Land of Promise Land of Glory
Veteran journalist and broadcaster Stephen Nfor questions how much attention is paid to the content and the meaning of our National Anthem
Cameroon is Blessed
One cannot say enough how blessed Cameroon is in terms of her very enviable rich natural and socio-cultural endowments - world class intelligentsia, strategic position on the African continent with an option for bilingualism (English and French) only second to Canada throughout the whole world. A potential recognised by many who have had opportunity to travel to this country whose full potential is not tapped into either out of ignorance, neglect, greed or political manoeuvring or sheer ‘I don’t care attitude.
There is every reason for one to wonder if ours is a ‘golden ring on a pig’s nose’ – everyone else seems to see this potential and value of a country capable of being an all round reference on the continent and yet we make as if we need to be reminded over and over again by someone else that we are actually sitting on ‘a gold mine’.
The following words of Harriett Isom, US ambassador to Cameroon from 1993 to 1996 sums up the potential of this country we regularly refer to as Africa in Miniature: “There are the white and black sand beaches, the volcanoes, the lakes and lush highlands, the tropical forests, the old grassland kingdoms bursting with history and art and the totally different north with its terrain similar to America's southwest and boasting a nice game park. Cameroon should be, but isn't yet, part of the tourist route in Africa. This is a country about the size of California with still enviable potential. It has abundant energy resources, still unexploited mineral resources, bountiful timber and superb agricultural conditions for crops and plantations. It has ethnic groups who excel in trade and entrepreneurial ventures, ……..”
These are the words of someone who definitely is looking at all this untapped potential of a people with envy, and finds it difficult to understand how on earth we cannot put to good use what we’ve got and yet regularly stand knocking at the doors of the World Bank, and in recent times, that of China with cap in hand for financial assistance all of which come with endless and unbreakable strings.
"Are we really unable to see what we’ve got and someone else has to tell us?"
The loud question as Cameroonians, we should be asking ourselves is, ‘are we really unable to see what we’ve got and someone else has to tell us?’ Our forefathers had seen this potential and immortalised it in the National Anthem we sing with ‘reverence and gusto’ at every official occasion, but the question has to be asked. How much attention is paid to the content and meaning of the lyrics of the National Anthem? If we take a thoughtful look at the following lines from the song and then take a look at the country today it may be clearer how much our love or non-love for country and therefore the input into its development is in dissonance with the commitment we make every time we sing the National Anthem.
‘Dear fatherland, thy worth no tongue can tell! How can we ever pay thy due? Thy welfare we will win in toil and love and peace, will be to thy name ever true! Land of promise, land of glory! Thou of life and joy, our only store! Thine be honour, thine devotion, and deep endearment, for evermore’. The message does not change even in a simple translation of the key lines of the French version of the Anthem, ‘Dear fatherland, darling country, you are our only true fortune, our joy and our life. In you there is love and great honour….’
In my humble opinion, admission of failure can be manifested either through the spoken word or through actions. From the moment we resort to taking medical examinations and treatments abroad not in national health facilities, or opting to educate our children in foreign schools instead of the national schools, or regularly spending our holidays outside the country instead of within the country, there is no doubt these actions are an implied admission of complete failure of commitment to love for country and its welfare. Other indicators of such failure include increased rural exodus and emigration in search of better pastures, as well as the prevalence of crime, bribery and corruption within the national territory.
Currently the government is seeking ways and means of engaging with the Diaspora in a bid to tap into the rich material and intellectual potential of Cameroonians living abroad. As part of these efforts recently a delegation from the Presidency of the Republic was in the UK as part of a tour to other cities around the world to dialogue with the Cameroon Diaspora. This was closely followed by an enlarged question and answer working session with the Cameroon community in the UK by the Prime Minster, Yang Philemon while he was in London for the Commonwealth Trade Forum.
However, the obstacles standing in the way of Diasporans wishing to engage in a much more meaningful commitment to being part of the development process in Cameroon are the same obstacles faced by Cameroonians living in the country – poor road infrastructure, corruption, insecurity at various levels, excesses of officials, very little or no support to small and medium size enterprises, an investment code which puts national and international business concerns on the same level playing field with the obvious consequence being that the competition cannot be fair since the multinationals have a better financial muscle, very poor customer services in government offices, and the list of the ills is well documented.
The way forward will be to consider addressing these inherent problems as very urgent and do something about it as soon as possible. Meetings and the resolutions spun there off are not enough if the conclusions do not result in concrete actions, same too are ideas; they remain paper tigers if not implemented. To get all Cameroonians, no matter where they may be, on board our development efforts, there must be a change in mentality at all levels. We need to revisit the content of the message in the lyrics of our National Anthem and make Cameroon the ‘land of glory and land of promise’ that she is meant to be.
We are responsible for our own destiny, and no one is going to decide, carve out and see the attainment of this destiny for us.