Historical opinions have clashed, literary theoreticians have differed, sociologists and ingenious political scientists have gravitated on varying positions over the dynamics of our reunification history that one often wonders what new fodder there is to sink one’s teeth into.But as it were, as one watches the paradoxes of development such as is evident in the neighborhoods of Buea in view of the Re-unification celebration, it is also a moment to meditate on the whole character of the nation, its paradoxes and more importantly, the state of the Union which seems to be so seriously policed into the psyche of the people by the system in place.
It is always amazing how history has its own propensity for varying discourse, half-truths or over truths, so that over the nag for political power, distortions are not often ruled out such that the history of blame that has so much been carried to some ridiculous heights has left some of our reputable historians at daggers drawn. It is this contradiction that Bate Besong raises in the quotation at the outset of this essay, but as he posits elsewhere, the foundation of the Cameroonian Federation was one that was founded on fairness and equality and not on subordinating terms, though that is another battleground for contesting views and positions. He had argued: ‘’the foundation of which the Cameroonian federation was built in Foumban, in 1961, was a power arrangement contoured to deal with a sociologically complex polity as presented by our multi ethnic and linguistic diversities. It was a kind of national integration that recognized the two separate but equal parts and the central government in Amado Ahidjo’s Yaoundé as mutually coordinate, and not as subordinate one to the other’’.
Without any attempt to get into the paradoxes and complications of history, for I am not a historian, it suffices then for me to make some references to the often contested views of some historians and reputable opinion formers. For one, Tande Dibussi asks this: Cameroon Unification: Were Southern Cameroons Leaders Inexperienced and Illiterate?After adumbrating the contradictions of the past, and arguing the case against those who have come to the understanding that the English section of Cameroon was unfortunately ‘given away’’ by ‘illiterate’’ politicians, Dibussi contends that ‘this school of thought completely ignores the fact that the fate of Southern Cameroons was sealed long before the June 1961 Foumban conference, or even before the plebiscite, and that by the time this conference took place Southern Cameroons was doomed– not even the most astute negotiators from Her Majesty’s Government could have saved her from the clutches of Ahidjo’s La Republique – and this had little or nothing to do with the Alhadji’s “superior political skills” as some claim today.’’(see Camnet, Tande Dibussi Scribbles from the Den). Dibussi therefore places the cause of the problem elsewhere, probably on personality conflicts and the worm of ethnicity among the leading Anglophone politicians of the time. Picking up on a similar trajectory, back to Foumban, Ngam Kwi writes that ‘whatever Ahidjo meant by equal status and whatever Foncha understood by that parlance it was not at all realistic that east Cameroon and West Cameroon could be equals by any parameters’’(See Nkwi on the Anglophone Problem, 2004)
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Foumban; with a transition from the United Republic through the Federal Republic and finally the republic with the accompanying nuances of national integration. While such integration might have been crafted on ideal terms, it does not only provide fodder for cynics but often a fertile ground to wonder whether it is an attempt at homogenization with the long term fear of smothering the long term values of the people of the former southern Cameroons. While the talk of a federation is almost anathema is certain quarters, the centralization of power and the often arduous task of file chasing in faraway Yaoundé should gradually give way not only to slow paced decentralization but a greater degree of regional autonomy.
There is then an increasing need for a continuous assessment of the state of our union. Without any attempt to compare a third world democracy to the United states, Obama’s statement above that the task of perfecting the union is moving forward got me deeply moved perhaps because of the passion I share in seeing the state of the union assessments tell us the distance we have covered as a nation and what challenges lie ahead of the ‘one and indivisible Cameroon’’. And we have got the gurus who are ready to blot out memory and build up a system in our minds that consider as outrageous any attempt to consider an alternative picture of system of things particularly between the two Cameroons. The mark of liberty can only truly then be confirmed in the way issues of the two cultures are discussed in a manner openness and fairness, that is the real 50th anniversary worth celebrating.
For our chiefs who hold timeless institutions that one has revered throughout time, and who have now begun to wreak havoc on our minds under the banners of NOWEFU or SWEC and SWELA, and the eventual meddling in politics and taking direct political stance, victimizing free thought and therefore balkanizing public space, a volte face cannot be more imperative. While some of these institutions often overtly take sides much against their creed of neutrality, we cannot be more hopeful of a Cameroon where a group of persons will not often write off the fate of all through motions of support, recriminations, settler syndromes or sons and daughters of the soil.