Issa Tchiroma and The Opposition in Cameroon

Issa Tchiroma, goerment spokesman

Issa Tchiroma, goerment spokesman

When we look at what Time has done to the youthful ambitions of rigour and moralisation, one can only get amused at the casualties that the fading ambitions left on their tracks. One of such casualties is most obviously Issa Tchiroma. 

I call him a casualty because I knew him closely in what history will remember as the Coalition for National Reconciliation and Reconstruction (CNRR), composed of a score of them – opposition leaders – who were determined to dislodge Paul Biya in 2004 from Unity Palace. I was the Permanent Secretary of CNRR.

I took him for a serious opposition leader because of the solemnity with which he mumbled the pledge each of them made at each of the regional rallies we held in all ten regional capitals, with the tricolor raised above the assembled leaders, and with each invoking the people and swearing that they would be the last to betray them. In fact, Issa Tchiroma actually wept on the podium in Garoua at the rally he hosted, when the parting speech of Ahidjo was played to the assembled rally attendants from a tape recorder; and he made a rousing, passionate welcome speech. He would later preside over the single-candidate selection meeting of the Coalition that resulted in the rubbishing of those pledges. 

To that extent that I knew him, I took him seriously. Based on that, I consider him a casualty. But some may say that if we add the chemical transformation that has converted him from a foe of the regime to a fanatic of the man of November 1982, he may be disqualified as a casualty. No matter!

During the recent cacophony of “calls” and marches in the CPDM, he was seen marching in the East region, either in solidarity or as a surrogate member of the party, urging their hero to hang on. More recently, he has been indulging in the CPDM folly of using numbers, proportions and percentages to define freedoms and rights. And so he has been casting aspersions at opposition leaders that have been sending warning signals to his hero, because they are “minority” leaders!

The story goes that Publius Clodius Pulcher who eventually brought down the corrupt and repressive system of the Roman Republic millennia ago, was a smart, charming and determined person with a keen sense of politics because he was very much in touch with the frustrations of the common people. Even if the ruling elite called him an eccentric and despised him because he was considered not to be a “real man” who could take care of the republic, the same elite eventually stood dazed and helpless as the populist forces he unleashed took control of the Roman Republic the regime had ruled for centuries! This is to remind us that all really important innovations and changes usually start from individuals or tiny minorities of people who use their creative freedom to chart new paths. So Issa Tchiroma, percentages don’t count here!

Talking about percentages and majorities that are so dear to him and his cohorts of the regime, we just need to read Baffour’s Beef (New African Magazine, March 2016) where Baffour Ankomah recalls an article in New American Magazine (November 6, 2000) which states that in 1787, America’s Founding Fathers, “knowing that democracy is a government of men in which the tyranny of the majority rules, wisely created a republic – a government ruled by law, not the people…”

“The ‘tyranny of the majority’ was so anathemic to the Founding Fathers that they managed to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution without mentioning the word ‘democracy’ even once in both documents…”!

So, in this folly of percentages, proportions, and majorities of the CPDM and Issa Tchiroma, what is the difference between the dictatorship of a tyrant, a monarch, or a “majority”?

We have heard it said before: It is better to let ten criminals go free than let one innocent person be convicted; when one person suffers injustice, there is no justice. Free public discussion of the stewardship of government through newspapers, publications, rallies, conferences is not supposed to be judged on the basis of numbers, percentages, minorities and majorities.As some people imbued with the democratic spirit would say, anywhere citizens may decide to gather to talk about their government and its policies, or anywhere that a lone eccentric or group of non-conformists gather to voice their opinion, they should be heard, not harassed by a regime, however offensive their opinion may be!

If we go by their efforts to place party cards for free, CPDM militants do not reach even hundreds of thousands of the 20-some million arms we have in Cameroon. And they with Issa Tchiroma have been trying to bully the whole country to adopt their point of view! Even if Issa Tchiroma’s Arithmetic is muddled in this case, he surely has heard about minority rights in a democracy.

Cameroonians are in a fix in a society sharply divided between us and them – torn by mutual suspicion, with the abhorrence of authority from below and a frightening contempt of the people from above. We are trapped in a Kafkaesque society in which everybody takes orders from a superior who takes orders from a superior who takes orders from…  In the confusion, the National Communication Council is on its own side bullying and brutalizing the press to toe an imaginary line, while DOs and SDOs are on their own side arresting and brutalizing the rest of us to stay quiet and watch the macabre actions of the regime!

In this society of La Loi/The Law populated by “authorities” whose answer to every complaint is “I did not make the rules; I am simply applying them…,” Cameroon is the loser, while the selfishness of individuals goes about triumphant. We may regret it for a long, long time!


Tazoacha Asonganyi