Uncertainty loomed when Cameroon’s first President, Ahmadou Ahidjo, announced his resignation on November 4, 1982. Despite assurances of a peaceful transition of power to his constitutional successor, a logjam of sorts still wrestled in the spirits of Cameroonians.
A pall of darkness hovered until Saturday, November 6, when a certain 49-year old inherited the insignia of the Etoudi power.
A boyishly handsome man mounted the saddle after the “I do so swear” ritual at the National Assembly.
Anyone who saw the new President’s photo had an envious gaze at the fair-complexioned man of fine and equal parts.
His name, Paul Bathelemy Biya Bi-Mvondo had music of its own. It produced vibration and inspired absolute confidence on Cameroonians who yearned for the dawn of a new epoch of cataclysmic socio-economic and political mutation.
The young President had a charming personality that attracted people to him, the way a magnet would to iron filings.
Sounding confidently erudite with a head that was full of “book”, “Biya’s charisma was pleasantly intimidating. The joy of Cameroonians reached orgasmic proportions when his voice cracked over the airwaves of the National Radio.
The new President roused the masses to a frenzy when he promised to divorce with the dictatorial part of his predecessor.
He said he was ushering in the dawn of a new deal era, an epochal revolution for rigour and moralisation.
These promises took the young Paul Biya to the summit of his popularity. He was the cynosure of panegyrics and adoration everywhere he went. Even the spineless political hypocrites who had fallen on Ahidjo’s feet, wailing and begging him not to resign, described the new President as a blessing and God’s gift to Cameroon.
That was the banquet of euphoria on which Cameroonians welcomed Paul Biya to power.
Biya later electrified the crowd in Bamenda when he thundered with a metallic voice:” I am a Cameroonian, I was born a Cameroonian and I will die a Cameroonian.” The drums rumbled, and the applause machine peaked to a climax.
Just before the applause died down, Biya roared with the magniloquence of a celebrated orator “Bamenda is my second home”
The love affair between the new President and his fellow countrymen and women soared with the potency of a new religion.
The young and chubby man President Ahidjo had handed over power to, cut the picture of an unambitious figure.
Though he was bright and vivacious, he was as meek as a lamb. These positive character traits and the promises of the new President gave big hope to Cameroonians.
They dreamt of a new nation, one in which crime will not eat up the law, a country that would be void of the vices that threaten its very existence as a corporate entity, a cauldron of liberties and the respect of human rights.
Within a very short period, the hope in Cameroonians was brutally adulterated. The excitement was short-lived when the anti-climax of it all appeared suddenly like a monster.
The pall of darkness began falling in 1983 when the hiccups between the new President and his predecessor were blown-open.
The worst happened in April 1984 when a group of Republican Guards, plotted a coup to overthrow the new President.
Even though the coup was aborted, things were no longer the same as Cameroonians went through one sad reality to another.
In 36 years, the Biya regime has been both a mascot and a hoodoo to Cameroonians. It has been the vector of gloom and boom. When posterity will be condemning the Biya regime for its failures, it will also hail it for its achievements in the many spheres of national life.
One thing that continues to hang on the neck of the regime like an albatross is corruption.
This cankerworm has been the main impediment on the way to our country’s development.
Thus, the very lofty development projects that President Paul Biya designed in this country have largely ended up in the gnawing fangs of corruption. The vicious cycle begins from tribalism, electoral fraud and embezzlement of public funds and go the whole hog of national life.
It has been an unfortunate thing that many of those whom President Biya appointed to fight ills end up sustaining them.
Many of the State officials seem to be in a vicious conspiracy to smear what would have been a clean balance sheet of the President.
President Biya himself said he would want to be remembered for having brought democracy to Cameroon. However, the actions of some of his Ministers seemed to have been meant to strip him of his democratic legacy.
Otherwise, why are the authorities so keen on banning every innocuous rally or demonstration organised by the opposition or civil society? Thus, the trial of Barrister Michelle Ndocki on claims that she disturbed public order by joining others in a post-election demonstration in Douala can only be an affront to our democracy.
Despite the very laudable reports that President Biya has carried out in 36 years, the ills perpetrated by some overzealous Government officials are threatening to overshadow them.
As he steps unto the saddle for the seventh time, it is an opportunity for Biya to make amends and quit the stage on a clean slate, not as a leader who brought misery to his people.
One thing he should do to reverse this is to ensure that his new Government is perfectly balanced between the respect of meritocracy and the compensation of political allies.
He would atone for all the sins his Government has committed against Anglophones if he seeks a permanent peaceful solution to the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
The extra-judicial killings and the burning of houses by the military is a vicious conspiracy to bloody the tenure of our president.
If our new old President reverses these ugly scenes, fight poverty and immorality, he would rescue his popularity that remains ditched in the doldrums.
Long Live our President.