Following his famous shaking of the hand of Paul Biya in Bamenda, Fru Ndi went out boasting that those who had left his party were rushing back into the party, probably because he had become the wiser after meeting with Paul Biya! His multiplication of the handshakes in Unity Palace, and probably soon in Ebolowa, seems therefore to be meant to multiply the returning effect! In a way, Paul Biya has suddenly become the mentor of Fru Ndi!
Since the main bone of contention between the SDF and the CPDM, or between Fru Ndi and Paul Biya has been the fraudulent manner in which elections are organized in Cameroon, Fru Ndi started off by giving the impression that since he handed his demands on ELECAM directly to Paul Biya in Bamenda, things would change since he probably has not been getting the resolutions and messages they have been sending to him through intermediaries. During his 31 December 2010 message to the nation, Paul Biya talked about the need for citizens to enter their names in electoral registers, the citizen’s right to vote, his trust in ELECAM, and the necessary support of the administration and political parties to ELECAM. He concluded by saying that he has “reason to believe that ELECAM will be able to put finishing touches to its mechanisms on the ground in the coming months;” and that “we will have the opportunity to revisit all these issues.” Then everybody jumped onto the commentary box, telling us that he meant that he would revisit ELECAM; such truncated commentaries were all meant to goad Fru Ndi! And he has continued to trudge on like the proverbial man that follows a ram around, hoping that the scrotum would fall off at any moment!
Fru Ndi seems to have engaged in his contacts with Paul Biya like a political virgin. If not, then he is fully aware of the political engagements other political leaders have had with Paul Biya, which ended only in their exhaustion and dumping; and the political engagements he took with the entire nation, which he has failed to respect. He probably has forgotten about the “council of state” which he was supposed to move from house arrest to Chair in 1992, but which ended in nothing but internal conflicts in his party, and the eventual expulsion of the Secretary General, Siga Asanga. He most probably remembers well the Tripartite, the constitutional engagements that came out of it, and Paul Biya’s single-handed, and self-serving changes he has effected on the constitution. He also most probably still remembers his regular visits to the Prime Minister’s office to put his views on NEO and ELECAM, and what use the views served. He probably is carrying all these along with him in his mind as he follows his mentor around the country, probably hoping that he would be treated differently this time around.
Many people make sacrifice in the religious realm, with the hope of heavenly reward. For a long time now, many Cameroonians expected Fru Ndi, from his position of strength within the opposition, to make some sacrifice by ceding the position of presidential candidate to some other person, in the expectation of the victory of the opposition, and his ultimate victory following a transition period during which “a level playing field” would be created. He refused to budge. Now he has accepted to make an even higher sacrifice: giving the impression that he has reneged on his lifelong struggle for change; that he has capitulated for personal interest, not for the general good.
Looking at the present state of the SDF, the compromise seems to be in resigned acknowledgement of defeat. Like the UPC pre-independence struggle against colonialism that ended in defeat and the institution of neo-colonialism in Cameroon, so too has the SDF struggle against neocolonialism ended in defeat!
While the silent majority racks their brains to think of what to do next, one can only speculate on what the defeated SDF is likely to do next. Although nobody asked Fru Ndi not to go to parliament, he has always mourned over the fact that “the people he sent to parliament” go around with diplomatic passports and armed guards provided by the state, while he has none of these. Now that the constitution of the SDF prohibits the National Chairman of the party from being a government minister, he is likely not to be too warm to make other diplomatic passport carriers guarded by state security while he remains in his helpless state. He will most probably beg his new mentor to create the “leader of the opposition” outfit, which is no threat to his Chairmanship position, and affords him a diplomatic passport, armed guards, and financial gains too. Or maybe beg him to hurry up with elections to the Senate, where he might find a foothold, even if it is ELECAM to oversee them!
And the 2011 presidential election: to go or not to go? Judging by Fu Ndi’s propensity for proclaiming himself No.2 of the Republic because of his no. 2 position in presidential elections, he is likely to block the way to his succession as no.2 by any of the many candidates that are declaring their intentions to run. Or he may try some populist posturing to indicate that he has not yet completely sold out. He may decide to boycott the poll on the excuse that no good can be done by ELECAM in its present state, since Paul Biya is showing no signs of wanting to change it. Remember he had been telling everybody before he found his new mentor that “there will be no elections in Cameroon under the present dispensations of ELECAM.” Following the boycott, and the generalized low turnout that is expected, the politics of the nation would still be too timid to provide Paul Biya the grand exit following or during his last presidential term. This may set the stage for another round of the SDF/CPDM talks we witnessed following the 1997 boycott, and the final entry of the SDF in a “coalition” government, or a government of unanimity, provided Fru Ndi already has his own niche carved out for him, like being in the Senate, or the “official” leader of the opposition!
In politics, every action has its rationale. Some may be convincing, others may not. Fru Ndi could have chosen to remain in his previous position, and allowed Paul Biya to continue to stew in the juice of his political mess until the end of his reign. He did not: he chose to embrace him. From his posturing about his party coming alive following the embrace, it is possible that he knew he had descended so low that such an embrace could only provide him some energy for a rebound. But I think that Fru Ndi needs much more than the energy provided by the embrace to cause a rebound that has any significant effect on the disposition of the political chess board as it is presently laid out. Except, perhaps, he sees the future more clearly than I do.