By Martin Jumbam
The Social Democratic Front Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi, has been on a nation-wide tour to, among other things, urge Cameroonians in the hinterlands to join him to put pressure on his new-found friend, President Paul Biya, to “reform” ELECAM – Elections Cameroon, the body charged with the responsibility of organizing future elections in Cameroon.
It’s perhaps a mere ‘coincidence’, but this tour seems to have been so well-timed as to have the Chairman as far away as possible from the ever politically turbulent city of Douala, the epicenter of the recent skirmishes between the police and certain splinter groups of the opposition and civil society. Scores of peaceful and non-violent protestors were left with broken limbs and split skulls.
Gone are the days when the Chairman would punch the air with a clenched fist in front of roaring crowds of supporters, eagerly waiting for a word to drop from his lips to rush down the streets and turn a town upside down and downside up.
That was before that famous and now history-wrapped handshake in Bamenda, a few months ago, between the SDF Chairman and his CPDM counterpart, his former arch-enemy, now strong buddy, President Paul Biya. That handshake was followed by 45 minutes of a private talk between the two men. The SDF Chairman emerged from it with an enigmatic broad smile spanning his face from ear to ear. Why the smile? The answer came perhaps several months later when the Chairman told the world that, because of that famous handshake, many former disgruntled members of his party, who had defected, were coming back to the fold in droves to see the hand that had shaken Biya’s!
For that encounter, the SDF Chairman had shunned his now legendary Bamenda embroidered gown – his political ‘trade mark -- for a suit in which he looked visibly out of place. As he emerged from his talks with the President, keen observers seemed to notice that, in addition to the smile that never left his face, the Chairman’s suit pockets seemed to bulge at the seams. To this day, some of us are still puzzled as to what could have been in those pockets. What is clear, though, is that no one leaves the royal presence empty handed.
So the other day as some opposition leaders sparred off with Biya’s forces of law and order – some even refer to them as “forces of lawlessness and disorder” – and some of them were being mercilessly doused with chemically-treated water, Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi was caught on camera eating “soya” and “kilichi” – figuratively, symbolically and literally – in Ngaoundere. Nothing wrong with that, is there any?
While the same forces of “lawlessness and disorder” were invading the home of the Chairman’s ‘friend’, the Douala Archbishop Emeritus, Christian Cardinal Tumi, in an attempt to apprehend a fleeing fellow opposition leader, Mboua Massock, Mr. Chairman was up north and probably never ‘heard’ of what happened to his ‘friend’, the Cardinal.
Had this happened in those days before the famous Bamenda handshake, and before the First Lady’s delicately manicured fingers fondled the distended udders of the Chairman’s cows at the recent Ebolowa agricultural show, the Chairman would have been seen bouncing back and forth in front of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Bonadibong, Douala, where the Cardinal’s retirement home is located. Loud would have been his denunciation of the Biya regime for invading God’s own House.
“How can they do this to my friend, Cardinal Tumi? How can they so shamelessly invade God’s House?” Chairman Fru Ndi would have been heard shouting. “Don’t they have the fear of God in them? What a satanic regime!”
Those days are long gone. Now the Chairman is afraid to rock the boat in which he himself is so comfortably ensconced. How can he saw off the branch on which he himself is so delicately perched? He too, like his former arch-enemy, is becoming a frequent visitor to the Swiss Alps, where bare-chested, heavily-built women, of various shades and colour, are said to massage stress off the shoulders and backs and between the thighs of ‘over-worked’ African despots in warm spas and massage parlours. At a certain age, the argument goes, a man has a right to enjoy himself. What is sinful in that?
Ah, Cameroon, what has become of your once vibrant opposition leaders?