Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dr. Nick Ngwanyam Takes A Critical Look At Political Parties, Politicians And The Economy

Interviewed by the Chronicle

Dr. Nick Ngwanyam, a Surgeon and CEO of St Louis Group who of recent has been very critical about political happenings not only in Cameroon but in Africa and the world over has once more made a succinct appraisal of political parties in Cameroon;  their functioning, their strengths/weaknesses and the economy.
According to him, political parties and politicians who are not people centered and have a vision controlled by Divine hands can never make it.  It is impossible for a state to function without a political party, he says, but that political party must be there as a platform for economic development not for people to use it to lord it over others.
Dr.  Let us look at our country and political changes across Africa. How do you evaluate the strength of a political party? Is it by the number of its militants, the test of time or an ideology?

A common thing to do is to evaluate a political party by its numerical strength. That numerical strength expresses itself through the elections. That is how many votes or places they got during an election. In the circular world, you can use that to say this party is stronger than the other one. But there is something wrong with that because the majority is not always right.

Just because you are in the majority does not mean you are right. Right means truth according to God’s standards not man’s thinking. When we of the world  get that power, yes we would evaluate ourselves based on numerical strength. But there is a strength that goes beyond numerical strength which is the strength that is based on the truth, the power to deliver and the capacity to deliver. So, you can be in the majority and win but you do not have the capacity to deliver. You would still fail and so when we judge you numerically, you are strong but when it comes to productivity, you are weak.

Do you think political strength in terms of productivity in this country is strong enough?

No, not yet because we do not have a clarity of issues. That is why senate, parliament, the government and the civil society are working so hard to catch up with the rest of the world. If all were OK, we should be as productive as South Korea with whom we started in 1960. Our president has been condemning inertia, individualism, corruption and the inability to take decisions and to be proactive as some of the cankerworms we have to deal with collectively as Cameroonians so that we can eventually see 2035.

The Bible says my people die for lack of vision and understanding of kingdom principles. The way we define our goals and objectives and so on are bias. Most of us are looking more at personal things and just want to take power for the sake of power. If you ask a senator or parliamentarian why he is a senator or a parliamentarian, he or she would not know why. Most of the time, we are driven by personal goals. We might be on a political platform, but what motivate us from deep within are our personal ambitions and our personal needs. That is the need for ego, power and wealth. We need power just for just throwing weight around and so on. But we are not driven by common good.

The only thing that makes a party successful is when its members and everybody that grasp power are driven by common good; when they work to enhance common good and when they do not try to separate the sheep from the goats. That is, when everybody is treated equally and they are working with a God given understanding that power is meant to be used for common good and to glorify His name. We must make sure we work well in God’s vineyard. This is the key and that is the foundation. If you are working in any political party or whatever and following the teachings of Christ that you are the light of the earth, you are the salt of the earth and each time you seek to be the salt and the light of the earth and each other’s keeper, then it would be well.

But when we have our own personal agendas, when we want to get money to build our houses, buy cars and to throw weight around we are off target. I got wind of one of our senators who was quarreling about a sitting position in one of the public manifestations. He wanted to sit next to the SDO. They quarrel over things that are not important arguing like the apostles of Jesus; who is the greatest and who seats to the right or left; that is not it. The issue should be what you have done for the common good. The greatest is the servant who gives and not the master who wants to receive all the time.

To link that aspect of political vision with Christianity or religion, what would you say about the clergy and the civil society, that we know are election observers and who are spiritually moved. How do assess their contributions to the progress of democracy in our nation?

Some of them are good while others are just human beings. Human nature is very strong. You can see Bishops managing the electoral process and that electoral process would still be flawed. It is not because somebody wears the cassock of a Bishop that makes him pious. It boils down to the spirit that is in the person. I have come to understand that the human being needs spiritual guidance every day. I need it every day. I have to realize that I have to dwell in the presence of the lord all the time, otherwise my human weaknesses would tend to override me and I make some stupid mistakes. If you are going to do something and leave God out of it, it would never work. To let us understand this better, a lot of people think that politics is of the world and God is out of politics. No it is not true.

Let me put it this way. Politics is a platform from which we get power to be able to administer in God’s vineyard. If you take America for instance it is God’s vineyard. America does not belong to the Republican or Democratic Party. America does not belong to President Obama, nor to George Bush. America belongs to Americans and above all she belongs to God. Therefore, when the CPDM is in charge, when President Paul Biya is in charge he is just a servant in God’s vineyard. And therefore, if he wants Cameroon to progress, he is not going to run Cameroon with his own thinking. That is why he prays for wisdom to understand God’s will for him and this nation.

 If we are going to run Cameroon with our own human thinking, it would never work. We have to run Cameroon based on what God wants for his people and for his vineyard.  We cannot be servants in somebody’s house and we set our own agendas and dictate our own rules. It would never work. No matter how long it takes, it would crash. Therefore, the only sensible thing we should be doing is to find out what our master wants, do them and we would be blessed. So you can only succeed if you do what the master wants. There is no way you can do contrary to the master and make it.

This is why I was so happy when our president went to pray with the whole government at the cathedral in Yaounde soon after he was sworn in as President. This is wisdom.

In other words, do you think this country is blessed?

As I just said, our president did something that gave me a lot of joy. He took his ministers, the army and the Cameroon flag to the cathedral and prayed and asked for God’s blessings. That was a sign that there was some illumination of the spirit in our country. You know inherently the human being is very ignorant. The bible says in the beginning the world was without form. There was darkness and there was nothing. The spirit of God went over that void on the first day of creation, God said let there be light and there was light. President Paul Biya seeks the light, the Spirit of God, Understanding and Wisdom from above.

When you begin to hook up with the spirit of God then you get light. If you do not hook up with the spirit of God, you are in darkness just like in the beginning the world was without form and was void. When you operate in ignorance, you are operating in that void. When the light of God shines its spirit, then you begin to operate in a manner that is productive.

Talking about political parties, let us say that in Cameroon there are three hundred parties. It is a shame. For the sake of the argument let me tell you that there are only two political parties in Cameroon. Forget about the others which I cannot possibly name for want of space and time. Let us reduce everything to two parties for the sake of proper argument so that this country can move forward.

If you go to the US, a country that is a lot bigger and more mature than ours, they have two political parties-the Republicans and the Democrats. In Great Britain there are three, the Labour party, the Green party and the other one. So you begin to see that in mature democracies, it is not the number of parties that make for democracy. In the circular world, we are defining those platforms and any political party usually comes up with a working strategy. They promise the people if we get to power, we are doing this and that for you.

Again as we were saying, we have only two political parties in this country. If you look into their manifestoes, none of them says they would kill, none of them says they would steal and none of them says the bad things. If you go to all the three hundred parties, all of them are giving you the good side of themselves. There is no way you can be going to the market to sell your coco yams or pawpaw or anything and you rub shit on it. You try to polish them so that they are good looking. The parties are selling themselves. Therefore, everybody tries to give you a beautiful part of them.

But this is the problem, when you actually give them the power or when they have the power, they do not do as they said especially in weak democracies. So it is the doing part that messes us up. Therefore, how do you evaluate a political party to find out whether they are worth their salt?  They must not necessarily be in power for you to evaluate them. Keep an eye on what they say and do. The doing must outmatch the saying. That is the most important thing.

But in Africa, there is more talking than actually doing.  You see, Christ came up with this parable where the master gave one talent to one of the servants, two to another servant and five to the other. The one who had five talents multiplied them and the one with two also multiplied them but the one who had one talent buried it.

So now, if God has given somebody two talents, evaluate him on the two talents and if God has given one five talents, evaluate him on the five talents. If we come to our country for example, the CPDM has the five talents because they have the treasury and they are responsible for constructing the schools, roads and so on. So when you are evaluating them, evaluate them and find out whether they have constructed the roads they said they would do. If they did not, then there is a problem.

Now when you come to the SDF, the SDF has two talents. The SDF does not have the state treasury, so to begin to say that the SDF has not constructed roads is a wrong measure. Why? Because, they were not given five talents. They were given two talents. If you want to evaluate the SDF, find out whether with the two talents given them, they are doing the right thing. How do we find out whether they are doing the right thing? Are they doing the basic things they are supposed to do? Are they concerned about their neighbors? Look at the leadership. Do they give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? When you have a problem like that which erupted in Bambili, where the rules are not respected; there is a cause for concern. It is thus possible to cry about a stolen victory here but you create a stolen victory situation when you have the yam and the knife. Then are you using your two talents right?
 So what is the common thing we should be looking for in somebody who has one talent, two talents or five talents? It is the truth. Truth is the thing. It does not matter if somebody has five talents, ten talents, look for truth. The number of talents does not alter your truth. Truth is your truth. If we are looking for the right people, we are looking for the truth. When somebody makes a declaration, watch them and see the things they do. Do they seize things from others? What is their capacity for giving? That is where you can judge them.

What is the difference between the state activities and a political party activity? Looking at the ruling party and the SDF as our examples, when does a state act and when does a political party act?
There is something that we must understand. There is no where a state can act without a political party. It is not possible. The question is when are you acting as a state and when are you acting as a political party and with whose resources?

