Meet Maïdadi Saidou The Man who would be President By Ntemfac Aloysius Nchwete Nkong Ofege Maïdadi Saidou Yaya might never know it but the road to his appointment in 1998 as vice chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party to replace the freshly resigned Mahamat Souleymane took several winding turns. It all began on October 22nd 1998 when Mahamat Souleymane put out a press release that unleashed the furies of hell within the SDF: ‚For the past eight years we have given our best to the SDF on a daily basis,‛ Souleymane wrote: ‚Our total commitment has been guided by our firm decision to will to posterity a viable and strong SDF. Today, voices are raised, at home and abroad, to condemn the recent happenings in the SDF.‛ Those recent happenings had to do with reports and allegations that SDF chairman Fru Ndi had, for a small fee, opened negotiations with the CPDM government about officially joining Mr. Biya at table. It was even said that Mr. John of Ntarinkon had forwarded a list of SDF ministers to the government. Souleymane also charged that a ‚hardcore‛ within the SDF was creating a schism between Anglophones and Francophones in the party and using ‚Anglophone Secession‛ as a weapon. He quoted John Fru Ndi as declaring during a NEC meetings that; ‚If Francophones and Bamilekes continue perturbing the party, I will cause the SDF to fall back to its North West base and then we shall see.‛ Also, Souleymane denounced the wanton use of Article 8.2 in the SDF to sack militants especially those who criticized the National Executive Committee and the chairman. ‚No militant is happy with the numerous cases of frustration, discrimination and arbitrary expulsions befalling colleagues,‛ Mr. Souleymane wrote. ‚The excessive use of Article 8.2 to fire militants can only be compared to deeds during the Inquisition and the Reformation.‛ Background to the Souleymane Saga It can be said that the SDF died the day Mr. Fru Ndi decided to send forth his selection of SDF officials to join the Biya regime in parliament and the councils. The goof started with the type of persons he, Fru Ndi, personally, selected to represent the SDF in parliament and the councils. Something died in the SDF the day Mbah Ndam; a close family relation to Fru Ndi, led his minions to parliament. Mbah Ndam remains Fru Ndi’s Number One hunting dog to bring back spoils and news from the CPDM. Who would have thought that even Andrew Akonteh would turn out to be such a disappointment? See The Irreverent Questor in Postwatch Magazine No 004 of August 5, 1998. Ironically something also died in the SDF in 1991 when that party decided not to go for legislative elections. The issue that created the rift in the SDF was the critical question: To join or not to join the Biya government? The SDF cannot refuse that at various times, various groups have met officials dispatched by the Biya regime ‚to discuss‛ joining the government especially at ministerial level. These various direct contacts between Fru Ndi especially, and the regime have had the habit of mellowing the SDF chieftain. The French say “La bouche qui mange ne parle pas.” In 1997, barely a month ahead of the legislative elections, two SDF lawyers, Barristers Mbah Ndam and Mbami met Biya envoy, Gregoire Owona in Mbalmayo ‚to discuss.‛ Gregoire Owona, is the current Minister Delegate in charge of Relations with the National Assembly, who in his more mercurial moments tells reporters that ‚Fru Ndi will never be president of Cameroon,‛ is just one of the persons mandated by Biya at various moments to meet the SDF. The Mbalmayo SDF-CPDM talks, said to be ‚on exploring ways and means of leveling the electoral playing field,‛ were inconclusive. Yet another one of the envoys is Kouambo Adrien, formerly governor of the North West province, now Minister in charge of Decentralization. Kouambo met Fru Ndi after the last elections to talk about some ministerial positions being offered by Biya. Amadou Ali has, at times, handled the UNDP file, the current Minister of Justice. Amadou Ali is also in charge of the Bakassi and SCNC file. Immediately after the again seriously-flawed 1997 elections wherein the Biya regime gave the SDF 43 seats several SDF newly elected parliamentarians made contact with the Biya regime to sign up for ministerial positions. The current deputy secretary general in the presidency, Inoni Ephraim, played a key role in some of the contacts. A group of 10 freshly elected deputies reportedly told Inoni that they were ready to pull out of the SDF and join the CPDM should Mr. Fru Ndi prevent them exercising the mandate for which they had been elected. At a crucial SDF meeting in Bamenda to discuss the issue of going to parliament or not, the government dispatched air force jets to fly low over Mr. Fru Ndi’s building in Bamenda where the SDF National Executive was meeting. Shortly after the opening of the 1997 parliamentary session, the former vice Chairman of the SDF, Souleymane arrived in Ntarinkon with a perpetual agitator, a certain Maurice Albert Njambe in tow. Mr. Njambe said he was the mediator between the SDF and the CPDM. While SDF Secretary General, Tazaocha Asonganyi speedily described Mr. Njambe as ‚an impostor,‛ Mr. Souleymane said his mission to Bamenda was to ‚discuss the SDF-CPDM talks.‛ Mr. Fru Ndi re-routed Souleymane and hi friend, Njambe, to Yaounde where other SDF hands (the now Late Dr. Samuel Tchwenko in lead) were working with UNDP and the CDU to create a common front in reaction to the heavily rigged 1997 legislative elections. Unbeknown to the SDF and the CDU officials who were discussing the reaction to the rigged elections another unit of the SDF was engaged in a race against time with the NUDP to join the government. Bello Bouba was already far ahead in is negotiations with the CPDM. Bello Bouba, still seething because he had just been outsmarted by the SDF in parliament in negotiations to glean top positions at the National Assembly and decided that the SDF and its Bamileke base represented a serious threat to his marriage with Mr. Biya. With his deal to obtain seven ministerial positions from the regime safely in his pocket, Bello returned to the negotiating table between the NUDP, the CDU and the SDF to start changing the terms of reference of the communiqué which, among other things had announced that the parties ‚which boycotted the 1997 presidential election would not join the government.‛ A few hours later, Bello announced that he had joined the government! Mahamat Souleymane whom the SDF had mandated to ‚meet with an official of the civil cabinet in the presidency of the republic‛ is reported to have returned from the meeting and refused to give a report to Dr Tchwenko. That report went to Mr. Fru Ndi. The same causes were to produce the same effects after the 2002 council and presidential election. While the likes of Dr Tchwenko, Fopoussi Fotso, Yves Epacka and Maïdadi Saidou Yaya argued strongly against joining the CPDM government in councils and parliament because of the massive fraud, Mr. Fru Ndi insisted that the SDF moves into councils and seats already won. As a result Mr. Maïdadi resigned from the SDF. Dictatorship and wheeler dealing for cash that is now policy in the SDF (‚La dérive dictatoriale et affairiste) denounced by Maïdadi and company should be interpreted to mean the unprincipled compromising position now adopted by Fru Ndi. Clearly Mr. John of Ntarinkon is no Nelson Mandela. There is a price to pay for pandering to pecuniary benefits, instant gratification and insisting that joining Mr. Biya’s Corruption Inc. is the only way to go and there is no alternative. Mr. Souleymane added that to avoid elections in the party, Mr. Fru Ndi has resorted to appointments into elective positions. ‚Even when elections have been organized (within the SDF) they have neither been free nor fair nor just. Candidates not wanted by Mr. Fru Ndi have been excluded.‛ Today, years later, it remains a fact that Mr. John of Ntarinkon has refused to convene a Convention of the SDF for fear that the man himself or his cronies would be ejected. A gung-ho of SDF parliamentarians led by Paulinus Jua signed a long petition demanding elections; petition which Mr. Fru Ndi and his family members and cronies (Mbah Ndam, Yoyo Emmanuel) ignored. The Souleymane press release also delved into misappropriation within the SDF. ‚Vast sums extorted from the mayors and parliamentarians went into the chairman’s pockets. Mr. Fru Ndi is using the mayors and parliamentarians like his personal representatives,‛ Souleymane charged. In conclusion Souleymane said, ‚I have the conviction, I have the firm conviction, that the time has come to redress the SDF.‛ He called on all ‚crusaders of liberty,‛ to stand up and be ‚counted in the fight to redress the SDF by joining him in a National Convention of the SDF scheduled for October 31- November 1, 1998 in Yaounde. When the Souleymane presser became public on October 22, 1998, the Fru Ndi loyalists moved like a hurricane. Various local branches of the SDF held meetings left right and center and demanded blood and a pound of Souleymane’s flesh. His home unit in the Centre province, led by SDF secretary general Tazaocha Asonganyi convened a meeting October 23-24) and speedily axed Souleymane from the party. Militants in Douala, where the ‚coup plot‛ was said to have been hatched, also held some more meetings and then urged the National Chairman to convene an urgent meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, to deal with Souleymane. While not quarrelling with the points raised by Souleymane, Mr. Fru Ndi put our a press release exploiting the weak link in Souleymane’s actions. On October 23, Mr. Fru Ndi declared that his deputy’s convention was ‘null and void‛ Mr. Fru Ndi pointed out that: That convening of a National Convention by Souleymane is totally ‚illegal and unconstitutional‛ since it offends paragraphs 12.2 of the SDF, which states, ‚<the National Convention shall be held on a date and at a place to be appointed by the National Executive Committee.