Left – Right Political Axis, Where Do We Fit

Cameroon is popularly referred to as Africa in miniature, and I don’t want to dive into how this coinage came about, but I think this has come to stick and in some very uncanny way perfectly applies to this triangle we call home. Perusing through some papers from my father’s dusty book shelve I took kin interest in how our politics have developed over the years but find it still difficult to identify the ideologies and political platforms of our major political formations. The political evolution of Europe in brief has been grounded to the political left-right axis which in essence is the foundation of what we today referred to as the West.

In the left-right wing political spectrum, the Left represents progressives, liberals, socialists, reformists, social democrats, modernizers, or a short for those who want an improvement in the status quo, better the lives of the lower class, the under privilege. The Right represents the conservatives, nationalists, traditionalists, or all those that want to maintain the status-quo, those that protect their interest and those of the ruling and upper class and the wealthy. In the middle are the Moderates or Centrists who try to make a mesh of the two. They represent the middle class of society. On a graphical chart, it would be similar to plotting numbers from minus -5 through zero to plus +5, with the extreme or far left at -5  moving down to the moderates (centrist) at zero to the far right at +5.

With this in mind, I have also been wondering if it’s the application of this graphical time line spectrum of the West’s left-right wing political ideologies that have helped shape these countries into developed –advanced states and probable the lack of its application in Africa that has inhibited the political growth and development of the continent?

The first round of the French election of April 2017 could not have vividly portrayed the ideal of the left-right wing political divide any better as the French Revolution of 1789 when this terms first came into use. The French voters eliminated all to leave the centrist (slightly Left wing) candidate Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen, the Far-right wing candidate.  39 years old Macron could become the youngest president France has ever had – and the first president in the Fifth Republic who does not belong to a major party which stand to the left and right of French political divide. He is pushing for a liberal and pro European agenda and with some great incentives to the companies. Le Pen on her part is coming from beyond the right and wants to cut down immigration, clamp down on free trade, and overturn France's relationship with Europe. These candidates stood out tall because of these ideologies clearly marked on the left – right wing axis and not because of a political party. In short Macron’s En Marche is barely months old but is at the brink of a major upset in French politics. The French have clearly identified and marched along this political line because of the prevailing socio political climate in Europe face with issues of immigration, the role of the EU and nationalism in the wake of the election of nationalist Donald Trump of the USA and Brexit.

Come to think of our beloved “land of promise”, since 1985, the CPDM has moved from a single party to a dominant one, forget the phrase “multiparty”, because it doesn’t exist here or do I need to tell you that multipartism means two or more political parties alternating control of government in one way or the other. Dominant Party politics is taken to be a very conservative approach to politics and is restricted to one form of democracy, the implementation of a crushing majority through electoral politics which is used to defeat any form of opposition and is considered hostile to popular politics. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia put one of the dangers of dominant parties as "the tendency of dominant parties to conflate party and state and to appoint party officials to senior positions irrespective of their having the required qualities”

The Social Democratic Front is the nearest thing that came close to challenging the hegemony of the CPDM, but this was quickly taken care of in a machiavelli scheme that intentionally relegated them to selected crumbs of political power. The SDF itself for some time was allowed to be the dominant political party in the Northwest region, just like the CDU of Adamu Ndam Njoya in the Noun, before it was turned into a multiparty region.

The long and short of all this is that our parties have been built along personality cults and not on ideologies. The CPDM for example carries the effigy of the president in all its uniforms and official materials. Cameroonian identifies Mr. Biya more than the CPDM. It’s not surprising to see professors even in political science wrap the mufflers, put on the uniform, face caps, wristwatches, umbrellas and other party gadgets with the president’s image.

Ask any of these officials what the party stands for in the next election and you would get responses such as, the head of state is symbol of national unity, he is the only one that has the yam and the knife, there is nobody like president Biya to pilot Cameroon, the new deal policies of president Biya has…, president Paul Biya has brought multipartism, he has championed the development of Cameroon, the head of state has created schools in every village, the Head of State’s vision 2035.., President Biya is guarantor of peace and unity, his great ambition program..etc.

Even the opposition is finding it hard to work on an ideology with most them having as sole ideology, to take over power. This makes it very difficult to place our political parties on this left-right wing political spectrum which I mentioned earlier that it has in one way or the other helped to develop the western countries. Many may argue that China has become the second largest economy in the world without respecting or following this ideology, but I would say go back to the 1949 Chinese revolution, or permit me say there is an exception to every rule.

At its creation, the idea of the CPDM could be identified to the left, but this quickly shifted to the centre – right due to the lack of any opposition in a one-party system. The coming of the SDF in 1990 pushed the CPDM to the right where they have practically remained shifting position on our political axis as the situation demands. The CPDM would use whatever means it takes to maintain the status quo in Cameroon for as long as it takes, no matter what.

On the other side of zero is the SDF that started as a far-left party, but today is more to moderate or central right than left. Years of flirting with the CPDM have taken the sting out of its original ideology and the party today appears to be fighting for its survival than for a party identity.  The over 200 political parties in the country like the CPDM and SDF cannot be aligned to any political wing but can be easily identified with a desire to tap a slice from the national cake or carve a political niche for some particular gains by its eternal leaders. Even when a party has emerged with a particular ideology, the ruling party’s Machiavellian manipulations with state resources have always make sure it doesn’t hold ground.

If Cameroon and other African countries do not progress from building of strong individuals to strong and clear cut political ideologies on the left-right wing political spectrum, strong political institutions and above all put the interest of the people they represent against their extreme rightist position, we would continue to see more of our children and sons and daughters drown in the Mediterranean sea as they fight to reach Europe every year, or continue to read the negative headlines about Africa in western media. It’s not the name we coin for our democracies and political ambitions (advanced democracy, great ambition, great achievement etc) that can take us to the next stage, but the will to let political ideologies guide us and sharp the path we wish to take.

It’s denigrating and enslaving to think a people, even in the minority cannot decide which form of governance they prefer, how they’ll like to interact with others, access resources they own, choose their faith and fate or which type of education they like to see practice. These are some of the basic tenets of a democracy, the will of the people to choose freely, the protection of the minority’s prime interest and the safeguard of the posterity of all. Such decisions should not rest in the hands of an individual or a few who decide at their whims and caprices which direction everyone has to take, when and how and whatever form it should take. Change is the only permanent variable, and he who resists it is fighting a lost battle. If we are really advanced as we say, then a referendum could be the ultimate solution, better still, why can’t we sit down together and chose a common path to follow. Who or what are we afraid of?





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