ActualitéIf I Were Biya, I Would Resign - Cardinal Tumi
CameroonPostline.com -- Emeritus Cardinal Christian Tumi has told The Post in this exclusive interview that if he were President Biya, he would resign. Biya has thus far resisted calls to step from his post of 30 years, advanced in age and amid intense controversy surrounding election rigging, a slumping economy and a morally debased social system.
Cardinal Tumi says Biya and his cohorts should serve the nation as servants of God and should love to embrace change. He says that a nation cannot be built on evil doing… According to the Cardinal, the way things are going, Cameroon wouldn’t be much different in 2035. Read on:
The Post: Your Eminence, we understand you have just published a new book titled: “My Faith: A Cameroon to be Renewed”, could you give us an overview of this new work?
Cardinal Tumi: Well, first, the fundamental principle of the book is simply calling ourselves to conversion. I believe that the fundamental problem of Cameroon is, first and foremost, spiritual. And that is why we have many people embezzling from the Government treasury; insecurity and all that.
We have no moral conscience. So that was the principle that influenced me all along the book. And you know, we cannot govern God’s people without God. We must respect the natural laws that govern the people of God, the way God has seen it. Man is created in the image of God and we should never lose view of that fact.
So my idea was that if we put God aside, we cannot govern his people as they should be governed. Secondly, if we put God aside, we cannot develop the things God has created as they should be developed. God has even told us to conquer the world and develop it. But we cannot just develop those things anyhow. We have to also think about the future generation.
What are we leaving for the future generation? Are we who are living in Cameroon now just exploiting our forests and everything, animal life just for our own good? What about the children who will be born tomorrow? What are we leaving for them? So my principal idea was to call ourselves to conversion; a spiritual one. A country cannot be built on evil doing. It is rather built on doing good.
From your own experience, where did Cameroon go wrong? Is it from its very foundation or through mismanagement by its leaders?
As I said, I believe that whatever we do we see it as a vocation. That is once we have elected a person democratically, the person should know that his or her power comes from God and that he is not the supreme ruler of Cameroon. No! Cameroon has no supreme ruler. The only supreme ruler is God. Nobody else is supreme as far as God is concerned. And we should know, secondly, that he who has been called to rule is a servant.
Even Jesus himself said, “I have come to serve and not to be served.” The English expression talks of ‘civil servant”; those who are serving the civil community. The French equivalent of “fonctionaire”, you know, doesn’t fall in well. But those who are assigned positions in our State should know that they are, first, servants of the people.
Like Christ said, they will have to render an account of what they are doing. The President will render an account to God on how he governed Cameroon; Ministers shall render account of how they did their work as Ministers of Health, Education and so forth. This is because the good we do to man, we do it to God. The evil we do to man, we are doing it to God; we make ourselves enemies to God.
Somewhere in your book that was reviewed in The Post, you intimated that the Cameroonian leadership, has ‘ears but cannot hear, eyes but it cannot see.’ Is this book of yours meant for the conversion of the present leadership or is it for the future generation?
Everybody knows my opinion on those political issues and leadership. Before the elections, I said I had told somebody that if I were Paul Biya, I would resign, because for more than 30 years in power, at the age of almost 80, I would love to see a change. Change is always good.
You know, that is why the Catholic Church says as a Bishop, once you have attained 75 years of age, you should apply to leave power. That is what I did; that is what Bishop Awa and others did, so that a younger person, who is still active and agile, can continue. So change is good for the Church as well as for society. Even in the United States, the most a President can do is eight years if he is good. But for Cameroon, I don’t know whether the people have the freedom or the power to change their leaders.
They should have the power to change their leaders. You know, since independence, I have never known a single transparent election in Cameroon, even when we had the one-party system. Before the votes arrive in Yaounde, the results were already being announced while the people were still carrying the votes on their heads from the villages. This is not serious.
You just said that since independence, you have never known a transparent election in Cameroon. What do you make of the new biometric system just introduced in the electoral process?
In itself it is not bad. But, like the other Cameroonians, would that solve the problem? We, the Bishops, in 1993, had made the statement that “we need separation of powers.” Is ELECAM independent like independent electoral commissions in other countries? Why could we not call it Independent Electoral Commission? All the people who are there are appointed by the Government. The Government made consultations but did not take account of what the people said. They just appointed them and that is why it is creating tension. You know that many of the members are from the party in power…
But they did take an oath to stay neutral and do their work?
Yes, they have taken an oath not to criticise ELECAM. And if you have taken an oath not to criticise, it means that if anything is going wrong against ELECAM, you are not allowed to say anything publicly against it. All you can do is to resign.
You did mention earlier that in any political system, change is good. The SDF just concluded its eighth Convention in Bamenda. To some Cameroonians, Chairman Fru Ndi has been there for 20 years and more, and it would be good for him to leave...
