By Asong Ndifor, Friday, August 18, 2017
With all his command afflatus, South West governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, has played almost all his cards to get children back to schools in the region. If he had any joker left, I recently watched him flash it to Lebialem division which is said to be the epicentre of the Anglophone crisis because of the efficacy of the school boycott and ghost town operations there.
As I saw a disturbed governor on Equinox TV, he asked in no mistaken English, if Lebialem wanted “to delete itself from the map?” It is the only division of the six in the region, he explained, that was not holding catch-up classes for schools to resume next academic year.
Based on my thorough knowledge of the division where my late mother hailed from, and without any intension to be tribalistic, I can vouch that the people yearn to be inclusive. They are very nationalistic and democratic. That explains while with the advent of multi-party politics, they have had a UNDP parliamentarian booted out by an SDF candidate before Hon, Bernard Foju came in from the CPDM to take the seat.
They do not want to be “deleted”. They suffer the crunch of marginalization in the region. When the lone parliamentary seat for the division was occupied by the UNDP and later SDF while divisions smaller in population than Lebialem had two, the warp explanation by then governor, Peter Oben Ashu, was that they were in the opposition.
Dr. Bernard Foju who was regarded as the only one who could conquer the SDF was “demoted” from the role of Special Adviser at the Prime Minister’s office to contest the post. He was overwhelmingly elected in the hope that being at least on the corridors of the bakery, Lebialem people would have their own equitable share of the national cake.
Try as Foju and his CPDM bandwagon in the division have, the marginalization has gone from bad to worse. In terms of public appointments, the best they have had has been secretary general; never a minister, secretary of state, vice chancellor, general manager of a state corporation…they have no senator, yet they have personalities with ivy league qualifications civilization has provided.
They militate in the ruling party, wining all three councils. The regime has not “scratched their backs” for pay back. In terms of infrastructure, the people are more than enclaved. For the senior divisional officer, SDO, in Menji to go to Wabane, one of the three subdivisions under his command, he has to meander through the West and North West regions before galloping down intimidating steep hills for almost a whole day for a trip of some two hours if there was an all-season earth road from Menji.
During the installation of the SDO, the governor went through Littoral and West regions before arriving in Lebialem and had a “taste” of the scary road that was patched up to make it possible for his trip. I have had to pay 6,000 FCFA on a motorbike from Menji to Alou, a distance of 22 kilometres!
There are three “reunification roads” in the country: Santa to Mbouda, Tiko to Douala and Dschang to Menji, which is just about 42 kilometres. It is only that into Lebialem that is not passable in many rainy seasons as the governor should know better.
Lebialem residents have vented their frustration, supporting the resistance with their hearts and souls but are not “deleting” themselves. They have drawn sufficient attention to their plight.
But they are overdoing it if they make no preparations to send their children to school in September like the other five divisions are bracing up for school. Some of those using students as cannon folders in the resistance have enrolled their kids in Francophone regions. Others are in the Diaspora. Education is the preponderant priority of Lebialem people. That is why they are fondly called “99 sense”.
Students have made enough sacrifice. The activists can continue with other populist, peaceful approaches of resistance that jettison the orthodoxy of marginalisation so that together, we as a country, can build a nation on a foundation of truth, equity, justice and the fear of the Lord.
Asong Ndifor is an editorialist with The Guardian Post newspaper. This pice was originally published in the Post.