Cameroonians all over the world are yet to digest the shocking news of the death of Ni John Fru Ndi. The Chairman of the Social Democratic Front, (SDF) died in the early hours of the morning today June 13, 2023.
Having braved all odds to usher in an unprecedented era of multi-party politics with the launching of the SDF on May 26, 1990, in Bamenda, Ni John Fru Ndi is referred to by many as the father of Multi-partism in Cameroon, and Paul Biya’s ‘only ever real challenger.’
He is the only Politician who ever came close to dethroning President Biya. Both Fru Ndi and many are still convinced that he won the 1992 Presidential election. The aftermath of the election sparked a brief moment of political tension in the country, with pro-Fru Ndi supporters ready to take up arms to attempt to chase out the regime.
What preceded this was several decades of rivalry between the pair. Ahead we would look at some of Ni John Fru Ndi’s defiant statements to President Biya during their long era of rivalry before his demise.
Clash over the 1992 election
As expected, the highlight of Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi’s clash with President Paul Biya was at its peak after the 1992 Presidential election, a topic the chairman never shied away from.
“First of all, when I met here with him, I told him that when he rigged the election in 1992, I had three options. The first was to form a parallel Government; the second, was to join the SCNC and the third was to declare war, because, 70 percent of the army voted for me…” Ni John Fru Ndi revealed in an exclusive interview with Cameroon Post following a meeting he had with Biya.
Fru Ndi equally revealed in the same interview that Biya urged him to “Let by-bygones be bygones and focus ahead.” To date, a good number of Cameroonians remain convinced SDF and Fru Ndi got played.
Fru Ndi blasts Biya over the uncompleted ring road
As part of several promises made by President Biya, was his desire to personally supervise the Bamenda ring road project in 2014. Having failed in this regard, Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi didn’t hold back when he got the chance to throw shade at the president.
“I was at the grandstand when he talked of the Ring Road. Coincidentally, I was sitting next to the late Bongadu. She was full of praises… ‘See how handsome the President looks; look at our President, so clean and shining. I told her that ‘Ma’am, with all due respect, that might be the ugly face of Cleopatra.” He criticised.
“The President said he was going to personally supervise the road and that Bamenda people will never go to Yaounde to chase files again. So after he said this, how many people have died on the way to Yaounde to chase files, and how many have died at the National Social Insurance Fund chasing their monies just because justice has eluded them?”
He was also livid at the fact that roads built by President Ahidjo, whom many considered uneducated, could not even be maintained by President Biya, who to him was unnecessarily revered by his admirers.
The Anglophone crisis to many was the beginning of the end of the SDF party as a major opposition to the CPDM. The stance of the chairman Ni John Fru Ndi, who maintained his support for the non-separation of the country meant he lost a portion of his anglophone support in the country and in the diaspora.
Fru Ndi has always been clear that the SDF was advocating for a return to the Federal System of governance, rather than a complete secession from the Union. He has nevertheless been very critical of President Biya’s handling of the crisis and has accused him severally of being responsible for the degeneration of the conflict into an armed confrontation.
“Hold Biya Responsible If War Breaks In Cameroon,” he told a UN envoy in 2017 at the early stages of the crisis. ”Biya has given deaf ears to the release of Anglophone detainees and other grievances articulated by teachers and Common Law lawyers. This is very disturbing and the Anglophone communities are boiling. If the UN do think that they can’t interfere in the internal affairs of a country, let UN not intervene when war breaks out,” he categorically declared at the time.
The SDF chairman still in 2017 couldn’t hide his frustration at President Biya end of year speech, in which he suggested Federation meant dividing the country.
He argued “Who has told him that we want to divide Cameroon? When we talk of federation we are not talking of division, he should learn to understand that Nigeria is a federated country, America is, Germany is and there are so many countries that are federated. So when he starts saying that the people are myopic and being manipulated it does not speak well of him.”
Over the years, there have been many more points of clash between the pair that cannot all be cited. Having quit the scene at 81, President Biya and the CPDM party will be conscious of what a force he was in his prime.
Before giving up the ghost, Ni John Fru Ndi had already announced his desire to relinquish his position of Chairman of the party in the upcoming electoral congress. With the Chairman out of the way, his successor will have massive boots to fill, and an uphill task to return the SDF party to its former stature.