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Governor Lele Lafrique X-rays ‘Bamenda Man’ Syndrome 

“The conception that the Northwesterners are hot potatoes to handle is subjective. That the Region is a hotbed of politics is true. That unnecessary revolutions are brewed here is not true.

I said the first conception is subjective because it depends on the individual who interacts with the Northwesterners. If you are to deal with a Northwesterner, you have to deal with him in all fairness and in respect to the laws and regulations. If you fail to do this, expect even the least of Northwesterner to stand on your way.”

Mr. Governor, Sir, kindly accept our best compliments of the season. Thanks, also, for granting us this interview. We shall begin by requesting you to situate or put in context the Northwest Region, its socio-economic potentials, people, prospects and more…

Governor Adolphe Lele LafriqueGovernor Adolphe Lele Lafrique 

 

Thank you very much for the continuous strive to accompany Government’s efforts to inform and educate both our national and international audiences on what is happening in our beloved country, Cameroon.

The Northwest Region is found in the western highlands of Cameroon. It has a surface area of 17.304 meters square. It is bordered to the Southwest by the Southwest Region, to the South by the West Region, to the East by the Adamawa Region and to the North by the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It has a population estimate of about 1.8 million, distributed within the seven administrative Divisions which are Boyo, Bui, Donga-Mantung, Menchum, Mezam, Momo and Ngoketunjia.

The economy of the Region is predominantly agriculture, with over 80 percent of the population engaged in this sector. Livestock production is also a strong sub-sector. The Region produces rice, potatoes, beans, maize, plantains, cocoyam, cassava and yams as food crops. The Region also produces cash crops like cocoa, coffee and oil palm. The Region, particularly in Batibo is the capital of palm wine production in Cameroon. However, wine production in Batibo, though distributed across the country still lacks the infrastructure and technology to be produced on an industrial scale.

Talking about industries, this sector plays a limited role in the economy of the Region. Apart from some few agricultural processing industrial plants, the Region relies on its quarry industries that employ some few hundred workers.

The Region has unique attractions. It has undulating hills and valleys, crater lakes such as Lake Oku, Lake Awing and Lake Nyos. We have the Menchum and the Abbi Falls. Ranches such as Saddle Hill and Ndawara, constitute some of the touristic attractions of the Region. In addition to these touristic attractions, we have the Northwest traditional dances, its handicraft that is one of the finest in the country and some Royal Palace Museums like those of Mankon, Babungo and Bafut. Some of these riches are usually displayed in cultural festivals like the “Ngonnso” of the Nso people in Kumbo.

The people of the Northwest Region are very hard working. They are law abiding and hate to have their rights trampled upon.

The main prospects of the Region lie in its agricultural potentials. It is evident that, when the Bamenda-Enugu road and the ring road of the Region would have been completed, this potential shall be fully harnessed.

 The general conception is that Northwesterners are, generally, hot potatoes to handle; that the Region is the hotbed of politics and that unnecessary revolutions are brewed here. Do you buy this idea?

 The conception that the Northwesterners are hot potatoes to handle is subjective. That the Region is a hotbed of politics is true. That unnecessary revolutions are brewed here is not true.

I said the first conception is subjective because it depends on the individual who interacts with the Northwesterners. If you are to deal with a Northwesterner, you have to deal with him in all fairness and in respect to the laws and regulations. If you fail to do this, expect even the least of Northwesterner to stand on your way.

On the second concept, we should note that, the Region is the birthplace of the two major political parties the CPDM and SDF. In addition, we should note that, while the Region constitutes the second home of President Paul Biya, President of the CPDM party and Head of State, the Region is the first home to the SDF Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi. You can now understand why their militants will do everything to maintain a stronghold in this Region. This is why the results of elections have not produced an overwhelming dominant party in the Region.

