By Nicholas Ogbe keme*
|Lawyer Nicholas Ogbe|
The problem with our country is not about the people, it’s about the policy makers and managers –a small cabal that does not want to repent or even resign after desperate but abortive attempts to divert attention from the lawyers and teachers’ actions which now have received significant national, regional and international sympathies. We have to insist on the plain point that, the agitations of the Common Law Lawyers and Anglo-Saxon teachers are against institutional plunder of their educational and legal systems by the francophone led central government. Their move is unprecedented; an ideal for which we are prepared to achieve at whatever costs.
Therefore, there is no need to resort to midnight political camouflage as if the issues at stake have any political underpinnings. Assuming (but without conceding) that the ceremonial march past by the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, in Buea and Bamenda was successful, that alone could not have reduced the cogent issues raised by common law lawyers and Anglo-Saxon teachers from institutional to political. Of course, a man is a political animal but this assertion has its own limitations. Because where politics ends that is where institutions begin. Also, while politicians come and go daily, institutions stay daily, always and forever.
Everyone that seems to forget that a teacher imparts knowledge should also forget the day he was born. Similarly, anybody who is ignorant of the fact the lawyer perfects knowledge acquired from the teacher should as well never remember his name. For, the relationship between lawyers and teachers is equivalent to that of Jesus and God, none will consciously contradict the other. All they have is knowledge, wisdom, understanding, creativity, ingenuity and courage - not false courage, but real courage and they are determined to see the end of this legitimate struggle which an unrepentant political cabal is desperately seeking to thwart because of its selfish aim of “ruining institutions, ruling in perpetuity.”
Perhaps, I should belabour this point for the sake of public education that the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon did not and never conceive either (impliedly or expressly) a certain concept of a ‘linguistic Anglophone’ as so erroneously propounded by the Ministers of Justice and Higher Education. There is an impressive and remarkable distinction between privileges and rights, obligations and duties, conditions, among others. Thus, no matter the intensity or degree of harmonisation, what is given to an Anglophone as of right of birth, traced to the incidence of history and culture of the former West Cameroon cannot so be vested on a Francophone and vice versa . The preambular provisions of the 1996 Constitution states in its opening paragraph thus:
“We, the people of Cameron, proud of our linguistic and cultural diversity, an enriching feature of our national identity, but profoundly aware of the imperative need to further consolidate our unity, solemnly declare that we constitute one and the same Nation, bound by the same destiny, and assert our firm, determination to build the Cameroonian Fatherland on the basis of the ideals of fraternity, justice and progress……..” (Italics mine).
From the foregoing, it is therefore laughable to suggest that acquisition of English orientation or academic certificate of whatever depth or magnitude can create or give birth to an Anglophone. It is the right of everyone, including non nationals to privilege the very sound Anglo-Saxon system of education and to an extent, vice versa. But that alone does not make him/her an Anglophone automatically - an ‘Anglophone’ is not an originating product of education. Rather, an Anglophone has existed before the enactment of this constitution supra, he had an enriching feature of identification duly recognised by nation states prior to the drafting of this constitution, a functional government devoid of corruption, linguistic, cultural and a geography, and so on, as a former British Southern Cameroons, then West Cameroon and today, Anglophone Cameroon notably Southwest and Northwes Regions which colonial heritage, the descendants of today are determined to protect.
And just as the children of Israel never lost their identities in spite of the many years spent in Egypt in bondage, their counterparts here of the English speaking Cameroon-Anglophone did not also lose theirs, despite the political exodus or the Great Treks from 1961 - till date and, no one, including the biblical Goliath or political gladiators of our time can harass them to abandon. Never, never in the history of this struggle. Because their peculiar characters, nature, system, custom and culture as well as identity which they brought into the union have statutorily been preserved by the Constitution in its Article 1(2)(3) of the 1996 Constitution.
Article 1(3) of the constitution on its part states:
“The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status. The state shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavour to protect and promote national languages.”
