaterally purported to [have] appointed himself “One of the Three National Chairmen of SCNC”. He fraudulently went ahead and wrote to a number of international bodies in that fictitious capacity, shamefully impervious to ridicule.
Thirdly, SCNC was not solidly on the ground. Some of the several so-called national chairmen were only busy grabbing money from wherever and from whomsoever upon fraudulent political misrepresentations. (I prefer not to elaborate on that for the moment)... But not without standing on the one serious issue, namely, the Chia factor: the so-called UN State of Cameroon. Nothing has ever been as destructive to the Southern Cameroons’ unity of purpose as Chia’s fictitious doctrine that, by a unique departure from the usual, a territory has exceptionally been ceded to an individual without any UN debates, let alone a resolution of the UN Security Council!
It is of course elementary knowledge that the UN takes decisions only by way of public debates ending in resolutions? How come that a good many educated Southern Cameroonians have been dragged into some dream land on the total fallacy that Southern Cameroons has been handed over to some individual by a secret decision of the UN Secretary General? What seriously speaking is the value of the pieces of paper the ignorant masses have been deceived to buy in the name of UN State of Cameroon’s identity cards? Where do they use them, and for what purposes?
It is perhaps a matter of gullibility stemming from enduring frustrations. But the overall effect of such machinations is that many are Southern Cameroonians who have been turned away from crusading for dialogue as ordained or recommended by the international community. These misguided fellow-countrymen are ignorantly glorifying in the hopeless expectation of imaginary UN intervention in a hypothetical distant tomorrow. All that only does lead to the contemptuous gloating of the present dispensation over our ineptitude or ineffectiveness! You would agree with me that few reasonable persons would go headlong into such disgusting cacophony. Caution was therefore of the utmost essence.
Aside from these proximate events was the distant but telling story of Southern Sudan! They had fought solidly together against the common enemy, only to turn their weapons against each other before the dust over their common victory had settled .The question then was: if we are already on one another’s throat even before the elephant has been killed, was it worthwhile going hunting? Very like fighting for victory with intent to destroy the victory!
When therefore SCNC was said to have elected me in Kumba, there was absolute need for introspection before ever coming out with a public pronouncement on my position. My stance had to be the issue of my own sovereign and unadulterated volition after careful contemplation. Within days, however, some empty vessels had resorted to hollow virulent disparaging attacks... I just do hope they have come back to their right senses by now !
Some SCNC supporters think-and strongly too, that by accepting the appointment as Advocate-General at the Supreme Court, you are now qualified to be called a traitor. What is your take on this?
Ayah: I know the portion of deciderata that advises us to listen to others, “even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story”. But overlook not the preceding caveat that “as much as possible WITHOUT SURRENDER...” When, therefore, the dull and the ignorant force themselves into the dazzling limelight that blinds their vision instead, we would be failing in our duty of love of neighbour to gratify their pomposity. I took oath to do justice to all manner of people... I alone reserve the right to call off that oath at the time I will appoint in complete sovereignty. I refuse to accommodate being led by the blind and the ignorant in a domain where I can lay some modest claim to a reasonable degree of masterly expertise. The only day I shall betray my resolve to do justice to all manner of people is the day the devil may influence me to voluntarily contradict that oath prematurely.
As of now, my integrity has not and cannot be shaken by hungry, idle and envious cowards in the marketplace who recklessly call on others to sacrifice for them always. Nor by beggars at foreign international airports who have volunteered into neo-slavery from cowardice! Much less by those who unabashedly take cover in hideouts during the day only to vent their frustrations under cover of darkness in senseless and ineffectual internet war.
You may wish to see with me that it was right of some Southern Cameroonian senior citizen to state that SCNC stands for Southern Cameroons National COWARDS. Of all the self-proclaimed saintly judges, tell me anyone you know that can courageously only pronounce the name Southern Cameroons in public. It all boils down to the one truth that the grape is not sour just because the hare had struggled unsuccessfully to pick it. Ayah remains as tall as ever, perhaps even taller today! My courage is relatively unparalleled, all from my unfettered and singular volition. That volition shall never lean on the indistinctive voices of some cowardly criminal mobs.
You have often argued that what the SCNC is fighting for is true in law and history. Do you still hold that opinion now that you are at the Supreme Court?
Ayah: The law does not fall into desuetude. I have told you in strong and direct terms that the President of the Republic himself has declared that there is no document in the secretariat of the UN on “reunification”. Nor are you unaware that Mr. President did set up a panel of Camerounese intellectuals to probe the situation, and that the panel came out with the conclusion that there is no document showing that there ever has been “reunification”. I was not a member of the panel. But they came to the same conclusion like me. The panel and I are simply emphasizing a notorious legal exactitude that does not suffer any assertion to the contrary.
The Supreme Court, you say? But that is the apex of justice! It is from there that the cerebral legal fountain should profusely eject soothing rills down the slopes to quench the thirst for justice. It is a platform not only to wash clean legal filth from the lower courts, but a pedestal where justice has to be dispensed in colossal abundance.
Hon.Justice Ayah, now that you are at the Supreme Court, if you were given an SCNC matter to prosecute, how would react?
Ayah: The question is too general, and unclear. If you mean a case against SCNC activities, I would tell whoever has ears to hear that international law prevails over domestic law. With an international ruling in favour of SCNC as against Cameroun; and with international calls for dialogue between the two parties, domestic law must be held in abeyance. To put it in the other official language: l’international tient en état le national... I would otherwise decline jurisdiction.
Let me add this bit: dialogue is the taproot of peace. The wise readily avail themselves of dialogue in order to spare the community the destruction of property and human lives. The resources saved in consequence are used to build today for tomorrow. The foolish and the proud precipitously plunge their communities into conflict, destroying property and human lives. At the end of hostilities, they borrow to rebuild yesterday today.
And forget not that every instance of hostilities necessarily ends up at the table for dialogue. What can be wiser than going straight for dialogue and preventing destruction and the waste of resources? Those crusading for dialogue are peace-builders and therefore the children of God. They deserve our support and encouragement.
Can you confirm the allegation that you are senior in rank to the new Procureur-General of the Republic, yet you are one of his assistants whereas professional seniority is supposed to be taken seriously in the judicial corps when appointments are concerned?
Ayah: So much has been published about that situation that I prefer that others talk about it than the interested party that I am.
Are there some other doubts in the mind of the public that you want to use this medium to clear?
Ayah: We never know what is on others’ minds. Even the devil doesn’t. If the devil knew, the devil would not begin by tempting you. Like Christ, the devil would simply tell you: Get up and follow him. But the devil does tempt you because he/she cannot read your mind. Some eminent English judge succinctly put it this way: “It is common knowledge that the thought of man shall not be tried; for even the devil knoweth not the thought of man.” So let them ask and I will give them the proper answers!
NB:This Exclusive Interview was First Published in The RECORDER Newspaper, Cameroon, of April 1, 2015 as lead story)