Imagining My President’s New Year Message- A Christmas Wish
I have been unable to do any real writing for weeks now. Between losing several friends and experiencing a peaceful strike turn into a brutal scary revolution, 2016 is leaving me drained. As I assess the year in these last days, I can only compare it to Sour Cream and Vinegar flavored Pringles. It has fed me but left a bad taste in my mouth.
My musings this month have ranged from existential questions (Is this life so fleeting, so unpredictable? What’s my Life Purpose again and what’s in it for me?) to political debates (How to best explain to outsiders and the fellow Cameroonians who don’t understand what the Anglophone problem is, Is this revolution on the right course etc.). Several pieces could be written from the thoughts this month has brought. But as I said, I am drained and I just want to think happy, hopeful thoughts.
Every year, on the 31stof December Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon for 34 years now, makes a New Year’s speech. In fact the first ‘Musings’ post of 2016 was a review of his speech heralding in this year (read that post HERE). As this year closes and we await another speech. I’ve decided to be hopeful and muse on what I wish my president would say in that speech.
I wish he would, as he did last year, look for words to describe the year our nation has experienced. I imagine the suitable words for this year would be ‘fed-up’. It seems his praise of our resilience at the beginning of the year marked our reaching the limits of tolerance. I wish he would express regrets at driving a truly resilient people to this breaking point.
In this ideal speech, I imagine my president acknowledging how those he put in power, and the foreigners who he has all but sold us to, contributed to poor maintenance of the Yaounde-Douala road and eventually the loss of lives in the Eseka train crash. I imagine my president apologizing for the laissez-faire nature of his leadership and cabinet which led to legitimate complaints of Common Law Lawyers being ignored and the strikes and protest which followed. I expect him to condemn the violence, arbitrary hoisting of flags and looting done by protesters, but I wish he would avoid branding protesters “terrorists” and acknowledge that had his administration adequately addressed early complaints and the initially peaceful sit-in strike, nipping this in the bud, things would never have gotten this bad.
In this ideal speech my president would for once address the nation in English attempting to prove that we are indeed bilingual and equal. Whilst speaking the language of the minority he would equally condemn the spirit of secession and express understanding of its origins. While I expect him to criticize those spreading hate between the Francophones and Anglophones, I pray and wish he is gutsy (or just tired enough) to acknowledge the problem rather than shy from it. I expect him to know that this is not an issue of who gets what ministerial post, nor an issue of what regions are more developed (quite frankly the South region from which the president hails is just as much- if not more- undeveloped). I pray that as president he is informed and conscious enough to know that this goes way beyond Francophones taking opportunities in Anglophone regions though these are the reasons you’ll hear brandied about.
I imagine that in his often long-winded speech he takes the time to acknowledge that while people of all regions have problems, the Anglophone problem is unique because it has institutionalized one group as superior to the other. It has made bilingualism an option for one group, while for the other bilingualism is necessary for survival irrespective of which part of the Mungo they reside. After all you could get arrested in Limbe, never knowing your crime because the person arresting you does so while speaking French.
I pray my president acknowledges that over the years since 1972’s “unification” there has been a systematic disregard for the minority (English speaking) thus creating a bias in favor of the majority (French speaking). I would be okay with him sharing the blame for this; he could blame his predecessor – Ahidjo- and the setup which was the 1972 referendum, he could blame the bevy of present day Anglophone politicians who remain mute on the problem for fear of losing their positions, he could even blame the citizens who pretend like he’s the perfect president when they meet him, and the numerous traditional rulers of Anglophone regions who have made him “Fon of Fons” and continuously convince him they love his reign with their ‘motions of support’. He need not take all the blame, there’s enough to go around. Heck I wrote an Open Letter to Cameroonians calling them out on this same thing almost three years ago.
I shall be lenient as to just how much blame ought to be shelled out to him, but I expect my president to ‘man up” for once. I pray he truly dearly loves his country somewhere deep down beneath those double-breasted suits. That he loves the country enough to condemn the violence his armed forces used on students and other protesters. That he censures ‘forces of law and order’ who have done the opposite of their duty to protect and serve just as much as he does violent protesters who use a peaceful strike to cause chaos. I pray he recognizes that when the people fear the police rather than call on them for help, there is a problem. A grave problem.
Make Cameroon Hopeful Again!
Finally, I would be most ecstatic if my president would crown his speech with acknowledging that his aged self cannot see us into that ‘land of Canaan’ the government has painted Vision 2035 to be, and declare like Angola’s presidentthat he, Paul Biya, will not be running for future elections. Such a declaration would give Cameroonians adequate time to shape up the electoral body ELECAM, look for new leaders to take our nation further, and calm all protesters with the hope for a new government which would potentially address the systematic inequality which is at the root of the majority of problems today and more. For this I would forgive my president. I would forgive him countless unexplained trips to Europe. I would forgive him the debts he has taken which I will be paying for years to come via taxes. I would forgive him for the mismanagement which has led to most of my friends and family fleeing the country for better prospects, and I would forgive him the division his method of ruling has bred. I would forgive it all if only he does the right thing this once. If he chooses to bow out with dignity. If only with this New Year indeed comes ‘new fashion’.
As I said, I’m trying to cling on hope. The hope that Disney stories and Nollywood movies aren’t complete fiction, the hope that at the end of it all, ones conscience prevails. This is what I want for Christmas.