Many Cameroonians have never known the country’s territorial administration minister, Paul Atanga Nji, as a comedian.
The conman has always been known as an unrepentant butcher and a self-aggrandising crook and trickster, especially over the last three years when citizens of the country’s two English-speaking regions took up arms to defend themselves against the Yaounde government whose only conflict resolution tool is the gun.
As a special adviser at the presidency, Atanga Nji distinguished himself through his reckless and ill-informed declarations on the Southern Cameroons crisis which only inflamed the country’s English-speaking minority.
His total and unwavering support for the corrupt Yaounde government enabled the country’s president, Paul Biya, to hand him the territorial administration portfolio with special focus on cleaning up the mess the government had created in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
Known for his impulsiveness and lack of a deep sense of analysis, the conman cum territorial administration minister thought the Augean Stable created in the northwest and Southwest regions would be cleaned up through trickery and assassination of a few youths.
In his warp thinking, he thought it would take just a few days and his master would pour kudos and accolades on him.
Atanga Nji did not know he was leading a tough mission into the unknown; a quagmire that would rob him of his youthfulness and health.
Four years after Southern Cameroonians took to the streets to demonstrate against systemic and institutional marginalization, the country’s two English-speaking regions are now awash with guns and bombs have started going off, targeting mostly uniformed officers and enablers of the corrupt Yaounde government.
A mission that was supposed to be a walk in the park to the “brain-dead” territorial administration minister has become a sisyphean task and the crisis that the Biya regime thought could be wrapped up in a few weeks might outlive most Yaounde-based politicians if care is not taken.
The crisis has become a huge nightmare to the government and Paul Atanga Nji who was considered as the man with the “midas touch” seems to be running out of solutions as Southern Cameroonian restoration forces take on the ill-trained and corrupt national army with confidence.
Initially, the government thought killing a few people would prompt Southern Cameroonians to walk back on their decision to call it out, but the killing of a few people only turned out to be grave mistake whose consequences might linger for decades.
Instead of rescinding their decision to fight against marginalization, Southern Cameroonians instead made common cause. They know that bullies must be confronted and for three years, the hunting rifle bearing fighters have morphed into an organized army with sophisticated weapons and whose hit and run tactics have reduced the national army to scouts whose members are seeking to establish a war economy in the region instead of seeking to roll back the insurgency.
The government is running out of options and currently, it is working with blacklegs within Southern Cameroons who are willing to betray their souls for a paltry CFAF 50,000 and sex from the alcohol-inflamed and sex-starved soldiers.
But restoration forces have a strong message for anybody who betrays the cause and this message was delivered when some angry fighters slaughtered Comfort Tumassang in Muyuka in broad daylight last week.
The message is a reminder to all Southern Cameroonians on ground zero that aiding and abetting the enemy is a treasonable felony that must be punished in a manner that is far from being fair.
The Southern Cameroonian justice system – at least that which is being enforced by the fighters – is fast. In the region, justice is never delayed, so it is never denied. This is the only region in the world where all the fighters are judges and lawyers. Their laws are not written and only those fighting in the jungles of Southern Cameroons can interpret them.
According to a Cameroon Concord News Group source, Ms. Tumassang has been flirting with sex-starved soldiers and receiving money from them as an incentive for her to betray Southern Cameroonian fighters who, for three years, have given the military a run for its money.
Her killing sent three of her friends who were also involved in espionage against Southern Cameroonians packing to Yaounde where they are being protected by the corrupt regime that has been avoiding frank discussions and negotiations with Southern Cameroonians.
The gruesome killing of Comfort Tumassang has sent the government into a tailspin and instead of seeking a genuine and sustainable solution to the problem, it has, through its conman in chief, Paul Atanga Nji, issued a document banning the purchase of machetes in a region wherein subsistence agriculture is the mainstay of the region’s economy.
To purchase a machete, many farmers in the two English-speaking regions of the country, most of whom live in very rural regions which are not accessible even during the dry season, have to head to Divisional headquarters to obtain a permit from the Divisional Officers. This is the new Cameroon government comedy at work.
By this ministerial order signed by Paul Atangha Nji, the government has clearly demonstrated that it is running out of solutions to bring the insurgency to an end.
For three decades, the government has been ruthless and many Cameroonians have very little or no respect for their government.
This new order banning the purchase of machetes demonstrates that those ruling the country are comedians and they are now ready to take their comedy to the next level.
According to an opposition figure in the nation’s capital, Yaounde, this new decision by the country’s territorial administration minister to place restrictions on the purchase of machetes is the outcome of putting square pegs in round holes.
“When you put the wrong people in certain positions, you only get what you are getting today in Cameroon. When you transform roadside mechanics into mechanical engineers, you end up getting the wrong solutions for problems that might tear the country apart,” he said.
“Cameroon is collapsing, but our political and social architects are more concerned with robbing the country blind and keeping power. The Southern Cameroons crisis is an issue that has weakened the state and if care is not taken, it might result in the balkanization of our beloved country. Many other groups are watching and they hold that the crisis in the country’s two English-speaking regions might inspire them to seek independence too,” he added.
“Rather than placing restrictions on the purchase of machetes in Southern Cameroons’ rural areas, it would be wise for the government to head to the negotiating table where there are possible solutions to the issues that triggered the crisis. For the last four years, the government has been seeking to cure a cancer patient with aspirin and this has caused the cancer to spread to other parts of the body. The government should understand that its tricks and pseudo-solutions are not delivering the much-needed results. It is time to change course,” he stressed.
“Paul Atangha Nji’s brand new skills as a comedian will not help this country. As a heartless conman and despicable butcher, he did not deliver much. If the government thinks he is the man who will seek real solutions to those issues that are giving our country a bad name, then even the head of state is confused. The government needs to adopt a new approach and dead wood like Atangha Nji should be weeded out of the political system. He lacks what it takes to deal with this complicated issue. It is way out of his league. He should instead go back to his village and become a farmer, though he will need an authorization to purchase a machete. That is where he belongs. Politics is not his thing,” he concluded.
The government seems to be overwhelmed and to distract the docile population, it has resorted to a strain of comedy that is not putting smiles on anybody’s face.
Like Atanga Nji, the country’s president cum comedian-in-chief, Paul Biya, is also trying to distract Cameroonians by announcing that all those who played in the 1990 World Cup competition would be granted homes thirty years after the competition.
Several of those players have already died and many of them have been reduced to bags of bones by poverty and psychological torture.
Some of their children have been robbed of the opportunity to go to school because of the the government’s insensitivity to the plight of those who are, indeed, the heroes of that country.
The granting of these apartments is welcomed, but if not well managed, those apartments might end up becoming ticking time bombs as those failed children might end up fighting each other as their ailing and aging parents disappear from the scene.
While it is a welcome relief to many of those players, especially to the family of Tataw Eta Stephen who captained the team in 1990, but died in abject poverty a few weeks ago, many Cameroonians think that the corrupt Yaounde government could do better by putting in place well-defined mechanisms that can serve the country’s heroes and ambassadors such as musicians and players.
Many of these cultural ambassadors and players end up in dire financial straits because the government has failed to play its role as a creator of opportunities and mechanisms for proper financial management.
The Yaounde government has to abandon it improvisation and comedy to focus on the job that is its own. Cameroonians deserve better and they think it is time to walk away from the comedy that has given their country a bad name and sent many hardworking citizens to an early grave.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai