20/10/2011 01:34:24
President Paul Biya's escape plans
Where shall he run to when the day of reckoning comes? Is power all about preparing for the grave, or there can be more to leadership and legacy in Africa?
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By Innocent Chia

President Paul Biya and SDF leader, John Fru Ndi Sources close to the security detail of the 29 years old regime of President Paul Biya are intimating intense planning for possible escape routes in case of escalating violence post October 9th, 2011 Presidential elections. Unlike the1984 coup d’état in which then Captain Ivo took Biya into hiding - thus guaranteeing the Presidency that has become today’s surviving dictatorship -  there is recognition within the security apparatchiks  that the Etoudi Unity Palace is not labyrinth enough for the anger that will fuel the next popular uprising in Cameroon.

Le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun

Whenever Cameroon is in a sticky situation and anxiety looms high on the horizon, the popular refrain on every lip is “Le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun” or “L’impossible n’est pas Camerounais”. It is a twisted version of the Bible Verse that declares the Omnipotence of God –“Everything is possible through Christ who gives me strength” - Philippians 4:15. (My sister wrote down that verse in a gift she gifted me more than 20 years ago in Nigeria).

Fact of the matter is that the refrain is an official default position of denial in which officials, and the man on the street, abandon their responsibilities to chance and fate. For instance, even when the national football (soccer) team – Indomitable Lions – is not provided adequate logistical support for performance at the highest levels of competition, the fallback position is L’impossible n’est pas Camerounais. Rather than fix the identified problems and ready the team for the next outing, the pressure is put on players to deliver miraculous victories.

It is this spirit of denial that explains why, in spite problems that are eerily identical to those that have turned the Arab world topsy-turvy, Cameroon authorities pigheadedly think all will be well because “Cameroon is Cameroon”. Cameroonians have been sized up and, despite the February 2008 uprisings in Douala, have generally been rated as a docile people.

The Military think otherwise

Speaking to a high ranking military official immediately after the 2008 uprisings, the gentleman told me that the saving grace for the military was the fact that the angry protesters were unarmed. According to the officer, they saw rage in the eyes of Cameroonians as they had never witnessed before and would have ran for dear life if a gun had been fired in their direction from the protesters.

The unforeseen or unpredictable also accounts for why incumbent Biya is not out on the campaign trail like the other candidates crisscrossing the nation. Added to the fact that results are largely known even before elections - 60 percent at the polls has already been guaranteed candidate Biya – there is a two-fold security worry for the Presidential entourage – his failing health and physical security.

Certainly, there is also the apprehension within top CPDM party bras that President Biya’s apathy to leadership will be felt and seen by Cameroonians and the rest of the world. Hence, they are as wise as foxes in having Biya stay at home while they swindle some of the 40 billion allocated to Biya’s campaign. Professor Agbor Tabi has already been accused by his Manyu compatriots of embezzling some of the CFA 63 million frs that elite of the area donated towards the campaign, spending 43 million on “food and transportation”. While supporters are not denying questions of accountability, they think Agbor Tabi is the best chance Manyu has of having the next Prime Minister, thus all else is insignificant.

Escape Routes

While the infighting between Northwest and Southwest bootlickers for the insipid water-carrier position of Prime Minister continues full throttle, the serious issue at question is where to hide President Biya should things escalate a la Khadafy’s Libya. Biya was 52 years old when Captain Ivo snuck him into hiding at the Presidency. 27 years later, one wonders whether he will take Khadafy’s option of life in underground tunnels or whether he will take Mubarak’s option and subsequently be caged like an animal to the courtrooms. Either picture is extremely gloomy.

There are talks that he could end up in a neighboring country like Ali Bongo’s Gabon. He was among the first, if not the first leader, who welcomed Ali Bongo following the death of the father, Omar Bongo, a long time peer of Biya.

Also discussed is his look-alike – Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo (Brazaville). In both cases, Biya is hardly enthused by the choices that he has within Africa, considering them too small. It is known that he would not consider Senegal because it is there that he sent Ahidjo, his predecessor, to the grave and has never reached out to the Ahidjo family to exhume the body for a national burial in Cameroon.

As for Europe, it is said he is weary of European leaders caving to the demands of their populations to extradite him to Cameroon to answer to the crimes committed against the people for close to three decades. It is this concern that led his majority CPDM hand-clapping do-nothing parliament to pass legislation that basically grants immunity to the President for crimes committed during his reign. But those laws are only applicable when you are in power. It is a different ball game when the law makers are under the barrel of the gun of the protesters.

Mob Justice

It is a generally accepted fallacy that mod action is blind. I say it is a fallacy because the mob, just like love, is far from blind. Commentators on the most respectable news networks and other media outlets regurgitate it each time there is an upheaval in one part of the world or the other. Here is how I believe the mob is not blind.

Except for huge targets like the Presidential Palaces and other public areas, protesters are generally very localized in their actions. They break into houses and businesses of questionable owners – proprietors who cannot justify legitimate sources of income. There are obviously cases of jealousy, but these are the exceptions and are in the minority.

When Adamou Ndam Njoya, then Minister of Education, attempted to bring significant changes to the administration of the General Certificate of Education (GCE) in Cameroon in 1984, I was part of the student body from Cameroon Protestant College that walked from Bali to Bamenda in protest. The plan was to force the other schools to join the protest. One of the destinations was our sister school, Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) Mankon.

All along the way, I was thinking of this former student of Bali who had spanked my jaw because I could find no water to wash his plate clean for lunch. I prepared my belt and revenge. When we got to PSS, I made my way to his dormitory; I identified him and gave him two good lashes as he scrambled to unwrap himself from his blanket and out of the bed. Whether or not the protests yielded the results of change at the national level or not, I had already achieved my personal goal of revenge against this individual who had caused me personal grief. (We are friends today).

The point of my tale is that mobs typically know the good guys and the bad guys in the neighborhood. Therefore, even with the appearance of destruction, the mob has targeted individuals and institutions that represent the worst of it – looters, embezzlers, child molesters, rapists, etc, etc. This explains why thieves beat up the most on other thieves that are caught in a robbery.

Conversely, it explains why Biya henchmen are ready to die before allowing Biya to give up power. They are afraid of mob justice, seen by the outsiders as destructive. No, I say. Most times, they are vigilant members of the mob, the same ones you buy free booze for in order to show off how wealthy you are during campaigns. They know who is earning their money honestly.

They know that mansion that Biya has built and put in the name of another person. The mob knows all of those hideouts. If you do right by them, they will protect you. If they can’t share in your generosity now, they won’t protect you when you are falling down…or will only do so for so long. Biya has sown nothing but rifts in his native Center-South Regions, even among cousins.

Where shall he run to when the day of reckoning comes? Is power all about preparing for the grave, or there can be more to leadership and legacy in Africa?

Innocent Chia



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