It was 6am Sunday morning. My eyes were now open, but only half-consciously. Deliberately, I opened them, as if peeling the flesh of unripe mango from the skin. But the sleep was persistent, and the weather was soothing to sleep too. I crept back into my bed, back into comfort. I didn’t have the courage to step out of my pyjamas. Not that I wore a pajama.
I had arranged to meet a friend at 7am for a very important meeting. This meeting was going to advance my career, and possibly change my life too. Except that the meeting didn’t take place. I didn’t get out of my comfort zone, because of the allure of my bed or my imagined pajamas, which ever you like. Or maybe I wasn’t ready for the meeting.
The point is, for several months now, the Cameroonian opposition has been enveloped in this fever of excitement to lead the country. Joshua Osih, Kamto, Akere Muna, and Cabral Libii have shown a sharp, even if sometimes vague, determination to lead the country, twisting our minds with raft of economic, social and political promises (some quite funny, like closing ENAM).
But when the opportunity came to lead, like me, they have recoiled into their beds of comfort and shy away from leading the country. Three things make this clear, first, the inability to get the opposition to form a viable coalition opposition party; second, the inability to lead in the Anglophone and Boko Haram Crises; and finally, just having the guts to campaign in the Anglophone region.
In Greek folk lore, the gods were known for two things. Competition for power, and ability to form coalitions to overthrow powerful gods. In studying the Burger’s Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands, primatologist Frans de Waal, findings show that not just with the Greek gods, even Chimps are genetically engineered to struggle for power, and like the Greeks, they know that sometimes that means forming strong coalitions.
So a leader in Greek folk lore and among the Chimps, is passionate about power, but also is he who can get the people together. As the current President of the US Congress said, “Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together”.
Maybe not everybody. Because, most of those in the opposition in Cameroon, have slowly and clumsily argued that the inability of the opposition to form a coalition is a matter of principles. And what is important to them is principle, rather than saving the country. Those for the people can’t work with those who once worked with the government. But as I said, this is a clumsy excuse.
No one fights alone and win. Yes, sticking to principles is a very important trait of a good leader, but not the fundamental trait. As the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said, “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”. The rise of Trump is proofing this to be true. And in what seems like naked stupidity, Deng also said “A basic contradiction between socialism and the market economy does not exist”.
The opposition should look beyond its nostrils. It should see the sharp and irritable poverty and hunger for life and meaning everywhere in Cameroon. In this dire and meaningless situation describing the colour of the cat is secondary to getting it do its work. Moving this country forward is more important today than with whom.
But the problem is not limited to the inability, on the part of the opposition to realize that forming a coalition is fundamental to moving this country forward, but also taking that “rapturous” leap every true leader takes.
In the book The Stranger, the French Algerian born philosopher and writer Albert Camus tells the story of an ordinary man, unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach. He then explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”. Camus’ main character, Meursault, is an isolated persona with an invisible sturdy wall surrounding him. Even within this insurmountable wall, Meursault realized that only one thing can set him free, action. But not any form of action, only that action that seems absurd, suicidal and in fact psychopathic.
Amidst the ongoing war in the Anglophone region, secessionist groups have banned campaign activities in the two English speaking regions. None of the presidential election candidates, not even President Paul Biya, has shown the courage to re-imagine, through action, through a form of suicidal action like Meursault, a united country. As Regis Debray said “the prime role of leader is to offer an example of courage and sacrifice”. Courage you can add is the only true virtue that distinguish the leader from the followers. We all do understand the climate of insecurity in these regions. But that is a prime land where a true leader is revealed. As Mark Twain famously said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear”. So I can be forgiven when I say Fru Ndi remains the only opposition in Cameroon.
I will leave you with these two quotes. It is up to you to judge the leadership strength of these “all men” opposition.
“We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” – Barbara De Angelis (italics are mine).
“Leadership requires the courage to make decisions that will benefit the next generation.” – Alan Autry (italics are mine).