Monique Koumate and CPDM Politics of Numbers

Another March 24 has come and gone, and added a year to the age of the CPDM. And once again, the party spent the day in the folly of talking about one man, and counting “his” achievements. It continued to indulge in a simplification of politics that offers no real measuring rod of success and failure. Indeed, it continued to indulge in a type of mob action that betrays intellectual weakness, and a feeble mindedness that touts around uncertain means of achieving equally uncertain objective.

The party again indulged in the counting of their “greater achievements,” one by one, in the certainty that even if the rest of us can argue about a lot of things, we cannot argue about arithmetic. In this, they forget that quality is much more difficult to handle than quantity; that the exercise of judgment is a higher function than the ability to count and calculate.

Quantitative differences can be more easily grasped and certainly more easily defined than qualitative differences. The materialist philosophy on which CPDM arithmetic is based makes it liable to overlook the most important pre-condition that make all the difference between quantity and quality.

The fate of Monique Koumate in Laquintinie Hospital in Douala, and more recently the quintuplets in the Central Hospital in Yaounde tell us that what we see as a modern hospital, a factory, a seaport – a “greater achievement”! – are just the tips (the hardware) of complex infrastructures that perform the duties they are meant to perform. What we cannot see is the software – the discipline, the intellectual achievements behind the planning, the organization and the functioning of the structures; the great inputs that are the pre-condition for making what we see either an empty shell or a vibrant structure.

So we see only the tip of the structure; the greater part of the structure is invisible. The counting game the CPDM indulges in is usually based on what they become conscious of – the visible; and they easily overlook the invisible because they consider what they see as green pasture offered to some fanatical supporter of their politics. Yet it is the invisible things that make the visible possible, keep it going, and prevent tragedies like the ones we are living in our hospitals and in many other structures in our society.

With the hospital tragedies, many people are talking about the quality of training in CUSS – a Faculty I have taught in for the last 30-some years – as if the problem is at that level. Education cannot help us as long as it is detached from metaphysics – our fundamental convictions. Education is something more than mere training; something more than mere knowledge of facts. It is a process of giving ideas that would make the world more intelligible to the recipients. It is giving moral instructions that fill the inner spiritual space with some higher motivation of love, goodness, and truth. Otherwise, the space is filled with lower stuff like small, mean, and calculating attitudes to life which are rationalized in economic calculus centered on personal gains.

Emmanuel M.P. Edeh (Igbo Metaphysics) says that Africa had a Man-God-World conceptual scheme or relationship. Its culture was (is?) based on understanding and interpreting this scheme; on the influence of this relationship on life and existence. This confirms Tatah Mbuy’s (The Faith of our Ancestors) statement that African Traditional Religion (ATR) is the core of African culture, and constitutes the grammar of existence for Africans. It is the location at which the genuine African and his life-situation are encountered. This also confirms John S. Mbiti’s statement that Africa had no written texts as such; their religion was written in the history, the hearts and experiences of the people.

It is this religiosity that helped our forebears to appreciate metaphysical truths. It is usually said that Europe that sent forth the early Europeans that came to Africa, was shaped by education, organization and discipline that radiated from its metaphysics and ethics which brought forth its science and technology. Those early Europeans that came face to face with our culture came armed with the Judeo-Christian religion which was the basis of the metaphysics and ethics on which their societies had been built, and which was virtually congruent with our religious beliefs, in spite of its total exclusion of the black person from the imagery that the religion left in our minds. 

In addition, they came with a “new” metaphysics enunciated in Darwin’s theory of evolution, competition, natural selection and the survival of the fittest; Marx’s concept of class struggle; the idea of relativism enunciated by Sophists that denied all absolutes; and the idea of positivism that sought to extend the positive sciences to social facts and so denied the existence of God and repudiated metaphysics.

It is mainly these “new” metaphysical ideas that were left with us and have congealed in our consciences. By the time of “decolonization” and “independence”, we were full of wrong ways of thinking and living, which only bred/breed alienation. We were left in great confusion as to what our convictions are. This is why the repeatedly stated idea of an education system based on “African culture” – African metaphysics – is attractive to us, but our hearts are somewhere else. We want to develop, to achieve happiness by neglecting our true spiritual realm; we want to satisfy the body, neglecting the deepest feelings of our soul. And so we hear often from those who govern us – from Africans with religion as the core of (their) culture, and the grammar of (their) existence – proclaiming: candidates should have so many GCE O/A Levels, except “religion”!  With nothing to take the place of “religion”, the emotional part of our nature is enfeebled and our moral character is injured.

The key factor of all development comes out of the mind of humans. Development is not about visible structures that are counted and boastfully proclaimed as “greater achievements”; it is about people, their education, organization and discipline. The emergence of a country is secondary to the emergence of its people; just as the development of a country is secondary to the development of its people. People emerge when they themselves are the owners and producers of what they see around them: the ports, the roads, the stadiums, the industries. Society emerges when its leadership is reconciled with democracy; clever formulae that promote leadership without democracy cannot work because they lose the very quality of human nature and human life. Power that excludes its opposite – the opposition – can achieve nothing concrete.

As is usually said, we should always let Athena spring out of the head of Zeus. The cacophony in the implementation of “emergency plans” and “greater achievement” projects, produce countable structures that are created for us, without us; these cannot compensate for arrangements that insult our self-respect and impair our freedom.

The feeble responses of the CPDM regime to the tragedies in Laquintinie Hospital and the Central Hospital are a result of our living with a kind of metaphysical disease. The tragedies are a reminder that the primary cause of extreme poverty is immaterial; it lies in certain metaphysical deficiencies; in deficiencies in education, organization and discipline.

Even if ‘old dogs cannot learn new tricks’ as the saying goes, ‘new dogs’ grow up all the time; they will be well advised to learn what ‘old dogs’ are unable to learn – that we need to integrate African metaphysics as the foundation of the education we get. Only this can make our education useful to our daily existence as a people with dignity, and prevent tragegies of disorganisation and indiscipline that bring us so much shame.

Tazoacha Asonganyi