By Mwalimu George Ngwane*
Anglophone Lawyers have spoken. Cameroon needs a Federal system. Going by the experiences surrounding the debate on the concept of Federation among Anglophones, I will not be surprised at the re-emergence of rebuttals and old hackneyed but sometimes sterile blame game narratives in our public space.
The common denominator between the Southwest and the Northwest Regions is that they both stand for a Federation. A ten state Federation emphasises Provincial Protection, while a two state Federation emphasises Regional Sovereignty. The magic numbers of two and ten have put the North Westerner and South Westerner at daggers drawn as if any of the principles has been bought by the establishment yet.
We have been so divided along the lines of two and ten that we refuse to see the issues involved and the risks concerned. Just as we have echoed a unity in diversity conversation so have we given a false impression that a person who believes in the two- state federation must be a North Westerner or a naive South Westerner.
We have been so concerned with labels and tags that we pay no attention to the constitutional and meticulous details that were captured in the Draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon that was produced in July 1993 by the Standing Committee of the All Anglophone Conference (AAC). The significance of the July 1993 draft constitution is that it is two-tier as there is a vertical dichotomy between Anglophones and Francophones and a horizontal division between North West and South West.
Any constitution that embarks on a solely ten state arrangement without an institutionalised umbrella over the North West and South West regions would be like a house with a solid foundation but without a good roof. Any constitution that embarks on a solely two state arrangement (West Cameroon/East Cameroon), with the proviso that internal matters between the Anglophones shall be settled in family would be like a house with a good roof but without a solid foundation. We need a constitution that concurrently handles the Anglophone/Francophone problem and the North West/South West divide. And this is where the All Anglophone Lawyers’ Declaration should take its inspiration.
As a former member of the Standing Committee of the All Anglophone Conference of 1993 and minute Secretary in most of its meetings I make bold to say that having gone through most of the draft constitutions presented by individuals and organisations, one cannot help but use the Draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon proposed by the Standing Committee of AAC as the working document.
It is a document that attains the goal of national character and the objective of the ante-1972 West Cameroon statehood. It is therefore fallacious to propagate the philosophy that the AAC constitution stands for two states as against four, ten, fifteen states as propounded by other organisations.
In deed the document is flexible to any number of states that the people of Cameroon would so desire; with the sole difference that the people of Southern Cameroons (West Cameroon) like those of La Republique du Cameroon (East Cameroun) would on sovereign basis prescribe the number of states (autonomous provinces) within their separate territories.
The document makes provision for a distinct identity and bicultural nature of two people who came into political union in 1961 which forms the basis of a historical legality and provision for the fulfilment of the aspirations of the masses within the entire country toward decentralisation, devotion and decongestion of power to the periphery which forms the basis of a socio-political reality.
Any document worth its salt must take cognisance of the historical legality and socio-political reality of the Cameroonian people. Proponents of a ten state Federation have religiously borrowed their argument possibly from the Nigerian experience. Let it be made clear that while Nigeria operates on a colonial monolingual background that permits a common legal, educational and exo-cultural system throughout the nation, Cameroon operates on an official bilingual and bicultural level that produces two parallel legal, educational and exo-cultural systems.
No matter how pan African any body wants to feel, the blatant truth about African politics is that its policies are still tele-guided by the ingredients of our foreign cultures. Because Cameroon finds herself in this dual situation, the conflict of the Anglophones and Francophones would be omnipresent except the former allow them themselves to be swallowed like Anglophone Jonases in the belly of the Francophone whale.
The two foreign systems (English and French) are the real custodians of power and decision making in Cameroon and any loose allowance for a ten state Federation would give a free visa to the numerical Francophone majority to totally assimilate the weak and timid John Bullism in the Anglophone territory of Cameroon. This has been the case since 1972.
A matter of values
One of the expectations of the ten states Federation is that it will allow for indigenous Governors to be elected as it is in the AAC constitution. Yet in a loose arrangement of ten states, no one would be surprised if the President insisted on appointing Governors who are indigenes of the area. That itself defeats the purpose of administrative autonomy, for the Governor would not be responsible to the people but to their appointees.
The loose arrangement of ten states denigrates the Southern Cameroons sovereignty into mere former provinces and present regions. Plagued by a history of treachery, traumatised by an element of domination, and faced with the reality of assimilation, the ten state proponents allow themselves to be defined not as 1961 partners to a bicultural experiment but as 1972 polities to a “one and indivisible” country.
