By Ntemfac Ofege
Ahidjo resigned on November 5th 1982 and Mr. Biya moved in on November 6th. The Biya regime in Cameroon was never destined to survive let alone go on for 22 years. Simply because it was founded on a lie. The then French President Francois Mitterrand who had a score to settle with Ahmadou Ahidjo over the death by firing squad of Ernest Ouandie, Wambo Le Courant and the rest of the Cameroonian Socialists somehow conned Ahidjo to resign because of “health reasons”.
Ahidjo, however, kept his hold as Chairman of the Cameroon National Union, CNU, Party.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Ahidjo did not appoint Bello Bouba Maigari the Prime Minister and Number Two man when he resigned. Bello was kept aside as the joker. Maikano Abdoulayi was Ahidjo’s choice for Prime Minister. Sometime between the night of November 6th 1982 and November 7th Biya changed the cabinet behind Ahidjo’s back and made Bello Prime Minister thereby shattering Ahidjo’s plans. In fact, Bello Bouba’s 1984 exile to Nigeria after the 1983 crisis was with the blessing of Paul Biya. That is why the “sneaky” Bello Bouba, would never push any conflict with Mr. Biya to its logical conclusion. In fact, Bello, aka the Beautiful Bride of Cameroonian Politics, would gladly bend over for Mr. Biya: when Biya says: “jump!” Bello asks “how high?”
Ahidjo’s gameplan was simple. Bello Bouba Maigari and the control of the CNU were key players in that scheme. Knowing Biya’s tendency to be a “wimp and a gossip” (faible et foubre) Ahidjo reasoned that, should things go wrong, he could ease Biya out in the congress of the CNU scheduled for Bamenda in 1985 and get Bello Bouba in.
Unfortunately, for Ahidjo, the man to whom he confided his schemes, François Sengat Kuo (now late), leaked it out to Biya. The Biya clan; made up of the likes of Semengue, Rene Meka, Benäe Mpeke, and Ebogo Titus, had another problem. The Republican Guard that protected Mr. Biya was made up of northerners in the main; army recruits with a strong loyalty to Ahidjo. Biya’s people and Mr. Biya himself never felt secure with Ahidjo’s goons hanging around. It was thus an imperative in those early days to tactfully dismantle the Republican Guard and wrest the CNU from Ahidjo. The how was the problem.
The BIG LIE about April 6th 1984 coup was that it was a plot by Ahidjo through Ibrahima and Salatou to eliminate Biya. In fact, April 6th 1894, like the recent rumours about Mr. Biya's death, was nothing but a Machiavellian plot by the Biya regime to dismantle the Republican Guard and wrest the control of the CNU from Ahidjo. The “moutons” in the Republican Guard fell into the trap by being “encouraged” to execute the so-called 1984 Coup without knowing that a “taupe”, Captain Alakai was informing the Biya regime about their progress at every turn. When the elements of the Republican Guard fell into the trap, they were massively rounded up, decently and summarily executed, and unceremoniously buried in mass graves along the Mbalmayo road. Changing the Republican Guard to the Presidential Guard after that and recruiting Beti boys to replace the stupid northerners was easy. The northern merchants, whose brothers and sons were buried in Mbalmayo, swear by Allah and their machetes that there will be a return match. Some day.
Wresting the CNU from Ahidjo after April 6th 1984 was also easy. Using their control of state radio and their savvy in manipulation, Mr. Biya and his cronies shouted: “bicephalism” and plots that never existed. Public opinion was thus manipulated to believe the BIG LIE - that Ahidjo wanted to come back to power. With Ahidjo now exorcised, changing the name of the CNU to the CPDM was easy.
However, a third wave crept into the power play between Mr. Biya and Mr. Ahidjo. Enter Captain Guerandi Mbara, who alongside some other captains, understood that the problem in Cameroon was the corrupt neo-colonial state and tried to hijack the groundswell of frustration in the Republican Guard. Guerandi arranged with his men to get rid of Biya and Ahidjo as the incarnators of the corrupt neo-colonial state. Ahidjo had no clue about these happenings. That is why he declared on April 7th that “Si ce sont mes partisans ils auront le dessus.” (If they are my militants, they will win). On April 8th 1984, Biya faulted Ahidjo for “taking sides with the coup plotters.”
Guerandi’s “boys” i.e. the ten other captains who were to be the 10 provincial governors after the coup had to come to state radio before the April 6, 1984 speech was delivered. They never made it because they found out that Alakai had betrayed them and that the Koutaba and Ebolowa army units had not taken sides with them. Those captains are still in Cameroon’s army today – waiting for another day.
Between 1982-1983 corruption and stealing from the state in Cameroon shifted into overdrive simply because top- functionaries of the system thought that Biya would not last. Grandees of the system simply thought it was in order to steal very fast before the deluge. In fact, Biya collaborators like Bwele Guillaume, one-time Minister of Information and Culture, could never bring themselves to call Mr. Biya “president”. Bwele simply referred to Biya as “le nouveau-là”.
