Ruling Party Needs Profound Reforms to Survive Post Biya Era
The operation sparrow hawk better known by its French acronym Epervier continues to claim high profile victims. Friends and foes of Paul Biya are among the high profile prisoners detained at the maximum security prison in Kondengui. There is palpable fear within the ranks of sitting and former state officials .Who is next is the murmur amongst them in private despite public praise for the President for adding teeth to the fight against corruption with the arrests of close collaborators.
From Mounchipou Seidou former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and Pierre Desire Engo of the National Social Insurance Fund in 1997, the list has evolved considerably. In jail now are three former Secretary Generals at the Presidency of the Republic, Titus Edzoa, Atangana Mebara, and Marafa Hamidou Yaya. A former Prime Minister in Chief Ephraim Inoni, a Minister of Health in Olanguena Awono, a Minister of Economy and Finance, Polycarpe Abah Abah. Also in jail are heads of top state cooperation like Yves Michel Fotso of Camair, Emmanuel Ondo Ndong of Feicom, Roger Belinga of SIC etc. It is no cynicism when people say what is lacking to form a whole government in Kondengui is a President.
Besides occupying very high state functions, a common denominator in all of these folks is that they are all militants of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement-CPDM. I talk here in the present tense because none of them has relinquished their membership of the ruling party maybe with the exception of Titus Edzoa. Virtually all of them were members of the Central Committee of the ruling party. Pierre Desire Engo was a member of the all powerful political bureau of the party. So too is Marafa Hamidou Yaya confirmed even at the CPDM Congress of last year. Think about those delegations the CPDM composes with great pomposity for party activities in the field? The folks in jail were permanent fixtures on those lists.
So what does epervier tell us about the CPDM? It only reinforces the narrative that it is a sanctuary per excellence of folks who get rich quick at the expense of Cameroonians .People identify with the party not because of any ideology it represents but because it not only offers you a passport to unbridled riches but also shields you from criminal persecution. You want to obtain funds for a contract and go scot free without executing the contract? Join the CPDM.You want be considered for plum jobs in the country without qualification and where you will not rated on performance , join the party. You want promotion even when you do not deserve one based on your output? Join the party. Everyday folks like myself who irk it out to survive daily know that rightly or wrongly the party is associated with all vices imaginable in the country.
Since its creation in 1984, the party has held just about four congresses. President Biya who has led the party since its creation did not even bother to get a formal endorsement for the party to run for Presidential elections in 2004. He is not known to use his office at the party headquarters. I wonder if any Cameroonian has ever seen him with a party muffler on his neck, a party T-shirt, uniform or cap at any public event. For some reason, the President seems to keep the party at arm’s length. There is little tolerance for dissent within the party.
Ahead of the 1997 elections, attempts by the late Victor Ayissi Mvodo to challenge Biya were not viewed kindly at all and he was forced to back down from his ambitions. In 2004, Chief Milla Assoute and his progressive movement severely jolted the party. Determined to challenge Biya at the party’s primary, Chief Assoute was not given the opportunity to do so.The party had no convention and Biya was proclaimed its automatic candidate.
A man like Gerard Ondo Ndong will remind people that some of the money he is accused of embezzling was used in financing party activities. The same will go for all the detained CPDM top shots who will tell you how much there have spent for the financial upkeep of various party activities. There is the perception that the line between the public treasury and that of the CPDM is blurry. Service cars, fuel and staff are used for party activities. The President can afford to call for elections in the heart of the raining season and it will be of minimal inconvenience to the CPDM because its cadres have access to all terrain service cars there will use at the expense of the tax payer.
There is a strong school of thought which believes the travails of Mebara, Marafa, Inoni and co are politically motivated. Maybe the CPDM Party Leader and President should be given a modicum of seriousness. It could be he is bent on getting serious in the fight against corruption .He did indicate in his speech at the last party congress that epervier will not only continue with greater vigour but will know no sacred cows. If it is about beefing up a legacy that does not reflect the multiple decades he and the party have been in power, the President needs to more. How about implementing constitutional provisions like Article 66 which calls on top state functionaries to declare their assets prior to assuming and relinquishing office? That remains the single most efficient tool that will tell those in his party and in the country that he is bent on getting serious.
Will the party survive a post Biya era? It will be tough for the party to say the least. The crushing majorities the party has at the Assembly and in the Councils are a product of flawed elections. Besides the treasury at its disposal, the party relies heavily on MINAT and its field agents in the DO’s. President Biya has been the towering federating figure. In his absence the party may break into unrecognizable fragments. If the subtle succession battles have been this vicious with Biya still around, God alone knows what will become of the party when he is not there. Despite vituperations from young turks like Ateba Eyene and the dynamic Mayor of Buea Mbella Moki Charles who may well represent the future of the party, at the decision making level their influence is minimal and their cries for reforms are drawn in the wilderness.
If at a time when the opposition is almost inexistent, the CPDM with all its advantages still needs to rely on flawed elections, it speaks volumes. Why would a party whose candidate has won elections with circa 80% in the last couple of elections be shy about accepting the inclusion of a two round ballot in the electoral code? If the CPDM is so sure of itself why will it not militate for the creation of a truly independent electoral commission that will give its “victories” greater credibility or why would the party not vouch for electoral reforms that the party is clamouring for? The epervier will end up at best a smoke screen for any genuine all out fight against corruption will crumble the party like a house of cards.
If the party will survive a post Biya era, it needs a revolt from the base. Militants at the grassroots, genuine militants who believe in what the party stands for must elect leaders they believe in and not those money bags so often imposed by the party hierarchy. A few years back, veteran footballer Abega Theophile humiliated National Assembly Vice President Nicholas Amougou Noma at the party’s primary to pick a parliamentary candidate and his victory was over turned. Tales of this nature are rife within the party. Grassroots militants need to take the bull by the horns choose leaders who are credible from the base to top and learn to toil hard for campaign victories .There will be a day when Biya will not be there , there will be a day when the agents of MINAT will not be there to help facilitate their victories, there will be a day when the Electoral Commission will not just be an appendage of the party .This is a reality that needs to sink into the psyche of people who whole heartedly believe in the party and its vision for Cameroon.