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CHANGE IS AN IDEA, A CONVICTION AND NOT A MAN

 

We, the African people have been cultured into believing in personalities instead of strong institutions and sound ideas. We tend to believe in “strong men” instead of powerful institutions and laws that must be above all men. We tend to put our hopes and dreams in the hands of one “super man” instead of trusting our believes into strong principles, sound ideas, and the rule of law.

Perhaps, it is time that we learn the sobering lessons of history that “A man can and will probably fail the people, but sound ideas and principles won’t”.

 

The movement for change that swept the country in the nineties should never have been about the man John Fru Ndi, --and I don’t think it was in the very early stages--. It later became more about the man JFN than it was about an idea or a collective conviction. The leaders of the movement may have misunderstood what the popular convulsion was all about, and that may explain why the movement ran out of steam.

For any movement for change to be enduring and sustainable, it must speak to the convictions and aspirations of the people. It must be about an idea, a set of beliefs, a set of convictions, a creed that we share as a people. It must be about the people and not about a man, no matter how eloquent, how intelligent he may be. It should be about an idea, a conviction to change the course of our country and make a better life for our people and leave a better country to our children.

The African culture, for the most part is based on the believe that the people must submit --unconditionally-- to the Chiefs, the Fons, the Lamidos, the Presidents and so forth. Our culture is mostly premised on the de facto inequality among people. Its underlying ethos is that some people must submit their dignity and humanity onto other human beings. Its main strain of thought is that some are innately inferior and less worthy than others. –The Chief and the “Nchindas” is just one illustration; the Master and the slaves is another--. This mind set was an active catalyst that made slavery and colonization so easy in Africa. –with minimal resistance from the African people--.

 

While there are positive aspects to our culture, the inherent weakness to trust and rely on personalities, to put the peoples’ hope in one man’s ego rather than in sound institutions, sound ideas and beliefs, strong convictions and the rule of law is what has kept us in the wilderness for so long.

Our tendencies to only respond to the stimuli of the senses --and not so much of the intellect--, the politics of the stomach, the entertainments of the flesh, --at the expense of our values and principles-- are the catalysts that make the sub Saharan African man –and culture-- so easily vulnerable, corruptible and compromised. While it is understandable that a hungry man is more likely to be intrigued and coerced by the delicacies of power, your dignity as a human being, the values and principles that you hold dear must be given a meaning and should be priceless.

We, the Africans must learn to hold firm and stay committed to the values and principles that we hold dear such as Freedom, Equality, Dignity, Fairness, Social justice, Rule of law. These values should not be compromised. These values should not be up for sale, not even to the irresistible offerings of a King’s largess and certainly not to a Dictator’s bribery. When we invest in these values, over the course of time, the returns, the pay offs to society, and to the future of our country, are much more valuable than the instant gratifications of bribery and corruption. When we fail to live up to these values and principles, we diminish our dignity and our humanity as a people, and we falter on the promise and hopes of our people and our country as a whole.

Don’t take an offer to become Minister only for the money and for your stomach. Don’t accept a position in Government only because you too want to be able to embezzle the people’s money. Don’t become a Minister only because you want to chant praises, go on your knees and deify the President. Don’t accept that high position in Government just because you only want to steal money and satisfy your desires for instant gratification. Only accept the offer because you can make a difference not just to your own life but to the lives of others and the future of the country. Accept the position because you are given the opportunity to make a change to your country, and bring something that improves on the human condition in some way. Accept the position only if it does not compromise your integrity. Accept the offer only if it does not under-mind the values and principles that you hold dear. Because these values –more so than the money— represent your true possession in the changing fortunes of time. And always keep in mind that your President –or your Boss—will only respect and treat you right as much as you demonstrate to him how much you deserve and want to be treated.

 

We, the people must learn to put our trust into ideas, convictions, shared values, shared beliefs and never into human beings, and especially those human beings that have never been in position of leadership and have never been tested. If and when we get a chance to reform our country, we must put emphasis on a sound constitution, strong institutions and the rule of law. We should not trap ourselves into thinking that one man will, in good faith give us the freedom and democracy we hope for. As empirical evidence shows that the one Man who frees his people will become their Master. Our freedom should not be beholden to any one Man, but rather to the Laws of the land, the constitution of the country, the ideas, the creed and the shared values that we hold dear as a people.

