The victory won by Cameroon to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations, AFCON, seems to be a poisoned cake or an egg that shines outside and stings inside. If things go on the way they are going, the offshoots would be auto-destructive.
Former Ghanaian leader, Jerry Rawlings, once described a merger of the opposition parties in his country as “Wedlock in a Padlock That Will End in Deadlock.” And the offspring of that marriage of the opposition turned out to be a prophecy, if not an observation-come-true, by any other name.
Except something is done between now and 2019, football lovers in Victoria and the Southwest Region and its environs, who were happy with the construction of a new stadium in that seaside town, in the hope that they would watch the 2019 AFCON on a home turf, will be disappointed. The 15,000-seater paddock constructed by the Chinese in Ngeme, cannot contain just the football enthusiasts in Victoria alone, not to talk of fans from neighbouring cities and the national territory, the continent and from around the world.
Of course, the towns that would host Africa’s best game have been chosen by Government authorities, namely: Yaounde, Douala, Bafoussam, Garoua – none of the matches will take place in any town west of the Mungo.
Hence, cities west of the Mungo are not fit to entertain and enjoy the African football festival and its economic and social accompaniments.
Equally, in the choice of towns earmarked for what they term ‘training stadiums’, the Northwest has been left in the cold. Out of the 36 training stadia; seven will be constructed in Yaounde and its surroundings, seven in Douala, six in the West Region, six in Southwest (Buea and Limbe) and six in Garoua. Thus, Bamenda or the Northwest Region will not watch even the training by any of the countries participating in the 2019 AFCON.
Like a commentator remarks; “It is rather funny that a Region like the Northwest, which is home to some big clubs in Cameroon football that have won the Cup of Cameroon and defended the country outside, and also home to three clubs in the Professional League, will be deprived of such a facility like the training stadium.
People of goodwill and fair-thinking observers are asking why most of these stadiums will be constructed in big cities where development has already taken place; whereas a place like the Northwest, where development is mostly needed, is sidelined.
Actors and their followers on both sides of the political divide have admitted football as the unifying factor in a fragmented polity like the Cameroons. Yet, it is on the same underlying unifying factor that the nation is further torn apart through the recent Government decisions after winning the AFCON bid.
Most of what is called ‘peace’ (just because of the absence of war), that Cameroon is said to enjoy, is thanks to football. It can be observed, in equal measure, that President Biya or his regime’s longevity in power is thanks to football.
And since President Biya regime is always eager to give an image to the external world that things are fine, no mater how internally rotten they are, Cameroon might sacrifice many things that could enable her emergence way before his 2035 mark, for football.
For instance, the anxiety to host the AFCON 2019 might cause the regime to ignore the fight against corruption by awarding contracts in cavalier manners and circumstances, with far-reaching effects, given that these are mega-financial investments. Corruption will, thus, grow more roots and, therefore, more difficult to be off-rooted.
The unemployment in Cameroon is in exportable quantities, but the rare employment opportunities that come up are mired in corruption and influence peddling. That is why ‘big people’s’ children will always find a job on the platforms of the contracts granted, while ‘small people’s’ children, who are even sharper, brighter or more talented, hardly do.
At the end of it, the contracts would not be well executed. The paddocks might fall below prescribed standards and everything would be lost, or the contracts might be executed in such a way that they serve only that 2019 event and nothing, thereafter.
This means that, after 2019, Cameroon might wait again some 42 years before hosting the AFCON. You and I know the I-don’t-care attitude of some members of the regime in place, because, they will not be there 42 years to come.
Secondly, the recent victories Cameroon has scored may also distract efforts at reforming football and cause the authorities to relapse into the status-quo ante, thereby abandoning political, economic and social reforms that could preserve national cohesion, peace and development for the country to naturally emerge.
Thirdly, all concentration might be directed towards hosting the 2019 AFCON, neglecting the economy and other sectors of national life and the end result would be the spelling of D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.
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