No Trifling Matter
246 Pages
English
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No Trifling Matter

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Learn more
246 Pages
English

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No Trifling Matter is a collection of controversial, critical weekly commentary on the reluctance of a monolithic regime to yield to popular aspirations for democracy in Cameroon. In these essays written between 1990 and November 1992, Godfrey Tangwa, alias Rotcod Gobata, doesn�t quibble. He comes across as a man of courage and resolve; one ready to swim upstream in a manner of a desperate midwife eager to prevent a still birth (in this case, of democracy). His column is as daring an embarrassment to Biya�s �d�mocratie avanc�e� as the radio programme �Cameroon Report� (later �Cameroon Calling�), was to Presidents Ahidjo and Biya in the hey days of the �parti unique�. Rotcod Gobata believes the time has come for Cameroon to graduate from a country over milked by mediocrity and callous indifference, to the paradise that it was meant to be for the poor and downtrodden. In this regard, he belongs with that rare breed of intellectuals who are genuine in their pursuit of collective betterment, and who in consequence, have opted to distance themselves from the stomach and all its trappings. This position is to be commended and encouraged, especially in a system where explanation is often mistaken for subversion, a system where the stomach is about the only political path-finder - the sole compass in use, a country where the champions of falsehood want all at their beck and call, and where a handful of thirsting palates daily jostle to share with Count Dracula the blood of the common and forgotten. Rotcod Gobata wants the new Cameroon to be rid of the ills and failures of the past five decades that have made it impossible for Cameroonians in their millions to live productive and creative lives.

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Published 30 August 2011
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EAN13 9789956717958
Language English
Document size 4 MB

Legal information: rental price per page 0.0078€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

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No Trifling Matter: Contributions of an Uncompromising Critic to the Democratic Process in Cameroon Godfrey B. Tangwa (aliasRotcod Gobata)L a ng a a R esea rch & P u blishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher: LangaaRPCIG Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Langaagrp@gmail.com www.langaa-rpcig.net Distributed in and outside N. America by African Books Collective orders@africanbookscollective.com www.africanbookcollective.com
ISBN: 9956-717-47-9 ©Godfrey Tangwa 2011
DISCLAIMER All views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Langaa RPCIG.
Dedication To Albert Mukong Ni John Fru Ndi Pius Njawe Charlie Ndi Chia Bate Besong Rene Philombe Celestin Monga and all other Cameroonians who are willing and ready to stand by their convictions in spite of inconveniences.
Preface To The New Edition: Background To Gobata Columns And Essays I started writing under the pen-name Rotcod Gobata in the early 1990’s, as an attempted contribution to the democratization struggle in Cameroon, following the so-called “wind of change from the East”, in the wake of the collapse of the dictatorships of Eastern Europe, most notably that of the communist Soviet Union, and the awakening effect it seemed to be having on political systems around the world, particularly in Africa. The release of Nelson Mandela from prison around the same period, followed a few years later by the truly miraculous democratic breakthrough in South Africa, added great impetus to this wind of change. In Cameroon, the sudden voluntary resignation of Alhaji Ahmadou Ahidjo, and his handing over of the reigns of dictatorial power to Paul Biya in 1982, had ushered in great euphoria and optimism. Paul Biya rode on the crest of mass popularity as he made some moves, under the slogan “rigor and moralization”, to democratize and liberalize the hitherto heavily autocratic and centralized state structures. I was a University student in neighbouring Nigeria between 1974 and1984. I used to come home to Cameroon on holidays as frequently as I could, but home-coming was not an easy affair, because getting out of Cameroon legally was a Herculean task. An exit visa was needed by Cameroonians legally to cross any of Cameroon’s borders. In West Cameroon (the English-speaking part of the country), one applied for such an exit visa in Buea or Bamenda, but such application was referred to Yaounde, the governmental seat of the French-speaking dictatorship, for approval or rejection. Very often Yaounde took months to respond, if it responded at all, keeping applicants in a state of worrisome stress and anxiety. As a consequence, to come home on holidays was always to take the risk of not getting back in time for resumption of term. Many other Cameroonian students in Nigeria at the time used to opt for trekking “exit-visa-less” across the border through the thick bushes separating Cameroon and Nigeria, or bribing their way through the border posts, but I could not bring myself seriously to even consider such options.
Once, I came from Nigeria and went right to Yaounde to apply for a multiple entry and exit visa to enable me carry out field work in Cameroon for my Master’s thesis. I instead got a good rude introduction to the Francophone system of public administration, general orientation, mind-set and way of doing things. I was given a long list of documents to compile, for my visa application, including a fiscal stamp of 8000 francs (quite a fortune for a self-sponsored student like me at the time). After submitting the “dossier” and following it up daily for about two weeks, the visa was finally refused on the grounds that I was not a Government-sponsored student! In 1986, after having earned my PhD degree two years earlier from the University of Ibadan, I quit a lectureship at the University of Ife and returned definitively to Cameroon, under the impression that I had been recruited at the University of Yaounde. I was in for a shock. On arrival in Yaounde, bag and baggage in tow, it turned out that the supposed recruitment had got stuck at the very last stage of the process. I landed into plain joblessness, which lasted for over a year before my recruitment “dossier” (not without the kind intervention of friends and secondary schoolmates well-placed within the system) was finally positively sorted out. You would therefore understand that I felt personally very concerned about the prospect of democratization and liberalization in Cameroon. Some fans of Gobata are wont to refer to me as “the hammer of the New Deal regime” but any careful reader of my narratives would realize that, far from being the hammer, I have been the nail. By the dying years of the 1980’s, Cameroon’s economy had started nose-diving, and corruption, as never before witnessed, had set in at the highest ranks of Government, and Cameroonians were becoming increasingly uncertain as to whether the peaceful revolution of 1982 was a blessing or a curse. In 1990, some Cameroonians, mainly Anglophones, boldly decided to challenge the one party dictatorship in Cameroon by launching a political party (the Social Democratic Front – SDF) in Bamenda. The first Gobata essays were published, at my own initiative, in a column headed “NO TRIFLING MATTER”, in theCAMEROON POST Newspaper, published by Pa Augustine Ngalim and edited by Paddy Mbawa, and which used to appear weekly, if and when its
dummy had been censured by the administrators and it had been authorized to appear. The column proved so popular with readers that many claimed they were buying the paper for the column and, whenever my piece was not ready, the paper was reluctant to go to press. In 1993, I was persuaded by many readers to make a book of the essays, in the interest of readers who had not been able consistently to keep cuttings of the column. The result wasTHE PAST TENSE OF SHIT (Book One): Contribution of an Uncompromising Critic to the Democratic Process in Cameroon. Comprising 75 essays, the book was published by Nooremac Press in Limbe. A public launching, to have been presided over by Dr. Simon Munzu, who at the time was the spokesperson of the Anglophone problem and struggle in Cameroon, was planned for 18 June, 1993, in Yaounde. But the “administration” frustrated the launching by sealing the proposed venue and by seizing the entire stock of the books on their way from the Press in Limbe to Yaounde. NO TRIFLING MATTER, however, continued appearing in the CAMEROON POST until 1994 when I felt I had exhausted my originality and would only be repeating myself if I continued writing. I stopped writing, but not before publishing a book of the 50 essays that had been written since the seizure of THE PAST TENSE… The book was given the title:I SPIT ON THEIR GRAVES (Book Two of the Past Tense…): Testimony Relevant to the Democratization Struggle in Cameroon.Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi, the charismatic “book seller” of Bamenda and hero of the defiant launching of the SDF on 06 May, 1990, accepted to write thePrefacethe book and Simon to Munzu wrote theEpilogue. This time around we were cleverer than the agents of repression and kept both the time and place of publication a closely guarded secret. I was, however, not allowed to take my well-deserved rest from scripting. Tremendous pressure from all directions – publishers, editors, readers, friends, colleagues, etc. - was brought to bear on me to continue writing. I reluctantly gave in and resumed writing a weekly column in theCAMEROON POST under the new rubric COCKTAIL…From the Son of Gobata.The column was short-lived (flourishing only between March and July 1994) and this owing to the
instability of the newspaper itself and the fact that towards the end of 1994 I left Cameroon for Germany on a fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The fifteen essays of the Cocktail are published as the Appendix to my bookDemocracy and Meritocracy: Philosophical Essays and Talks from an African Perspective,Berlin, Galda & Wilch Verlag, 1996. On my return from Germany in 1996, I resumed writing in the same newspaper whose publisher-ship had now been acquired by N. N. Susungi. I wrote under the new rubric:IN THE SPIRIT OF GOBATA,until around June 1997 when theCAMEROON POST collapsed under its own weight from internal problems, and virtually ceased appearing.THE POST, with Francis Wache as Editor-in-Chief and Charlie Ndi Chia as Editor, got erected on the ashes of the CAMEROON POSTand I eventually resumed writing infrequent but well-highlighted Gobata essays inTHE POST, until around 2001 when other time-consuming commitments and frequent traveling made it impossible for me to continue writing in a regular manner. In 1998 I published the last 33 Gobata essays of theCAMEROON POST as Part Two of my bookROAD COMPANION TO DEMOCRACY AND MERITOCRACY (Further Essays from an African Perspective),Bellingham, USA, Kola Tree Press. The occasional Gobata essays ofTHE POSTthe only ones which have never are otherwise been published as a collection. I am particularly happy at the republication of these first 75 Gobata essays, seized on first publication by Governmental authorities. There is some anecdotal evidence that the authorities in question read carefully through all the essays in question. Well, I have neither been rewarded nor directly further punished for writing them, but some their concerns and recommendations seem to have been addressed. It is only right that the public to whom they were primarily addressed and on whose insistence they were collected for publication in book form, should at last have them at their disposal. The change in the title of the collection will, no doubt, please many among the readers. For the rest, the central concerns and themes running through these essays – democracy, meritocracy, public fair-play, development, accountability, unity, assimilation, etc. – are as urgently critical today
as they were when the essays were first written. The New Deal regime of Paul Biya has been completely successful in its immunizing and immortalizing tactics, thanks in part to unprecedented emigration of young people out of the country, since the early 1990s, impoverishment of the rural and urban masses, and the survival strategies of the parasitic elite classes. Given its enormous resources, Cameroon is nothing if not one of Africa’s paradigmatic cases of spectacular failure. In many parts of the country, for instance, 50 years after so-called independence, the roads are worse than in colonial days and inhabitants have never seen a water pipe, let alone an electric pole; and yet there is scarcely any other African country with as many publicly enormously enriched individuals as in Cameroon. No Cameroonian today can pretend to predict the further evolution of the country. Godfrey B. Tangwa, alias Rotcod Gobata Yaounde, 18/06/2010