The 2014 election of the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC, which started last April with the first phase, ended on November 25, during the 37th Synod Meeting in Bamenda.
A few days before the start of the Elective Synod Meeting, the PCC Synod Executive Committee, had conducted the second phase in the electoral process. In accordance with the Constitution of the PCC, the Committee dropped one of the three candidates in the race for the post of Moderator, after critically examining their letters of faith.
Rev. Johnson Tabe Besong was the dropped candidate, with Rev William Membong Abwenzo, the outgoing Synod Clerk, and Rev Samuel Forba Fonki, the Parish Pastor of PCC Bastos, progressing to the final phase of the election. Rev Fonki was finally elected Moderator.
First Real Election
Observers of the PCC are unanimous in the view that, since the Church gained its independence on November 13, 1957, never before has an election to the post of Moderator attracted so much public attention, as the 2014 election.
Though the Constitution of the PCC clearly states that the Moderator is democratically elected; that aspect of the Constitution had, over the years, been serving more as a window dressing.
The first phase of the election is done at the Presbyteries, after which the first three candidates in the elections, move to the next phase. But the tendency over the years had been that after the first phase, some candidates are force to withdraw because of pressure from the Synod Office. In the case where an incumbent (Moderator) or an outgoing Synod Clerk is a candidate, the pressure would be mounted for the other candidates to withdraw in his favour. It had thus become a tradition that a Synod Clerk was almost certain to be the next Moderator.
Purported Threat To Unity
Those behind the games of intrigues that forced other candidates to withdraw in favour of persons in the Synod Office, often raised fears of purported threat to peace and unity in the Church. What often happened when it came to the final phase of election was that some candidate stood unopposed. The final election was, thus, just a formality, since the new Moderator was already known in advance.
According to the results of 1st phase of the 2014 election, Rev Fonki, Rev Abwenzo, and Rev Tabe, respectively occupied the first three positions, and thus moved to the second phase of the race. With Rev Abwenzo being the outgoing Synod Clerk, some big shots in the PCC mounted pressure for Rev Fonki and Besong to withdraw from the race.
Things were different this time. Firstly, the outgoing Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Festus Asana, insisted on the respect of the Constitution of the Church and also resisted pressure to “hold up the hand of the Synod Clerk” and declare him his candidate.
No-nonsense Electoral Commission
The Electoral Commission that was appointed by the Synod Committee to organise the 2014 also played an important role. The Commission was comprised of four ordained pastors and five committed communicants of the PCC. The Chairman of the Commission was Rev Henry B. Fomuso, with Justice Rose Mbah as Secretary among others.
The Commission members proved that there are Cameroonians who can defy the dictates of even those who appointed them. Some members of the Synod Committee, who had thought that the members of the Electoral Commission would work according to their dictates, were rather embarrassed when the Electoral Commission insisted on the strict application of the PCC Constitution and the instructions contained in the 2014 PCC Election Procedure Booklet.
Meetings between the Synod Committee and the Electoral Commission were often stormy, as the latter would not condone any attempt to manipulate the electoral process, in favour of any candidate. According to information in an authentic copy of the minutes of one of the meetings that was held between the two Committees, which this reporter procure, the latter strongly questioned whether there are other Constitutions validly in use within the PCC. The Electoral Commission was firmed in telling the Synod Committee that: “The Constitution of the PCC is the fundamental Law of the PCC to which every other decision of the Church must conform. As a corollary, every decision which is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution is not only illegal, but null, void .”
Recommendations To Ensure Free, Fair Elections
In July, the Electoral Commission made seven important recommendations to the hierarchy of the PCC, which can enable the Church organise free and fair elections. The first recommendation was that: “The Moderator and the Synod Clerk should, neither participate nor interfere with the organisation and conduct of elections to the posts of Moderator and Synod Clerk”.
The Commission complained that the outgoing Synod Clerk, created quite some problems by usurping some of the functions of the Commission. The Commission complained that during the first phase of the elections, “the Synod Clerk refused to receive the list of candidates eligible for the posts of Moderator and Synod Clerk of the PCC, drawn up by the Electoral Commission, in consonance with the provisions of the PCC Constitution.”
Another recommendation of the Electoral Commission was that, such a Commission “should be empowered to oversee, organise and conduct the elections to the posts of Moderator and Synod Clerk of the PCC from the drawing up of the list of candidates to the proclamation of the results”.
Pressure On Candidates To Withdraw
The biggest pressure was mounted on Rev Fonki who was widely considered as the potential winner of the final election. The argument put forward was that he was still young, thus, will still have a chance later on. It is worth noting that Article 113 of the Constitution of the PCC states that a candidate for the post of Moderator or Synod Clerk should be at least 40 years old and at most 55 years old. Rev Fonki is now 48.
Rev Fonki will continue as the Parish Pastor of PC Bastos until December 31, when he will move over to Buea to formally takeover from Rev Dr Asana, who goes on retirement in January 2015. At 48, he is the youngest pastor to be elected as Moderator.