It’s the mistake we see over and over again in the black continent. Our people are quick to voluntarily submit, to voluntarily self-enslave, to voluntarily self-surrender to the whim of a man, because we put our trust in a human being instead of the ideas and convictions that the person represents or embodies. Because we put more trust into our instincts for instant gratification rather than into the values and principles upon which our society and our country should be founded.

 

 

When Biya came to power, all the Chiefs, the Fons, the Lamidos went on their knees to worship, revere and deify the man, instead to take the time to thoroughly analyze and discern the ideals and the values embodied by the new leader at the time. You have all the ministers --many with PhDs-- and the people in high offices --hastily-- revering the new king, --even at the expense of their own dignity--, belittling their humanity, and elevating the new President to the ranks of a demi-god, and as a result they voluntarily surrendered their ability to put forth any constructive critic that would have otherwise improved on the abilities and capacity of the new leader at the time. As a result, they raised the human being above their own humanity and dignity, and above the people and the country. And as a consequence, they grow man’s ego. And you can see for yourself how the story ends.

We, the African people have created these “super-humans” in power. Our twisted cultural beliefs and the inherent weaknesses in the African culture created these “demi-gods” that, --in the absence of term limits-- over time matured into almighties and evil geniuses. --Idi Amin in Uganda, Mobutu in Zaire, Eyadema in Togo, Houphouet Boigny in Ivory Coast, Bongo in Gabon, Khadaffi in Libya, Ahidjo and now Biya in Cameroon, you name it, Africa created it--. To be fair, there have been ruthless dictators in other parts of the world too. –Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Bebe Doc in Haiti, and more--. But sub Saharan Africa, and especially Francophone Africa is where the deepest scares and wounds have been –and are still being—inflicted.

 

In the absence of term limits, the gentle spirited man and leader that we enthroned in November 1982 has now morphed and matured, --as a result of our own making-- into a Godzilla that has now come home to roost. --The indomitable Lion in chief, above all the people in Cameroon, and above the entire country.-- Power, without accountability will over time corrupt the human mind. And the absence of term limits only exacerbates the agony of the people. And now we must pay the steep price for deifying a human being. And now we must suffer the consequences for our ignorance of the basic principle that all human beings --while worthy of respect and dignity, and especially so when they are President-- are fallible and mortal, and must not be revered and deified –or elevated to ranks of small gods--. The genie is out of the bottle and all we can do is wait –painfully-- for providence to take its course of correction.

Make no mistake, the man himself is the problem. But we the people, through our culture, our nature of voluntary submission and/or naive passivity, contributed in making the man into who he became. For a man --even when he is the President--, is only as respectful and good to his people, as the people teach him how they deserve and want to be treated. And in that sense, the people deserve the leaders they get. 

Now is the time for reflection and introspection on what we, the people could have done differently, but more importantly what we should do, as a people moving forward. Now is the time to unleash the potentials of this new generation of our people, full of ingenuity, creativity, capacity and hope. 

Moving forward, we must learn from successful revolutions in history.

The Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) civil rights movement that swept in the USA in the fifties and sixties was not about the man MLK. It was about fighting for a fairer and more inclusive society. Long after MLK was killed, the movement never relented. The movement marched on and became even stronger, because it was never about MLK the man --even though MLK was a great man--, it was about an idea, a conviction, a set of core beliefs.

Our Lord Jesus Christ who brought us the great message of salvation –as enshrined in the Holy scriptures-- always said that it was never about him. It was about “HE who sent him”. It was about an idea of salvation for humanity. Long after Christ was crucified, Christianity lives on, and still reverberates –with much intensity-- in the human consciousness today, just as it was in the days of Christ. Because the message in the holy gospel was never about Christ the man. It was about salvation for humanity. In fact, Christianity became even stronger after the Lord was crucified. You could say the same about Moses freeing his people from slavery in Egypt.

The movement for freedom led by Gandhi in India, was never about the man. --even though Gandhi was a gentle spirited and lovely man--. It was about the core convictions of creating a fairer society. A society that dignifies the humanity of its people. Even after Gandhi was killed, the movement lived on and ultimately led to a more free society.