With regard to the third conception, the unnecessary revolutions, if you should call them like that, have never and I know will not be brewed from this Region. The nationalist struggles in the 1950s and 1960s, the 1984 coup d’état, the February 2008 strike actions were all not conceived and implemented from the Northwest Region. On the contrary, just like other Regions of our country, the sons and daughters of this Region have always, in one way or the other, been playing key roles in the building of our national unity, fostering peace and development in our country. A clear testimony of this is that since independence and reunification of our country, Northwesterners have held important positions in our nation. The Region has produced a Vice President of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, four Prime Ministers and two Speakers of the National Assembly as well as other higher positions in Government, the judiciary, the legislature and the administration, just to name a few. You can attest that very few Regions can boast of this.

 Are they easy or difficult people to govern?

 Governance is an art. Governance is also a science. It is an art because it involves personal inputs and outputs not governed by the law of science. It is also a science because it involves the observance of basic rules, regulations, laws and principles. For you to make your governance easy or difficult depends on how you combine the art and science of governance.

Therefore, a people, not only the Northwesterners can be easy or difficult to govern, depending on the administrator.

 What, in your candid opinion accounts for the fact of the Northwest being the stronghold of political opposition in Cameroon?

 We cannot affirm that the Northwest Region is the stronghold of political opposition in Cameroon. The Region is a dynamic political zone just like the whole country. The political convictions of the people change according to the political dynamics of the country. In the early 1990s, we could hold that assertion, but we cannot do same today. The authorities of ELECAM can give you the exact figures, but I think in absolute terms, the ruling party had more votes than the opposition in last held elections in the Region.

 Where would you place this Region vis-a-vis the separatist Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, and general loyalty to the institutions of the Republic of Cameroon?

 In any democratic country, like Cameroon, there is the freedom of political expression and how our country should be governed. This is done by legalised political parties or associations. Anything not legalised is illegal. In my Region, I do not have any party or association registered in that name.

 Put in another way, what, would you say, is the level of patriotism of the Northwest people?

 Northwesterners are very patriotic. For you to notice this, verify during our organised National events like the 20th May-National Day, the 11th of February-Youth Day or the 8th of March-Women’s Day, you will see that all Northwesterners, no matter their social standings or where they find themselves do take part actively in these celebrations. You cannot do this when you do not have love for the fatherland.

The Region has produced some of the front-liners in the shaping of our present geo-political status. The likes of John Ngu Foncha, Augustine Ngom Jua, Solomon Tandeng Muna, Bernard Nsokika Fonlon, Hon. Lawrence Fonka Shang, Fon Solomon Anye Ndefru Angwafor III, H.E Philemon Yang and Ni John Fru Ndi are some of the shining examples of actors of Cameroon’s patriotism.

 Boundary issues and inter-tribal skirmishes seem to be the bane of the Northwest and one of the toughest challenges the average administrator faces here. You certainly have had to grapple with this headache. Can we know how and if the situation has stabilised for good?

 It is true that the Region’s main challenge to its development is persistent land conflicts. This phenomenon is staining the image of our Region. It is for this reason I am reminding my population that, all unregistered land belongs to the state. Traditional authorities are custodians of this land that has to be managed in the interest of our population. We should know that nobody was delivered with a portion of land and we shall not carry it away when we die. I am, therefore, calling on all stakeholders, especially our Traditional Rulers and elites to help the administration in its efforts in land conflicts management. They should be more, agents of peace building and peace keeping within our community.

 The Northwest also shares a common boundary with the neighbouring Federal Republic of Nigeria. Cattle rustlers and the terrorist Boko Haram sadists must be giving an administrator like you sleepless nights…?

 It is true that we share a land boundary with our brotherly neighbour Nigeria. It is also true that our country has been a subject of attack by Boko Haram terrorists based in Nigeria. It is also a fact that our Head of State, President Paul Biya has waged a war on this terrorist group. This is why we are observing all security measures to protect our borders, our population and their property.