Under Mr. Biya, therefore the state of Cameroon has been the ultimate resource, the unbounded Prometheus, the final Milking Cow, and the great elephant lying upon its side after being hunted down by Mr. Biya. Tribesmen have surrounded the great beast with gusto to reap where they never sowed. It had truly been as if Biya grandees have been all out to accumulate what the grandees of the Ahidjo regime accumulated in 25 years .
Corruption also shifted into overdrive because Biya came to power in 1982. with a form of voodoo economics. Mr. Biya and his clan reasoned that it was imperative to wrest the control of the economy from the hands of the Bamilekes by creating a Beti class of businessmen.
Consequently, tribesmen with very hazy notions of business were given little bits of paper by the late Jeanne Irene Biya to collect huge sums from the SCB Bank under Messi-Messi. The money disappeared into red wine, big cars and swanky parties. The foresighted Bamilekes saw their savings in the banks disappearing rapidly into the deep pockets of the Betis and further compounded the situation by rapidly withdrawing their moneys from the banks. The money was now saved in the parallel “tontines” or njangi networks. Between 1982-1990, and until the creation of the CCEI-Afriland Bank and now the CBC Bank both owned by Bamilekes, it was estimated that more money circulated in the tontines than in the banks.
At about the same time a vicious cleanup campaign was being orchestrated in SCB and the other banks by the Biya regime. Revenues from petroleum that Ahidjo had saved in the commercial banks disappeared to lucrative off shore points like the Cayman Islands to make profits for regime hands. Other regime hands used fake land certificates to collect huge sums from the same SCB. In less than no time, SCB went under with 150 Billion FCFA bad debts. See Postwatch Fact File for the list of those owing SCB
A prime “client” of the defunct SCB was a certain Paul Biya who, through wife Jeanne Irene Biya, received 3.2 Billion FCFA to build an exotic country house in Mvomeka with a 500-metre landing strip and an attendant 9-hole golf course. Whether or not Mr. Biya has paid his loan, obtained under very unorthodox methods is a matter of conjecture but since Mr. Biya gave himself a loan of 3.2 Billion FCFA from SCB so too other regime hands got served by SCB and the other banks.
Regime hands are responsible for the following bad debts in the following now defunct banks:
1. SCB 150 Billion FCFA
2. Credit Agricole 51 Billion FCFA
3. Cameroon Bank 31 Billion FCFA
4. Meridien-BIAO 17 Billion FCFA
5. Banque Camerounaise de dèveloppement 22 Billion FCFA
6. Paribas Cameroun 8 Billion FCFA
Credit Agricole, the farmers’ bank, died because of the sheer number of dubious loans granted. In the Centre province alone, some 39 clients of this bank, whose accounts were already in the red, still managed to obtain loans of up to 5 Billion FCFA without documents. Andze Tsoungui, the Board Chairman of Credit Agricole, practically transformed the bank into his private family bank. Huge sums from the bank went to finance the son’s pharmacy business and other family holdings. Another minister, Tsanga Abanda, obtained a 300.000.000FCFA loan from Credit Agricole under dubious circumstances.
The Bamileke Economist, Celestin Monga, in a pre-1992 presidential election document suggests that Mr. Biyas legacy does not only involve the above failed banks. According to Monga, Mr. Biya is personally responsible for some 4000 Billion FCFA petroleum money squandered between 1982 and 1992 under the infamous “Compte Hors Budget”, a curious extra-budgetary account created by the late Ahmadou Ahidjo to stash in petroleum revenues. Small wonder, before he croaked, one time General Manager of SNH, Jean Asoumou Avebe, told the state-controlled media in Cameroon that the wherewithal of petroleum revenues between him and the president. Asoumou also declared that petroleum matters were too complicated for Cameroonians to understand.
Mr. Biya has never bothered about the constitutional provision for top civil servants to declare their assets before taking office. Small wonder the man has never reacted to a 1997 article published in the French journal “L’ Événement du Jeudi” that he, Paul Biya is worth 45.Billion FCA, money gleaned from the sales of petroleum. If the L’Événement du Jeudi Article is correct, Mr. Biya must be gleaning some 2 Billion FCFA a year.
Biya crony, Titus Edzoa, declares that Mr. Biya is very rich “He is richer than most Cameroonians imagine.”
Article 164 of Cameroon’s current constitution makes out that Mr. Biya will never be held accountable for his alleged fortune. That Article states that former presidents may not be held accountable for acts committed during their reign.
Between 1982-1983 some circa 242 Billion FCFA, farmers’ money, painstakingly saved at the national Produce Marketing Board (ONCPB) under Roger Melingui were swipe in one of the most pervasive extravaganza this side of the great divide. It is now known that Mr. Biya personally gave instructions for the ONCPB Billions to be handed out to dubious institutions like CENEEMA, CAMAIR, FONADER, the Presidency, etc. In less than 15 months, the money was all gone and the economic crisis set in.
Cameroon under Mr. Biya has not only been twice classified Most Corrupt country in the World but Cameroon is also 51st out of 61sts in the Dialogue North South Index of Trustworthiness. South Africa is 10th, Ghana 34th. What this means concretely is that it is near impossible for foreign investors to get their money from Cameroon and Cameroonians.