Sunday, September 23, 2018
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In Praise Of Bungled Projects 

By Azore Opio

Hello guys! It’s me again! You know, each time I lay down my pen with the good intention to relax; chomp some kola with dodoji (contri pepper) and chase the bitter blend with a foaming glass of chilled beer, some unusual happening piques my curiosity. Which often leads me to pick up the pen again. And lean on it.

The death of projects in Cameroon before they are even conceived has not been sudden. It started soon after the coup d’état miscarried. Since then, many projects, especially west of the Mungo, have died in the ‘wombs’ of crooked contractors.

And it is unlikely that their numbers will ever be reversed. And the government knows this, as evidenced by so many botched projects; Buea Mountain Hotel, Prisons Production Farm; Upper Farms (Buea) Ombe Technical College, Muyuka Poultry, Yoke power plant, Rural Technical Centre, RTC Kumba, RTC Nfonta, Dumbu Cattle Ranch in Donga-Mantung, and another one in Jakiri,  to name just a few.

The projects are tossed back and forth and eventually, crumbled. For lack of any more functional projects to reduce to rubble, the despoilers have turned their anger to embryonic projects. My curiosity about messed up projects in the Southwest Region took me down to Limbe. By the time my inquiry led me to the gates of Chantal Biya Foundation School, I was left in no doubt that a lot of contractors are disreputable, odious, mean-spirited thugs.

Most, after brutally plundering contract funds, transform from fiscal conservatives into free-wheeling playboys. Of course, we understand that the State takes next to never to pay up the contractors, but that is not a visa to tastelessly do a job at taxpayers’ expense. Chantal Biya Foundation School looks very much like a derelict fish town warehouse, a far cry from the amazing First Lady, with a stellar reputation for elegant, albeit sometimes overdressing.

Chantal was so heartbroken with her kinsman who shamelessly duped her. He was fired without a blink. The fisheries school added to my sense of disbelief. Everything seems to have been put in its proper place, yet not a single student has seen the inside of a fish at this school. Then the shipyard added more gloom to my already gloomy day. It is a poor carcass of the former skeleton that it was.

The docks at the yard are currently empty and no works are in sight. Bikoro Alo’o or Hallo, whatever, in his own right, ruined the shipyard with stunning success. It is now as useful as udders on a bull. At the cement factory, I drew a blank. It seems the experiment was over before it ever started. There is no sign of a quarry, no billowing dust. Nothing, but bare bush and some rusty containers. That is too bad.

Another project that has been hard to stomach is a building standing opposite the warders’ barracks in Buea. I think it was meant for the gendarmerie, or something. This house was constructed with heartbreaking results, which shocked even administrators. Upon completion, it looked like a clapboard contraption thrown together by a group of drunken carpentry students on internship.

For over a year, the edifice, initially rejected for handing over, was left to soak in moisture and drench in heat, swell and rot; its metal parts left to rust, pit and flake away. The paint to blister, fade and also flake away. All these at taxpayers’ expense. Now they have given the building a coat of paint; something similar to whitewashing a grave. It is just a miracle that the house is still standing on its foundation. The compound has, however, served as a lucrative vegetable garden.

If that house makes you feel bad, you need to take a trip to the new court premises. The blocks look like 19th Century residue. In fact, the old premises look more elegant. But not so at the old Delegation of Education – ceramic tiles lead from the entrance to a certain office and stop there. The grapevine whispers that the tiling cost a colossal amount of money, which we are not permitted to print here.

Another amazing demonstration of uninspired management is Alliance Franco-Camerounaise. A project throttled in its maturity. The cultural centre is now lodged in an idle bush. The lawn is scruffy. You can conveniently hunt and trap rodents there. Why not vipers for the soup bowl? Youngsters, who venture to Alliance Franco-Camerounaise to revise their notes in the bushy compound, do so at the risk of getting bitten by serpents and other assortment of vermin. And the hall leaks like a sieve.

Alliance’s kitchen, once a fortress of supreme cuisine, is no more than a refugee camp soup kitchen. It is a shameful failure. Have you heard about the stadium whose foundation stone Sports Minister Michel Zoah laid in Limbe, Bonadikombo (Mile 4) in December 2009? It has come to swell the list of "bogus" projects. A year later the soil in Bonadikombo was miraculously discovered to be unsuitable for the construction of a stadium.

Too swampy. And too expensive! As if the experts didn’t know about the swamp. Anyway, the stadium has found a new site in Ngeme, far away from the swamp. This stimulated another handshake between a Chinese engineer, Yan, and Zoah. When you search your mind, it would be a mistake not to see that our performance is not tuned for taste, nor fulfilment of public responsibility, but reckless mismanagement of public funds.

And the thugs, who execute these crimes, are often given rapturous receptions and rewarded with medals of excellence as if to elevate the "myth" of looting to greater heights. It is a bitter fact to swallow, but we have descended into a morally and spiritually decadent society where disturbing incidents like corruption, graft, and blasphemy have become normal in our everyday lives; where certainty, security and safety or peace of mind is lost.

We are enmeshed in unquantifiable depravity; leaders and managers have transmogrified into looters of public treasures without flinching, and pillagers of national resources with no conscience. This "no conscience" attitude seems to have even permeated the very foundation of socialisation into the moral life; the family! Forks and spoons, plates, cups, napkins are lifted even from Etoudi. All these are recipes for disaster!

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