When you have two parties say the SDF and the CPDM, they are vying for political power and political positions. They want the people, the population to mandate them so that they can do things on behalf of the people using the people’s resources. When you have that power, then you have to choose people from amongst you whom you trust that can deliver the goods and put them in the positions of power.  They would use the resources judiciously and bring to the people what they want to solve their daily and developmental problems. So technically, you need a party in power that uses the power from the people and the resources of the people to carry out the business of the people. The problems only come when you get to power and then use the resources of the people to solve other problems rather than the people’s problems.

Apart from political analyses, let us look at political development. Let us look at the economy. Most political parties in this country and their economic policies are still very much complicated. What is your take on that?

If you do not address economic issues then, you have got it completely wrong. For a country to move forward, you need three or four things. The first thing is that you need security which is very important. There is nowhere in the world that you can achieve anything without security. So peace and security are the first and foremost things that we need in a country. That is why we have the gendarmes, the army and so on. But it is not just the army and the gendarmes that bring about peace; it is the level of understanding of a people that actually brings peace. It is how much you educate your people that brings peace. You do not get peace by the gun. Peace by the gun is not peace. The real peace comes from the education and understanding of a people. If you can educate your people, you would get peace.

This is where political parties come in. Whether they are in power or not, whether they are in the electoral process or not, they should be educating the public so that concepts are well understood; So that darkness becomes light. What Ngwanyam is doing now is trying to bring that education so that we understand things better. The more people understand what I am saying the less there would be strive and the more there would be peace and success. We need peace in the country, in the home and everywhere. Peace is the foundation. There is no peace without God. There is no peace without truth. There is no peace when you do not treat your neighbor as yourself. Peace means treating others like you would like to be treated. Peace means giving.
The second thing is, you must have economic development. The economy of the country must grow. The economy looks at the resources of the country and gives those resources a multiplier effect. Then you use the resources from the economy like money and human resources to be able to bring development like the roads, the schools, the health infrastructure, and the homes.  People need to live decent lives. If it were possible, everybody should live in a house with air conditioning, tiles on the floor, nice windows, good lighting, water flowing, water system toilets and nobody goes to the bush. That would be good if we could get there. But when you begin to have some people living a very decent life and some are still living in squalor and in shacks, there is a problem.

Therefore, the economy has to grow and that economic growth has to trickle to everybody. Common goods like roads and hospitals must be there. Even if somebody is living in a shack and is able to ride on a good road he would feel better. The road to Nkambe for instance, instead of paying 6000FCFA you should pay 3000FCFA because the road is good. So peace is important, economic growth is important and that economic growth should not be only for a particular people. Economic growth in Cameroon should not only be for the Bamilekes. It should be for the Anglophones, the Betis and the northerners. Government should create an enabling environment in which people express themselves and change the elements they get from the environment to add value to the system.  Everybody should have access to that economic growth which is very important.

The next thing of course is the development of the human capacity. You have to help people to develop their human capacities so that they can express themselves in a creative manner. What we lack in Cameroon is the power of creativity because it has not been developed. The power of creativity is developed through intuition and education. Our education has not allowed for creativity in our youths. That is why; when you see that a lot of people are trying to create a business; everybody creates a micro financial institution.

Everybody wants to keep someone’s money but they do not know how to generate money. If you increase the number of micro financial institution in the country, that does not increase the general wealth. You need to increase the general wealth of the community by sowing seeds and growing them. That is by building up your productive capacity. As long as you have not built up your production capacity, it will not augur well. Production capacity is only built through technology, building the youth and training them in a manner that they are creative, and working to add value to the system. We have to build our own industries and cause the transformation of our own raw materials before selling. We should reduce importation and increase exportation of finish goods not raw materials. Importing rice and corn is not a good sign.

You give people the opportunity to be able to work. All youths should have work. If you are going to have a lot of youth that are not working, that is going to be a time bomb.

Apart from political moment of elections, what else would you suggest political parties should do?

As we said, political parties want to grab power and then use that power for the good of the community. But we have seen that the concept of common good is still farfetched in our country. That is what the President was condemning in his New Year speech that individualism has taken over collective good. We need to come back to the drawing board and make sure that we work to enhance collective good.

Therefore, whether a party is in power or not, it is not about waiting for elections and then you jump on the streets with bands and start campaigning and insulting each other. There is something that you ought to be doing, whether it is an election year or not. Continue the education of the people so that they know what is true and what is false. And when you are educating the people, make sure that you are also practicing truth. While we condemn others and probably say a few truths here and there, we do not practice truth. So I am sure we need to take some lessons on practicing truth.

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