By Chris Anu, Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Southern Cameroons Journal, Washington D.C – It is no longer news, the Southern Cameroons is a country, with a real Gov’t, headed by a real President in the person of Sisikou Julius Ayuktabe. That was the milestone achieved at the just concluded 4th Conclave in Kaduna State, Nigeria. A real gov’t had become a necessity to fill the void created after the declaration of October 1 restoring the sovereignty of the Southern Cameroons. Wisdom and pragmatism entailed that you don’t declare a sovereign state and then continue to refer to its leadership as a Council, that’s the reason behind the move for a government.
However, the route to the fourth Conclave and to the Gov’t wasn’t a very smooth one. There were some very tumultuous moments at the very beginning, to the effect that the event scheduled to start on the 27th of October, didn’t start in earnest, not until the 29th. Besides the disagreement over who was and wasn’t supposed to be there at the opening of the conclave, on the table were not only the agenda to transform SCACUF into a gov’t, there was a controversial but crucial issue involving alleged financial improprieties by the Secretary General, his alleged resignation, and the fate of SCAPAC.
To put the record straight, social media accounts of some people showing up at the Conclave uninvited, allegedly to disrupt the Conclave, wasn’t entirely true. The truth is that the mix-up and the problems it posed was a child of the Governing Council’s inability to have worked as a team at the planning stage, coupled with the lackluster communication by organizers as per why the conclave was organized the way it was.
Before the Conclave, it was a thing of public knowledge that the Vice President, Tassang Wilfred, and the SG, Milan Atam were not seeing eye to eye. Apparently owing to the animosity between the two, Tassang, was completely left out of the planning process of the Conclave. He said he had virtually no idea who was invited and who wasn’t. He kind of smelled a rat in the whole arrangement and was concerned that those invited were mainly appointees of the SG who would simply rubber stamp a preconceived agenda.
As the organizer and host of the previous three Conclaves, Tassang didn’t understand why he was left out of the planning of this one and why unlike before people were being invited in groups that would meet in two separate sessions.
Entirely on his own, he concluded, and insisted that everybody invited, irrespective of the date, should show up on the 27th, the day the event was scheduled to start. As a result of his message, everybody, including leaders of MoRISC, AGC, SCYL, Baretanews and the Southern Cameroons Journal, whose invitations were marked for the 31st through the 1st, showed up from day one. Boh Herbert wasn’t yet in Abuja, but was in Lagos where he thought the event was holding. After making phone calls, he was about making it to Kaduna same day until he was told that he won’t be welcome at the start of the event. Suspicious that something fishy was going on – the reason why the Vice Chair wasn’t involved in the planning of the event, every one he had communicated with, heeded to his call to show up at the start of the event. That’s how the beginning almost turned into a fist fight as access was denied them.
On the last day of the conclave, however, – correcting the wrongs, sort of, it was made pretty clear to leadership that one thing and one thing only, the inability of the GC to work as a team caused the misunderstand. Had the Vice Chairman for example not been sidelined in the planning process, or had he been duly informed as to why things were arranged the way they were, he couldn’t have asked people to show up on the first day, – there would have been no problem of people showing up when they ought not to.
Tassang’s concerns seem to be that the agenda would be hijacked going by the selective nature and qualifications of invitees to the conclave.
Consider this for example, when you have had 1, 2,3 and now fourth conclaves, you would think that certain people who have participated and contributed constructively in previous ones should be sited in the 4th to drive home the element of continuity. That wasn’t really the case. Prof. Carlson Ayangwe, for example, considered one of the
pillars of the revolution, and whom we must state played such a vital role at the conclave – brooking peace between the warring factions, had not been officially invited. He was there, thanks to the personal initiative of a concerned Southern Cameroonian.
Barrister Eyambe Elias, considered to be one of the backbones of the struggle, we learned, was in Addis Ababa. He would have loved to be at the Conclave instead, but we gathered that organizers won’t afford him the ticket from Adis Ababa to the conclave.
John Mbah Akuro who has equally been very helpful at previous conclaves and the revolution as a whole, wasn’t deemed qualified to sit at the Conclave despite the request from the VC that he be included. He was denied access even when he showed up. Barrister Bobga Harmony wasn’t there either. We were told, his status won’t allow him to travel. So, who was there?
Mostly Country Heads and some Department Heads, some handpicked. It seems going by the manner in which deliberations were conducted, that some were carefully selected to rubber stamp a preconceived agenda. And things appeared to have worked just exactly as schemed. Imagine that opinion leaders such as Mark Bareta and Chris Anu of the Southern Cameroons Journal invited, and present, had absolutely no contribution or input to the decisions taken at the Conclave! In fact, when they showed up, the only item left on the agenda was editing of the draft resolutions. Essentially, it appears that they were there only to endorse what others had deliberated upon.
Consider again, the alleged resignation of Milan which stormed social media. There was never really a resignation, one was never tendered on the floor of the conclave. Resignations are not submitted on social media, they are submitted to constituted authority for affirmation or negation. His resignation was never submitted at the conclave, and neither did the chairman acknowledge receiving one. Instead, what was very briefly discussed and swiftly pushed under the table was the point that there was no reason for him to resign – that he had not committed any financial improprieties as insinuated by SCAPAC management. To prove that those invited had been selected with situations like these in mind, the bulk of the delegates gave the situation a pass without demanding or questioning the report of the so called intensive investigation which the Chairman said acquitted the SG.
