Cameroon: A Country Run Like a Village Provision Store

The Colbert Factor:

Cameroon: A Country Run Like a Village Provision Store

– Here, “the 80-year-olds are callimg meetings of 70-year-olds to decide which 60-year-olds should retire”.

Colbert Gwain

If there is one thing that sets Muteff apart on the world stage, it is the fact that what happens there sometimes has national, regional, and global significance. At the early stages of its villagehood, Muteff boasts a generation of vibrant local elites with one of them being my uncle’s son, Bobe Jacks Sani, proprietor of the lone provision store in the village. This is because the other equally vibrant and capable elites judged that for the community to attain its stated Balanced Development Goals (BDGs), there was need for diversification rather than concentrating efforts in one direction.

Although conscious of the fact that he was the lone provider of necessities in the young upcoming community, Bobe Jacks Sani, oftentimes never appreciated the need for his constant availability as a public service provider. Even as initially, his store was the attraction of the whole community and he was being hailed as a blessing to the village (given that villagers were spared the burden of covering long distances to either Abuh or Fundong to acquire such basics), the passage of time made him begin to offer ‘epileptic’ services to the community. As he was wont to be on his feet as many times as possible within the year (to take care of his other businesses in and out of the community), he could see a customer approaching his store and he would go ahead to lock it up, under the pretext that he was in a hurry to meet up with other business appointments elsewhere.

Pleas from desperate villagers who at times could be rushing to the store early morning or late afternoon to purchase basic ingredients like salt or oil after noticing a shortage or complete lack during the cooking process, would not induce Bobe Jacks to spare a second of his time to serve them. He would rather advise them to go and come back upon his return or rush over to Abuh or to distant Fundong and buy the goods needed. He could at times lock up the provision store and stay out for a week or two before returning to the village. No apologies offered. He would expect villagers who complained to his hearing about his long absence to rather apologize for not knowing that he had other important appointments that could be more beneficial to him and the community, elsewhere.

As desperation began to set in, other vibrant village elites were finally forced to indulge in the provision store and other accessories businesses to salvage the needs and wants of the equally vibrant community members in real-time. With stiff competition in service delivery becoming the new common in the community, Bobe Jacks Sani’s once towering influence began to diminish and his business started wrapping up gradually until successive family members finally closed the once bustling shop.

Events of the last two weeks in Cameroon where the prolonged and unexplained absence of the President of the Senate, Marcel Niat Njifenji, virtually held down parliamentary business until his return to the country and the Senate House at the close of this business week, are a demonstration in triumphant detail, that Cameroon is run like a village provision store and, in like manner that Bobe Jacks Sani managed his store at the enigmatic Muteff Market Square (MMS). For a country to be taken hostage by the gerontocracy at the helm of the State, smacks of stagnation and heightened desperation. This is at a moment when a majority of Cameroonians lack access to necessities that people elsewhere take for granted: water, electricity, jobs, security, nutrition, decent pay, fuel, roads, healthcare, and you name them.

How comes it about that Cameroonian youths and infants would be dying for lack of access to malaria treatment and the gerontocrats at the helm of state would afford to run a Senate House that contributes virtually nothing to the growth of the country? Could that house not just be another name for an old-age health insurance scheme/policy?

Granted that the word senate is related to the Latin word senex, meaning “old man” and that Cicero wrote that: “They wouldn’t make use of running or jumping or spears from afar or swords up close, but rather a wisdom, reasoning, and thought, which, if they weren’t in old men, our ancestors wouldn’t have called the highest council the senate”, many are Cameroonians who aren’t seeing any wisdom from the leadership of Cameroon’s senate. This is because the standards of living continue to deteriorate as day follows night, with no end in sight. And this, as most pieces of legislation continue to increase hardships on the ordinary wo/man to the effect that most people see government efforts today as being aimed at fighting the poor rather than fighting poverty.

Just like in Muteff where the inability of Jack Sani’s lone provision store to satisfy all members of the community led to frustration and desperation and, in the process ignited the opening up of other stores, the prolonged oligarchical rule at the helm of the state has pushed Cameroonians to contemplate creating other stores like the “Ambazonian” store, the “Coalition” store and recently, the “Transition Government” store.

Like the Chinese who complained bitterly before things could begin to improve during the old Communist Party days to the effect that: “the 80-year-olds are calling meetings of 70-year-olds to decide which 60-year-olds should retire”, the 90-year-olds in Cameroon are calling meetings of the 70-year-olds to decide lwhich 60-year-olds should go on retirement and leave them to continue to hold on to power till thy kingdom come. And this is in Cameroon where it is estimated that over 40% of its youthful population is below 25 years old.

Legislators and policymakers could do a good job of proposing incentives for the elderly to go on retirement with full pay to serve the embarrassment we are experiencing today at the helm of the State. They could also borrow a leaf from Pope Paul VI who introduced appropriate measures that bar cardinals above 80 years from taking part in electing a new pope. The move was intended to make sure no pope was ever elected who was above 80 years old.

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