Opinion: What ‘hidden agenda’ is Issa Tchiroma talking about?

“They have a hidden agenda,” says Cameroon’s Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakari.

If there is one English expression that Cameroon’s Minister of Communication and the Government’s Spokesman, Issa Tchiroma Bakari, seems to have fallen in love with, it is “hidden agenda”. Hardly a day goes by without him, in his usual chatty, garrulous, and loud-mouthed manner, mentioning it, either in private or in public.

And, from the way he talks, it definitely haunts his dreams as well.

To him, anything that the Anglophone leaders in captivity have ever done has had a “hidden agenda” to it. When asked why the government would hold talks with the civil society leaders and trade unions of the Anglophone sub-system of education, and then turn round, capture and imprison them the next day, his answer was that the said individuals had a “hidden agenda”, which, from every indication, his government has been unable to decipher. Imagine a whole government, with all the intelligence machinery at its disposal, not being able to figure out what this famous “hidden agenda” is! Their repressive machinery is perhaps torturing the poor captives in their jails, hoping to extract from them the code to the said “hidden agenda”.

But has there ever been a hidden agenda?

How can people who have never made a secret of their political convictions, which they sing from rooftops to whoever cares to listen, be said to have a hidden agenda?

Take the word ‘secession’, for example, which seems to punch sleep out of the eyes of the members of the ruling oligarchy in this country. When has it ever been a “hidden” word? In fact, I know people in this land, hard-core secessionists, who have militated for secession from Francophone Cameroon from the dawn of our independence. Some of them were rewarded with long years of imprisonment and are now deceased (Albert Mukong, “a prisoner without a crime”) and others, after being released from jail, preferred the calm dignity of life in a foreign country to the constant acts of humiliation in a land that should rightly have been theirs (Gorgi Dinka, among others).

But the majority of them are right here at home, militating for, and openly clamoring for Southern Cameroons’ divorce from this ‘marriage’, which God himself had put asunder from inception, to quote the well-known journalist, Victor Epie Ngome (“Mr. Rambler”).

Driving them underground, as the government, in its panic, has just done, is definitely not the solution. Give them space in the sun (their own “Lebensraum”), listen to them, or just ignore them. That is better than the repressive methods currently in force. When their repressed, pent-up frustration does erupt, it might not be so easy to contend its volcanic intensity.

Many Anglophone historians have been categorical in asserting that by knocking off one of the two stars from our flag and then unearthing and dusting the name his country bore prior to unification, that is, “La Republique du Cameroun”, President Biya had effectively led his country out of the union of the two countries. In other words, La Republique had seceded of its own volition from the union.

Anglophone secessionists are using such historical evidence to militate for the restoration of their “home land”, Southern Cameroons, the land of their forefathers, the ‘land of promise’. They have proclaimed their convictions from rooftops and in the public square before the recent sledgehammer fell on them.

Another word that is, strangely enough, being bantered around as an item on the “hidden agenda” is ‘federalism’.

Why a form of government that had served as a foundation stone of our union is now being decried “as null and void” is puzzling, to put it mildly.

Cameroon had a federal system of government, which Ahidjo killed, and his successor Biya buried, but which, like the now legendary ‘cubes of sugar’, has refused to dissolve in buckets of opprobrium. There is no hidden agenda here either.

Proponents of a return to a federal system have also been making their voices loudly heard in the different media outlets inside and outside the country – the suspension of the internet connectivity to the two Anglophone regions of the country notwithstanding. So where does the hidden agenda come from?

Another word which the government itself has bantered around for years but which has proved to be nothing short of a hollow gong, is ‘decentralization’. There are people, even among Anglophones, and I believe it is their democratic right, who believe that ‘decentralization’ of the administration is the way to go. And if the said ‘decentralization’ is what we have seen over the years, then one can only wish them ‘good luck’. I believe since Mr. Tchiroma’s government itself claims to be working on ‘decentralization’, the said word is no longer hiding in any agenda.

Whatever the case, people with ‘hidden agendas’ are those who are not bold enough to openly express their political convictions. I don’t see that happening among Anglophones today. Where then is Minister Tchiroma’s “hidden agenda”?

The answer is blowing in the wind.

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