In classical Greek, generations after generations of people had believed that gods were at the centre of human existence. The world was what god made it to be. He had the power to take and destroy lives. He gave food to some and famine to others. He created mountains and evaporated lakes, in the twinkle of an eye. What or who else, besides this omnipotent and omni presence human can be the source of human value and human existence?
But Protagoras, another Greek philosopher challenged this god-centric theory of value, and argued that man, yes man, or maybe wo/man, is a the measure of all things. That is the individual human being, rather than a god or an unchanging moral law, is the ultimate source of human value. This theory revolutionize the way we look at our leaders, ourselves and the world.
Protagoras’ insight was soon to be extended to mean that that not only man, but his acceptance and denial of the other, is the base of the value of that other. That means humans only see themselves based on what recognition and values others accord to us or the things we do.
On October 7, 1.7 million Cameroonians went to the polls to vote for a new presidency. 15 days later the Constitutional Council published the results of the elections declaring incumbent President Paul Biya the winner, arguing Biya won more than 71 percent of the votes.
But even before the elections, the 86 years-old President Biya had lost support in the eyes of most Cameroonians. Notwithstanding its abundance of natural resources and high proportion of an educated workforce, Cameroon is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an economy that rely on natural resources. Besides the terribly state of Cameroon’s economy, corruption levels are astronomical, with a culture of immunity among top officials who remain loyal to the president.
In light of the unpopularity of the Biya’s government, most Cameroonians were surprised that the incumbent Biya won 71 percent of the total votes in the October 7 elections. Biya won the votes but not the ability to silence Cameroonians from taking away or denying to recognize him as the legitimately elected President of Cameroon. Some sections, mostly supporters of Maurice Kamto denounced the results and claim Kamto won the elections. Kamto’s supporters have posted pictures of Kamto as the country’s president.
The expression or movement to deny Biya as President of Cameroon is worse among those who did not vote in this election. More than 4.3 million Cameroonians are registered to vote in Cameroon. But less than half voted for the President. Majority did not bother to go to the polls. By staying at home they sent a strong message to the government that they did not believe the electoral process was free and fair, and that Biya can stay in power, but he is not their president.
It seems that Biya has turned to messages from international leaders to shore up the legtimacy of his presidency among Cameroonians at home and abroad. This denial to recognize his value, his personality, Monsieur Le President, should partly explains why Biya is posting messages of congratulations from foreign leaders. These messages are usually posted by the president or officials sending them, rather than the president receiving them. But in the case of Cameroon, Biya needs them to tell Cameroonians, someone somewhere recognise my existence, values me, my personality as “Monsieur Le President du Cameroun”.
Besides, the reclusive President Biya, who has spent much of his life outside of the public eye, seems to pay more attention to what international leaders think about him, than what most Cameroonians do. IF this theory is right, then Biya’s insiders in the president, may be posting the messages of congratulations to boost the President’s image of himself. Or he may be doing it himself, to confirm this worth. In either case, Biya is posting the messages to confirm his value and legitimacy at the helm of Cameoon at a time when both are fast eroding, like lakes.
But will that suffice? If Aristotle was correct that man is a social being, that our self-teem relies on what others accords to us through their actions, inaction, and even the structures of the environment and communities we live in, then Biya will need Cameroonians to recognize his legitimacy. He will fight for it, and use whatever means to get it.