If a foreigner goes to Nkolmesseng today, she/he won’t be able to believe it is a neighbourhood in the capital city of a country. In fact, Nkolmesseng is not a neighbourhood, but a big village in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. For people who don’t know Yaounde well, Nkolmesseng is situated barely a kilometre from the Ahmandou Ahidjo Stadium, the main sports stadium in Cameroon, that will probably host the African Cup of Nations in 10 months. It is also situated close to Essos, a popular neighbourhood known for its bars and churches, and it is about 5KM from Etoudi, where the presidential palace, the Unity Palace, is located. Nkolmesseng, therefore, is found at the heart of Yaounde and it is mostly a residential area.
Despite its location at the heart of Yaounde
Nkolmesseng has nothing like a residential area of a capital city that is preparing to host the African Cup Nations, as the pictures portray. Nevertheless, you can find a prominent government school, Lycee de Nkolmesseng, in the area and it is close to one of the biggest schools in the country, the Government Bilingual High School in Yaounde, Essos, with not less than 12,000 students every academic year. There are also not less than 5 private colleges, including many primary and nursery schools, hotels, and motels found in this area. All these tell us that Nkolmesseng is a busy and vibrant place with a lot of economic activity.
The inevitable questions that kept resonating in my mind
As I shuffled to walk through the dusty road of Nkolmesseng, was: how can a popular residential neighbourhood, of more than 10 000 inhabitants, in the capital city look like this? Do people pay taxes in this place? The various economic activities carried out there, do they generate revenue? Regarding the health of the people, particularly those close to the road, aren’t they doing something about it? Are the inhabitants conscious of the various inconveniences vis-à-vis their socio-economic life and their health in particular? Come to think about the traffic you will find during school days. Why is it that for more than 3 years, there seem to be little or nothing done to improve the situation?
When you ask the inhabitants of Nkolmesseng these questions, the common response you get is to shift the blame on the government, and they add, “on va faire comment”? Others said this place is a total mess and are ready to move out. These kinds of trivial answers accurately translate the mind-set of a majority of Cameroonians. How we have consciously and unconsciously decided to undergo and become indifference to our present deplorable living conditions, not excluding our lack of audacity to transform our current situation.
The culture of repeatedly and vehemently blaming others, especially the government, has been deeply ingrained in our society. Even though we acknowledge that the government has neglected its duties towards its citizens throughout the years, but it also conveys how we have decided not to take our destiny into our own hands, rather blatantly allowing others, either out of negligence or our egocentric reasons, to decide how we should live. What does it even mean to always blame the government? Have the inhabitants expressed their grievances to the government and it has refused to respond? Or it is the government to take the initiative to improve their living conditions and if the government fails to deliver they remain silent? Who is the government in the first place, are they foreigners? This makes me understand why the government has also cultivated the deplorable habit of always blaming others for their lacklustre performance for 35 years now. Just to illustrate how this mind-set of blaming others has become endemic.
Furthermore, it is important to address this other appalling reaction of Cameroonians, our escapist attitude: “If nothing is done by the government, I will better leave”.
This statement edifies us on our many brothers and sisters who have left the country for several years, and the many others struggling, by hook or by crook, to leave the country by all means possible. With this kind of attitude, who do we expect to build our nation?
In a nutshell, this is a poignant demonstration of how this regime for 35 years now has brought only regression and has taken Cameroon down the drain. Cameroon, before this regime came to power, was doing well and was considered as one of the African countries capable of reaching a middle-income country status by 1990. Unfortunately, since this regime came to power, its leadership has failed to incite its citizens to ACT and build a peaceful and prosperous nation. It has instead created an environment where people become indifferent and tolerate corruption and injustice because of our self-centredness.
Nkolmesseng is not only the village in Yaounde that has this appalling view. There are many villages in Yaounde that are worse off. Just imagine how other parts of the country can look like. At face value, Cameroonians have purposely and gladly decided to accept, endure, and remain helpless to the tragic consequences of events. Though we are free and unchained like every human being in the 21st century, at the same time, we have refused to express our liberty to think and take decisions which can improve our lives and society. We are quick to pray for divine intervention but too slow, overwhelmed by fear, to ACT, and blind to see the opportunities that come our way. We have decided to give our lives to a government who from every indication does not care about us, because we don’t care about ourselves in the first place.
I believe that the only way things can change in this country is when we will wake up and start blaming ourselves for our own predicaments. We need to live with this consciousness that our failure to ACT will invite others to act for and on us. The time has come for us to ACT and TAKE OUR DESTINY INTO OUR OWN HANDS. We do not want to endure tragic consequences anymore, but to create circumstances that make us build a better future for ourselves and our children.