Retired Catholic Arch Bishop of Douala, Christian Tumi, may want SDF Chairman, John Fru Ndi to hands down any opposition coalition leadership, but the only person Fru Ndi sees fit to play that role is no other than the Cardinal himself– Fru Ndi told Chris Fobeneh, Editor and Publisher of The Cameroon Journal in Bamenda last February.
During a dinner offered Fobeneh at his Ntarinkon residence, Fobeneh had asked Fru Ndi if he did be opened to the idea of an opposition coalition candidate whose leader isn’t himself but an SDF member or any trust worthy Cameroonian.
Fru Ndi responded that there was no such person he has seen from within the SDF. However, he related how he had once approached Cardinal Tumi to sell the idea of him (Tumi) leading the coalition and forming a subsequent transitional gov’t. He said Tumi turned it down, explaining that he received “a calling to serve all Cameroonians,” that taking up something that appears partisan would make him misplace the calling.
In a recent forum in Douala, Tumi appealed to Fru Ndi not to insist on heading such an opposition coalition in the event of one, ahead of the 2018 presidential election.
Tumi, who is widely known for speaking truth to authority in Cameroon, made the statement while holding talks with members of a Bamenda-based lobby group that is campaigning for an Anglophone President in 2018.
Speaking to the group leader, a rights activist and journalist, Colbert Gwain, Tumi emphasized that for an opposition coalition to defeat President Paul Biya in the forthcoming presidential election, Fru Ndi, whom he described as a person Biya fears and respects, needs to hold the hand of someone else and put forth as the candidate to lead the coalition.
He added that for such a coalition to be taken seriously, Fru Ndi should be seen to be overwhelmingly in support of the candidate since he (Fru Ndi) still enjoys much grassroots support as SDF chieftain.
Although the outspoken priest did not mention why the leader of any opposition coalition must not be Fru Ndi, political observers were quick to point to Fru Ndi’s already 25-years stay at the helm of the party, as well as his advanced age. Fru Ndi is 74.
Cardinal Tumi, it should be noted, is an influential figure in Cameroon. Just recently, when calls came from CPDM militants, urging 83-year-old incumbent Biya who has ruled the country for 34 years to seek another mandate, Tumi made his opposition very clear.
In an interview granted pan African magazine, Jeune Afrique, Tumi was quoted to have advised Biya not to heed such calls which he described as hypocritical. “See, we (referring to Biya and himself) are almost of the same age; and at this age, regardless of one’s physical endurance, we become weak….When one is old, he is good at advising, and can no longer run a country as small and complex as Cameroon.” Tumi said.
Fobeneh who’s based in the U.S had planned the February meeting with Fru Ndi to discuss the chances of Ndi championing a coalition against Biya in 2018. The idea as suggested by Fobeneh would see the SDF lead other parties into a coalition that takes on Biya at the election. The coalition would be led by anybody but Fru Ndi, Fobeneh said. Should the other parties agree, the SDF would then hold a convention and democratically elect the candidate who becomes the coalition’s Presidential candidate. At the event of victory for the coalition, the candidate would lead a transitional gov’t of four or five years, within which he revises the constitution, form an Independent Election Commission for Cameroon and call fresh elections during which political parties can then standalone if they choose to.
Fru Ndi, according to Fobeneh, appeared opened to the idea before later questioning who these so-called other opposition leaders are. And neither did he think there was any one competent enough in the SDF to be the coalition’s unique candidate.
Fobeneh persuaded him about the chances of picking someone with international credentials like the National Democratic Institute’s African Director, Christopher Fomunyoh, but Fru Ndi quickly dismissed the idea, contending that Fomunyoh has never been a card carrying member of the SDF.
Now, with Tumi refusing to lead and instead adding his voice to many others pressuring Fru Ndi to vet someone else but himself, there seems to be a hand writing on the wall for the era of John Fru Ndi’s stewardship in the SDF. And it ought not to be only about the SDF, the Adamu Ndam Njoyas, Bouba Bellos, Ekindis, Tchiromas etc, etc who still lord over political organisations that they founded more than a decade ago should follow the order.