Of President Paul Biya’s 87th Birthday and Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh’s De Facto Presidency

Popular meetings and political rallies were organized in all towns and villages across Cameroon to celebrate the 37th anniversary of one of Africa’s sit-tight Presidents, Paul Biya last November 6. But it will not be the case as he turns 87 today.

Paul BIYA was born on 13 February 1933 at Mvomeka’a, Meyomessala Subdivision, Dja-et-Lobo Division, South Region of Cameroon. He is the son of Etienne Mvondo Assam and Anastasie Eyenga Elle. He is Cameroon’s second Head of State. He came to power on 6 November 1982 following the resignation of President Ahmadou Ahidjo on 4 November.

Today’s birthday of the man who has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist comes after he snatched a fresh seven-year term in 2018 and four days after the most controversial municipal and legislative elections in the country’s chequered history.
It was an election of ballots and bullets in the country’s restive North West and South West Regions where armed groups are rebelling against decades of marginalisation served Anglophones. Biya’s party diehards used military protection to serve him the desired victory.

With a sweeping majority in local councils, the National Assembly and the Senate, Biya now has the country in his pocket. In fact, his current 7-year mandate will end in 2025 when the Octogenarian will be 92.

Already, discussions in the central African state have been on Biya’s health and ability to rule. Shortly after his re-election in 2018, Biya quickly ceded his signature to his Secretary General, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh whom many see as the country’s de facto ruler and the chosen one who will succeed Biya.

The song that Biya is strong enough to continue to lead Cameroon is chanted in public meetings. His CPDM party songbirds have always called on members to turn out and celebrate his anniversaries in power as a sign of their support and commitment to him. But why do they shy away from celebrating his age?

But discussions on the street are on the ability of the 86-year-old (he’ll be 87 in February) to continue to lead Cameroon.
31-year-old teacher, Ngwa Collins has known only one president in his entire life.

According to Ngwa Collins, “Our president who used to be very vibrant spending most of the time out of the country out of a sudden started spending more time in the country than outside. In 2018, he had to travel to China and Russia but he did not go. He instead travelled to Geneva for his health care meaning that he is tired and his health cannot permit him to continue. Therefore, he has to try everything possible to leave the scene in an honourable manner.”

Speculations remain rife in Cameroon that Biya’s Secretary General Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh is now fully in charge of running the country. Biya ceded his signature to the 59-year-old three times in 2019. Yaoundé based business man Epie Hans believes in these speculations.
“Decisions that come out of the presidency now are signed by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, meaning he is the one ruling the country. Earlier in 2019, the president made him a Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic when he was formerly only the Secretary General at the Presidency. So given the fact that he has been added the “minister of state” title, something should be in the pipeline for him.”

Ngoh Ngoh, who hails from the Upper Sanaga Division in Cameroon’s Centre Region is said to be a relative of the country’s First Lady, Chantal Biya.
He is said to wield power more than any other official in the country and is only answerable to Biya and Biya’s wife.

Professor Ngole Ngole Elvis, one of Biya’s collaborators and former minister reacted to media reports that Biya had allowed Ngoh Ngoh to do much of his work.

“Yes, the Secretary General is one of his closest collaborators. He is the Minister of State this time around. There is no leader on earth, especially a democratic republican leader whose leadership style does not involve delegation of powers, delegation of tasks and I know that President Biya is a managerially conscious leader. He empowers his collaborators.”

For now though, Biya remains the President, Ngoh is the De Defacto President, even if Yaoundé apologists deny it.
For the last 44 years, Biya has had a grip on power in the country – Seven years as Prime Minister and 37 years as President.

In 2008, he removed term limits from the constitution, allowing him to serve indefinitely. He is now the second longest serving President in Africa after his neighbour, Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. When his new term is finished, he will be 92 years old.


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