After serving 27 years in prison, the honorable Nelson Mandela always insisted that the long and bloody fight to remove the inhumane apartheid system was never about him, but about the people. He only chose to serve one term as president of the Republic of South Africa, paving the way for the new leadership to move the country forward. It was all about the people, and not about the man. –even though the guy is as admirable and as a role model to all of us as it gets--.

The Barack Obama phenomenon that we are all witnessing today in the USA is not and has never been about Barack --even though the guy is as eloquent as it gets, as fascinating an orator as it gets, as intelligent and smart as you get from Harvard--. The change we witness in the USA is about the American people wanting to create a more perfect Union as the one engraved in their constitution. Even Obama will tell you that the change the people seek is not and was never about him. It is about them, the people. And that’s why it works. That's why it can be endured. That's why it can be sustained. That’s why it succeeds, because it’s about the people and not any one man.

In all these examples, the leader can be killed, replaced or changed but the cause endures, the hope lives on and the faith gets strengthened and renewed. Because the change was not premised on a man, but on a cause, a conviction, a creed that the people all share and believe in.

So we Africans must begin to learn to believe in what is right, fair and just, and stand up and fight for it. It should never be about a man, but an idea, a belief, a conviction that we share as a people to want to create a better country for ourselves, our people and our children. We, the people must rally around a just cause and only lend our support to a leader for as long as he embodies the core convictions of the ideas we believe in. We should never rally for a man. We should never surrender our dignity and humanity to another human being. We should never elevate a human being above our humanity. We must never deify a human being and grow his ego beyond the common interest of a people and a nation. No No, Not the Chief, not the Fon, not the Lamido, Not the King, not the President. For we, as a people, have paid too much of a price for this. –From slavery to colonization, from Dictatorship to social and economic injustice, dreadful poverty and hopelessness. Even as we find solace in the troubled and tricky embryonic democracy still unraveling before us.-- The freedom we seek must not be beholden to any one man’s ego, lest we be bound to fight for it again in the future. Our freedom must be enshrined into a constitution, into a bill of rights, into the institutions of our country, and into the collective psyche of our people of this generation and generations to come.

John Fru Ndi --I like the guy-- has at some point in time embodied the cause of change. And history will no doubt give him credit for that. After 20 years of leadership, he must now pass the baton –that’s long overdue--, in a reminder that the cause for change is not about him, the man. He must remind the people that change was and always should be about them and not him. He must find an honorable exit from leadership even as he keeps an advisory role to the cause. And if he does not understand this basic principle that is at the core of every successful revolution, he who once represented change, will become the culprit of the very same cause he once championed. And he will need to be changed by any means necessary. He needs to look for an honorable exit or else, he who was once the witch hunter will become the hunted as was the case with Mubarak in Egypt, Khadaffi in Libya, Mobutu in Zaire, and now Biya in Cameroon.—just to name a few--.

We, the people, are the change we have been waiting for. We, the people must and should be the change. Not any one man. And the man or the leader we pick should only be the instrument that carries on the change, no more than the mail man who delivers the courier. The mail man is not the source of the message in the letter he carries, he is just the deliverer of the message. And so should be any leader that we pick in the future. The power to change our country is not in a man, it is in the ideas, the beliefs, the convictions, the shared values that we hold as a people.

 

“The power to change our country is not in a man, it is in the ideas, the beliefs, the convictions, the shared values that we hold as a people”.—ANST—

“We, the people, are the change we have been waiting for. We, the people must and should be the change. Not any one man”.—ANST—

 

“The one Man who frees his people will become their Master.” –ANST--

“Power, without accountability will over time corrupt the human mind.” –ANST--

 

"The freedom we seek must not be beholden to any one man’s ego, lest we be bound to fight for it again in the future. Our freedom must not be trusted to a man, but instead it must be enshrined into a constitution or the laws of the land." –ANST--

 

“A President --or any Man-- is only as respectful and good to his people, as much as the people demonstrate to him how much they deserve and want to be treated. And in that sense, we deserve the leaders we get” –ANST-- 

 

Powered By the ANST Brotherhood --ANST--

 

 

 

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