Known in the early years of the SDF as “Chop Fire” or “Zangaliwa,” Hon. Andrew Akonteh, former MP for Bafut, says greed has replaced self-sacrifice, love, and volunteerism in the SDF party.
In an interview with The Post in Bamenda, Akonteh, who participated in the launching of the party, traces his stewardship from that historic May 26, 1990, through the posts he held in Parliament and out. Akonteh, who resigned from active politics but remains a militant of the SDF, says Biya and Fru Ndi have a common characteristic – “hanging on to power for life.” Excerpts: -
The Post: How were you involved in the launching of SDF in 1990?
Hon Andrew Akonteh: Some time in 1990, the SDF National Chairman, Fru Ndi, met me and gave me a press release that he had registered an association, which was to be a political party and he invited me to see what I could do about it. When I read the press release, I decided to join him. After that, there was suspicion all over the country about a group of people who wanted to overthrow the government. But we stood firm with the founding fathers like late Dr. Siga Asanga and arranged for the birth of the party on May 26, 1990.
What happened on the day of the launching?
Troops were deployed everywhere. There was nowhere we could launch the party, but we were bent on launching it. When I surveyed and discovered that we could not launch it at City Chemist where we originally planned to launch it, I decided on the change of venue. Luckily, I was given logistics for the launching, so I concerted with the National Chairman and his close aides and we moved to Ntarinkon Park where it was launched.
How was it launched?
It was quite interesting. I happened to have an FM microphone. So, I mobilised a lot of people around to go get FM radio sets, which they carried to Ntarinkon. The Chairman then addressed the crowd and the party was launched.
The moment we launched the party, we forcefully sent the Chairman back to his residence for security reasons. We then marched to City Chemist Roundabout via Longla Street. Those who were shot by gendarmes were people who were jubilating for the success of the launching.
From the streets to parliament and out, can you assess the democratic process in Cameroon?
Democracy in Cameroon is still at infancy. We are still gambling. Really, we are in a confused state. At this infant stage, some people are blowing it out in order to get assistance from the World Bank and foreign bodies.
What accounts for this?
Greed and selfishness. Our methods are quite primitive and people are not objective enough. Unfortunately, those who are involved in the democratisation process in this country have no vision, no set goals.
Did you ever nurse any ambition to go beyond Parliament? In other words, now that you are no longer an MP, is this the end of the road?
What attracted me into politics was the suffering of the people and the fact that this country has lost its values. So, I thought I could try to contribute my little quota so as to bring us back on the rails; to re-instate those values that our parents stood for like morality, selfless service, and so on. So, when I went to Parliament and was made Questor, I thought I could be exemplary. I worked in the interest of the entire country, but members of my party thought that I should work only for the SDF. That is where my problems started. The hierarchy of the party thought that I should work for the hierarchy instead of working for this nation. Then, I started realising that I was backing a wrong horse. I then decided to pray to God to show me a way out so that I could still serve my people better.
If God gave you a way out, does it mean the creation of the Movement for Democracy Development and Transparency, MDDT, is what you want us to understand was your goal?
If you want to understand our activities, just change the word movement and replace it with Mobilisation and Sensitisation for Democracy, Development and Transparency. That is what we are out now to implant in Cameroon. Politicians who want to change this country or foster democracy can now find a forum or space in MDDT. These should be politicians who are ready to provide answers to the aspirations of Cameroonians, not those who are out for self-actualisation in the guise of fighting for democracy. What MDDT is out to teach is how development is linked to democratisation and how democratisation can help to eliminate corruption.
A simple definition of democracy in our context means “majority role and minority rights.” This means you will win because of the majority, but you have a duty to defend the rights of the minority who did not vote for you. Then you can call yourself a democrat.
What you are suggesting is that the political leaders have not understood what democracy is all about…
Most of them think they have all the answers to the problems Cameroonians are facing and so they stick onto power. I think so, because I was the first person to condemn the fact that nobody should stick on like chewing gum on a chair. If you are the Chairman or President of a party, you should not be the life President or life Chairman - all of us condemned it yesterday. How comes it today that people have suddenly made a U-turn and are now sticking to the chair or presidency?
But the SDF thinks that reconciliation now is the way forward to bring some of you, the “fire eaters” back. Have you been contacted?
Those who want reconciliation are those who are still interested in partisan politics. Right now, as I am talking to you, I am no longer interested in partisan politics. It might happen some time in future, but not now. Let me tell you something about reconciliation. When you want to reconcile with people, you must be able to say the truth. You no longer hide behind the truth with lies. This is not reconciliation. Before you reconcile, ask yourself who is reconciling with whom and for what reasons?, The public must know all what transpired. Before I decided to quit partisan politics I sent a motion to the National Executive Committee, NEC, asking them to set a commission of enquiry to all the allegations published against me in a local tabloid whose sponsor was a colleague, an MP of the same party. Until date, I have not received the reply of my letter to NEC. The said MP decided to blackmail others and me for no wrong. I have suffered and slaved for the party and that was the pay.
Any word to opposition leaders or the Coalition, by extension, and the ruling CPDM party?
Opposition leaders can write as many times as possible. But one thing remains very clear. Each of them has his very personal ambitions. None of them is a nationalist from the bottom of the heart. None is selfless.
Interviewed By Chris Mbunwe