Every society has a culture that shapes how the people think, beliefs of what is right and wrong. Leaders call their followers to respect these cultural norms, they identify threats to these norms and practices and develop strategies to prevent these. In fact, as British Anthropologist Mary Douglas said, politics is often a product of some organisational culture.
In Cameroon, we have several cultures, not one. States are composed of dozens of societies, and these states have dominant and peripheral cultures. In our country, the dominant culture is defined by norms of hierarchy, blind obedience to authority, an colourful arrogance you can hardly miss when you see a leader. This system is based on the belief that those are on the top have uncanny knowledge and supernatural ability that the common man does not have, they are gifted, have experience or relations that makes them all-knowing and always correct.
In this sense, threats or misfortunes are explained as disobedience to the commands, instincts or intuition to the leader. For example, in Cameroon, Professor Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, shamelessly said Biya is “God’s ordained leader”, and implicitly assumed that Cameroonians should not question or judged Biya.
A critical eye will laugh at such a statement that uses connection with god as grounds for impunity, when the same god caste out Satan out of heaven because of his atrocities. The point is government Ministers, whether from pure motives or through deception get the public to believe that leaders are ordained, and their ways are above what the ordinary man can understand.
These does not mean that nobody questions them or that everybody blindly follows them. Those who embrace these culture nonetheless, blindly follow their leaders.
You would have thought that with the so-called demand for secession by Anglophones, will want to separate from Cameroon. That they will first of all design a cultural system that is contrary to the dominant culture in Cameroon, and that seeks to address the ill of the dominant culture. After all, Ayaba Cho have eloquently described their generation as the “Never Again Generation”, that questions everything, and hold leaders accountable.
Unfortunately some of this separatist leaders are using the same cultural norms they are fighting against, they see blind submission to leadership as normal. You must follow the rule. The arrogance and demand for blind submission to leadership is all too pervasive. All factions are telling their followers that their respective leaders either know the best way to free Anglophones or are the people’s choice. Linking authority and legitimacy to proverbial genius is the starting point to the current dictatorial regime in Cameroon. And I doubt if the separatists will abandon this Cameroonian culture, if they are handed power.
Another feature of this all too common Cameroonian culture is how they treat criticism. As I said above, in a culture where all decisions are expected to be made from the top and to be followed by those in the bottom, those in the bottom are often the scapegoats for the misfortunes that befall the community, or if those in the bottom are passive enough, other leaders are blamed. If things goes well then the leaders have done well, and if they go bad, then stubborn followers or other leaders who have failed to submit to the bunch of leaders are held responsible.
This is what we have been seeing in the Anglophone struggle. All blames are apportioned to followers or external forces. There is no room for internal reckoning.
I have not tried to divulge how we can solve the Anglophone crisis, I have mainly pointed to the marriage that we are all denying, the marriage between Secessionist and the Biya’s regime. That these two groups share similar leadership culture, the norms, belief systems, and practices they engage in are similar is not surprising to most Cameroonians. What is surprising to me is that we are proposing solutions that are similar to the causes of the problems. Is like we are telling a woman suffering from cold that to get well, get very cold again. In fact, expose yourself to harsh temparate conditions.