As we wade our way through the labyrinth of our fragmented past let us not lose sight of the graceful values that unite us toward a glorious future. We are a nation born out of the complexities of colonialism, bred against the tides of cultural Assimilation but prepared today to grow within a distinct heritage of a linguistic ancestry. Equal status was achieved in 1961 in an arrangement where our sovereignty was equal to the other sovereignty.
How do we move from a 1:1 relationship to clamour for a 2:8 arrangement? According to Dr. Carlson Anyangwe “Southern Cameroonians are unquestionably a people whose own distinctiveness is undeniable. There is and can be no dispute that our British derived culture has a separate, long and distinct history. That culture is in present danger of disappearing”. We must therefore capitalise on what unites and strengthens us as a free people not highlight what divides and weakens us like a conquered people.
This is the mission of the two by (x) state proposal contained in the 128 page AAC Constitution that was produced in English and French and officially submitted and released for Public Discussion in July 1993. In the wake of the All Anglophone Lawyers’ Declaration of 9th May 2015, there is a need to reprint both the entire Document and a Synopsis for the public. While we all have a right to fight to personal positions and provincial protections, our main drive should be to restore our declining Anglo-Saxon values. We are talking about our educational system that has been eroded in our Technical, Teachers Training Centres, Secondary and even Higher Education.
We are talking about our territorial integrity that is being invaded and our cultural existence not being expressed externally. As Peter Nsanda Eba once wrote “we must protect the values which those in my generation and older generation were raised up in. A lot of these values have been eroded, and it has been the hopes and wishes that our generation will die off, so that the future generations can grow up in mediocrity. We must unite to ensure the continuity of these values in future generations”.
Unity in Concept
Yes, the West Cameroon of 1961 – 1972 was not a paradise and so some have contested the AAC Draft Constitution as a return to the horrors and terrors of an evil system and a revisit of the Kangaroo that jumps into its mother’s pouch in times of danger. It must be made clear here that the constitution’s stand on 1961 is basically for historical legality but its structures, modalities in fact its modus operandi is in harmony with the socio-political realities.
A few parallels between the 1961 constitution and the proposed 1993 AAC constitution could be made here. While in the 1961 constitution, the President had the full powers to appoint the Prime Minister according to his whims and caprices only for the Parliament to rubber stamp it, the AAC constitution provides for the appointment of a Prime Minister by the President based on a suggestion of the State Executive Council. In other words the President only rubber stamps what the people (state executive council) have already decided.
While in the 1961 constitution, the Prime Minister had total powers over the entire West Cameroon territory within an infinite period and all the Prime Ministers came from the then Bamenda zone (North West Region) in the AAC constitution the designated Prime Minister has a specific term of office which alternates between the South West and North West Region.
The 1961 arrangement did not provide for elected Governors and Local Council representatives as found in the AAC constitution. There was no principle in the 1961 constitution guiding the law of Derivation and Revenue Distribution and so the Southwest became the milking cow of the country. Without pride or prejudice, without rage or rancour but in good faith and in good will let every Cameroonian in general and every Anglophone in particular read the 1993 AAC Draft Federal Constitution and make recommendations. The document may have flaws but should be the working document. One contesting factor that comes against the AAC constitution especially among some South Westerners is the eligibility of the Provincial Governors.
A clause that stipulates that a Governor would be elected from (…) and from non-natives who have spent a number of years in the Province opens itself to legitimate fears. Not only does it entertain a repeat of the past experiences of non-natives of the South West posing as South Westerners only to identify with their roots once elected or appointed but deprives the real native of freely electing their own credible and bona fide citizens.
Instead of a non-native occupying the highest office of a province, the privileges and rights of non-natives would be taken care of by the election of a percentage composition in the provincial assemblies, Provincial Executive Council and Local Government areas. This argument should be given serious thought. The need to accommodate views from Anglophones to the Draft Federal Constitution is extremely vital so that the Liberation of Anglophones does not lead to the enslavement of any of the Provinces in the West Cameroon territory.
That the South West Elite Association (SWELA) had taken a stand on a ten state Federation since 1991 is nothing new; that some Chiefs of the South West took a ten state stand on 10 April 1993 is nothing new; that the South West based defunct Liberal Democratic Party had taken a ten state stand then endorsed the AAC document is nothing new; that the South West based defunct National Democratic Party had taken a four state stand then endorsed the AAC document is nothing new; that the South West based defunct Cameroon Republican Party had taken a stand on ten states is nothing new; that the one time Cameroon Anglophone Movement had taken a two state stand then endorsed the AAC document is nothing new; and that the Social Democratic Front finally took a stand on Federation is nothing new.
