The words slogan and sloganeering have about two definitions, but for the purpose of this write-up, we are going to adopt the ones found in the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, International Student Edition. It defines a slogan as “A short phrase used for advertising something”. It also looks at the word as “A short phrase used by a political party or group of people”.
When it comes to sloganeering, the dictionary looks at it as “the use of slogans, especially by politicians who want to communicate a simple message that people will remember”. It emphasizes that “This word shows that you do not approve of people who do this”.
Away from definitions, it is important to point out here that President Paul Biya upon taking power in November 1982 coined a programme which was actually a summary of a series of codes that were intended to be the main guides and principles his government was going to work to achieve. That programme was known as “The New Deal”, later to be code-named or broken down to “Rigour and Moralization” and it was given some seemingly concrete shape when late Minister Francois Sengat Kuoh wrote the book “Communal Liberalism” and gave President Biya the authorship.
“Rigour and Moralization” made a lot of waves to the point where almost everyone saw in it dreams of a society where mediocrity would be kicked in the ass and meritocracy placed on a shiny pedestal. Thus, artistes picked on it and spread it through sound tracks, sketches and pieces of drama; it sounded the dawn of a new era where tribalism, favouritism, nepotism and all other attendant ills like bribery and corruption would find no fertile ground to breed.
As the years swept by with President Biya ignoring his own key promises to the people, it began to dawn on the minds of a cross section of the population that “The New Deal”, “Rigour and Moralization” and “Communal Liberalism” were in effect mere slogans that had nothing to do with President Biya and his governing class that was busy ridding the State of financial resources and carting same abroad.
When this set of slogans faced mixed fortunes in the 1990s, the President and his strategists redefined their approach in 2004 and came up with yet another ‘programme’, this time it was called “Greater Achievements” in English, though the French appellation was more telling; “Grandes Ambitions”. He secured a 7-year mandate on those counts and it was only at the end of the mandate that a wider section of the public understood that the era was actually one of casting only ambitions, with little or no work done. Another slogan had just slipped down the throats of the people!
Even the realization that for seven years “Greater Achievements” ended as mere words and so much ranting from a regime that excels in making people dream, dreams that never come true, did not put such a seemingly ‘promising’ strategy to sleep. Instead, in 2011, the governing CPDM came out to agree with the people that the ambitions, nothing but ambitions they spent 7 years to cast were going to be transformed into veritable achievements within the next seven years or why not less.
That is how “Major Accomplishments” came into being, or call it “Grandes Realization” in French for a greater understanding. Five years into the “Major Accomplishments” era, the super highways promised are yet to see the light of day, electricity load shedding is still the order of the day, several rural and urban communities are yet to enjoy potable pipe-borne water, road accidents are still claiming scores of lives daily and the list is long. Another slogan is quietly whistling by and there are already talks of “Greater Evaluations” to mark the next mandate that would either be anticipated or commenced in 2018.
Cameroonians in their own struggle for change, appear to have been contaminated by President Biya and his CPDM cohorts; they have reduced their struggle for change into mere words, slogans that fill the internet, particularly facebook where they come up and shout down the regime with names like: “Cameroon after Biya”, “Cameroon Political Agenda”, “Paul Biya Must Go”, “No Biya for 2018”, “Cameroon Youths for Change” and so on and so forth.
In as much as these slogans are important when it comes to formatting and reformatting the minds of the wider public, the message from Etoudi is getting clearer daily; that only action, sustained action can get President Biya up from slumber and out to retirement. Such action must be coordinated and well executed to ensure success; in fact, it should not even include political parties, as they have collectively and individually betrayed the true aspirations of the wider public for change. They did so by giving up the struggle unilaterally, by losing faith at a time the masses so dearly needed leadership to take their destiny into their own hands.
To graduate from slogans to concrete action, Cameroonians need to develop faith in the cause and stay optimistic that the future is bright. Talking about such faith, Sir William Osier said in 1910 that; “Nothing in life is more wonderful than faith…the one great force which can neither weigh in the balance nor test in the crucible”. This means where there is no faith in a cause, there will be no will power, there will be fear and there will be failure due to lack of action.
It is important for everyone involved or intending to be involved in this struggle for change in Cameroon to align with Mike Murdock when he said; “Beginning is half the victory in any enterprise”. That thought is followed up by Christopher Morley who said “Big shots were only little shots that kept shooting”. The insistence here is on faith, commitment and perseverance- consistency in the pursuit of set goals.
As we all plan in our little corners to make the difference in this struggle, the convergence of views and the encamping of all ideas and efforts is essential. One thing, however should remain on our minds; that to spend time sloganeering is simply facing President Biya and his people on familiar terrain. This line of wisdom must always stay glued to our hearts; “Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength”