The publication director of L’Œil du Sahel, on the columns of Mutations n ° 4972 of Thursday, October 31, 2019, spoke on subjects that stir the politico-media landerneau.
Guibaï Gatama, director of publication, politician, what hat embodies you best today?
I am journalist. It’s my profession, it’s my job. I analyze the socio-political facts, I explain and I can comment in strict accordance with the canons of my profession. I stick to that professional dimension. This is what I am, but, however, I cannot prevent both from seeing me as a political actor.
Some voices in public opinion have felt that you and the Eye of the Sahel have gone a long way in supporting Marafa Hamidou Yaya, is that a perception you share?
I don’t know what you put in the phrase “go far.” What I do know is that we, like many other newspapers, have defended the public’s right to information. In retrospect, I can understand that this case has unleashed passions mainly because of the personality of the defendant, a man who held high responsibilities and, moreover, is from the North; a man who clearly expressed his desire to succeed Paul Biya …
In an environment where passions feed amalgamations and maintain confusion, which some may have missed our independence and professionalism, I would be the last surprised.
MRC activists believe that the Sahel’s eye is rather lukewarm if not silent on the Mamadou Mota case. What about and therefore do you have a personal concern with the MRC?
Mute on Mamadou Mota? No. Its political etiquette in no way guides our treatment of the subject. I find the criticism a bit exaggerated. The truth is that we are covering his legal troubles and this can be verified by consulting our archives; and more generally, that he has always been favored by our columns.
I can reassure you that neither I, nor the newspaper that I run, have the slightest disagreement with a political formation, let alone with the MRC which, in the far North, is still a second-rate political formation. Seen from elsewhere and considered from afar, this reality can be misunderstood and naturally give rise to all speculation, but such are the circumstances of the moment.
You have been at the forefront in the Memorandum of the Great North, these last years in the inscriptions on the electoral lists in the North and especially the fight, media, against Boko Haram. We are tempted to ask you what are you looking for and what makes you run?
I am not one of those spectators who watch a Chinese film and who in the end are neither for the actor nor for the bandit leader. I hate indecision. As a citizen, whenever I feel it necessary to get involved for my region and for my country, I do not hesitate. This is the meaning of my life.
Yes. In 2002, 17 years ago, I participated, I was the spokesperson, in the epic of the Memorandum on the problems of the far North alongside Dakolé Daïssala, Issa Tchiroma, Hamadou Moustapha, the late Antar Gassagay and to a lesser extent Garga Haman Adji who had left the group as soon as the adventure began. I do not regret it, because this initiative has helped to draw attention to the painful situation in the northern regions. When we were drumming, there was not a single gynecologist in the entire Far North region; while the far north already represented about 47% of the country’s population, our staff in the civil service barely reached 3%; no son of the far North sat on the Supreme Court; none was president of the Court of Appeal; development projects were as rare as drops of water in the desert … have things changed since then? This is another debate.
I do not want to dwell on the trajectories of my main companions built on this noble initiative either. I acted there as a committed citizen, they for what they have never ceased to be, politicians.
On the other hand, on the Memorandum and contrary to a well-established reputation, I can tell you that this initiative was far from being a manifestation of any identity withdrawal but a call for dialogue, solidarity, the search for solutions, to the love of Cameroon, all things without which there could not be a viable society.
I had other fights, that of the Normal School of Maroua; and I am today on the site of the inscriptions on the electoral rolls which I consider of great importance for the place of the far North on the national chessboard after having invested myself against the terrorism of Boko Haram. I do all this in the posture of the citizen because I am not indifferent to the progress of my region and my country. This is my only ambition. For the time being.
What are your relations with the political class of the far North?
Neither connivance nor concubinage: such is the principle which governs the relations which you evoke. That said, I have cordial relations with them, and more generally with the political figures of the far North. It happens quite often that we exchange when the need or circumstances dictate.
How do you analyze the results of the first three presidential candidates in the far North?
At the very least, I find them consistent with the political weight of each other on the ground. Those who followed the campaign closely noticed that in this part of the country, there was the candidate Paul Biya and there were the others. I do not allow myself to judge the opponents of candidate Paul Biya, but it seems to me that they left a little late to conquer the far North, with in addition questionable patterns. Some people have thought that it was enough simply to make a few raids and talk about the poverty of the populations or to convert to the “politics of the gandoura” to bow down and collect votes.
The Far North certainly has all the indicators of poverty, but its political field is not in ruins; and for those who persist in believing that he is a horse just waiting for a jockey, they are sorely mistaken. Its electorate is complex and it takes time to tame it. I will tell you, since I have been covering the presidential elections, I do not know a single candidate who has traveled so far in the northern regions as Ni John Fru Ndi, for, each time, mixed results. He too did not understand that there is a particular political identity to the electorate of the far North.
So there is an electorate to understand, I would even say to seduce and that we must be careful not to reduce ambitions to the sole register of the fight against poverty. This electorate needs trusted craftsmen who take into account its specificities and its history, who speak to it, not as the first of the class who have come to give lessons, not as messiahs, but as compatriots carrying a national project. in which the far North has a good place. This approach, I did not perceive it in the speeches of the candidates; Yet it is, it seems to me, a prerequisite beyond which all ambitions for power will collapse.
With its electoral weight, what role will the far North play in choosing the next President?
By virtue of his electoral comfort, a third of those registered on the electoral rolls if my calculations are correct, he is predestined for a leading role; that, at a minimum, of kingmaker. But don’t be mistaken, think again; it is not a question of saying: “the northerner first”, but “Cameroon first …” Whereas in the name of democracy and the dictatorship of the number, we could have been arrogant and consider ourselves as the only holders of the keys to a presidential election. All of this prompts me to say that the volume, the noise that we hear here and there in social networks as well as in the media is one thing; discretion, silence and power, another.
A current of opinion is in favor of breaking the famous north-south axis when it comes to the devolution of power. Do you think, like Amadou Ali, that the Head of State should remember those who gave him power if he wants to withdraw?
I will be honest with you: if a northerner were to succeed, democratically, Paul Biya, that would not bother me. I will be happy that the head of state is from the northern regions. The presidential palace is not the heritage of anyone, nor of a region, nor of a religion, let alone of an ethnic group. I will be even more honest with you: If the successor of Paul Biya were to be a Cameroonian from the southern region, that would not bother me either because he would be a Cameroonian who will have triumphed, democratically, through the ballot box. I will not throw my most beautiful gandoura in the trash either if, through democratic and transparent mechanisms, alliances allow the conservation or sharing of power between political actors. We cannot celebrate democracy and at the same time promote rejection, exclusion, on the basis of what such and such, because from such and such a place, cannot be President of the Republic. Cameroonians must be left to choose freely.
So I am neither obsessed nor particularly concerned with the issue of devolution of power as long as it abides by democratic rules. On the other hand, what I remain attentive to and on which the populations of the far North could be vigilant, is the policy of the newly elected member with regard to the northern regions of poverty. I sometimes say to politicians, without any pretension of course, that extreme poverty in the far North must be a national cause because as long as a region or part of the country is the last in terms of employment and development, this will be an obstacle for the rest of the country.