By Ashu Tidings
In his Message to the Youth last February 10, 2021, on the eve of the 55th edition of the Youth Day, President Paul Biya said a “generational transition” is being prepared in Cameroon.
Hear Biya: “Our country has just completed the establishment of its democratic institutions, as provided for by the Constitution. Many young people are part of the various parliamentary, municipal, and regional bodies. This is the way the generational transition in the management of public affairs is prepared.”
Despite these claims by Biya, hardly does one look at the political space in Cameroon and see any young person in authority. Indeed, of all ten presidents of regional councils in the country, none is below 60.
Youths are completely ruled out of the Senate given that one must be 40 and above to become Senator.
Although any Cameroonian 23 and above can become a Member of the National Assembly and local councils, they find it difficult to fulfill the financial obligations. The government of the day has institutionalized poverty, making it difficult for young people.
Will death hasten the “generational transition”?
Cameroonians in a vast majority have surrendered to fate. They think that 88-year-old President Paul Biya and his college of friends will only leave the governance stage at death.
On March 8, 2021, death snatched Adoum Gargoum, Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations in charge of Relations with the Islamic World. The diseased occupied this post from December 7, 1997, until his death. For close to 24 years, the 66-year-old native of Kousseri occupied the same post that had been created only for him. It, therefore, turned out that Biya is creating cabinet positions to compensate his friends.
The same is true for His Majesty Alim Hayatou, the Secretary of State to the Minister of Public Health in charge of Epidemics and Pandemics who died of cardiac arrest on Monday, April 5, 2021.
The man who doubled as Lamido (traditional head) of Garoua died at the age of 75.
Alim Hayatou served in Paul Biya Biya’s government for 25 years, serving as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Public Health. He was appointed to this post a year after he became Lamido of Garoua.
Born on August 9, 1946, in Garoua, in the Benoue Division of the North region of Cameroon, only death could separate 75-year-old Alim Hayatou from his government position.
Since President Paul Biya’s declaration that a “generational transition” is being prepared, two members of the government have been snatched by death, as if to make space for the youth.
Biya: the promise maker and breaker
“As I have often told you, you should never lose hope in your country. You should have faith in the future of a winning Cameroon where everyone is willing to work for the general interest. You should remain at the forefront to fight the vital battles of your time,” Biya said on February 10, 2021.
This is the same message he has been repeating for a better part of his 38-year grip on power.
“This does not mean that I am overlooking the difficulties you are facing. However, remember, two years ago, under the same circumstances, I told you, along the same lines, that each generation has a historic mission to accomplish for the future of the Nation,” Biya reminded the youth.
He said while they continue to rule until death, the mission of the youth “is the preservation of the peace, unity, and prosperity of our country, beyond the inescapable constraints due to the changes taking place in the world.”
Although youths have not been at peace with the functioning of the state, Biya agrees, “Peace is a prerequisite for progress. As you are aware, it has been threatened for a few years now in our country by armed gangs that are spreading terror on the western border of the Far-North, and in some areas in the North-West and South-West. Our eastern border is also facing insecurity.”
Going by Biya, the only use of the youth is to fight and die in the army or as pro-government militiamen.
Hear Biya: “Fortunately, courageous and patriotic Cameroonian youths are effectively playing their role as the driving force in the defense of the Fatherland on these different fronts. Our young soldiers are actively engaged with determination, professionalism, and a high sense of sacrifice in restoring peace to our country.
“Similarly, within the framework of the Army-Nation tandem, young people are the most active in vigilante committees which are providing valuable support to the Defence and Security Forces.
“These dedicated and committed youths are the pride of our country. They are a model of abnegation, patriotic awareness, service for the common interest, and preservation of national sovereignty and unity.
“May their example inspire you in various other aspects of national life.”
Biya sees critics as “demons of hatred”
According to Biya, those opposed to his dictatorship and iron-fist grip on power are demons of hatred and division. He says instead of politicking, the citizenry should get to work.
His words: “Concerning national unity, some of you have unfortunately chosen to rally behind the demons of hatred and division. Driven by barbaric fanaticism, often whipped up and nurtured from foreign countries, or by a perverse use of social media, they try to undermine the foundations of the Nation.
“They are ‘anti-role models’. I urge you to stay away from them. They are not contributing to building a prosperous Cameroon that is united in its diversity, an exemplary Cameroon that we all fervently long for.
“Our country has just completed the establishment of its democratic institutions, as provided for by the Constitution. Many young people are part of the various parliamentary, municipal, and regional bodies. This is the way the generational transition in the management of public affairs is prepared.”
Biya claimed that the regional councils set up following the December elections will offer opportunities to the youth. However, since then, the councils have even run out of ideas.
“Time for politicking is therefore over. It is now time to resolutely get back to work,” Biya told the youth. “Regional and local authorities constitute a source of opportunities that I urge you to seize.”
Where is the promised development?
“The Government, for its part, will continue its efforts to develop the entire country. The effective participation of young people in the Nation’s socio-economic life will continue to be at the centre of its action. In that connection, it will ensure that they are increasingly involved in decision-making concerning them,” Biya said.
The youths in Bamenda are yet to see this promise come true. Not only are jobs absent, security, roads, water, electricity, and everything development is absent.
“The broad outlines of our country’s progress towards emergence by 2035 have been redefined in our National Development Strategy adopted recently. It is necessary to fully acquaint yourselves with it so as to identify all the opportunities it offers,” says the 88-year-old sit-tight leader who may not be alive by 2035.
Following the death of Adoum Gargoum and Alim Hayatou, many a Cameroonian is agreed that only death can offset the aging and unproductive status quo.