Nina,55 was one of the people who remember Biya’s swearing-in as President. She is one of the youngsters who welcomed the new, young, handsome-looking President some 41 years ago. She had highly hoped the new president would break from his predecessor’s brutal dictatorship.
But Nina’s faith in Biya has all but evaporated. A stalled economy, a press in handcuffs, a besieged democracy, an entrenched kleptocracy, runaway corruption, galloping unemployment and rising poverty have all combined to push Nina into the area of activism.
“We live in a vile dictatorship,” Nina tells Timescape Magazine.
“We live in a country where you get fearful of your own shadow,” she said. “It’s a difficult time, where any journalist worth the salt can be killed overnight. Dissenting voices have been silenced. That is not the democracy-the open society Biya promised when he came to power.”
As Biya loyalists joined the President to celebrate his 90th birthday-forty of them spent as President, Jane believes the best way Biya should have celebrated his birthday was to hand over power.
“This is a man who keeps telling us we are leaders of tomorrow,” she tells Timescape Magazine.
“What he fails to realize is that that future is today,” she adds. “On this big day-the President’s birthday, he should have gracefully announced he is handing over power to the youths. It’s really time for him to go back to his village to play with his grandchildren.”
Not everyone holds such negative views though. Hon. Oliver Agho said living beyond 70 years is a special grace from God, depicting “the unwavering love on the life of President Paul Biya.”
“Paul Biya is a father of peace, husband to widows,” said Biya supporter, Lydia Fondufe.
Mekom Samuel Taleh, President of the Cameroon National Youth Council for the North West paid glowing tribute, saying the President has made life easier for young people by setting such youth empowerment programs like PAJER-U, PIFMAS and the triannual youth plan.
Jerome Nshom said Paul Biya “is first an elder, and someone we should respect and celebrate. The time will come when we assess him as President-examine his successes and failures. For now, it’s time to wish him a long life, as a family man, as the head of the nation, and hope that he leaves a better Cameroon.”
And one of Biya’s most loyal disciples, former Minister, Elvis Ngole Ngole said Biya has mellowed with age and has become wiser.
Biya himself has presented himself as a strong promoter of economic prosperity and peace. But his country is being torn apart by a pro-independence conflict, with liberation groups in the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons (now referred to as North West and South West) bent on breaking away to assert their right to self-determination and rename the territory Ambazonia.