It is March 2017 in Cameroon. I hope it is same elsewhere, just in case the government or the national broadcaster did not change the date of where I live while I slept. The machines of the road-construction company, SATOM are back on the Bamenda – Kumbo stretch of what is supposed to be the Trans-African highway. The following is a personal reflection, and I urge you to tolerate my frequent use of the aggressive pronoun, “I”.
Why did Work Stop?
The machines of this same company left this same road a few years back. As far as I know it – and I am expressing myself as an individual citizen – we were never really officially told why work stopped. Like owls dazed by sunlight, we grappled for reasons, confounded.
We heard strange tales from Cameroon, not an unfamiliar situation though. We learnt that the rains that year, about 2012 or so, were getting too heavy for work to go on. Interestingly, in a typically Cameroonian practical joke, when the rains were subsiding, SATOM machines were withdrawing! A few were left by the road, standing like desert features produced by wind action.
Then many said that the fight against Boko-Haram in the north of the country demanded more funds, and that funds for the road needed to be diverted. Really? That begged the question why the funds for the Bamenda-Kumbo ring road had to be diverted while other equally heavy projects endured or were even initiated. Others thought it was because the said road is found in the North West Region, linking it to the fact that roads in this and other parts of the country had been left to degenerate beyond any sane imagination. This was one of the reasons J. N. Foncha gave for resigning from the Vice Presidency of CPDM, the and while he was Grand Chancellor!
This Bamenda-Kumbo Road!
My! Those who have lived longer should know better! Here am I getting older, having known only one Head of State all my life. I grew up to learn, like a folk tale, that this President had indicated that he would personally supervise the work on this stretch of road in the 1980s. I still have memories of travelling along this road as a child. The experiences were horrific!
Little portions were being graded at different times. Now, as work is resuming, the areas that were done in the previous decade(s) are already very embarrassing. (I hope this a modest description.) The Devil could well be challenging Our Lord by now: “Why do you say I am the worst of liars? Can’t you see…?”
Will it be Completed?
From where I stand, this is as I see it, my personal stance: until this road shall be well constructed in its entirety, from Bamenda to Kumbo, and I drive on it myself without waiting to here from CRTV, the national broadcaster, that it was inaugurated, I shall refrain from accepting that it can be completed.
I will not believe that the road can be done, until it has been done. I regret that the inefficiency and infidelity to promise of an aged Government, apparently in a political menopause, have made of me such a cynic on such matters. My skeptical stand on this particular matter can only be adjusted by the actual, effective completion of the entire project.
Irony of Solutions
Well, there are many approaches to a particular problem. We have the problem of bad roads, as I have come to learn that it is same elsewhere. We can decide to get good roads in order to use cheaper and less consuming cars. Conversely, we can decide to get very strong cars that are suited for our bad roads. Both are approaches.
From the look of things, the government elects the latter approach. Have you not seen when a “big government official” or “grand personnalité” is going somewhere? Some of those cars look like jets! Is it possible that some can even swim across rivers that have a no bridges?
The question is: would it not be more beneficial to the common good, if the roads were all done, even using part of the funds for those heavy duty cars, and then even the less strong cars of the ordinary citizen would ply the road with ease, and our officials too? As someone said a few years ago, it is about time we started doing road worthiness for cars, while we do car worthiness for the roads.
The Government Might not know the Situation
Oh! The government officials hardly ever get to meet the real situation of the roads, as of other things that make life miserable for benevolent people in a naturally rich country. Looks like the intermediate hierarchy is often interested in hiding the ordinary, existential situation of the common man.
Therefore, when a minister of whatever rank or some other “big man” is coming, the advent is characterised by some touches here and there, to show that we are not too bad. When we cry foul, then, about the deplorable state of social facilities or the lack thereof among other things, and those who could help show up, they might not meet exactly what the populace blew the whistle about. Hence, those who are better off ensure that those who are worse off remain so. The phrase “the elite” now causes my bowels tumble.
Little wonder, in Kumbo at the funeral of Yaa Catherine Lahka, the mother of H. E. Christian Cardinal Tumi, a happy mourner exclaimed: “If only there were about five of such women in our portion of Cameroon!” He spoke volumes in so simple-sounding a sentence. This was surely because the roads had been touched, the swimming pools for cars on the roads filled, the drainages reopened. A death had become an advantage in the eyes of the desperate! The “big people” were going to be present. And that’s it!
Now that work is resuming on this stretch of road, one may wonder the provocation. It could be anything. Well, if someone told me that it is connected to the current situation plaguing Cameroon because of the “Anglophone Problem”, in which case it would be either an appeasement or an adjustment to previous neglect, I might choose to stay quiet.
If another told me that each time elections are approaching in Cameroon certain camouflaged actions are pretended as acts of development while they are only a bait for votes, I might also choose to simply keep quiet.
Another person yet could tell me there was an unexplained, probably inexplicable problem with the construction of the road, and it has been rectified and the road is being completed, I might likewise choose to not react. But in any case, I would wait to see the road complete!
This was first published on Facebook on 17 March 2017
Category: Opinion Piece, Reflections