President Biya’s Doublespeak to  Cameroonian Youth and the Unfortunate February 11 Mayhem in Nkambe

The Colbert Factor:

President Biya’s Doublespeak to  Cameroonian Youth and the Unfortunate February 11 Mayhem in Nkambe

Colbert Gwain

Nothing can better begin to capture President Biya’s views of Cameroonian youth in triumphant detail than the travails of the youths of Muteff in the Funding subdivision of the Boyo Division of the North West Region of Cameroon as they tried in the 70s to make the slightest difference in life. Growing up in a community where they lacked the economic and social conveniences that people elsewhere take for granted, any youth that was ambitious needed to roll off their sleeves and burn the midnight candle.

With coffee and to a lesser extent, cola nuts being the booming exportable produce in the community at the time (and with these cash crops being cultivated exclusively by the bobes or estate owners in the community), youth in Muteff had very little access to any income-generating activities. Each time the youths went the extra mile in their zeal to make money for themselves and gathered the few grains of leftover coffee abandoned after the washing and processing in the nearby village stream as well as colanuts they had picked up from their early morning rounds in the multipurpose farms that populated the community, their parents still violently confiscated them on grounds it was their produce the youth stole.

The women and the youth in the community only had the right to labor all year round in the coffee farms and no right to benefit from the fruits of their labor. If one were lucky to have a reasonable parent, s/he could after tilling and toiling the soil all year round, benefit from being sent to school or having new clothes on Christmas day.

In frustration and wanting to see his situation and that of his mother change for the better, the able-bodied boys of the community would embark on perilous adventures to the forest zones and through Mamfe in the South West Region of Cameroon, without telling their fathers. Although they might have told their mothers before taking on the journey, the women dare not reveal it to their husbands for fear of repercussions.

When they succeed in making enough money to take care of themselves and their families, they return home with some goodies and souvenirs for their fathers. The same fathers who initially were angry at their children for taking perilous adventures without seeking their permission and against their wishes become the happiest when they discover the children have become successful.

Like Muteff youths in the 70s, the Cameroonian youths today face such daring frustrations that challenge their very existence. President Paul Biya (like the parents in the Muteff case) is worried that instead of staying back home to the unwelcoming economic, social, and political environment; they take on perilous adventures at the risk of their lives. He even wonders how foreigners will be coming to settle and invest in Cameroon and Cameroonian youths are instead migrating to foreign countries. In George Eliot’s book, the old man, Silas Marner is forced to contend with himself by adopting an abandoned child after the precious gold he has been wasting away has been stolen from where he has been hiding on the floor in his cottage, 91-year-old President Paul Biya contends himself with the fact that although Cameroonian youths are migrating abroad in search of greener pastures, foreigners are settling in Cameroon.

By urging Cameroonian youths to stay back home and at the same time naming Francis Nganou (a product of a perilous adventure abroad) Biya double-spoke. Double-Speak or doublethink is the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time and believe them to be true. The American psychologist, Leon Festinger theorized on this in his reflection on cognitive dissonance as the ability of a person to hold two or more incompatible beliefs simultaneously.

Doublethink or doublespeak is also a term from George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel ‘1984’, which refers to the mental ability of believing two contradictory ideas at the same time to render critical thinking impossible. President Biya’s Youth Day message smacks of newspeak – an attempt at controlling reality and keeping citizens pliable and powerless to protest. Examples of doublethink in the dystopian novel include four government ministries: the Ministry of Plenty which oversees shortages of resources; the Ministry of Peace which declares and conducts war; the Ministry of Love which doles out cruel harsh punishments and torture and the Ministry of Truth that speeds propaganda and revises historical facts. The employees of the Ministry of Truth, for example, falsify historical facts and then immediately believe their revisionist history.

During the Youth Day message, President Biya announced the creation of counseling and job orientation centers, forgetting that years back he created the National Employment Fund (NEF) for the same purpose. George Orwell refers to this as the ability to choose to forget something as well as the ability to forget about the forgetting process.  Orwell’s book demonstrates the ability of governments to alter reality and manipulate facts to suit their narrative.

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