Cameroonians from all walks of life have just emerged from the polls where they have chosen new local representatives for their various localities. Coming at a time when there is much talk of advancing Cameroon’s democracy and working towards making the country an emerging one by the year 2035, emphasis has been on greater transparency and accountability in governance, including elections.
In recent times Cameroon’s ruling class has been hammering on the need for peace to prevail before development can follow while another school of thought has argued that for peace to prevail there must be justice. Which ever way we look at it, the introduction of biometric registration in Cameroon’s electoral process greatly curbed electoral fraud and raised public confidence in elections .This is evident in the fact that very little violence resulting from elections has been reported after the 30th September elections.
Given that decentralization is fast gaining grounds and locally elected officials are having a greater say in driving development at the grassroots, the 30th September polls ,by all standards are just a stepping stone for local communities to fully own and drive their own development, especially elections by the year 2018 when Cameroonians return to the polls to select new local leaders.
In the South West region of Cameroon in particular, there is no gainsaying the fact that the outcomes of the polls, to a greater extend have been dictated more by inherent power plays than the integrity of the candidates invested by the various political parties.
Lebialem division ,which is one of the six divisions that make up the South West region ,to say the least remains the most backward in the region in terms of road network, access to basic social facilities like water and electricity, youth and women empowerment as well as civic and political participation.
The argument that civic and political participation in Lebialem remains disturbingly unproductive can be justified by the fact that in the 2011 elections ,the division prided itself of having voted “overwhelmingly” for the CPDM with over 80percent,hoping to grab a ministerial position to no avail. But two years later, in 2013,the same Lebialem CPDM which boasted of giving President Paul Biya the best results in the South West region was out on a wild goose chase for militants to register for elections ,leaving the division the last in the region in terms of biometric registration.
The results of the 30 September elections once again put the CPDM as the champion in the three councils of Fontem,Alou and Wabane, with the CPDM scoring over 60 percent in Fontem as opposed to over 39 percent for their main challengers, the PAP.
A close look at a brief history of elected officials in Lebialem reveals that after BTB Foretia who stayed in parliament for 25 years serving, both the CNU and CPDM, then came Fonju Martin Atem who served the CPDM and handed the baton to Ategwa John of the UNDP in 1992 before Michael Ndobegang took the relay in 1997, surrendering to Bernard Foju in 2002 after a Supreme court injunction, and not really the ballot box.
Prior to the creation of Lebialem division in 1992 ,the then Fontem subdivision had its municipal administrator ,and since 1996,when mayors started taking office only through elections there has hardly been any mayor from any opposition party in either Fontem,Alou or Wabane subdivision. Some may argue that this issue is not a bone of contention. But in an increasingly competitive political environment, it is just but timely to suggest that the body politics of Lebialem division needs to be properly reviewed to put in place results oriented representatives and development driven options that can help the whole division for two major reasons;
The first reason is that the three subdivisions of Lebialem ,since 1996 when the first council elections were organized have had the misfortune of having tele-guided, old and retired CPDM harbingers sit in as mayors with their sole interests being only to seek avenues for a more comfortable retirement after retirement .This is even more true of Fontem subdivision where mayor Forcha, Francis Mbiaoh, and most recently a retired military colonel, Daniel Fobella who set up a military junta in the council from 2007 ,to say the least, have all misled the people .Given that retired colonel Daniel Fobella failed so much that he could not even feature on the 2013 CPDM council list, there is no doubt that the CPDM is preparing another retired and dysfunctional person to head the Menji council- after all ,how many youths are even on the council list?
Secondly, it is important to note that Lebialem division is made up of some 17 Fondoms, of two ethnic groups- the “nwehs” who make up the whole of Fontem and Alou subdivision and the “mundanis” of Wabane subdivision. There are also two 1st class traditional rulers; the Fon of Fontem and the Fon of Bamumbu. Today, Lebialem division is getting more and more fragmented and divided over issues of common concern for the simple reason that one of the 17 Fondoms, the Lebang fondom, headed by HRH Senator Fon Fontem Njifua has continued to try to dominate and grab almost all the political gains meant for an entire division. Though it may be true that the first generation of educated “nweh/mundani’ people might have come from Lebang , over the years, the other villages in the division have equally produced high quality individuals of ever higher moral and intellectual standing. While it would be unwise to mention some of these individuals who come from villages like Lewoh, Ndungated, Bamumbu,M’mockmbie, Essoh Attah, the fantasy that any good thing that comes to Lebialem must first pass through Lebang is ripping the division apart. Perhaps this greatly explains why the division has never had a government minister .Whenever names of potential ministers from Lebialem are mentioned, the Lebang elite ,it is said , take offence when the names do not come from their own clan, and as such there can never even be political consensus in the division.
It is no longer news that the senator for Lebialem division is HRH Fon Fontem Njifua, who is also the president of the South West Chiefs Conference and traditional ruler of Lebang; one of the three villages or clans that make up Fontem subdivision. The three include Lebang, Njoagwi and Essoh Attah. The Member of Parliament for Lebialem who is now going in for his third mandate, Bernard Ateawung Foju, also comes from Lebang while their alternates come from any other village in the other two subdivisions, which cares which one. In all fairness one of these two positions should have gone to the other two subdivisions.
Today, this attitude has degenerated into greed. A close look at ELECAM staff in Lebialem division reveals that a majority of them are directly or indirectly related to HRH Senator Fon Fontem Njifua, beginning from his wives to his nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters ,sons and daughter in laws and children and relatives of cronies. This has and is still the same for councils. Moreso, in the Senator’s own CPDM party ,one cannot fail to mention the fact that the campaign team was headed by HRH, Senator Fon Fontem Njifua and his court. This inherent power play on the conduct of elections in the division give us all reasons to doubt the results because ELECAM in Lebialem is not as credible as in other divisions of the South West Region and even the country.
Based on this, Lebialem elite have continued to mull over the strange absence of political goodwill to bring unity and development to the entire division. Put otherwise, Lebialem division has now been reduced to the court of HRH Senator Fon Fontem Njifua , 1st class traditional ruler of the Lebang people. This allegation can be investigated in the CPDM, ELECAM, elected officials, and appointment of sons and daughters of Lebialem into positions of responsibility amongst others.
By 2018, therefore the well meaning people of Lebialem especially the youth should have worked to distance themselves from the political captivity of old and tired politicians and the court of the HRH Senator Fon Fontem Njfua. In so doing there can be a new lease of life ,new political dynamism and alternative ways of delivering development at the doorsteps of all in a division, which, as we speak remains the most enclaved and politically docile division in the South West region. Peace thus, is not the absence of war but the presence of justice , and what Lebialem needs by 2018 is social justice.
The Community Initiative for Development Communication-CODEC
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