By Professor Asonganyi Tazoacha
One, May 20 reminds us of totalitarianism, not consensus. Its inventor thought he was doing the right thing, but it has since become obvious that he lost sight of how and why unification happened. Its inventor had an ego that did not tolerate any conversation about our destiny, and thought that the only road was straight ahead. What looked to him and his sycophants as sound strategy now looks like a betrayal. There are more roads than one. May 20 needs to go, to give way to collective reflection on the right road to take.
Two, The Marxist dream of complete unity was the premise for the authoritarian experiment that followed in the USSR. Its repudiation of pluralism caused the collapse of the communist system after 70 years of experimentation. The same unity ideas generated the one-party mindset that gave birth to the May 20 mindset. It has in turn given birth to inertia and complacency - what others have described as a “can't, won't, and shouldn't" mentality that blocked the USSR and led to its collapse. May 20 has to go, to end the culture of resting on our laurels year after year and looking forward to mysteries!
Three, The one-party mind-set gave birth to May 20 by artificially suppressing differences, uniting everything and wrapping it all in alienating names and symbols, to the extent that the unification idea has become revolting to an important component of the population that feels excluded and colonized, and no longer feels bound to accept the new symbols and contracts. May 20 appears now like a neat picture forced on a complex society to suffocate relevant factors that do not seem to fit in the one-party logical mode of thinking; it was meant to clear a messiness that interfered with an imaginary, malleable whole wished by shortsightedness that saw the rest of us as subjects, not citizens. That is why May 20 has never been a glue that holds all of us together; it has never been an idea around which all the people mobilize, because it ignored group sensitivities and has no genuine interest in what other people think, and why they think the way they think.
Four, Deng Xiao Ping famously said that the development strategy of China was like crossing a river by feeling the stones. By this he was saying that experimentation always produces positive and negative results; and the negative results always lead the way to positive results. By all measures, May 20 has turned out to be a negative result of an experiment. After 40-some years, it has thrown up vistas that many have seen and many may not have seen yet. May 20 should go, so we can have tough conversations about how to manage the fallouts of its legacy.
Five, When we held the Tripartite Conference in the ‘90s, it was supposed that our understanding of our constraints and our human condition would lead us to take responsibility for the general outcome of our efforts, and agree on what to do next together, and on a common path to take to make what had not yet happened to happen from then. It had to result in a sort of “Yaounde Consensus.” Unfortunately, the one-party-cum-May 20 mindset turned it into a ruse to set personal agendas and fulfill personal ambitions. May 20 should go, to give way to a new “Consensus” that will set a new agenda for today and the future, release citizen ingenuity, and maximize citizen choices.
Six, Cameroonians of the May 20 era only see vanity and sybaritism in their leaders today. They think only about castles, and fat foreign bank accounts acquired without effort. They do not know that what we call government money is their money, and that the government in power is supposed to hold the money in trust for them. They do not know that the money should be managed and guarded diligently to serve the people who own the money. This is because the May 20 mentality has alienated the state from the people. May 20 has to go, to give way to a new era of new consciousness and a new system of values that appreciate the concept of democracy, respect law and order, respect the rule of law, respect merit and competition… May 20 has to go, so we can promote the understanding that the only reason to be in government is to unlock the people’s potential through unleashing the country’s potential in industry.
Seven, Our institutions of the May 20 era lack integrity and fairness because people with an obsession for corruption and theft and selfishness have barricaded themselves in centralized state structures using self-serving laws fabricated by them to exclude the rest of the people from having a say. May 20 should go, to usher in people with the spirit of selflessness who will wholeheartedly hammer out new rules of engagement that serve the nation, not an individual.
Eight, The May 20 mind-set has made society to be increasing dependent on slogans, motions, and the rampant cooking and falsification of figures in all domains, with the hope of magical transformation, rather than studious hard work. It has left the strong impression that achievement can be willed into existence by slogans, motions, and manipulation of figures, rather than rigorous actions spurred by effort. May 20 should go, so that we can regenerate the feeling that development is not a pious wish, but an imperative that can only be achieved by effort.
Nine, Everybody knows that democracy is a vehicle for promoting rapid development and improving the quality of life of citizens through good, efficient and responsible governance. When Foncha and his peers fought for unification with the wish to bring democracy to their brothers, they saw democracy as the avenue to win power, institute democratic governance, and deepen the democratic culture in a decentralized structure where states would run their own show. May 20 is about the alienation of that vision and dream, and the institution of centralized governance that has aggravated poverty, unemployment, bad roads, poor quality of education, corruption, bad leadership, poor healthcare, access to potable water, and robbed people of their dreams. May 20 should go, to allow Cameroonians to face the new African millennial challenge defined by Bill Clinton – to build a capacity which will enable the people to live to make their own progress and save their own future in a system that rewards intelligence and hard work.
Ten, May 20 - “Unification” – has become like Benjamin Disraeli’s “moderation” – a virtue to limit the ambition of our founding fathers and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit. It has foisted leaders on us that appropriate patriotism without any rigour by declarations, rather than by diligent, faithful, wholehearted work for the country. Let May 20 go, so that we can truly have a “republic” where politics is deliberative and public; where decisions are continuously questioned; where politics can never come to some arrangement that makes further debate and discussion no longer necessary.
Future generations will likely remember May 20 as a development that undermined the unification project. Either it goes and we reform the state for a better union, or the state will kill the union! As May 20 goes, it should go with a whole generation of leaders.