Truth: Magic wand of Biya's.

For nearly two months, there has been a vicious standoff between the Ministry of Sports and Physical Education and the Cameroon Football Association, FECAFOOT, almost to the point of a boxing bout.

The trophy of contention is the appointment, not of a boxing sparring partner, but a dozen officials as the technical team of the Indomitable Lions that were tamed under the coaching feet of Rigobert Song.



As simple as the issue is at face value, there are two legal texts; one a decree and another a convention that appears to be at variance with each other.

FIFA, the supreme authority in such matters, was lost in interpreting both legal instruments. It just advised, even without a yellow card to either side, that they should meet to review the convention, which appears to meddle into the domain of FECAFOOT. I hear that has not been done.

I have read some reports that the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, was also unable to break the ice.

The Association of Amateur Football Clubs of Cameroon, ACFAC, and the Cameroon Professional Football League, LFPC, also brought themselves into the squabble, by taking the matter to the Chamber of Conciliation and Arbitration.   

There were reports that the conciliators issued two contradictory decisions within two days. Still no solution.

It was not until within two weeks of the World Cup qualifying match against Cape Verte, that I read other reports of intervention with "Très haute instruction".   

It is a phrase that even those who do not understand French in Cameroon, which is a bilingual country, need no translation. It has been like a magic wand in the CPDM government.

The personality that issues those "Very high instructions," is also not in doubt. He is the Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Chairman of the Higher Judiciary Council, and the natural leader of the ruling CPDM party, Paul Biya.

The instructions are the final bus stop. I have seen it being used to quell a strike by teachers who were protesting for unpaid emoluments. President Biya had to step in to order the Minister of Finance to cough out 2.7 billion FCFA, to partially resolve the problem.

In 2015, President Biya, while on a visit to Europe, ordered Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education, to reinstate six students he rejected from the list of successful candidates at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, IRIC, entrance examination

In football, the "Lion Man", as he is fondly called, is known to have used the instructions, not decree, not law, not convention, to place footballers in the team. 

I have read reports how following public pressure, given that every football fan in Cameroon is a self-appointed coach, the Head of State included Roger Milla in the 1990 World Cup team and subsequently ordered the inclusion of Paul Louis Mfede and Victor Ndip Akem in the 1994 squad.

Later before the 2004 World Cup, Milla, now Roving Ambassador, told reporters that the "the president asked me to gather more information on the Mboma situation," who was excluded from the team by Coach Wilfred Schaffer.

"I have informed the Minister of Youth and Sports [Bidoung Mpkatt at the time], Coach Winfried Schafer and other team staff about this matter," he had said. 

Following "Very high instructions," striker, Patrick Mboma, was included in the team and his performance was inspiring.

The almost two-month ferocious diatribe pitting FECAFOOT and MINSEP was last week brought to an amicable settlement, only after "Very high instructions", as I hear.

The question I ask is with all the plethora of laws, decrees, conventions and a bloated government team of some 64 members, advisers of all categories, why should they only look up to Unity Palace for solutions to minute problems like appointing coaches, paying teachers entitlements, including players in the national team or even admission into a school? What will happen, when President Biya leaves the stage, since in the words of William Shakespeare “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances..."?

 

Postscript: In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people

 -Nelson Mandela

 

 

This story first published in The Guardian Post issue No3130 of Monday June 02, 2024

 

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