Participating in Positive Change

Agendia Aloysius' line of duty

header photo

Old age and intellectual disservice to Cameroon

It was with mixed feelings that Cameroonians at home and abroad received the news of the death of former Minister of Culture, Ferdinand Leopold Oyono, on June 10, 2010. Ferdinand Leopold Oyono, who died at 81,  worked under Cameroon in different capacities such as Ambassador to the UN, minister, roving ambassador etc. I have deliberately used the phrase “worked under Cameroon” because in my opinion, he did not serve Cameroon or Cameroonians.

Oyono would be remembered by most average scholars for his novels such as The Old Man and the Medal and Houseboy. It must be admitted that these two literary works were master pieces, though Oyono was diametrically opposed to other writers like Albert Eyinga, Jean Marc Ella, Engelbert Mveng, Mongo Beti especially in the political leadership and the direction the country the country was and has been taking with Oyono as a key player.

 Oyono just like many of the “intellectuals” we have in Cameroon now was certainly more popular than the aforementioned not because of his literary works but because of politics and his longevity in public service. The works of these other writers are of the greatest inspiration to several Cameroonians. However, what irks many is the inability of Cameroonians intellectuals like Oyono to live what they preach, write or even use their academic and intellectual prowess into changing human life.

In his famous The Old Man and the Medal, Oyono wrote about the ordeals of Cameroonians/Africans under colonial rule and how some Africans collaborated with the colonialists to oppress the people. This is exactly the part some take exception with. Oyono served both in Ahidjo and Biya regimes till his death and one thing stands out clear, these regimes were and are all neo-colonial regimes serving the interest of France and of some other multinationals operating in Cameroon.  At no moment did the age-ridden worker paved way for the younger generation, neither did he use his position to make things better for the people who he was supposedly appointed to serve.

 It is not like saying he should have refused to work with the Ahidjo or Biya regimes. Why could Oyono not transform his savvy in The Old man and The Medal to advising the regimes on how to decolonise themselves and served Cameroonians people better? Oyono certainly did not, and neither did he do anything in his own ministry where he had all powers. Cameroonian culture has not been marketed nor promoted as part of the decolonisation process.

That is why some consider most Cameroonian “intellectuals” and “academicians” as giants who continue to swim in "affluence" with all impunity while the masses and the country at large continues to feed on poverty, corruption and injustice.

Oyono died while still in active service just like Mr Tessa Paul, then 80, the former president of the moribund and ineffective National Commission for the Fight against Corruption, CONAC. Also in this category is Enock Kwayeb, former President of the National Election Observatory (NEO) who died at about 82 still in service. The problem of clinging and dying in power is what has made Africa stagnate and it is what has made some ministers, general managers and others in positions of leadership in Cameroon think that they can do and undo, since they equally know and believe that they are above the law. Unfortunately, many Cameroonian "intellectuals" continue to support this.

We have a president who is old enough to retire through resigning or conducting transparent elections. There are army generals who are refusing to go on retirement and ministers, judges etc who have served in almost every cabinet changes since independence. The likes of Jean Baptist Beleoken, Bello Bouba Maigarri, Esso Laurent, Alexi Dipanda Mouelle, Felix Sebal Locco, Eboutou Belinga are just tip of the iceberg of the kind of gerontocracy which has taken Cameroon hostage and refused to bring about any positive change.


Go Back