‛ That no SDF militant should participate at the Souleymane convention since it was just an attempt to ‚sabotage the SDF, provoke division within the party and generally destabilize the SDF and derail it from its mission to struggle for genuine change in Cameroon‛; Mr. Fru Ndi then summoned a crisis meeting of the SDF. Top SDF minions (mayors, parliamentarians, NEC members) convened in Bamenda on October 25 and after three hours of deliberations Souleymane was speedily fired from the SDF. ‚Mr. Souleymane has expelled himself from the party,’ declared the portly SDF scribe Tazaocha Asonganyi. ‚Article 8.2 of the party’s constitution states that persons involved in anti-party activities be expelled and Mr. Souleymane has done just that. NEC has just confirmed the decision taken by the Centre province sacking Souleymane.‛ Enter Maïdadi Saidou A lobby group (with this humble writer as initiator) then set about trying to get Maïdadi Saïdou Yaya in to replace Souleymane. Mr. Fru Ndi finally signed the ‚DECREE‛ but then only because the said lobby group had done its homework convincing all the influential SDF senior members and Founding Fathers (Justice Wakai, Professor Kale, Pa Mancho, etc) in Bamenda. Despite his strong opposition to Maïdadi, Mr. Fru Ndi was finally arm-twisted to bring in Maïdadi Saïdou Yaya as his new deputy Chairman. Actually the Maïdadi candidature was informed by several factors, which, this humble scribe struggled to pass on to the SDF decision-makers: 1. Mr. Fru Ndi failed in the 1992 presidential elections. He failed again in 1997. It was time to think of something else rather than make Fru Ndi a perennial presidential candidate. From hindsight (and now foresight) Fru Ndi will lose again should he show up as a challenger to Mr. Biya in October 2004. Mr. John of Ntarinkon may not even be second. And election heisting may not have anything to do with it. Disillusionment with the man is more like it. Moreover it is in Mr. Biya’s interest to finish Fru Ndi off by giving him a very ridiculous score. After all that score can today be justified. Mr. Fru Ndi knows it very well. Small wonder the man is thinking about retiring from politics. 2. A lobby of diplomats based in Yaounde had dispatched an emissary to Ntarinkon via a British top official to suggest to the SDF to ‚groom a Francophone or bilingual‛ candidate to challenge for president. That envoy was told to first meet this writer to discuss he issue. The issue was brought forward to Mr. Fru Ndi who became furious; 3. Cameroon remains a French country and France gets to dictate who becomes Top Dog in Cameroon. Mr. Chirac and Mr. Mitterrand before him both swore that an ‚Englishman‛ would never become president of Cameroon. It was but REALPOLITIK to groom a ‚Frenchman‛ to challenge for the presidency on the ticket of the SDF; 4. Cameroon is not Senegal neither is Cameroon the Cote d’Ivoire where perpetual presidential candidates eventually became president. The Cameroon situation was compromised by the inability of Mr. Fru Ndi to stick to principles and not compromise with the Biya regime. Nelson Mandela, Gbagbo and Abdoulaye Wade stuck to their principles and guns for years. Mr. Fru Ndi had already compromised by sending the SDF mayors and parliamentarians to join the Biya regime for the trifle of salaries and fringe benefits. By joining the system, Mr. Fru Ndi had become part of the Cameroonian problem; 5. Mr. Maïdadi was a very qualified candidate for president. The man was a radical Peul, onetime member of the French Communist party, bilingual, married to an Anglophone from Wum; and a staunch opponent of the Biya regime. See His Open Letter to Mr. Biya in Postwatch Fact File; 6. Mr. Maïdadi was from Garoua, the son of a Biya Minister, Abdoulaye Maïdadi then Minister in charge of Relations with the National Assembly; 7. Mr. Biya’s survival plan was based on satisficing and pacifying the Grand North. Small wonder Mr. Biya had made Amadou Ali his Secretary General while giving top jobs to northerners like Sali Dahirou, Bello Bouba, Sadou Hayatou, Cavaye Yeguie, Issa Tchiroma, Hamadou Moustapha, Marafa Hamidou, etc. Mr. Biya had understood that the circa 3 million votes from the North were vital. In fact, this humble writer repeated this to the SDF: One time Kontchou Kouomegni, then Minister of Communication, looked me in the eye sitting in front of his desk and declared: “Monsieur Ntemfac, le jour ou vous entendrez que le RDPC a perdu les élections dans l'extreme-nord sachez que ce jour la ce sera grave.” (Mr. Ntemfac, the day you learn that the CPDM has lost elections in the Far North province then know that that day all would have been lost). Mr. Maïdadi was maybe born in the North province but he spent all his life in the Far North working for the Yagoua rice concern SEMRY; 8. During the 1992 presidential The SDF spent almost a third of its budget in the three northern provinces for a meager 33.000 votes out of a possible 2.000.000! Had Fru Ndi scored even 200.000 votes in the three northern provinces, matters could have been dramatically different! As presidential candidate, Maïdadi could do more than that while gleaning votes from the North West, South West, West an Littoral; the clear SDF fiefs; 9. Fru Ndi’s initial