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News Analysis: Games SDF Bureau Members Play With Assembly Speaker 

By Peterkins Manyong

One month ago, something very significant occurred at the National Assembly. For the first time, President Biya’s wish, that the immunity of a Member of Parliament be lifted, met with stiff resistance from MPs, including those of the ruling CPDM. As a consequence of the delay or through some contrivance with Assembly authorities, Dieudonne Ambassa Zang, the MP in question, skipped. That is not the most disturbing part of the story.

What the Cameroonian public is yet to come to terms with is the fact that two SDF top MPs, Hon. Joseph Mbah Ndam, Assembly Vice President, and Hon. Cyprian Awudu Mbaya, the Assembly Questor, played the devil’s advocate. They argued that the facts about Ambassa Zang’s culpability were not clear and that the Biya Regime was out to settle scores with the MP who is a former minister. It is common knowledge that Ambassa Zang was a thorn in the flesh of CPDM Assembly authorities; he was the most ardent critic of most government bills.

It was natural for the SDF to rejoice that the CPDM house, which it had been struggling to pull down, had caught fire on its own. But to have championed the move was profoundly suspicious. Numerous were those who were convinced that Mbah Ndam and Awudu Mbaya saw in the lifting of Ambassa’s immunity their own fate. Unequivocally stated, they too would not escape corruption charges if the armour that shielded him from prosecution were removed.

This leads us to the subject of our analysis – the games SDF Bureau members play with Assembly Speaker, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril. To begin, it should be recalled that, SDF MPs, led by the same Mbah Ndam, commenced the chameleon game in the Assembly by voting Cavaye as House Speaker soon after their entry there in 1997. The majority of Cameroonians, including Fru Ndi, were shocked by this unexpected move, which Mbah Ndam defended on grounds that the SDF needed posts in the Assembly Bureau and needed CPDM’s support.

Cavaye soon reciprocated the gesture by assigning Mbah Ndam to lucrative missions abroad. At one time, Mbah Ndam was authorised to attend conferences into two countries -Equatorial Guinea and South Africa, on the same day. Two countries so far apart from each other that not even the dragons of the legendary wizard, Medea, could enable him shuttle between both countries. He was paid a mouth watering allowance of FCFA 250,000 each for both missions. Mbah Ndam was later to be voted unanimously by CPDM MPs during an Assembly session, which the SDF boycotted to represent Cameroon at the African Parliament.

Besides official missions, the SDF Parliamentary Bureau members often found staggering sums in their bank accounts, origin of which they only knew when they started agitations embarrassing to the New Deal Regime. On such occasions, Cavaye and Gregoire Owona, Minister Delegate at the Presidency in Charge of Relations with the National Assembly, would remind them of "the rainy days" and warned of dire financial consequences if such agitations continued. Besides official missions, SDF Bureau members and their families benefited from contracts awarded by the National Assembly. The public only became aware of this when a row broke out in the Assembly over a contract awarded to the son of an SDF Bureau member.

It is believed that most of the theatrics – the boycotts and seizures of microphones from CPDM MPs during stormy sessions, were stratagems to hoodwink the public into thinking that the SDF was still committed to causing the "earthquake" which Fru Ndi had promised before the SDF entered the Assembly in 1997. It is noteworthy that, during SDF’s first mandate in the Assembly when he was supposed to be at his most radical, Mbah Ndam ignored an important Party reorganisation assignment because he wanted to attend to Cavaye who was in poor health.

It could easily be believed that,  like Chaucer’s blind character, January (whose eyes opened only when his wife, May and lover, Damian, were committing adultery in front of him) the SDF Chairman was unaware of what was happening. Far from it.  Fru Ndi proved those who thought so wrong, first, by maintaining Mbah Ndam as Parliamentary Group leader despite late Ngwasiri’s revelation of the fact. Fru Ndi later watered down the efforts of Jean Michel Nintcheu, Littoral Regional Chair, who championed the protests against constitutional amendment in 2008, by instructing SDF MPs to attend the session that passed the amendment bill.
In fact, Mbah Ndam facilitated the exercise by tabling a bill citing those portions of the Constitution that should be revised.

It is also noteworthy that, Biya drew his inspiration to announce the amendment of the Constitution from the SDF. The party, acting from the recommendations of the "Unholy Trinity" comprising Mbah Ndam, Emmanuel Yoyo and Awudu Mbaya, amended the SDF constitution in 2006, giving Fru Ndi sweeping powers, including the power to appoint the Secretary General of the Party and mayors over elected councillors.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Awudu Mbaya had to replace Yoyo as Questor when the electorate called it quits with the latter on July 22, 2007. Today, Awudu is not only heading the parliamentary unit for climate change, with enough funds to start a station (a privilege his party doesn’t have), he is also chairman of the follow-up committee on the execution of the Public Investment Budget, PIB. Only someone in whom the regime has absolute confidence can head such an important government unit.

Awudu has the saving grace that he still visits his constituency. Mbah Ndam, on the contrary, is so engrossed with Cavaye-engineered activities that he seldom visits his own constituency. Hence, the decision by the electorate to sanction him by voting out Elias Nwati, his candidate, in the recent district election in Batibo.

One of Mbah Ndam’s latest gimmicks is the role he played in the PC Fonso affair with Cavaye. Hon. Fonso has been tricked twice to go on mission when he should have addressed the Assembly as eldest member, the latest being a mission to Gabon. Mbah Ndam reportedly stopped Hon. Fonso from convening a press conference and acquainting the public with the facts.

Politics is a game of negotiations. Unfortunately, Biya does not recognise this factor which explains why Fru Ndi is facing court action after requesting dialogue with him. Mbah Ndam is fully aware of this irredeemable intransigence of the Regime, but for obvious reasons, continues flirting with its power brokers even after Joseph Banadzem, the present SDF Group leader, had confessed to the civil society in 2008 that SDF MPs had failed. The Ambassa Zang affair has taught Cameroonians many bitter truths about the SDF in Parliament.
 

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