I have read a few articles running down the Bamilekes, recently. Some Anglophones and some friends seem to be enlisted as new recruits for the social stigma of these people. I want to affirm that this great ethnic group is a leader in many sectors in Cameroon- high tech (inventions and innovations), services, manufacturing, trade, entrepreneurship, education, agriculture etc. Rightly or wrongly, the Bamilekes are being blamed for expanding “business corruption” while the Beti-Bulus flourished in “political corruption” for 40 years, summing up without remorse as complementary players in the furtherance of Biya’s unpopular life presidency.
I have been interacting more with them recently and have learned a lot that their greatness is not accidental- but also an incident of well-structured socio- economic micro and macro systems- handed down from generation to generation and that has transformed over the years into a sophisticated mill of “greatness”. That’s why they are now powerhouses, everywhere, in every sector. They are our own ambassadors when the Ibo businessmen of Nigeria and the Indians speak out here.
So shall we learn from them as a nation; or shall we pull them down ?
Without delving into how much a curse they have been to our nation as portrayed by some subjective and objective analysis, I want to say that these proud people have oxidized the opposition for a long time too. Fru Ndi won more votes in the West than even in the North West in 1992. When Fru Ndi shut the door to the Opposition coalition in 2004, it was in the Bamileke land that he launched his first outing in that campaign. Such an overwhelmingly mammoth crowd poured out to welcome him, that he needed his close aides to carry him high into the sky on a stretcher in order to land him on stage at last. Not even the muscles within his robust security entourage could split the tight crowd to make a path. This set the standards in a campaign in which earlier predictors had promised a sanction vote for John Fru Ndi -for quitting the mainstream coalition.
Political pundits will agree that the turnout in a campaign launch dictates the tempo of the rest of the onslaught- and the Bamilekes offered that urge, as usual. The West has always been more friendly to the SDF than even the South West as can be portrayed by the institutional representations that have accrued from the ballot boxes of local elections, over the years. People like Hon. Jean Nintcheu Jean Michel, Jean Takougang, Hon Kwemo have done quite a lot to keep the SDF flag floating- and for nearly 30 years now. I respect their great contribution- and we all must do so. Nintcheu, in particular, has always fought several people-oriented combats against Biya as the charismatic Chairman of SDF Littoral that he has been- with his first opposition strangely being usually his own hierarchy. This glaring tendency is one notorious theme of SDF’s history that must go down the annals.
Former West Cameroon should not try to drown with just everyone just because anglophones lack the sense of collective work required to stay afloat. The anglophone is his own problem; and some North West politicians have spent 26 years, winning and dinning with the regime. In the last two SDF conventions, no North Westerner won any elective position. The victory for the post of National Organizing Secretary that was claimed by both Asapngu Ferdinard and Mochiggle went to the former. This does not seem to have warned enough !
From John Ngu Foncha to John Fru Ndi, even South Westerners have been complaining that their brothers of the North West are “political businessmen”. This has greatly fueled the anglophone problem; and as a North Westerner, I am calling on these politicians of the North-West to spare that great entity the curse of being perceived as “traitors”. Let North Westerners declare war against their political elite who see politics as business; and not pamper them because it is the whole land that will sink with these selfish and unscrupulous “business politicians”. This is one of the main sources of the anglophone problem- “the fact that the Bamenda man has usually grown tired of being the only man to be doing what is right !”.
The North West must now rise and say “NO” to this historic misrepresentation. The North Westerner is a transparent, hard working, brilliant, brave, selfless, proud, respected and respectable man of legendary integrity and great sense of justice and equality. The North West must never lose her identity or accept an artificial definition from any unscrupulous politician! The North West is spiritually, culturally, socially, intellectually and politically clean. That is why she is the refuge of righteousness. The banned UPC in 1958 camouflaged in her backyards as the One Kamerun (O.K.) of Ndeh Ntumarah, “my grand father”. The North West birthed the CRTV. The North West is the whale that has harbored the SDF in her belly for 30 decades of stormy politicking and had earlier played mid wife to the CPDM that turned out to be a still birth. So our people must begin to call for a new breed of political leaders in the land or sink with the manipulations and maneouvres. The era of blind solidarity is outmoded! Every politician in the North West must be able to tell the people in clear terms how they have improved the living conditions of the poor and the weak with the trust that is being bestowed upon them rather than seek to embrace the least pretext to justify underperformance. They should not blame just everyone for their predicaments!
If you doubt that a Bamenda man is his own problem, ask yourself why only the Bamilekes from the West are that domineering? Are anglophones from North West and some areas of South West not also Bamilekes? Have not the North West and West all been in the opposition all these years?
I am not saying that the Bamilekes are saints. I am saying that we have all sinned in the opposition and no one should throw a first stone ! The Bamilekes have many shortcomings some of which are survival – adaptive and protective measures that have crystallized in the face of threats of further “cultural genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” from the french and their two successive regimes in Cameroon. The Anglophones have suffered their own fair share- but, at least, the Bamilekes must go home with the credit of having the ability to collectively unite and organize policy response to adversity ! They should not be forcefully subjected to share in the cross of the prevalent individualism, characteristic of the public conduct of former Southern Cameroonians; and that has robbed the Anglophone of his dignity and his existence.
I welcome the new awareness of the Bamilekes in the politics. If the Bamilekes can succeed where the rest of the nation failed in the Opposition; if the change can come from them, let it be !
By Nde Angelbert,
Nde Angelbert is a youth leader, former student leader and a prolific writer.