vision was not to be president. That wild and now raging passion only came in later. In fact, the early SDF wanted Ndam Njoya to be president on the SDF ticket. With the information of hindsight and as an SDF militant, Maïdadi brought in more to the ticket than Fru Ndi and Ndam Njoya put together today; 10. Again with the information of hindsight and foresight, Mr. Fru Ndi’s passionate and emotional attempts to prevent Maïdadi and his party from joining the Coalition from the Reconciliation and Reconstruction of Cameroon are base and childish. For one thing, Maïdadi is joining the CNRR as the leader of a political party, the Alliance of Progressive Forces, APF! 11. The fears, currently raging within staunch Fru Ndi minions, that Mr. Maïdadi might avenge the manner in which he was treated by Fru Ndi when the man was in the SDF, is also childish. Or, could it just be that Fru Ndi is afraid of all that Maïdadi knows? 12. The fact stands that the roadblock to genuine reconciliation in the SDF remains Mr. Fru Ndi who, after these years is still blind, narcissistic, parochial, temperamental, dictatorial, tyrannical, tribal, myopic and, incidentally, still charismatic. But it takes more than charisma to rule Cameroon. Time for Mr. John to retire. Even his position as Chairman, the soul of Cameroon can, with solid evidentials, be challenged. 13. Finally Cameroon is a French country. Cameroon is a French NEO- COLONIAL state with a neo-colonial system and its viciousness. It is of strategic importance for SDF militants to stop beating their heads against a steel wall. A ‚French‛ candidate; one even more principled than a hypocritical Anglophone made a lot of sense. 14. Sanda Oumarou and, perhaps, Djeukam Tchameni and Christopher Formunyoh would fit into the category of bringing in a principled fight to change Cameroon, which principles are no longer policy in the SDF. Ndam Njoya is a pure product of the French neo-colonial system with a retrogressive feudalism thrown in for good measure. At that time, those, this humble scribe talked to saw reason and Fru Ndi bowed. The question remains: Did Maidadi react too early by resigning from the SDF? Time will tell. We republish this punch-pulling interview from Maidadi Saidou Yaya again. It contains some stunning revelations and even them Maidadi is not talking We Shall Attend SDF Reconciliation Forum – Maïdadi Saidou We Shall Attend SDF Reconciliation Forum – Maidadi Saidou Former 1st National Vice Chairman of the SDF, Saidou Maidadi Yaya, who banged the door on the party after the twin elections of 2002, has announced, in a recent exclusive interview with The Post, that he and colleagues who resigned with him will attend the announced Reconciliation Forum of the SDF. But, Maidadi, who is also Chairman of the AFP party, said they would attend only if certain preconditions are met. Excerpts courtesy The Post newspaper: The Post: What is the situation of the Alliance des Forces Progressistes, AFP, party? We have held our National Council meeting in Douala and elected the first National Executive Bureau, which, in turn, has worked on the organisation of provincial structures. At the same time, grassroots structures have started seeing the light of day. Implantation of the party is not going on at the same speed all over. That is normal. But, in all the five regions having a Vice President, the organisation at the grassroots is going on well. That is why, in the Grand North, and, specifically, in the North Province, the AFP has not less than 60 functional cells. Currently, teams are on the field in the Adamawa and Far North for the same task. In the Littoral, Centre and West Provinces, divisional structures are already in place. You seem to have lost your political prominence since you resigned from the SDF. How do you feel? You should understand that, before joining the SDF I had a sufficiently remarkable past. I joined the SDF with a name – MAIDADI – one of the most prominent families in Garoua that has equally served this country. Maidadi, my father, was the first black SDO of the Kaélé Division in 1960. He later occupied the position of Governor and retired as the Minister in charge of Relations with the Assembly after 57 years of meritorious services. I joined the SDF with a culture of opposition that started in 1977, coupled with political training and experience as evidenced by my militating in the French Communist Party, the Revolutionary Communist League of Alain Krivine and the Federation of Students of Black Francophone Africa that was led at the time by Alpha Conde of Guinea. I entered the SDF with training and experience in trade unionism since my time in France. It is because of convictions and well-defined principles that I joined the SDF. It is for the same reasons that I quit. What really caused your resignation? It is still early for me to give the real reasons for my quitting the SDF. Clarifications will come soon, perhaps at the Reconciliation Forum, if it actually holds. The running of the party after the twin elections was just the last straw that broke the camel’s back. But you should understand