Last December 10, 2021, the Speaker of Cameroon’s National Assembly, Hon. Cavaye Yeguie Djibril cued behind the national broadcaster, the Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), to plead that the newly constructed stadium in Yaoundé, the Olembe Stadium, be named after President Paul Biya.
Hon. Cavaye made the plea while closing deliberations of the third and last session of Parliament for the 2021 Legislative Year dedicated to the adoption of the 2021 state budget.
“… the Olembe Stadium, a veritable architectural jewel, which is one of the best in Africa, should, indeed, bear the name of the Great Builder who is no one else but President Paul Biya. On behalf of all the members of the National Assembly, I have the honour to plead with deference that the Olembe Stadium be christened Paul Biya,” Hon. Cavaye said.
Cavaye’s “Great Builder” is the one who succeeded President Ahmadou Ahidjo on November 6, 1982. Paul Bartholomew Biya Bi-Mvondo assumed office promising to give Cameroonians a new deal.
Sloganeering & Failed Promises
Biya’s 39-year reign is replete with sloganeering and scars of false promises. The moment he took over, he announced his New Deal Policy. Cameroonians yearning for a break with the past under the Ahidjo administration looked up to him for the new deal package of democracy, right and freedoms, economic and social development, among others.
But as we speak, Cameroonians have continued to wallow in something worse than what can be termed the ‘old deal’ under Ahidjo. For instance, Biya took over a land over-flowing with milk and honey. But today, a majority of Cameroonians barely eke a living – even their small njangi schemes are now being taxed to fund Biya’s extravagant lifestyle.
When the new deal failed to yield, it was closely followed by Rigour and Moralisation. Yet, under Ahidjo, embezzlement was fought ruthlessly. But one thing that the Biya regime stands out for is embezzlement, coupled with corruption, mostly by members of his CPDM party who he appoints into positions of responsibility.
But he has selected a few and put behind bars, whereas all of them have dirtied their hands, one way or the other, while in Government service.
Following his changing the name of the lone political party from the Cameroon National Union, CNU, to Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, President Biya claimed he wanted to usher in democracy.
After having been arm-twisted into accepting multipartism in 1990, Biya declared that he wanted to be remembered as the ‘One Who Brought Democracy To Cameroon.’
But it is generally believed that his arch challenger, Ni John Fru Ndi, whose Social Democratic Front, SDF, was virtually born by force against military forces deployed by the Biya regime to prevent its launching, won the Presidential election of 1992, but the Biya regime hijacked the victory.
Biya is on record as the one person who does not go out for campaigns but sends other people to campaign for him, and his victory is arranged by election managers.
In one of the elections with the then Prime Minister, Simon Achidi Achu, as Campaign Manager, Biya promised to build the Victoria (Limbe) Deep Seaport in the Southwest Region.
After a lot of protests over the years, the project commenced, but before the population could finish heaving a sigh of relief, it was abandoned and a similar project started in Kribi in Mr. Biya’s South Region of origin on the other side of the Mungo, and it is almost complete today.
Yet in another occasion while drumming support from the Northwest Region, Biya said he would personally supervise the tarring of the Bamenda Ring Road in the Northwest Region. Today, almost four decades after, the people are still waiting for him to supervise, even remotely, the tarring of the Ring Road which remains a nightmare to travellers.
Following complaints about political competition and corruption under his regime, the sharing of the national cake, marginalisation and the clamour for a national conference, President Biya convened the tripartite talks whose resolutions never saw the light of day.
At one point, he convened a Grand Debate and when it was evident that the recommendations and expectations from such a forum made him uncomfortable, he brought in polemics to say he had recommended for a Large Debate and not Grand Debate.
Besides the plethora of slogans and promises like: Grand Realisations; leading Cameroon in his ‘Vision Of Emergence In 2035’ among others, is that of “One And Indivisible Cameroon’.
But his action on the ground, like the Deep Seaport issue and the Mega Projects (none of the West of the Mungo) that would lead to the far-fetched emergence, plus crushing protest against his shortcomings and failures, is the is the force behind the ever-widening chasm between the Cameroons. The events in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions best tell the story.
Whoever is pushing Cavaye, CRTV, ministers and politicians to ask that the Olembe Stadium be named after Biya must indeed be an honest person. It goes without say that the Olembe Stadium is an epitome of how corruption can destroy and nation and delay its development.
The 60, 000 capacity stadium is now a symbol of Cameroon’s endemic corruption. And since Biya is the architect of today’s corruption, naming Olembe after Biya will not be an error.
MMI recalls that the Stadium which costs more than four times the price of similar stadia elsewhere has experienced multiple setbacks due to fraud.
But perhaps, what is even more painful is the fact that the stadium was just one of the architectures in the envisaged package of a sport complex promised by government to Cameroonians.
The initial project was to build a sport complex which included the 60, 000 capacity stadium, a three star hotel, basketball court, multiple training grounds, Olympic size swimming pools and other sporting facilities.
Ten years after the project took off, the money has since been disbursed and yet embezzled by some state officials and now authorities are talking about just the stadium which they can’t even complete due to lack of funds.
Long live the Paul Biya Stadium in Olembe, a symbol of Cameroon’s entrenched corruption.