What is new in the history of the Anglophone struggle is that all Anglophones (pressure groups and parties) like one people agreed on a unique concept-the concept of Federalism as against the concept of unitary system. This is different from the 1961 plebiscite decision that threw Anglophones apart between the concept of Reunification with Cameroon and the concept of Integration with Nigeria. This is a new found Unity.
If we are so united in the concept of Federation, why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the magical numbers of two and ten? Have we even succeeded in getting across the real concept of Federalism yet? Why do we spend atoms of energy against ourselves? – energy that could be mustered for the concept of Federalism to be accepted. Why do we spend iota of intelligence destroying our case and cause? – intelligence that could be harnessed to protect the specific and total ingredients of statehood? Why do Anglophones sometimes spend valuable time inviting a battalion of soldiers against their own people? And when one thinks that it is this sort of division that got Anglophones on the wrong foot in Foumban it becomes a cause for concern.
Do Anglophones not remember that original demands in the Bamenda Conference of June 1961 which included separate Government; Capital to Douala, bicameral Federal Legislature, ceremonial not executive Head of State, a Governor as Head of each state with Prime Minister, different legal systems etc made by the Southern Cameroonian delegation to the negotiation table in Foumban July 1961 were simply rejected because the Southern Cameroonians were hyper-motivated by jingoistic zeal and naive faith in their Francophone “brothers”? While the banner in the hall carried a pompous dictum in English of “How nice it is to meet our brothers” the French equivalent was simply “Vive le Cameroun Unifie”.
Are Anglophones not aware that the Bamenda Conference proposals of June 1961 limited Presidential powers but Ahidjo did not want a diminution of his authority and power? Does someone need to remind Anglophones that their over-optimistic but patriotic Bamenda Conference proposals of June 1961 were whittled down since Yaounde as usual, had her own plans?
Are Anglophones not conscious of the fact that the proposals of Bamenda Conference of June 1961 were simply ignored and Ahidjo brought out his own document which some members of the Southern Cameroonian delegation were seeing for the first time on the morning of the opening ceremony? Indeed it is only when the leader of opposition (Dr E.M.L Endeley) requested that he be allowed time to study the document that the Southern Cameroonian delegation was given three days to study Ahidjo’s document.
Can Anglophones forget that in the face of Ahidjo’s Ruritanian ruse and Machiavellian machinations, the Southern Cameroon delegation was shy at making its disapproval heard? Lastly and lest we forget the Foumban Conference ended on the promise that both delegations (Southern Cameroon and La Republique du Cameroun) would meet later to develop on the constitution.
To every one’s surprise Ahidjo broke the promise, got his assembly to adopt the shoddy constitution which he promulgated into law without consulting the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly. And that is what became the Federal Constitution on October 1, 1961.
What came out of Foumban therefore was nothing but the French plans for the then Federal Republic of Cameroon. Even if the ten -state Federation is accepted today like John Ngu Foncha’s clamour for Reunification with French Cameroon was accepted yesterday and the two by (x) state Federation is ignored today like Paul. Monyongo Kale’s third option was ignored yesterday; the story will be told that the hurricane of discordant opinions swept away the mustard seed for the right to reversion. It should not happen.
In the search for Southern Cameroons self-determination in Nigeria, the Richards constitution was replaced by the Macpherson constitution in 1951. The Macpherson constitution provided bedrock for the Southern Cameroon people. The Macpherson Constitution recognised the need for survival of Anglophones in Cameroon. As the Macpherson constitution provided the “great leap” for the crystallisation of political aspirations for Southern Cameroon leaders, so does the Draft 19930AAC Constitution provide the “great hope” for the manifestation of societal opportunities for the Anglophone people.
Today, we are acting in defence of the unborn because we are living on borrowed time. We owe a whole generation that has been saddled with a burden of economic debts and has been passed the mantle of moral mediocrity, the supreme price of self-abnegation. Imbued with academic knowledge, traditional wisdom, collective experience and intrinsic foresight, we cannot afford to let down the aspirations of another generation.
The question of leadership rotates around us – We, who still posses some vestiges of humane values and respect for human civilisation. So, does the Anglophone Lawyers’ Manifesto of 9th May 2015 not ring a bell to you? It should. It rings a bell that though we all climbed the Mount Mary Mountain top some of us sometimes descend the valley of despair and still grope in the wilderness of mutual suspicion. But even though our feet are weary and our minds worried, our eyes are still focussed on the promised land of Federalism and we shall all get there sooner than later. But how do we get there if it is not through mobilising all active patriotic and peaceful loving citizens towards a Referendum?
**Writer, panAfricanist and Peace Fellow2015 University of Chulalongkorn, Bangkok, Thailand