Sizing up SDF one year on without Fru Ndi.

The late Ni John Fru Ndi, still having a bearing on SDF even in death?

The opposition Social Democratic Front, SDF, clocked one year of functioning without its emblematic and firebrand leader, Ni John Fru Ndi, Wednesday, June 12. The veteran politician and statesman, breathe his last on June 12, 2023, at the age of 81, leaving the SDF in a not-too comfortable position.

One year since his demise, the opposition party has been shouldering on, its agenda on the political landscape amid challenges. 

Observers say without Fru Ndi, the SDF has been without its known traditional vivacity that usually fired up the polity. 

He bowed out of the scene at a time when succession squabbles within the party were already heated. 

The late Fru Ndi had announced his retirement from serving as SDF chairman, even before returning to his creator in June last year. 

But that pronouncement, observers say, had sparked interest groups to clash overtly and covertly, seeking to take control of the SDF.

Be that as it may, the SDF has, however, continued to function, even in the absence of the political colossus whom Fru Ndi was. 

One thing, however, that has kept pundits wondering one year since Fru Ndi joined his ancestors, is the weight of the SDF and how it has been fairing.

 

 

Party still alive, staged elective convention

On a positive note, many have given the SDF in the post-Fru Ndi era a positive note, for succeeding to weather the storm and constituting a new leadership. 

Having been laid to rest in his native Baba II village on July 29, 2023, the SDF later organised a convention in Yaounde. It culminated in the election of Hon Joshua Osih Nambangui as National Chairman. This was on October last year.

Before Fru Ndi quit the stage, Osih was First Vice National Chairman and had repeatedly been seen as being groomed to succeed Fru Ndi. 

If that was Fru Ndi’s wish, political analysts concur that the veteran politician must be happy wherever he is to know that Osih is the man commanding the SDF in his absence.

 

Osih tours nation, commiserates with social groups

One of the major things that fit in the achievements of the SDF, under Osih’s leadership, is that of getting structures functional, touring the nation and engaging different social groupings. 

Many have qualified the actions as being in tandem with the Fru Ndi-way of doing things, even though the rallying power varies.

In an interview granted Limbe-based weekly newspaper, The Sun, recently, Hon Osih admitted that functioning without Fru Ndi has been challenging, but maintained that the party is on a right path.

Tracing SDF’s path, since Fru Ndi’s demise, he said: “We had a lot of challenges and thanks to the hard work that was put in by all party members, we had a successful convention. We moved out of that convention successfully… we have had a number of National Executive Committee NEC meetings that have paved the way”. 

He added that: “NEC members realised at one point that probably NEC was moving faster than the structures on the field and so a nation-wide tour was initiated, not only to meet our structures or the executives of our structures on the field but also to meet Cameroonians of all fields of life and to listen to them to better position the party for tomorrow”.

 

Attempts to tackle Biya regime’s ‘highhandedness’

 

What many have rated as the strongest of SDF outings in a post-Fru Ndi epoch are two incidents. They are citing the fiery outing of the party after, some residents of Biwung Bulu Subdivision, Mvila Division of the South Region, tried to interrupt a lap of the SDF National Chairman, Hon Osih Joshua’s nationwide tour. The party came out strong and queried the regime. 

In the South Region, it was the party’s Regional Chairman, Felix Gildas Mbida, who rejected marching orders from administrators conditioning participating in the 52nd National Day on carrying Biya’s effigy. 

The outright rejection of the order, many say, gave many hope that there are still some mentees of Fru Ndi within the SDF.

 

Low key 34 anniversary celebrations

One of the shocks, many say they have seen in the absence of Fru Ndi, was the low-key celebration of the party’s 34th anniversary on May 26 this year.

Many say given the seeming lackluster and near absence of activities to mark the day, they looked back at the Fru Ndi era in nostalgia. 

For one thing, there was no rallying message or the traditional district celebrations that used to echo nationwide, when Fru Ndi was National Chairman of the SDF.