 Maybe we should specifically ask if total calm has been restored in Bawuru, following the incursions by cattle rustlers from Nigeria

 After the Fulani graziers attack on some of our villages in Mechum-Valley Subdivision and the displacement of the population in the village of Bawuru, our forces succeeded to bring back order and calm in the area. The population benefitted from Government support of FCFA 27 million. The population has returned to their village after our forces secured the area.

 Northwest Fons appear to have failed their subjects by way of unnecessary wrangling, crave for political power and crass partisanship. By the way, is their union, NOWEFU still relevant, in your opinion?

 The Fons of the Northwest Region continue to assist the administration in administering the population and promoting the socio-cultural and economic development of the Region. Our Constitution gives all free Cameroonians the right to strive for political power, the Fons inclusive. I believe in the adage that says: “United we stand, divided we fall.” It is also in conformity to this that our liberty laws of 1990 brought about freedom of association. NOWEFU, bringing together in an association, some Traditional Rulers of the Region to debate and take actions of the development of their subjects will always be relevant. However, we should know that, we cannot use the successes or failures of an association like NOWEFU to judge the performance of traditional authorities who are at the head of a recognised and established institution in our country – the traditional Chiefdom or Fondom. Therefore, NOWEFU as an association cannot supersede a First, Second or Third class Fondom. Each Fondom is independent of the other and cannot be ruled by an association. However, this association can play an advisory role or act as a good lobby for the interest of its members.

 We think, Sir that the recent shift has been in the direction of pleasing the political powers that be, rather than serving as the veritable custodians of the people’s cultural heritage…all because of manipulation and the quest for cheap pecuniary interest…

 The role of the Traditional Rulers as stipulated in decree No 77/245 of July 15, 1997, is to act as auxiliary to the administration in the administration of the population within his Fondom. This role is centred on the promotion of peace and security, the socio-cultural and economic development of their people. If you have found out that some are not working in the interest of the people, the administration does not support that. However, I am sure your findings have shown that, the majority works for the interest of their people. If not, this institution would have lost its relevance. Furthermore, considering the recent decision by the Head of State to give salaries to our Traditional Rulers, it is expected that they will more than ever before demonstrate that, they merit it by promoting and working in line with the Decree organising their institution.

 The Ring–Road, Sir, is particularly counter–productive to the economy of the Region, if one were to go by its poor state or better still, by the snail speed with which it is being grudgingly done. True or false?

 The Ring–Road is the greatest wish of the Northwesterner as well as those operating within the Region. It also remains as one of Government’s top priorities that shall be realised with the available means. We are witnessing that the work is on-going. We are hopeful that the Government’s negotiation for funding and the emergency plan budget shall take this road into consideration.

 How would you assess the Region’s contribution to the GDP of the Nation?

 The Region is contributing its own quota in terms of its human, agricultural, natural and service resources to the Gross Domestic Product of the Nation.

 Lest we forget, the road network here; the total absence of industries must be a serious encumbrance to the otherwise productive enterprise of the people of your Region…

 You are right; we all agree that if the roads leading to, within and from the Region are in good condition, the productivity of the Region will be enhanced. We are expecting that the Bafoussam–Bamenda Road project shall be completed. The Government has promised to complete it. We expect that the road network within major towns in the Region like in Bamenda and Kumbo when tarred, shall ease the circulation of persons and goods.

 Your New Year wish for your people in particular and Cameroonians in general…

 My wish to the population of the Northwest Region is for all of us to more than ever before, double our efforts to assist the Head of State and his Government to maintain peace and security within our country, maintain the territorial integrity of our state and speed up the economic recovery of our state by effectively and efficiently realising the execution of the Emergency Plan in order to meet up with his objective of making Cameroon an Emergent Economy by 2035.

May I use this opportunity to wish the Head of State, the people of the Northwest Region and to the rest of the Cameroonians a happy and prosperous year 2015. May God protect and bless us all.

 Interviewed By Isidore Abah, Sarah Nduma Ekema, Yvonne Massa Ako, Nester Asonganyi, Yerima Kini Nsom & Charlie Ndi Chia

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