Next Sunday Cameroonians will be out in their numbers to mark the 34th anniversary of the accession to power of President Paul Biya.
Such an anniversary obviously calls for attention because of the longevity of the one whose anniversary we are commemorating. There are anniversaries and anniversaries! There are several events in life which replicate sad memories; others recall eventful moments while some call for celebration. At a State House event during the visit to Cameroon last year by the French President, Francois Hollande, a French journalist put a rather sardonic question to the President on his tenure of office and wondering whether it wasn’t about time he thought of handing over and taking a deserved retirement. The unexpected reply of the President came in the form of some good caustic humour.
“It is not for those who want but for those who can, to stay for so long at the helm of State”, he observed. The President of the Republic went further to explain that his presence at the head of the State was not imposed, but came through elections in which he regularly beat his opponents. So on this anniversary event, the question is less about the duration of the President of the Republic at the head of the State and more about the challenges that lie ahead and his capacity to address those challenges in a manner satisfactory to the generality of Cameroonians. If the President has been at the helm for so long, it is understandably because of their willingness to let him be there otherwise they could have used their constitutional right to get him out.
The most important thing about this anniversary is trying to make the best use out of the gains we have been able to make in these last 34 years. The President of the Republic whose anniversary we celebrate today has often been the first to talk of our shortcomings and the need to revisit strategies. The issue here is not about chest-beating because he recognizes that although much has been achieved in the 34 years of his stewardship, a lot still remains to be done. The issue is about consolidating the glass which is half-full and trying to take up its level rather than observing the glass from a half-empty point of view with the danger that even losing some of its content and reducing the content further. For many years infrastructure has been our nation’s Achille’s heel and the recent heavy rains across the country came to remind us of the relative backwardness in which our country finds itself.
But there are hundreds of projects in the drawing boards awaiting a better economic situation for them to be dusted and work started. We cannot however put under the bushel the tremendous projects realized in the area of education. The pre-New Deal situation and what we observe today can only be compared to day and night as virtually every important agglomeration today has a secondary general and secondary technical institution, thus bring education to doorsteps of thousands of households. Tertiary education has also experienced an exponential boom with the addition of seven new State universities and hundreds of other private university-level and other degree-granting institutions made possible by recent reforms in higher education.
Of course, one would question the pertinence of these numerous institutions if their products cannot find work upon graduation. The President has recently embarked on an all-out effort by providing money and other forms of facilitations to enable our energetic and intelligent youth find fulfilling jobs for themselves and even their peers. The government, under the stewardship of Mr Biya is quite awake and on its heels. All of these initiatives cannot be durable in an atmosphere of disorder.
And in evaluating the President, ordinary citizens often tend to undermine peace, the existence of which guarantees all human endeavours. At least, even for guaranteeing peace – treasured gain by all accounts – the President deserves laurels on this anniversary event.