that Mr. Fru Ndi had taken the party back to the Northwest and he stopped all democratic debate within the party. Voting had stopped in the party for years. Don’t you think it would have been better for you to stay in the party and fight to change what is wrong? When we were still in the SDF that did not imply there were no problems! We tried to fight from within to try to advance things. But when the National Chairman (because he is the Chief Executive) takes the liberty to cancel a decision of NEC that did not please him through a press release, it had to be understood that there was nothing else that could be done within the party. I had to quit to avoid becoming another Brutus. How did your resignation help the democratic struggle? Within the SDF, it helped a lot, at least, for some time because Mr. Fru Ndi relaxed his determination to eliminate a number of party officials whom he thought had become too powerful, and who were not playing the stooge. Our resignation also caused discussions in NEC to be more lively and exciting even though it is more a formality than any other thing. Out of the party, by initiating the rebirth of the opposition, we have jolted opposition leaders out of their stupor and lethargy to finally accept to come together once again. You got some FCFA 29 million for the campaign of the 2002 twin elections. What is your reaction to allegations that you embezzled the money? The financial report I made after the elections shows clearly how this money was used. The money was spent in four main areas: the compiling of files of all the candidates (because it is the party that took charge); campaign logistics, notably functioning and hiring of vehicles; allowances paid to militants who represented the party at polling stations (FCFA 3000 per militant making FCFA 6000 per polling station). All these expenses were made in line with the provisional budget established long before the elections. I submitted three copies of this report to the party. What is it you really have against Fru Ndi? Strictly speaking, I don’t have anything against Mr. Fru Ndi. When I was in the SDF as his Deputy and very close to him, I was the most loyal servant, collaborating honestly with the boss to the extent of accepting, at certain moments, to being used. But that was normal because, for one thing, loyalty is a family culture and, for another, our vision, defined at the beginning, was maintained. The day I realised that the train was intentionally being derailed, I decided to quit. My former boss has never come to terms with my departure. He seems to be saying that he does not understand my departure because we were very close and he had a lot of confidence in me. We are in politics and, to me, politics means conviction and commitment and not subterfuge and manipulation. It should be understood that, even in marriages, there is divorce. And it is not because there is a divorce between a couple that one of the spouses should try to kill the other. Would you have boycotted Parliament if you won in your constituency? How would a boycott have helped the present struggle for change? I had a very privileged position in the SDF: 1st Vice National Chairman, Chairman of the Finance Commission, influential member of the Strategic Commission and the Advisory Council and Adviser to the National Chairman: a virtual Dauphin. That did not prevent me from dumping all that and leaving because my conscience could no longer tolerate the new orientation of the party. Posts don’t interest me. What interests me is my commitment to make Cameroon a State of law where the people would have their full sovereignty. It is the determination to make Cameroon a country of liberty, justice and solidarity. The boycott of Parliament was going to help us protect the Presidential election. With 42 MPs and more than 60 councils, we still could not save the SDF from the electoral debacle in 2002 and you want to tell me that it is with half of those MPs and after losing the big councils that we would be able to do that? Who are we fooling? Have we forgotten that the problems of the SDF started when we started getting into State institutions? In the context of the rebirth of the opposition, is reconciliation in the SDF imperative? Reconciliation in the Coalition cannot be overemphasized. Today, no party alone – and this applies to party leaders as well – cannot pretend to solve the problems of Cameroon and Cameroonians< Are you going to attend the Reconciliation Forum? We are going to attend the Reconciliation Forum in order not to be considered intolerant, egoistic and diversionary. We are especially going to attend in honour of the countless militants and sympathizers of the SDF who still believe in the SDF and us and because we still consider the SDF our child. But to avoid possible manipulation by the Fru Ndi camp as well as those who are opposed to him from within, we are airing this clarification to serve as evidence. After this clarification, if they still believe we can contribute effectively to this Forum, let them invite us officially so that we can work on the preliminaries.