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2018 Presidential election:Is an opposition alliance still possible?

It has been reassuring to pro-opposition alliance advocates that Akere Muna is quoted as saying it was possible for Maurice Kamto, Cabral Libii and himself to pull together to challenge incumbent Paul Biya.

Some opposition optimists wish to add Serge Espoir Matomba and Franklin Ndifor Afanwi and wonder why not Joshua Osih too.

Should that really be in the works, the big question and sticking point is over who to champion the alliance.

Something else: in a Vision4 TV interview, a consultant there, Dr. Dieudonne Essomba, after listening to candidate Ndifor Afanwi, told him, “You have good ideas but you sound more like a minister than a president.”

Not quite sure what Essomba really meant, his statement suggests the reality that some candidates may only earn ministerial positions for their troubles and that would not be a first. Some presidential candidates conveniently settle for ministerial positions. In 1992, Anta Gassagay withdrew from the race, threw his weight behind candidate Biya and earned a post of secretary of state in the postelection government.

In 1997, UPC presidential candidate Hogbe Nlend got his, not for supporting Biya but for legitimizing a hugely boycotted election. Meanwhile, same year, Bello Bouba joined the same government curiously after boycotting that election in “conspiracy” with Fru Ndi and Ndam Njoya, which was interpreted as a calculated move to distract the other two.

Though all candidates claim to have their eyes set on the presidential stool, they all know they cannot all win at a time. Only one at a time. It is not possible that even the most obvious lame-duck candidates are hoping to singlehandedly dislodge the desperate and determined machinery around a typical African strongman.

Though it takes dreaming — hoping and aiming high — to aspire for the presidency of the republic and it takes candidates selling their dream cheap to fellow dreamers — if not daydreamers –candidates themselves are not illusionary dreamers; they cannot be so daft.

When you see them all persist to run till the end even when they know they all cannot win, they have different motives. Here are some of them in any order:

1.) Ego

About every presidential candidate is, at their investiture, seen as or made to believe they are a future president. The euphoria and mass mobilization at their investiture as in the case of SDF’s Joshua Osih in February this year, confers legitimacy that comforts the adamancy of the candidate, especially of an established party like SDF.

Osih’s other outstanding qualities, including his good looks, his aviation and tourism investment exploits, his apparent mastery of government finances as vice president of the national aasembly finance committee, his youthfulness (under-50), his superlative bilingualism as an Anglophone at this crucial time of the Anglophone struggle and the biblical symbolism of his first name Joshua (if not to add his Obama-like dual racial origin) likely embolden him with a messianic feeling.

For other topflight candidates, the obstructing factor could be their public service and international exploits. Maurice Kamto is a reputable professor of law and international lawyer whose career records include stints with the UN justice system, besides his seven years as member of government in obvious compensation for his role in recovering Bakassi through an international legal battle.

His ethnic Bamileke powerbase is strong. They enjoy a sense of martyrdom from both the pre- and post-independence resistance to French colonizers and contemporary discrimination under the present regime, amidst enviable economic power that makes them an unavoidable political force, though officiously ruled out of political power.

Not the least of Kamto’s qualities is his impressive bilingualism which cannot leave restive Anglophones indifferent, though it certainly does not hold a remedy to their deeper grievances.

Akere Muna, also outstandingly bilingual, is an Anglophone with a family name loaded with history, priced variedly for the role played by his father Solomon Tandeng Muna (one of the architects of Cameroon’s reunification and former National Assembly speaker) for his role in building modern Cameroon (largely a Francophone view) or in betraying Anglophones to Francophone domination (largely an Anglophone view).

A former bar council chairman, Muna is reputed for his role in exposing corruption in Cameroon through Amnesty International which he introduced into Cameroon. He has also left footprints with an international career at professional groupings, intergovernmental organizations and multinationals. He should have little to envy from another candidate, though his political base remains shallow despite his pull of several sociopolitical giants.

How do you convince euphoric fans and supporters of Cabral Libii that this is not his time after energizing the vital youth base into such an unprecedented frenzy?

Obviously the frontrunner among the young startup candidates, Libii is without doubt the curiosity of this race. His appealing and mass alluring innovative ideas including crowdfunding of his campaign and his strategic introduction of the now symbolic and mythical Stade Sicam in Douala into the campaigns, portray him as a visionary of another kind — areliable actor in a new beginning for the country.

Libii could share some of his space in certain ways with Prophet Frank (Franklin Ndifor Afanwi), though a less brilliant candidate, with lesss mastery of the issues and less power of oratory. Yet, with a probable sure teeming Pentecostal base like Libii’s youth base.

The same may not be said of Serge Espoir Matomba whose powerbase cannot be clearly cut out. Yet, how do you deflate the ego if a young man who from an early entry into entrepreneurship at 17, has about seen it all in the business world and already has his political roots in the ground after winning council seats in Douala from the 2013 elections?

Though Ndam Njoya and Garga Haman are the obvious dark horses in this race, generating the least attention, do not be mistaken to think they can easily accept to pull out and back another more flamboyant, more energizing and mobilizing candidate.

They are the two men with the biggest egos among the candidates They pride in their sterling qualities as outstanding, uncorrupt, incorruptible and reform-minded ministers. For Ndam Njoya, add his even more glorified international career. He and Garga Haman are like the Kamto and Muna of the 1990s.

*The author, also a political analyst.



Published on 05.05.2023

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