Many who had been putting a keen eye on the state of affairs in the Social Democratic Front party know Nintcheu’s dismissal was one of the surest things to happen if Fru Ndi intended to keep his head on his shoulders. Despite talks of handing over which have been circulating for many years today, it had become increasingly clear that Fru Ndi did not find funny the prospect of the firebrand Littoral politician replacing him.
The leader by way of the famous Article 8.2 which prescribes self-exclusion, showed Nintcheu and dozens of others, the door, a move which more than ever, highlights his possible preference for replacement at the helm of the party. His bosom ‘son’, Hon Osih had always been seen as one fabricated to take over, when the chairman eventually decides to leave power or when nature does the trick. But Nintcheu’s dismissal, tells more than just a story of power tussle and party discipline.
It affirms the unpacking of the party built on the premise of vigorous advocacy and no-nonsense ideologies. It begs to recall that at the 1990 launch of the party in Bamenda, six youths were killed and many more injured. After that defining moment, the party quickly became the voice of the people, and was so for many years, even after the invention of hundreds of other opposition parties. Many saw the SDF as one that had spilled its blood to protect their interests and would go all the way to give Cameroonians a better life than what the ruling CPDM offered.
The SDF stood tall and its chairman, John Fru Ndi, was taught by parents to their kids as an example of leadership personified. From a bookseller to a potential president, his story incarnated the Anglophone dream at the time – the belief that hard work, courage and determination was enough to make a man. This respect for the man grew too in diplomatic circles, especially when he refused to seek violence to claim winning the 1992 presidential elections. The party he maintained, was an institution of brotherhood, accountability and trust. But after decades of internal and external wrangling and horror stories, these same values hang in the balance, and the Anglophone dream that once gave them life, is all but shattered. The Anglophone crisis has not made it any better.
Hon Nintcheu and dozens of other top guns recently kicked out of the fold, are known to have clamoured for among others, respect for party values, a quality the Littoral branch of the party had declared forfeited by Hon Osih in 2021. This was after Osih who had signed a letter alongside CPDM lawmakers on the Anglophone crisis, said he didn’t believe the letter violated party policy, and promised to take the same course of action if given another chance to. The Chairman literally held the lawmaker by the hand and walked him back in through the door, giving him a seat by his right hand.
The party which had been marred by many scandals and fights kept having its cosmetic patches tested. Fru Ndi over the years, has fallen out with many other bigwigs and founders, and his long tenure at the helm of affairs, screams of a desire to control and not give ‘power to the people’ as the party mantra states. The same power-tight question is now used whenever the SDF seeks to question Biya’s long rule over Cameroon.
Even his relations with the press deteriorated over time, especially after he body-shamed a female reporter at an SDF meeting in 2020, calling her “very ugly”. Today he is accused by dozens of party bigwigs for lack of accountability and transparency in management of funds and appointments. Dragged to the courts alongside his Secretary General, Barrister Djomgang Adeline, Fru Ndi decided to part ways with Hon Nintcheu and co, much like cutting off the head to cure a headache.
Beyond being an easy path for Osih to rise to the helm of affairs (he has been there already with Fru Ndi practically being just the face of power) Nintcheu’s dismissal widens a valve that could more easily sink the boat. The SDF’s stronghold remains the Littoral partly thanks to a strong base which believes in Nintcheu’s firebrand approach.
With the party unhinged in practically all ten regions including Fru Ndi’s own North West and Osih’s South West already, kicking out the Littoral anchor, is very much akin to building on sand. The March 12 Senatorial elections are set to be the test run, and the 2025 presidential elections, the real deal.
The SDF still stands – for the moment. But it may not in time to come if it fails to uphold the very standards it accuses the ruling party of not applying on the macro level for three decades today.