You see, what concerns political parties is a different thing from governing a people, a whole nation. It is not Cameroonians deciding, but where you want Cameroonians to decide, you should organise things in such a way that the people are free to decide. If they decide that a farmer somewhere should be their President… Alright! They should have the possibility of changing the person, democratically. But when it comes to a party, a party is a party.
I don’t attach much importance to the president of a party for it is not the same thing as being the President of a nation. My opinion is that if the people want Biya to be a life President and they decide that through a transparent election, I have no war to wage. It is the people’s decision. But is that the case? That is the problem. Elections are organised in such a way that the same person will always win.
Q: Coming back to your book, the reviewer seems to find it based more on the Catholic doctrine. Can a Moslem Cameroonian be comfortable reading it?
No, I wrote as a Catholic and from the moral teachings of the Church that influence me. There is no doubt about that. But what one should ask is, is it true or false? It doesn’t matter from where the truth comes; whether it is a Moslem who is saying it or so. My scientific approach should be; is what this person is saying the truth?
But, of course, we have this weakness in Cameroon that when somebody says something, they don’t look at what he says as right but from where he comes from. The devil as well can say the truth and he has said it. When he said that Christ was the Son of God, was it a lie? But he remains the devil.
You said that we cannot govern a country without God. But today, there is of proliferation of churches and other religious sects in Cameroon. Is there something wrong with this?
No. It shows that man is looking for the spiritual. That is, the material no longer satisfies man, which is why there is this multiplication of churches.
In a way, it is not as bad as that. When I took part when Pope John Paul II called together all the Cardinals in Rome, and we were to look at the Church today, we examined the new religious movements. We call them new religious movements and not sects. A sect is pejorative. They are good things. All is not negative because it shows that the human being is no longer satisfied with the material and he is looking for what is truly eternal; what is truly valuable.
But the way they go about it, some do it for commercial reasons. So we concluded in Rome that we should not call them sects but new religious movements. If they are not from God, they will disappear. If they are from God, we cannot do anything. That is what was said about the Catholic Church. It was considered a sect in relation to the Jewish religion.
And of all those (branded) as sects in the time of the Old Testament, it is only the Catholic Church that has persevered till this day and she will continue to be till the end of time, because Christ Himself said “I am with you till the end of time.” And the Catholic Church is of Divine origin which is progressing. It is not because of our sanctity. It is because Christ is the Head of it.
Could we know what progress the Catholic faith has made in Cameroon?
It is growing. Here, in Douala, no sooner than we build a Church than it becomes too small. We are opening Parishes and this is a sign of its growth of a body. The Catholic Church is growing steadily. Even these young men who are going elsewhere, there is a movement back to the Church because they don’t find anything new that they cannot find in the Catholic Church. It is only the Catholic Church that has all the needs of salvation. Other movements have, but not all.
In your recommendation for a conversion, whose responsibility is it to initiate, to effect this conversion? Is it those in leadership, Cameroonians as a whole? Who?
No. Everybody! Whatever we are doing, if we do it well, we are renewing the country. If the head of the country is ruling well, fine and well. And as I told you, he has a responsibility before God. Every one of us has. All of us are responsible for the renewal of Cameroon because it is only us who can renew the country. So everybody is involved in this renewal.
In 2006, you published a book titled “The Political Regimes of Amadou Ahidjo, Paul Biya, and Cardinal Tumi, Priest.” In it, you were still advocating the need for a change, have you seen any changes so far?
No, I have not seen any change. Some even thought I was against the regime. I am not against the regime. If they think so, they should also criticise what I have written. What I write is my straight talking of which I have a right. I have a right to make my opinion known. At my age, I am one of very few Cameroonians who is still at this age. Very few people are of my age. I was 82 yesterday (15-10-2012).
Is the book already available in the market?
Yes, it is available in Kumbo and Bamenda; that is in the Bishop’s House. But it has not been launched here.
Is it in English or French?
No, there are two books in all. I wrote it in French and then translated it into English. There are two books. Completely different but the content is practically the same.
When is the launching?
It is the St Joseph’s Parish, Bonaberi that wants to launch it. I am waiting for them. But the books are being sold already by Messapresse.
At what price?
I think it is FCFA 6.000.
Chapter four of your book, according to Dr. Emma Ngang Osong’s review, is the longest and is focused on corruption…
Talking about corruption in Cameroon, you know I attack it from quite a number of ministries. I was still in Bamenda when we started fighting against corruption. That was in 1975, when the Bishops of Bamenda and Buea brought out a letter on corruption. Fighting against corruption did not begin today. We, in the English-speaking part of this country, we had foreseen it.
And Bishop Paul of blessed memory and Bishop Awa wrote a pastoral letter on corruption in Cameroon. And we, a group of Protestant and Catholic Christians organised a conference in Bamenda and the Governor of the Northwest Province, then, Abouem a Tchoyi, told Yaounde that we were being subversive. So we were nearly arrested. But corruption, it continues and continues.
Lately, we have heard of the arrests, trial and imprisonment of top government officials because of corruption...
