Il Y Avait Qoui Avant? Tsuip: “How Can You Say That?” Mme Minister Celestine Courtes?

The Colbert Factor:

Il Y Avait Qoui Avant? Tsuip: “How Can You Say That?” Mme Minister Celestine Courtes?

Colbert Gwain

When Muteff opted to withdraw their children from the lone school in mainland Abuh in the Fundong Subdivision of the Boyo Division of the North West of Cameroon, they wasted no time in opening their community school. With little to no resources at the time and desperate to hit the road running, a certain Bobe Tela Sam offered his multipurpose parlor to be used for classroom space. Although there were no benches, children were advised to either sit on the bare floor or bring chairs from their homes. Those without books and/or handboards freely used plantain leaves to start their handwriting and education journey. When the time came and the community mobilized some little resources,  they initiated the construction of a few classrooms with purely local materials (bricks and roofing grass).

As years went by and more energetic community leadership was constituted through the Muteff Village Development Union, MADU, more modern classrooms (that had nothing to admire from the old and dilapidated ones), were put in place with effortless ease. The same holds for the motorable roads (once mere footpaths), that adorn the village kaleidoscope today. Although the leadership of the Muteff Village Development Union, MADU, continues to change hands, each new team builds on the building blocks of the previous and remains greatly to the earlier steps taken by their predecessors. They function with the understanding that if Bobe Tela Sam didn’t offer his parlor in the first place for the school to begin,  the school wouldn’t have started in the first place, and the modern classrooms that we have there today, wouldn’t have come into existence.  Same with the fact that all the motorable roads there today follow the footfalls of the earlier footpaths.

When Urban Development and Housing Minister stirred the wrath of Northerners and by extension, most Cameroons during last week’s working visit that saw her receive some kilometers of urban roads constructed under the French relief fund, C2D, as seen in a video clip that has gone viral on social media, asking why inhabitants of Garoua city were not grateful given that there was “nothing” there before; she thought she was doing a service to the regime she serves.

Many wonder whether she was talking about the same northern regions that people used to grumble about during President Ahidjo’s reign over the fact that many roads were tarred there and allowed for cows to use. But for the fact that after President Ahidjo’s reign, many roads that were tarred up there were abandoned to themselves to degrade, there would not have been any need for new roads in urban Garoua today. Minister Celestine Ketcha Courtes’ abracadabra question: ‘Il y avait qoui avant’, was an intentional attempt at indulging in revisionist history to downplay all the patriotic efforts of the former President, Amadou Ahidjo.

The rhetorical question asked by President Biya’s trusted minister to the people of Garoua and by extension, to all Cameroonians, goes beyond the issue of roads to that of humanity. And since the question (though rhetorical) must be answered,  Biya’s government must be told there was no Boko haram in the Far North and no war in the North West and South West regions, as has been aptly captured by the hundreds of Cameroonian influencers that took to the social media and, especially Richard Bona, whose musical clip on TikTok garnered over 8m views in less than 24 hours.

About those living in the geographical expression called the North West and the South West, the government of President Biya must be reminded that before, there was a functional southern Cameroons government in Buea, a House of Chiefs, a flag with two stars, a federal Republic backed by a federal constitution, a Tiko airport, a Bali airstrip, a marketing Board, a Cameroon Bank, a Powercam, free potable water and, you name them.

Pierre Peju in an article in the Philosophy Magazine titled: ‘Questions Children Ask: Before Something Existed, What Was There’, holds that such a metaphysical question smacks of the beginning of the end of what is. To gauge the difficulty in Minister Celestine Courtes’s mind, you need to imagine the first photo of yourself taken when you were still in the crib. Even minuscule and tiny, you were already “you”: therefore someone and therefore something.  Minister Celestine Ketcha Courtes’s question is not different from that of the 12-year-old Sophia in Stephanie Machal’s work when she persistently asked the parents: ‘Mom, Dad, before I was born, who was there?’.

Minister Celestine Courtes might have asked the question: ‘What was there before?’ for purely egocentric and political reasons. Yet, philosophers have grappled with the question of “What was there before” from time immemorial. Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966), Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest was the first to propose a systematic framework on how to begin understanding the thorny question from a philosophical standpoint. His Big Bang theory holds that the universe was first just a tiny dot some 15 million years ago and because of pressure and counter pressure,  it exploded in different directions into the shape that the world has today. This implies that if the tiny dot wasn’t there in the first place,  there wouldn’t have been any world as we have today.

Other cosmologists, philosophers and theologians simply came to the conclusion that ‘In the beginning was the “word” and the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ This therefore implies that God was there before any other thing or humanity was created. Yet, to be fair with Celestine Ketcha Courtes, leaders who are not guided by God always have the temptation of arrogantly asking what was there before when the beneficiaries of a project think their ‘best’ is not good enough. Because of the pressure that he comes across from development enthusiasts, the President of the Muteff Village Development Union, would have long asked such a question to Muteffians. But from hindsight, he exercises caution because he has come to understand that it’s the hallmark of cooperative and bottom-up (rather than top-down) leadership.

Apparently, Biya’s Minister,  Ketcha Courtes benefited from the Muslim culture of remaining silent even when unjustly provoked. In real democracies where accountability is the watchword, she would have since been pressured to apologize and do the needful by resigning. Unfortunately….

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