Cameroon’s Head of State, Paul Biya, is fast becoming animmortal in the country’s political chronicle.
Before 1945, very few would have imagined that the then green Biya would go on to establish himself as one of the country’s political patriarchs, given his rather humble, and at best, poor background.
But out of the doldrums of Mvomeka'a in the South Region of Cameroon, rosea pious and a shrewd political strongman.
Biya’s leap to political prominence,despite his economic asphyxiating background, was not a surprise to many.
At the tender age of seven, Biya already exhibited glimpses of a veritable future Statesman, when he left one of his French tutors on tenterhooks with his intellectual ingenuity at Catholic Mission School Ndem.
Astounded by the wits of such a broke native fellow, Biya’s French tutor decided to design a destiny and pathway for the egg-headed native son of Mvomeka'a to serve in God’s vineyard as a priest.
At 14,Biya’s politico-religious cornerstone was laid when he was admitted to the Edea and Akono Junior Seminaries, which were hitherto run by the ‘Saint Esprit’Fathers.
While at the seminary, Biya was formed in body, mind and spirit; a holistic formation that won him a place at the Lycee General Leclerc in Yaounde and subsequently admission into the prestigious University of Paris, where he read Law and Political Science.
Despite efforts made by Biya’s French tutors in mapping out a pathway for him into the sacred priesthood, God had a different destiny for the Lawyer cum Political Scientist.
After his graduation in Paris, Biya returned to Cameroon in 1962 and joined President Ahmadou Ahidjo’s Government as an official in the Department of Foreign Development Aid, a sensitive Department in Ahidjo’s monocracy which reported to him directly.
Under Ahidjo, Biya served in several capacities, viz: Director of the Civil Cabinet at the Presidency, Secretary General at the Presidency, Minister of State and Prime Minister in 1975.
The young, handsome and intellectually gifted Biya finally succeeded Ahidjo on November 6, 1982, following the latter’s resignation.
Biya’s ascension into the supreme magistracy of Cameroon was greatly facilitated by his priestly formation.
Many Cameroonians acclaimed his rise to power andbasked in the euphoria that he will govern with a tender heart of a Catholic Priest, after having undergone the formation, though without donning the cassock.
As the young, handsome and enigmatic Biya swept millions off their feet into Cameroon’s Unity Palace, early comparisons between the novice-priestly-formed Biya and his Moslem brute- predecessor Ahidjo went viral.
As if to make more political gains from the raging comparisons and lure sceptics into his political fold, Biya, true to his pious formation, propounded and predicated his political philosophy on Rigour and Moralisation.
Cameroonians went wild in ecstasy, referring to the new leader as the new Mosses,who has come to rescue them from Ahidjo’s Egypt.
Before the Rigour and Moralisation furnace could die down, Biya, through his Government stocked the embers again, this time, liberalising the church and granting freedom of worship to all Cameroonians.
The ululations that greeted this New Deal administrative move were enormous. Religious sects and denominations sprouted up inall nooks and crannies of the triangular territory and are still mushrooming today. To religious fanatics, Biya was nothing short of a supreme world leader, sent by Yaweh himself.
Meanwhile, in his 35 years’ stewardship as Cameroon’s President, Biya has invited two Popes in three papal visits. The first Pope to visit Cameroon was Pope St. John Paul II first in 1985 and then in 1995. In March 2009, another Pope, Benedict XVI visited Cameroon.
Despite Biya’s steadfastness to his religious formation in his 35 years’ plutocracy, it is under the octogenarian’s rule thatthe highest pogrom on religious leadersin Cameroon has been committed.
His most cherished Rigour and Moralisation doctrine that was propounded on the basis of his religious formation has been bedevilled by rampant corruption and the unbridled embezzlement of public funds.
However, after 35 years of his ascension to the supreme magistracy of Cameroon, Biya can aptly be described as Cameroon’s pious political strongman of his generation.