By Innocent Chia
From a modest observation of sports fans the world over, we all seem to think that we know better than the coach, especially a coach on a losing team. This is acutely true of soccer fans in the banana state of La Republique du Cameroun, home of the erstwhile revered Indomitable Lions. To a man, each Cameroonian soccer fan has always known better than the coach and never hesitated to demand that the coach be fired when the squad is floundering and losing game after game, competition after competition.
This passion, unfortunately, has hardly translated into the political arena where the leaders – Paul Biya, Fru Ndi, Bello Bouba, Ndam Njoya et al – have been forever holding unto power with ironic cheering from the same fans that show little tolerance for losing coaches. In this piece, I liken Fru Ndi to a coach who has a record, a scorecard or report card against which he must be judged. My assessment at the end of the day is pretty obvious – Fire the Coach! The SDF has to fire its Founding Chairman in order to find its way back as a winning team or eventually disappear from the political map of relevancy.
It is not overly presumptuous to say that in Cameroon as is the case in most African States, citizens go to the polls with little regard to the track record or report card of the individual(s) they are voting into office. Citizens are not sophisticated enough to understand that they are all investors in their country of birth and need to be reported to on how the business of the country is faring. Be not fooled, however, that Fru Ndi and the rest of the so-called opposition have long understood politics to be nothing more than an investment and have been cashing out as much as they can - what my business savvy friends call return on investment - ROI.
Meantime, there is no denying the role of the ethnicization of politics or the politicization of ethnicity; politics of the belly; corruption; party loyalty; spoilification; revenge or vendetta and a litany other things that you know. It is also possible that some politicians are blank slates with little for the electorate to go by in making informed decisions as to how they will handle the business of the region or the country. Before he came to national prominence on May 26th 1990, John Fru Ndi was not an unknown quantity in his native Northwest Province. His bookstore, Ebibi Book Center, grew into national renown. He was even President of PWD Bamenda in 1979, year in which the team lost at the infamous finals to Dynamo Douala.
In the single party days of Ahmadou Ahidjo’s CNU, Fru Ndi was a player. This guy therefore has a long track record against which SDF members should and must objectively judge him and determine whether he still has any fight left in him to lead the party.
One must admit that there is always a certain degree of difficulty when comparing one thing against itself. Most Cameroonians are only now able to appreciate, or even loathe the more, the regime of Ahmadou Ahidjo because they have Biya to compare with. It is against this backdrop that I find it illuminating to attempt apples to apples comparison of the period 1990 to present day between Biya and Ndi.
I agree with you who are disagreeing with me already on the grounds that Biya is President and Ndi is not; that Biya has powers that Ndi cannot exert; that Biya has resources that Ndi can only dream of… I agree with you on all of that and then some more...
But, here is what I am judging both men on: Both are leaders of their respective parties; and both have run against each other as contenders for the Presidency. Fair or not, these two criteria are probably the best tools that we have in assessing whether Fru Ndi is a political charlatan or the prodigy that others label him to be. Because numbers tell an implacable tale, I have decided to chart up how both have faired on the national spotlight in competitions against each other and in competitions between their parties, the SDF and the CPDM.
Fru Ndi and Biya head-to-head
What is obvious is that Biya has improved his game by several leaps and bounds. It is irrelevant what that game is: pre and post electoral fraud; corruption; intimidation of allies and foes (like jailing the G-11 members); buying foreign observers... The fact of the matter is that he has become great at it and left John Fru Ndi in the dust. The question then for party members is whether to continue using the same rusted and beat-up player against someone who knows his opponent that much? Is it not time to change coaches for a new appraoch, new tactics or new strategies?
CPDM vs SDF match-up
In the CPDM against SDF party match-up, the SDF has lost about 75 percent of its seats in parliament. At the same time, the CPDM has grown its number of representatives by 50 percent. Even in his North West fief, John Fru Ndi and the SDF have been undercut and undermined. Serious members have to be asking themselves where what went wrong and why they are losing election after election? The role of a party boss is to grow his flock. In a perfect world, enrolling new members is the only way you grow your voice and increase the chances of getting national and international covergae and winning elections.
The SDF has to look at itself and ask the question: Is membership growing or we are losing members? Is Fru Ndi still commanding the same crowds at organized rallies or he is having more crowds at funerals? If he is not, why is the party still keeping him there?
There comes a point when the old man himself has to wise-up. Parents must not die for their own kids to become parents. Fru Ndi is SDF's past that is nolstalgic, but the past all the same. He is not the future of the party. It is immoral for him to be eyeing a Senate seat. I say it is time to Fire Fru Ndi and hire a new fire brand for the party. Numbers don't lie. The coach has to be fired. Fire Fru Ndi now!