The logical argument that the 1996 Constitution preserved not only the language but also the people of the former West Cameroon if advanced from a well elaborated interpretation of the Constitution, should lead to the following irreputable presumptions;
1. That in keeping with the literally canon of interpretation, the draftsmen of the Constitution by inserting the word ‘English’ first before ‘French’ intended that through its derivative principles of states policies, English language should inspire, dictate the pace, content and form of government policies. If it were not so, the reverse should have been the case;
2. That by imploring the golden rule of interpretation, it is contended that by the very esteemed and passionate use of the two words ‘English’ and ‘French’ on a balance with a conjunction ‘and’ separating the two words as seen in Article 1(3) of the Constitution, the draftsmen of the Constitution have settled any crafty idea of minority or majority ideology within the union, with a clear hope of ensuring that each of the subsystems conducts its government business in a manner consistent with its language as a constitutional guarantee of the protection of its peoples within the unitary system of government;
That by adopting the mischief rule of interpretation, the preference of the word English language even before that of its French counterpart in the provisor of Article 1(3) of the 1996 Constitution above, the Cameroonian legislature had intended that ‘English’ as one of the official languages and its people be treated as endangered species and in turn be accorded maximum State cover and protection as a political majority for the purpose of government business or administration so as to dispel apparent fears of assimilation, domination and occupation. That is why the draftsmen proceeded from the alphabetical order of inserting English first before French as the lingua franca in Cameroon. Jesse Louis Jackson once said “in politics, an organised minority is a political majority”. Any contrary interpretation may serve just for academic or political ends which can’t rewrite the Constitution.
It is against this backdrop that every right thinking Cameroonian, irrespective of your background, should always consider the actions of Laurent Esso and Fame Ndongo, designed to annihilate or scrap the English subsystem of education and common law justice system as provocative, oppressive, unpatriotic, tyrannical and treasonable because they have no constitutional backings, except that they are meant to brutally eliminate the Anglophone soul from the map, of course their own way of silencing ‘les enemies dans la maison’ as it was the case in 2005 where the then Governor of Southwest Province, Eyaya Zanga Louis, referred to Akwaya people as’ les biafrains’ when they stormed his office in a peaceful protest against the fraudulent diversion of the telecom centre meant to Akwaya to Nyasoso led by their MP, Hon. Justice Ayah Paul Abine. That is the Cameroon as viewed by the leaders across the Mungo where they have always implored debasing names with impunity against the Anglophones in order to have their way. It will make no sense should any Anglophone expect them to accept that there is an Anglophone Problem, judging from the above analysis.
That notwithstanding, what must be must be, nothing can stop it. We consider the government’s lukewarm and snail pace approach to sanction the Ministers of Justice and Higher Education as a calculated provocation and confirmation of the annexation plots. Because in a true democracy, equities must be equal at all times and the people’s will should prevail against individual’s as a deterrent measure. As stated above, there is no minority in equality. If it were so, the Constitution would have spelled that position out clearly to avoid confusion.
What the Constitution has not previewed, no decree of the President or arête of a minister or ordinance of governor, divisional officer can successfully force down the throats of Anglophones if objected to as brilliantly done by the Common law Lawyers and Anglo-Saxon Teachers today. Finally, in a democracy, when a leadership loses the support of the followers as it is in the instant case, the most noble and dignified thing to do is for these two ministers to resign and save both their pride and generation from shame. Similarly, profound investigations be conducted to sanction those involved in the gruesome murder of innocent and unarmed civilians, torture of gentlemen of the law as well as the torture, rape of creative and resilient students of UB who were barely exercising their legitimate right of a peaceful protest against the unconstitutional actions, embezzlement and corruption of a political cabal that has plundered this country into the worst form of misrule and maladministration, with the erroneous belief that the brutal use of force or the ‘trigger’ by the peoples security can bully dissenting views out of the path of truth and quest for institutional remedies into the issues on ground - The Anglophone Problem.
NB:*Nicholas Ogbe Keme is an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Courts of Cameroon and Nigeria,Litigation Officer,Shalom Legal Consultants,Buea-Cameroon.He is also a PhD candidate,University of Buea.