Part II: Cameroon’s 2011 Presidential Elections: Democratic Ideals or Complacent Politics of Disappointment By Frank Oben


While passively putting aside the intimidating effect of colonialism (which in my opinion is still questionable) Cameroon‘s greatest problems are tribalism, nepotism and religious fundamentalism (fanaticism). It is a country viewed by most of its citizens and the international community as being corrupt. It is an irony but almost too real to be true that most Cameroonians continuously blame their government and other officials as being intensively corrupt to the very core. Most Cameroonians and other observators say this corruption has infiltrated into the very fabric our society. Can you name a society which is free from corruption at any level? Can you name a society which is not exposed to errors of any kind? What we do is, we rank mistakes, offenses and crimes from worst, worse, bad. A crime is a crime. Its intensity varies across those affected or afflicted.  It is the same like pain, there is toothache and stomach-ache. We cannot generally say, toothache is more painful than stomach-ache or vice versa. It all depends on who is feeling the pain.

Corruption starts in the mind of the individual, not by an individual’s action. It is one of the tools a human being uses as a means for growth, development, progression and survival. It is a selfish thought which results in the individual becoming highly egocentric and greedy in thoughts and dealings. Corruption does not start from the top but from the bottom. We often make the big mistake of thinking that the state should be blamed. Government officials and other business men should be held accountable for their corrupt activities. But we fail to understand that they, like us, are just machines of corruption. The source, cradle, or birth of corruption is in the mind of each and every individual. It is then fueled by family, friends, peers, societal and other external influences. It  blooms very fast when it is overlooked or treated as irrelevant, making the individual to have total control of it – a state commonly known as manipulation.

Question 1: How many of us Cameroonians, parents, relatives, youths: from children to adults, pupils to professors, doctors, business men, taxi drivers, men of law and order, lawyers, government officials, clerks, cashiers, accountants, how many Cameroonians have gone through the back door to obtain something or be what they are? How many decisions and deals were signed behind the curtains? How many of our parents and relatives still occupy directorship or managerial positions in government offices, public institutions or private institutions until now?   How many of them sing the praises of their bosses just because the want to have their daily bread? How many of them bribed their kids’ way into school or a job?

When some of us were back in Cameroon, and even the present youths in Cameroon, where and how did we get money to organize end-of-year school parties, ex-student parties, buying expensive suits and shoes that some of our parents could not even afford and yet most of us were not even of the working class? How many of us spent cash nonstop? How many Cameroonians made their way through primary school, secondary school, high school and university, even getting into holiday classes through shadowy deals or just one phone call, or ‘generous’ offering of ‘gifts’ or meals – given our parents and us knew about the system?

How many girls with university education or currently at the University have/had GPAs due to sexually based marks? For the boys, how much money, how many bottles of wine or beer did you have to give that lecturer to validate his course or have a good standing GPA? How many students had to lick the shoes of the administration so as to butter their bread and sleep on beds of roses?  Let us think back then, in primary, secondary and high schools, how many of us wanted to be class and school prefects just because we wanted to obtain all privileges given with such positions? And yet we all have eagles’ eyes on the president, government officials and others up the echelon?

For those who are religious, isn’t it written, why do you bother about the splint in your brother’s eye when there is a log in yours? Indeed, there is a lot of dirt to dig. How many of us are ready to take the bullet by holding the mirror up to mistakes, offenses and crimes in the society? Let he who has never committed a crime, an error or mistake be the first to leave the room or throw a stone? Is there anyone?

Think of corruption and any other virtue or vice as a tree. A tree gains support from its roots. A tree or plant also grows from bottom to top. Now if you cut or destroy the canopy of a tree, you do not kill the entire tree. But when you destroy the roots of the tree, that tree ceases to exist because the roots require minerals and food from the soil to its other parts. Air, water, sunlight and other agents of pollination are supplements for growth or destruction of the tree. Now expand on this thought by relating it to the society; the canopy is the state, business men and even us, when we occupy positions out of corruption and other influences or privileges, the sun, water, air and other agents of pollinations are our parents, friends, peers and other external influences fueling or killing our desires, the tree trunk and branches are our body, the roots in this case, are our vices and the soil (earth) is our mind. This description is the making of a corrupt man.

Do you now understand how it appears we sometimes simply make a fool of ourselves? When and how we let some crimes, offenses and errors go unnoticed, or noticed but no spontaneous actions taken? I am not worried about action; I am much more concerned about inaction. Most of us are very quick in labeling Mr. A or family ‘Z’ as being corrupt or bad and yet our own families are exposed to such shortcomings or ordeals. A democratic society would permit constant whistle blowing whenever any crime is brought to light and proven to be a misdeed after thorough investigations. Charity begins at home, democracy starts from the mind of each individual. And let no one fool you by professing you have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is of no importance to a person with a loose tongue or ‘dumb.’

Is there a solution? Yes, there is a solution. Whenever you identify a problem, there is a solution. The solution can be found or developed where the problem is located, from the problem itself. So, what should we do? Why should we do it? How should we do it? Where should it be done? Simple, charity begins at home. It arises from the mind of the individual. Start from yourself; change yourself, then your homes. Start by eradicating all tribalistic, nepotic and other wrongs which obscure the proper upbringing in the family hood. When you change yourself and your home, then it spreads to the neighborhood, and then to the society at large. You might think it is an easy task. Do not label it as easy or stupid until you have set yourself on doing it. Stop looking at the big picture. Look at its foundations. Hold the mirror up to anyone who performs an inappropriate act or gives an incorrect suggestion. Stand firm and upright to the truth, restrain from doing anything bad or evil to yourself, the family, friends and the society. Start small, but do however start.

It all boils down to self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-realization and hence self-actualization. Man know thyself; then thou shalt know the Universe and God. When you know yourself, then you would be better able to relate with others and your environment. This is no philosophy lecture. There is no recipe for living that suits everyone.

The growth of the mind is stimulated by the widening of alertness, awareness and consciousness. There is no coming to consciousness of our own being without pain. Even a happy life cannot be without some ingredients of ‘darkness’ and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by some scenes of sadness. It does not matter how many times we rise from when we fall but how we rise from when we fall. How we rise would determine if we would fall again, so if you forget about what made you fall, why and how you fell, you would always fall. In orders words, if you do not learn from your mistakes, you are bound to continuously repeat them.