In one of Thomas Hardy’s trenchant novels Far from the Madding Crowd, precisely Chapter 25, titled A New Acquaintance Described he paints the profile of a certain character thus:
“Idiosyncrasy and vicissitude had combined to stamp Sergeant Troy as an exceptional being. He was a man to whom memories were an encumbrance and anticipations a superfluity. Simply looking, considering and caring for what was before his eyes he was vulnerable only in the present. His outlook upon time was like a transient flash of the eye now and then; that projection of consciousness unto days gone and by and to come, which made the past a synonym to the pathetic and the future a word for circumspection, was indeed foreign to Troy. With him the past was yesterday, and his future tomorrow, never the day after…”
Mr Biya, 79-year-old President of Cameroon for the past 31 years seems to exhibit many of these characteristics of this Hardy-created character. Like this character, Biya causes a lot of chagrin to his opponents and competitors on an almost daily basis, as Hardy continues in his novel same chapter, “He was a regrater of other men … he would be eager to pay but anxious to borrow; he would visit the husband to look at the wife, …”. The political parallels in Biya’s 31-year eventful reign are many. Some political pundits have even said Biya is ruling Cameroon through instincts. He has more than time and again taken friends, foes and allies by surprise in the political calendar and game in Cameroon.
Shortly after Mr Biya announced an attempted Coup in August 1983, Bello Bouba Maigari was dropped as PM and Ayang Luc appointed in his lieu. He also split the hitherto Northern Province into three Provinces: Extreme North, North and Adamawa. Apparently shaken by this coup attempt that was botched thanks to the “state security” Biya demonstrated his first feat of idiosyncratic pattern of behaviour: he unilaterally abrogated the 1972 Constitution on the United Republic of Cameroon and reverted to the name République du Cameroun, which that French-speaking part of Cameroon had prior to their independence on January 1, 1960. To give it a semblance of legitimacy he rammed it down the throat of the parliamentarians who passed it as Law No. 001/84 of 6th February 1984.
It is said when you cry foul when there is no foul, it will befall you. And true to this the Magidas, who still had a stranglehold of the Republican Guard, attempted a bloody coup d’état. Of course Cameroonians were still strong worshippers of Biya and the putchistes were mercilessly crushed by the loyal forces. Ahidjo and his cohort were accused. Ahidjo retorted that if they were his men they would have succeeded. May 1984 saw hundreds of them executed and buried in mass graves in Mbalmayo. Issa Tchiroma, Dakole Daisala and the others were incarcerated and General Asso Benoit Emane reportedly urinated in their mouths!
In March 1985 when the CNU Congress, programmed by Ahidjo took place in Bamenda he pulled another fast one by changing the name of the party from CNU to CPDM. New wine in old wineskins indeed! This change took place without any flinching knowledge of the rest of the party members.
Fast forward to 1990
After the venerable Albert Womah Mukong, Yondo Black, Ekane Anicet and the others were arrested and temporarily kept under lock and key for attempting to form a political party, and the SDF was launched with the blood of six innocent Cameroonians, Benjamin Itoe of the “Dimabola” fame, orchestrated and led marches “against democracy”. In the June session of parliament Biya himself addressed the parliamentarians and announced they should “be ready for change and competition”, completely contradicting Benjamin Itoe and his sycophantic crew.
In one of his end-of-year monotonous addresses he called on Cameroonians to fold their sleeves and be ready to brave the crises. However, the peak of it all was in 1992 when in July he cut down workers’ salaries. He boasted through his minister of finance that Cameroon shall never go to the IMF, but before the end of the year Cameroon became a victim of the Breton Woods Club, cap in hand. Then the violent salary cut by more than half that followed the devaluation of the FCFA and workers went for two months (September and October 1993) without salaries.
Sometime in the year 2000 Mr Biya threw out a test balloon to have a feel of how people will react to his death. He hid himself in a Swiss hotel room and sent out the news that he had died. There was widespread jubilation, even his CPDM pals were seen sleeping in gutters after drinking themselves into insanity rejoicing that Biya had died. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle was grilled by the BBC and he had tough times and thoroughly disgraced himself with his contradictory statements. A few days after Biya emerged at the Nsimalen airport and arrogantly told the press, “Those who want me to die should wait for another 25 years. It was thirteen years ago which implies he still has 12 years. Given that he is already 79 it means in 12 years he will be 91 years old and still the president of Cameroon. He would have been president of Cameroon for 43 years! Who says he is not the Fidel Castro of Cameroon?
The Most recent indicators
After the February 2008 food riots, coupled with the events in the Northern States of Africa (the Arab Spring) Mr Biya got up and announced the recruitment of 25000 young certified Cameroonians, without any adequate financial preparations as it would show later. Of course the exercise turned in quite some billions into the state treasuries through fiscal stamps. As usual those who were selected were selected in their own way but some of them up to this day have not yet received a mite from government!
Some time ago Mr Biya got up and claimed he had re-instituted the Five-year development Plan which Ahidjo instituted in Cameroon and Biya abolished. To date one does not know of what it has become. In another move the introduction of a three-year budget came in without any sensitisation and no training and no warning. Idiosyncrasy!
One of the most recent ones is the implementation of the Senate close to 17 years after the 1996 Constitution was made, taking everyone – both opponents and allies by storm. They had been preparing for legislative and municipal elections. Even then he appointed Niat Njiefenji among his thirty appointees into the senate and again appointed him President of the Senate much to the chagrin of those who considered themselves the favourites! Then not long after he had prolonged the mandate of the parliamentarians and municipal councillors for the umpteenth time, he convenes the electorate for municipal and legislative elections, again taking even his CPDM acolytes off-guard.