The Image of the African Leader as an Animal: The Case of Paul Biya of Cameroon

Does “The Image of the African Leader as an Animal: The case of Paul Biya of Cameroon,” not sound like a lovely topic for an M.A or Ph.D. thesis in sociology, Anthropology or political science? As a student of literature, I spent a good number of my years perusing scores of truly fascinating M.A and Ph.D. theses, many with equally captivating titles.

I discovered an area that is relatively little known and explored, but which makes captivating reading: “imagology”. I can see you looking at each other in the mouth and wondering aloud just who this fellow wants to impress with such “Sasse” words. I know you may likely not find that word in your dictionary, but it simply refers to the image or picture of a person, persons, people, or even things, as seen through the lens of a creative writer’s imagination.

The incomparable Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe was once asked why he became a writer, and he said he wanted to counter the negative image of the African that was, and still is, being so powerfully vehicled by European literature.

The European writers Achebe was protesting against were mainly those early travellers and adventurers, who had crisscrossed the Mediterranean, or rushed up and down the Nile or the Niger, and had gone back home with fanciful and grossly exaggerated tales of Africans seen more as exotic animals than as human beings. Such tales became an integral part of European, folklore, later filtering into written literature from where they sank and hardened in the European attitudes towards Africa.

The devastating consequences of that attitude to the African are there for all to see. Not only was the African presented as sub-human, he also became a floor mat for just any European’s feet, a position the African himself seems to have gladly accepted and is happily promoting; else how do you explain our passiveness in the face of the French arrogant exploitation of our country, well over thirty years after our much touted “independence”?

Paul Biya As A Lion

The image of an African leader as an animal is also anchoring itself firmly in folklore. Time and space do not allow me to discuss the case of Emperor Bokassa Premier, that Central African infanticide and cannibal, who is said to have taken a delight in piercing children’s eyes with his walking stick and daily feasting on his enemy’s flesh. I will not mention Idi Amin Dada either, who is said to have served the heads of his ministers who happened to fall out of his favour, like John the Baptist’s, on trays during ministerial sessions.

I don’t want to beat about the bush elsewhere when our own man does not only claim to be a lion, but actually behaves like one. You know how a lion behaves. It prowls in the jungle, stalking its prey with merciless determination, pouncing on it, tearing it with its powerful jaws, limb by limb, and devouring it with callous insensitivity. Everything about a lion is ruthless, merciless, and pitiless. As king of the jungle, it captures and noisily consumes the weaker animals with ruthless efficiency. It is the greatest exponent of the philosophy of survival of the fittest.

When our leader announced to the world that he had ceased to be a human being and was now a lion, I was shocked to see a huge lion with its mane rage touching to the ground, sailing with lightening speed across the television screens or posters adorning city walls, with CRTV thurifers” of the regime loudly serenading it. A frighteningly astonishing image for a leader of a people to make his!! Wallahi!

But then, for once, our CRTV serenaders might have been right. Cameroon, this triangular oddity which a Portuguese clown, probably riddled with gonorrhoea, had named ”Njanga” (with due honours to Gobata), has indeed become a jungle where the “Man-Lion” alias “Lion-Man” prowls with reckless indifference to the plight of the people. Look with what cavalier disdain he treats issues of grave concern to the life of the nation. A few examples would suffice.

The SCB Imbroglio

I did not have an account in SCB, the bank the “Lion” and the “Lioness” are said to have sucked clean and dry, but millions of Cameroonians did, and they lost their entire lifesavings was a real tragedy to them. But, as they mourned this irreparable loss, the “Lion” and his “Lioness”, were busy fighting for the crown. From every indication, the “Lion” did beat the “Lioness”, and the rest is history. None of them even bothered to say a word about the whole issue, preferring to ignore it with a royal disdain.

A bleeding Nation

A few years ago, as the nation lay profusely bleeding from the wounds inflicted on it by the knives of oppression, the oppressor-in-chief, the “Man-Lion” alias “Lion-Man”, went on frequent “short private visits” to Europe, as if nothing was happening in the land. Sympathy is a word that is completely absent from the lion’s vocabulary.

Salary Cuts

The recent multi-pronged assaults on civil servant’s salaries, which the victims themselves seem to have accepted with astonishment meekness, can only originate from the mind of someone seasoned in callous indifference to the suffering around him.

A leader who claims to be an animal, ends up actually becoming one. Lord, save us!

(Lord graciously save us!  Editor)

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