Ordinary citizens that we are cannot lay claim to being privy to the way and manner ordinary government business is carried out. But even without any substantive material to work on, we can make do with perceptions, many of which end up as the truth as can be attested by the regular scoops our tabloids feed us with from time to time. Government reshuffles, as the one of last October 2, sometimes confirm popular perceptions about what is happening within government. Even if guesses are not always a hundred percent right, some happenings inexorably lead us to believe that those who hold the knife and the yam are conscious of the yearnings of the ordinary people. Of course, the nuts and bolts around the performance of government ministers are, in the first place, felt by ordinary people because they are there to serve them and not necessary by the appointing officer who has to wait to ensure that the people’s aspirations or the urgent developmental needs, as is the case with Cameroon, are met. It is probably after a long period of time that the supreme decision-maker may come to realize that the minister was not actually working for the interests for which he or she was appointed. This, of course, explains the exacerbated dispiritedness sometimes shown by ordinary citizens towards the President of the Republic whom many hold accountable for their everyday woes.
Before the recent reshuffle of the government, anxiety had grown very high as issues of discipline and the noticeable absence of team spirit had become very perceptible in the functioning mode of the government. No issue had actually been brought to the public domain, let alone any of the aggrieved members of government complaining about their colleagues to the higher instances of the government architecture. But as time went on things continue to degenerate, causing the blocking of the required cohesion any government – especially one supposed to be working round the clock within the framework of an emergency plan in order to meet the requirements of the Vision ’35 target. Even after the reshuffle, no formal word came out to tell the citizenry that the bad weeds in the garden had been uprooted and thrown out of the garden. It was the President of the Republic who, two weeks later, literally threw a tool into the works by bursting open the abscess of government indiscipline which seemed to have grown too big, requiring the necessary purging to remove the nauseating pus. Hear the President as he addressed the council of ministers last Thursday: “you should constantly apply the following principles which are the driving force of senior State servants and nation-builders: discipline, team spirit, dedication, loyalty, integrity and patriotism.” Are we together with the President? Certainly not!
The President underscored the need to get Ministers-Delegate and Secretaries of State more involved in the running of government business. For too long, substantive ministers have taken these senior decision-makers in their own right, simply as presidential appointees to serve political objectives rather as nation-builders they are supposed to be? Their presence in many ministries is seen as an obstacle and their bosses make it a point of duty to ridicule them by never associating them in the running of the house. Sometimes the staff is even divided over loyalty to the Minister or to the Minister-Delegate or Secretary of State, creating an atmosphere of stalemate which is not conducive for progress. Many government projects have been known to be stalling simply because of the bad humour of cabinet colleagues. How can one expect good results from a government within which there are ministers who do not respect the head of government, going sometimes to even ridicule him or those who are not even in talking terms, who cannot answer a phone call or who simply do not answer official correspondence on issues which are sometimes crucial for the economic and social advancement of the country? The President of the Republic has reset the agenda, the goals to attain and the necessary discipline required to attain those goals. The Prime Minister and Head of Government, by these presidential pronouncements, has been given back all his prerogatives as the government’s master of discipline. No more excuses about erring ministers because, before the nation, he has been reminded of his responsibilities to keep the government flock under check.