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CHOOSING THE LEADERS OF THE TIME

 

In a free society, people are entitled to their opinion but not their own facts. And this will have to be true in the modern Cameroon of tomorrow as we all envision it. We can't blame someone for holding a certain belief or line of thought, because that's what freedom of opinion is all about. What we can and must do, is to subject all beliefs and ideas to public scrutiny.

 

All beliefs and ideas must be put to the test of public scrutiny. Let the people be the judge. Let the public opinion tips the balance in favor or against a certain line of thought. This process of “Socio-Politico-Philosophical” selection of ideas, will overtime, lead to a classification or categorization of ideas as Mainstream or Extreme. Mainstream ideas are those ideas that inform our diverse ethos.

Those ideas that reconcile our diverse culture, ethnicity and lingual origins. Mainstream ideas will guide the people in the crucial process of choosing their leaders. Leaders that they can trust will commit to the cause and the aspirations --of the time—of the people.

 

Given the history of bad governance and mistrust between the people and their government, an interesting question becomes, how do we get to know what someone will do when they get into a position of responsibility or power ? How can we as a people, --with a relative degree of certainty—predict what someone will do once they have been given power and the trust of the people ? How can we discern someone’s infallible commitment to the cause or to the change we seek ? How can we as a people measure someone’s level of integrity and loyalty to the people he is supposed to serve ?

To answer these questions, we as a people must put in place, a formal process of public vetting and scrutiny. We must establish a figurative public square of debate. In the modern societies, this is done by the Media –News Papers, Television, Public debates and hearings. The people have to know what your belief system is before any position of significant responsibility is handed to you. They must be able to test and evaluate the nominee’s understanding of the commitment and the expectation of the responsibilities that he is about to receive. We have to be able to discern the character, the loyalty and the integrity level of the appointee. Once the people know –to the extent possible-- the beliefs and ideas held by the individual, it's up to them to decide whether or not, the given individual is fit for the position or office. The choice and preference of the people is made known through their local elected representatives or parliamentarians. This is what the slogan “Power to the People” truly means. The people have the power to influence –directly or indirectly through their local representatives –Parliamentarians , Mayors and other elected bodies-- most or all the governing processes of their country. And the people must have a way to hold the individual accountable when they believe the he –or she-- has not lived up to their expectations. The accountability clause is the constraint that commits the individual to the expectations of his responsibilities and dissuades him do right by society and by the people who have entrusted him. Accountability is the dissuasive factor that compels our leaders to preserve their integrity and remain un-corruptible –at least to the extent that they can be--. Accountability is the dissuasive factor or the constraint that makes free society and democracy work.

We must institute a process of public hearing –even in a small scale—(possibly televised) before being nominated as a minister, a prime minister, or a judge. Because the people are entrusting the nominee with power and to a varying degree, the future of their country. The people are entitled to know what to expect from you before you are handed any significant position of responsibility. And the people must have a way to hold the nominee responsible and accountable for his actions.

Example 1: If you are being nominated to lead the ministry of health, well, to the least you have to be able to tell --in a public hearing-- what needs to be done in that Ministry and how you intend to contribute, --with your own ideas and the policies in place-- to improve the health of the people. The nominee should be able to answer questions that relates to public health issues.

What can we do to reduce the rate of mortality with respect to Malaria, Typhoid fever or Cholera? What can we do to reduce HIV infections ? How can we make the drugs more available and affordable? How can we improve the quality of the water we drink or the air we bread ?—If you can’t stand the scrutiny of a public hearing and answer these basic questions that a Minister of health must know and try to address, or if you don’t have any progressive ideas with respect to the Ministry of health, well you are probably not fit to lead that Ministry and should not be nominated to be in charge of the health of the people. The same should apply to other Ministries such as Education, Public Service etc.. Just because you have a PhD in some field does not automatically translate to competence. Leadership is always more about conviction, commitment and integrity than it is about what collgege degree one may have.

Example 2: If you are being nominated to lead the Ministry of Territorial Administration, then you must be able –in a public hearing—to convince the people why your expertise, experience and competence should be trusted. You should be able to answer the following questions: Why do you want to be Minister of Territorial Administration ? What makes you competent to run this Ministry ? What do you intend to do to curb Police abuse of power, corruption and Police brutality ? What about Freedom of Press ? What difference will you make when it comes to the Free Press and censorship ? Do you believe in Free speech ? What are the changes that your ideas and policies will bring to this Ministry and how does it impact the life of the people of Cameroon ? If the nominee can’t demonstrate knowledge and competence with respect to these basic territorial Administration questions, well too bad, perhaps this Professor John Doe should not quit his teaching job at the University because he or she is clearly not competent to run that Ministry.

Example 3: If you aspire to become Minister of Mines and power, you should be able to tell the people what is your vision and competence with respect to this office. How can the power plants in Cameroon be improved ? How can we prevent more lengthy power outages in our large cities ? The EDEA Dam seems to be running low in capacity, what do you intend to do to mitigate the problem. What is our Electrical Power strategy for the future to accommodate population growth ? Should we create a new Power plant ? Why or why not ? What about Petroleum ? Again, if “Mr John Doe, PhD” can’t answer these questions, --with all due respects to his educational achievements,-- he is certainly not qualified for the job. We could go on and on, but I will stop here because you got the point.

If you are wondering how will this work, well the current constitution of Cameroon in article 11 states that –I will paraphrase here – The Government, led by the prime minister (appointed by the President) shall be responsible to the National Assembly. Furthermore, in article 34, sections 5 and 6, the National Assembly has the power to force the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Government if a vote of “No confidence” is passed. This enormous power bestowed onto the National Assembly can be leveraged to force good governance from our Government and from the President.

We the people of Cameroon can start to impact some of these changes if we elect the correct people to the National Assembly. The National Assembly is the place where the people can stage the fight for change –constitutionally, intellectually, philosophically, and politically--. We can –even-- use the current laws in books to fight for some of these changes even as we look for more changes in the future. But first, we have to get the right leaders –committed to the cause-- elected to the National Assembly and not just elect the Chiefs, the NIs, the Fons and Lamidos --for whom I have enormous respect-- but who may not necessarily have the right credentials or the convictions to carry on the fight for change. The Cameroon opposition seems to be gearing up for a Presidential election that it will probably lose. Perhaps, a smarter politics would be to try to win a sound majority in the Parliament, and start demonstrating the capabilities of good governance.

 

Our leaders must demonstrate exuberance, competence and knowledge in the area to which they are given responsibilities. We the people must demand it. We must require that those to whom we place our trust are the best amongst us. And that they are fully committed and dedicated to the cause, that they have a proven record of Love for Country and want to make life better for the people in any way they can. We have to be mindful though, that just because someone is a Professor or a PhD does not automatically make him or her competent to run a certain part of our Government. He must still prove to us that he can, before we can entrust him with power. Because leadership is always more about conviction, commitment and integrity than it is about what college degree one may have. His credibility and integrity must be tested prior. The burden of proof is his to make. These are the basic principles of good governance. We the people of Cameroon must demand excellence from our leaders and hold them accountable. The more demands we make, the more we ask the tough questions and require complete answers from our leaders, the better leadership and good governance we will get. That’s how the people will deserve the leaders they get.


Our future leaders will have to reconcile their beliefs to the fact that for any idea to succeed in Cameroon, the thought or idea must speak to the aspirations of all Cameroonians and not just some Cameroonians. It must transcend and resonate across ethnic and tribal barriers, and most Cameroonians must be able to relate and commit to the idea. The people must feel that the idea or thought responds to their aspirations and that they have a stake in it. How do you get the Bassa man and the Graffi guy to unite behind an idea that transcends ethnicity and tribe ? How do you get the Haoussa guy to understand that he too has a stake in the outcome ? How do we get the Anglophone and the Francophone to agree that change is not a lingual confrontation but is instead about implementing sound principles of good governance that transcend language and ethnic barriers ? How do we get the Cameroonian people as a whole –and not just from a given tribe, ethnic group or lingual group-- to understand that they are a stake holder to the change and to the future of their country. How do we get the Ewondo guy to understand that change is not a prosecution, a persecution, a condemnation or a retaliation –or a combination thereof-- of an ethnic group or a tribe ? How do we summon the good spirit of the people to commit to the cause of our common aspirations and our country ? The answers to these questions carry in them the key for any sustainable movement of change to succeed in this multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, multi-lingual and multi-creed environment. It is about –in part-- the art of understanding the tribal and ethnic dynamics of the black continent. Answers to these questions are the grail of solving the black man’s –tribal and ethnic-- conundrum in Cameroon and Africa in general. “The Idea of a New Citizenry” –see article on this site— is intended to rally Cameroonians around the common themes of “Love for Country, Equality, Respect and dignity, Freedom and Justice, Rule of Law and Fidelity to a Constitution”. The modern African Leader must have the intellectual capabilities to shape wise and intelligent thoughts, to craft and design smart ideas, policies and processes that are inclusive enough to speak to aspiration of all the people. --and not just some of the people--

Cameroon, having been a French and British colony is, and always will be subject to colonial influence. Perhaps more so from the French than the British. A modern leader must understand how to strike the balance between foreign and national interests. Some have argued that the French are the ones who tell our leaders what to do and what not to do. And that the change we seek can only be materialized if and when the French President signs up to it. Well, perhaps that is true to an extent. However, the caveat to this position is that, ascribing entirely to the notion that our future lies completely in the hands of someone else –the French in this case— is really a self-enslaving mindset. A mindset that resigns us to an undesirable fate forever. One problem I have with such an argument is that, it has the implication that our leaders are not the ones calling the shots. How can we then hold them accountable if they are not responsible for what’s happening to the Country ? Perhaps, the unintended consequence of such an argument is that it strengthen the case for Dictators to stay in power indefinitely. Why change a President in Cameroon if Nicolas Sarkozy --or Barack Obama-- is the one calling the shots for Cameroon ? Why would such a change be necessary ? If this argument holds, then our fight for change is misguided or misdirected. And perhaps the battle should be fought somewhere else – in Paris, London or Washington—and not in Cameroon.

The good news is that the recent events around the world –the Arab spring as it’s being coined--do not support that claim. I have argued that the interests of the French and that of any given Colony of the past, –Cameroon being one of them-- are not necessarily incompatible. The colonial Master –French, Britain or America-- is really just a business man. The paramount objective of any business is to minimize expenditures and costs while maximizing profit. So we should all be mindful that, to the colonial power, it’s really all about economics and not necessarily politics. They really don’t care who is in power in Cameroon --and certainly they are not interested in the tribal and ethnic or lingual shenanigans-- as long they can do business and make money. To them it’s all about economics, business and the buttom line. The political influence they exert to these post colonies is just a means and not an end. –The US departed from Mubarak, when it realized that the Egyptian people will not yield to the 30 years dictatorship anymore. Italy and Russia did not hesitate to abandon Ghadaffi when they came to the conclusion that his 42 year old reign –of tyranny-- was no longer sustainable in that country. France conceded --rather quickly-- to the Tunisian people yearning for Freedom--.

Cameroon as a country needs to do business with these foreign entities. So the question is not whether or not we should do business with them. The correct formulation of the problem is how to do business with them ? Do our leaders have the credentials, the understanding and the gravitas to do good business with these guys ? Do our leaders have a grasp of the subtleties and implications of the bilateral agreements that are being signed ? Do our leader have enough commitment to the people, the integrity and the love for country at heart when at the negotiation table with these foreign entities ? Have our Leaders earned the respect and the credibility of the negotiating party ? Do our leaders have the people behind them when negotiating with another Country ? Do our leaders know that they will be held accountable if they sign a phony agreement or a deal that do not bear the support or does not have a broad appeal of the people they serve ? We as a people must fully understand and appreciate the complexity of the problem. But this only strengthens the case as to why we must pick the best amongst our people to represent us. We must pick the people that we can trust. People who have demonstrated commitment to the cause of the country. People who have proven themselves in their careers and their lives to have a great level of uncompromised integrity and love for Country. People who we know love and cherish our country and perhaps ready to die for it. Vetting will lead the people to those leaders.

Cameroon, being a bilingual country, we must seek leaders who can be fluent in both languages, --English and French-- or at least who are trying to perfect both languages. Leaders with great communication skills --in terms of content, substance, style and presentation-- who have a better understanding of the complex multi-lateral world we live in. Lived and studied in Cameroon and outside of Cameroon, and travelling the world are positive –but not indispensable-- criteria that we should seek in our future leaders.

The people of Cameroon must somehow be able to discern the competent leaders of the time. The profound desire for change --felt at this moment in time of our history-- is an indication that the people of Cameroon deserve better leadership than the one they are currently getting. We pray and hope that providence will set our country on a correction course at this juncture of its history. It all begins by choosing the right Leader for the time. It's not as easy as we sometimes think it is. The good news is that it depends on us as a people. We can surely change the course of our Country. And when the skeptics, the nay-Sayers, the bystanders and the spooked say we can’t, we shall respond with the flag “Green, Red and Yellow” wrapped around us, and chanting the timeless creed that sums up the aspirations, the determination and the spirit of a people: Yes we can. --The original quote is from Barack Obama—

 

"Leadership is always more about conviction, commitment and integrity than it is about what collgege degree one may have." --ANST—

 

“The people deserve the leaders they get at any point in time of their history. If we as a people demand good Governance and good Leadership from your Leaders, we will probably get it” –ANST—

 

“There is always a better way to do anything. It’s your responsibility to find out how” –ANST –

 

"When in captivity, the virtuous mind will remain restless and unrelenting in the pursuit of liberty, until it achieves the level of freedom known to its consciousness." –ANST—

 

 

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