By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde.
Shakespeare’s villainous Iachimo may also advise us “to leave unspoken that which, to be spoke, would torture thee.” Nobody asked Paul Biya to express worry about the performance of his government in his December 2013 New Year address. Since he did so, Cameroonians expected him to proceed immediately to form a new, more effective and efficient government, especially because it was not the first time he was complaining about the performance of government.
The government had been regularly discredited not only by scandals, but also by the appearance of its being incapable of meeting the tasks of the day, most of which were undreamt of in November 1982. Government had cut the image of a quarrelsome lot working in dispersed ranks; it seemed to have lost sight of its “core business.” Strategic thinking for the urgent transformative actions needed seemed to be absent, but all mind-readers were predicting that the “overall” boss, when he would decide to act, would only move ponds around the chessboard, as usual.
All of 2014 was a long enough wait, but to extend it to 2015 seemed to be too much! Since nature abhors vacuums, the long wait filled the vacuum with doubt and complacency; the government seemed to be doing nothing, just resting on its laurels, waiting for the unknown. Inertia became the order of the day, and society became restive. The best option seemed to be to put pressure from outside to precipitate action. Dozens of “leaked” governments were published in the press. Stories of wrongdoing in the presidency were spun into sources of leaks of new governments. Protests by our valiant soldiers for their dues were mockingly linked to the advent of a new government. And. so expectation of a new government became the talk of the town.
It is usually said that public opinion allows the nation to participate in its own affairs because it is an invisible power that rules even in the palaces of kings. Even if the limited political experience of the “opinion” makers caused public opinion to be dominated by general and speculative ideas, this did not diminish its power. It was all like our traditional smoking of the rat mole out of the comfort of its hole with the smoke of public opinion.
And so the new government was smoked out at last! As mind-readers had predicted, it involved mainly the movement of ponds around the chessboard. It did not include the SDF and UDC that public opinion had so pompously included in the government. It did not also include those that feed on the carcass of Um Nyobe in total disregard of his legacy and his heritage.
Once the list of the “new” government hit the public place, the paradigm of opinion shifted to critique. Most critiques and analyses have been directed more at individuals for their disobedience or corruption or lack of solidarity, less at systems. Politics may be more about the citizen than the private individual, but solidarity, whether between members of a government or between individual citizens, is the foundation of politics. If critical public opinion finds those who lost their ministerial posts guilty as individuals, it will mean that they were ill-prepared to be ministers; if they are guilty as ministers, it will be a condemnation of the whole system.
The “new” government will most obviously continue to waste the time of the country because it will be operating in the same system. It will face the same internal struggles against entrenched bureaucratic interests and a power-distribution architecture that encourages fraud and corruption. It will enter the same self-serving routine that is usually blind to outcomes.
Systemic institutions need to be strengthened by large-scale overhaul in government and public-sector agencies. Clear, enforceable rules of discipline that create a meritocratic environment and ethical behaviors that are friendly to creativity, innovation, and talent have to be present in all fronts.
The “new” government needs to shed its CPDM divisive mindset and build a social consensus around growth-oriented strategies and policies by providing equal opportunity to all citizens, irrespective of political opinion, area of origin, gender, or religion.
If there are clear, transparent rules that can detect errors and fraud fast enough, the fallouts can be managed on a continuous basis. “Epervier” should no longer work in tedious cycles but on a continuous basis. With all the people that populate the prisons today because of corruption and fraud, there should be much familiarity with the tools and methods they used; these should be exploited to correct and strengthen existing systems, and to design tighter security of public funds. This will meet the common saying that prevention is better than cure. It will end the wasteful and shameful practice of punishing after the fact; of using the process to punish potential rivals.
The visionaries and the all-knowing humans variously called proletariats, Bolsheviks, communists that Karl Marx and others envisaged that would be produced and would only speak the fact, not argue or convince, eventually failed to emerge where the experiments for their production were conducted. They nevertheless emerged in Africa around the ‘60s at the head of the new countries that came to being at that time. Although they emerged without the “lightening of thought” that Marx said would cause their emergence, they have endured and prospered till today in Africa!
And so one of the problems with our “new” government is that like the one before it, the members will consider themselves as “creatures” of this type of being, and will work in fear and total submission –with the being representing their own “specter” that will haunt them throughout their ministerial tenure.
Societies can be governed only with ideas. Government must be open to itself and to society as a whole, so that governance ideas can be bounced back and forth to increase their chances of producing the good. All governments need strong leadership not only from the top but from all its members.