 

Unable to retain convention losers within party

Another blow the SDF is yet to recover from is that of having lost all of those who challenged Hon Osih for the position of the party’s top job. 

After the October 28, 2023, elective convention, the two candidates who lost to Osih, Godden Zama and Shewa David, have all left the SDF.

Zama was one of the inspiring voices in the South West Region, particularly in Limbe; that kept the party alive. 

Shewa was SDF Coordinator for Donga Mantung Division, in the North West Region. He too has left the SDF and is in the process of creating his own party.

Political scientists have argued and strongly so, that it is a shame that the party’s leadership could not retain the two officials within the party.

 

Osih says not aware of post-convention resignations

On the issue of candidates at the last convention resigning, Hon Osih, in the interview with The Sun newspaper, had said the SDF hierarchy is not aware of such developments.

“Well, first of all, I would like to say that personally, I haven’t received a resignation letter from anybody. As the National Chairman of the party and to the best of my knowledge, the party Secretary General hasn’t received any resignations too. So, if those resignations are on Facebook, it’s probably time we receive them,” Osih had declared mockingly.

 

 

SDF yet to reconcile with firebrand supporters

One year since Fru Ndi died, what many say is a double miss for the party’s leadership is its inability to reconcile with the G27+ group that was dismissed, under complex circumstances in Fru Ndi’s last days.

Even if Fru Ndi missed bringing the group back to the fold, analysts are unanimous that the Hon Osih-led leadership should have worked things out. 

Those who hold strong to this view have continued to describe the batch of dismissed SDF supporters as constituting the last generation of men who gave the SDF weight and influence.

In this regard, they argue that the scorecard reads unfavourable for a post-Fru Ndi SDF still holding on to a dream of one day winning the confidence of Cameroonians to rule the country. 

They are further saying the full consequence of losing such political capital will be felt when municipal, legislative and presidential elections are organised in 2025.

The group, comprising of 34 former hardline SDF supporters, were axed on February 25, 2023. They had pushed for reforms within the party and demanded accountability among other things. 

Till date, the group’s expulsion, many have continued to argue, further sunk the SDF in the face of its dwindling political fortunes. 

Fru Ndi battled for about four months, even in court, with the group and left without any headway. One year on, Hon Osih has remained mute about their possible return to the party.

Some members of the group are; Hon Nitcheu Jean Michel; then National Communication Secretary, Nkemlemo Denis; former party scribe, Honorable Tsomelou Jean; Ex-National Legal Adviser, Prof. Ndiva Kofele Kale and Ex-Senate Vice President, Nkeze Emilia.

There is also; Hon Chief Tchatchouang Paul, Mahop Scholastique, Kumase John,  Hon Yoyo Emmanuel, Honorable Sonkin Etienne,  Kambiwa Chantale; Waffo Jean Robert, Ntonga, Tchangop Florent, Aboubakar Siroma, Toko Raphaël, Ngnang Cyrille,  Mouafo, Hon Chief Nji Tumassang,  Hon Fopoussi Fotso Evariste,  Wanko Jean Robert, Sukam Tchandjui Pierre, Ngoualem Rodrigue Carlos, Kouasseu Charles, Mbvoum Parfait, Ouanji Luc, Tatsinkem Augustin, Mfam Arouna, Sadefo Edmond, El Hadj Mohnkong Sidiki and Ngapna Abdoulai.

 

Carrying Fru Ndi along even in death

As Cameroon and the world remember Fru Ndi, one year since he died, what has remained unchanged within and without SDF circles is the reverence for the late politician’s legacy.

Many have continued to use attractive and ear-pleasing words each time they recall Fru Ndi’s investment in building Cameroon, especially politically. 

In recent times, groups of SDF supporters, heavyweights and other admirers of Fru Ndi, have been visiting his final resting place in Baba II, as if to say, the man lives on through his works and contribution to peace and democracy in Cameroon.

 

 

 

This story was first published in The Guardian Post Issues No:3140 of Thursday June 13, 2024

 

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