In that case it is not corruption. It is embezzlement. There are two things here. Corruption is influencing somebody to take a decision contrary to the decision he would have taken if he were not influenced by money. Like a man who wants to be employed pays something to somebody, that is corruption. But embezzlement is stealing.
So that’s it. But what I am against is that they should not keep the people too long in prison without judging them, to keep a man too long in prison without judging him is injustice. And the man could sue the State. And if we were in a state of law, you know, the man could claim damages against the state. But this is not the case. Nous ne somme pas un etat de droit.
But what do you make of the recent arrest, trial and incarceration of Marafa and the others for embezzlement?
Yes, if it has been proven that they stole, then the law decides. And the decision of the Judges should not be influenced by politicians.
Many people think instead of just jailing the people it were better the Government tried to recover the stolen monies and invest into some development projects.
But the two are not contradictory. You can still bring back the money and go to prison. There are hundreds of other Cameroonians who are in prison today for having stolen may be, bananas and things like that. Why should this be an exception of not going to prison? My opinion is that they should be proved guilty. I have met one of them who is in prison and he told me that he is just waiting to be proven guilty.
We understand you are traveling to the US. Could we know what your mission is in that country?
I have been invited there by the Diocese of Delaware. They are celebrating the African Day there. Every year, they invite some African Bishops; so this year I was invited. I will be there for five days and will do some contacts. And secondly, I will enter into dialogue with some universities in the State of Delaware to see how they can work with us in the St. Jerome’s Catholic University of Douala.
You will be giving a presentation on the contemporary challenges facing education in Cameroon.
Yes, and the role of the missionaries in education.
And what about that?
Just to show that my approach will be positive; that the first schools in Cameroon, for example, were Catholic and Protestant schools. The first good dispensaries and hospitals were owned by these Christian missions. So they did not just preach the Gospel; they also looked at the human person. If you were in pains from suffering, they had to help you stand.
You cannot preach the Gospel to someone who is in pain. So there is no contradiction between evangelisation and development. The two go together. That’s why in every Diocese in Cameroon, there is a committee for development, mostly made up of the lay people.
Talking about education in Cameroon, we have a situation where most of the youth, once they have attained high school or so, they prefer to go abroad for greener pastures. Don’t you think this has contributed to the low level of development in Cameroon?
No. I don’t blame those who look for greener pastures. A young man has to build his future. If he cannot do it in his country; you want him just to sit there? No. I encourage him to go somewhere else, be it in Africa or in Europe. Development is what God said that man should go out to the whole world for.
A Cameroonian who is working in South Africa is developing Africa; a Cameroonian who is working in any other country in the world is developing the world. But we should first make sure we develop where we are because if we are developing Cameroon, we are participating in the development of the whole country and the globe as a whole.
So the problem of unemployment is a problem not only in Cameroon but all over the world. So, therefore, I think our system should be so reorganised in such a way that we should have many more technical schools. Like the former Ombe Technical College. When we were children, it was wonderful. There are quite a good number of former students from there who established on their own.
Your Eminence, if you had any advise on what shape President Biya’s programme of turning Cameroon into an emergent nation by 2035, what would that be?
Looking at the way things are going, I wonder whether we would be much different in 2035. The President had said that the whole country will be one big project, this year. But where are the projects? Lom Pangar, and the dams, that is all we are talking about. It is good, but go to the other countries around us. The other day I was in Equatorial Guinea. Ten years ago, they were nothing. But today, you need to go to Equatorial Guinea and see what is happening there. Chad, the Congo.
These are countries that I recently visited. But when you come to Cameroon, there is nothing. What I will advise is that we should create room for road infrastructure. Can you imagine and do you know that people, who go to Mamfe, prefer going up to Bamenda, before going down? Why? Because the road is good. But it is long and more costly for them because it takes almost the same time or even double to go from Kumba straight on to Mamfe. The road is so bad. Why?
You just mentioned countries around us that are advancing whereas Cameroon is going backwards; even football which used to be the pride of the nation seems to be declining. The other day, Cape Verde taught Cameroon a lesson...
We won, but we did not qualify.
Some people see this as a measure of the depth of our decline.
I don’t like to associate with football. Football is a game. But, you know, our team is already getting older and older. In other countries they are getting younger and younger. It is, as many say and I will ask this question, ‘is tribalism involved in the choice of members of the team?’
I don’t see how that can be possible; that you will choose a player because he is of your tribe. So it depends on how the players are prepared. In Europe, there are professional footballers. They prepare all the year round to be ready for any eventuality. But we, I think we don’t have the means to have professionals in our country.
Any message which you would want to pass to Cameroonians, especially the youths?
No. All I try to pass across is to the youths. You know, we adults have been shelved into the archives. But if you have a future to build, and I always tell the youths; if they want to build a future, they should love work well done. They should avoid the habit of smoking and drinking wine and alcohol. They should drink, rather, more water.
Interviewed by Francis Tim Mbom