This matter remains very central and we certainly haven’t seen the end of it yet. If we hope to build a better nation, a better country, we cannot begin by playing the same cover up games reminiscent of LRC. Also, if they want people to believe the innocence of the SG, they should at the least publish the white paper or the report finding him innocent and let it pass through public scrutiny. Without that, everything comes across as a cover up. And do not be mistaking, PayPal is required to report the figures to the IRS. The IRS will go after SCAPAC and SCAPAC will go after the Webmaster and possibly using an IRS agent. At this point, you can no longer cover up. That’s why they say “a stitch in time saves nine.”
The Conclave cut off all relationship with SCAPAC. The new government INTENDS to create and run its own accounts. SCBC TV too was made to become an autonomous body. Henceforth, it will run its own accounts too. Our concern is that
without the kind of transparency, accountability and scrutiny that SCAPAC was providing, the Conclave may just have created huge windows for swindling. And we may as well be prepared to start hearing of huge amounts of money flushed into the pockets of individuals without any such scrutiny.
As far as The Journal is concerned, the government hasn’t given any convincing reasons why it is divorcing with SCAPAC. As such, one is compelled to assume that severing ties with SCAPAC may just be a way to avoid scrutiny and transparency. And it is a bad idea for a young gov’t that must build trust. When people make donations, they want to be sure that the donations are used diligently and for the right causes, not by dubious individuals and on dubious projects.
Make no MISTAKE, we are by no means suggesting here that the SG remains guilty of any impropriety. NOT AT ALL. We are simply stating that there doesn’t appear to have been any genuine and egregious investigation into the allegations. Our estimation is that the Chairman brushed it away. A communique for instance, produced at the Conclave and signed by the Chairman justifying the innocence of the SG, simply stated that Alex Mbianda was being vindictive on Mr. Atam when he made the allegations against him. Yet, the Conclave had such ample opportunity to interrogate Mbianda to explain himself, but he was not allowed to sit in when he showed up as one of Boston’s representatives. Harriet Fomuki, one of the Treasurers of SCAPAC involved in the issue showed up at the Conclave but hurriedly left suggesting that she felt very unsafe and that the atmosphere came across as hostile to her. Of course, not a good excuse either.
Based on these, the new gov’t will now go ahead to form all these other independent branches of the gov’t like the SCBC and it is likely that the very people at the center of the accusations will go on to become overseers. How can they be trusted? Unless a stringent system of checks and balances is created in the management of funds, people will remain suspicious of the way leadership spends their donations.
MoRISC, the AGC and the SCYL, invited to the Conclave have since gone out crying foul of the undeserved treatment they alleged they received. They have said that the 4th Conclave was basically a sham, with particular reference to the way planning was done, the fact that they were not allowed in on the first day and of course, the scuffle from day one. They have said, it appears like they were only invited to go and rubber stamp the new government that would have already been formed before they arrive the Conclave on October 31st. Maybe they are correct. But theirs are mere assumptions cropping up from the fact that they didn’t actually show up at the venue. Shouldn’t they have shown up at the meetings before arriving at these conclusions?
Dr. Ebenezer Akwanga was in Abuja, Dr. Cho Ayaba was there too. Boh Herbert, the last time we heard about him, he was in Lagos, making plans to travel to Kaduna. In a WhatsApp exchange with the President, AyukTabe, Boh Herbert came
across irritated that he wasn’t being allowed to attend the Conclave from day one. That discovery, with consultations from Ayaba, perhaps convinced him to make up his mind to return to the US without setting foot on the Conclave ground. In his own narration, he has said that he had a meeting at Lagos Muritala Mohamed Airport with some other group leaders including Ayaba with whom they have agreed to summon a 5th Conclave in December.
Boh Herbert and his collaborators should be asked what legitimacy they think they have to want to summon a 5th conclave to create a parallel gov’t! All of them were in Nigeria, they were aware that their meeting didn’t come up till October 31st. So, if they showed up and were told they could not go in from day one, all they should have done was
wait to show up on the appropriate date since they had already travelled that far to Nigeria. It couldn’t hurt to have waited two more days to be sited at the Conclave. Had they done so, to take their contributions into the Conclave before being ignored, then they did be in the position to say the thing was a sham, and a set-up. They didn’t stay, they chose to leave. Their grievances have no sympathy nor legitimacy. Calling for a 5th Conclave in efforts to form a parallel gov’t smacks of the Epese syndrome to this revolution. The Southern Cameroons will have only one gov’t – that which came out of Kaduna on October 31st.
In spite of all the organizational flaws, the maneuvers and politicking, the government formed at the Fourth conclave will remain the legitimate Interim government of the Southern Cameroons. This is a revolutionary gov’t and perfection isn’t what anybody was looking for. When we get to Buea, with a constitution in place, we can expect a perfect gov’t. But for now, so long as the gov’t demonstrates good will, tolerance, selflessness, transparency and accountability we will have to keep it, own it and run with it. After all, that’s the meaning and power of the white smoke.