By Dr. Peter Vakunta
Awilo is a budding musician whose maiden album titled “We Done Tiya Beti” is causing ripples in political circles in Cameroon. Like his predecessor and mentor, Lapiro de Mbanga, Awilo has taken up the cudgels to fight corruption, tribalism, abuse of power, influence peddling, and electoral fraud perpetrated by the Beti oligarchy in Cameroon as seen in the following critique of the title piece of his CD.Like most township bards, Awilo views himself as a herald and bearer of untoward news for the generality of Cameroonians: “La dernière minute a sonné. Les cameroonais ont compris; confirmé. Le grand sorcier.”
It is interesting to note that Awilo predicts the apocalypse that is imminent in Cameroon. He sounds like a doomsayer at a time of crisis. As far as this anti-establishment musician is concerned, the Beti mafia has sounded the death knell of the Republic of Cameroon. He believes that it is only a question of time before things begin to fall apart; when the center can no longer hold. It would appear Awilo speaks for the majority of Cameroonians when he states in no uncertain terms that we have had enough of the greedy Beti people who take delight in monopolizing power: “We no wan Beti, We dong tiya Beti, We dong over waa Beti We dong over cush Beti, We dong tiya!”
The October, 2011 Presidential election in Cameroon comes under serious scrutiny in Awilo’s songwriting. The protest songwriter is not afraid to let the world know that Mr. Paul Biya won that election through electoral fraud and gerrymandering aided and abetted by business emprises such as MTN, Orange, Camtel and the Agence de distribution des moustiquaires. Listen to his stentorian voice: “MTN, Orange, Camtel, Agence de distribution for moustiquaires/ Vous avez aidé votre père à gagner sans souci/Quel abus de confiance et escroquerie avec manières! / Quelle honte pour vos clients!”
Awilo has a way of capturing the attention of listeners through parallelisms. Certain words and phrases are repeated not just for esthetic effect but also for the purpose of emphatic adumbration: “We no wan Beti, We dong tiya Beti, We dong over waa Beti We dong over cush Beti, We dong tiya Beti.”
It should be noted that the word “Beti” occurs in every sentence in the excerpt above. This is because the Beti tribe is the target of his frontal attack in this song. In a similar vein, the word “tiya” is underscored in a bid to drive home the point that Cameroonians have come to a point of no return in the struggle to overthrow the cancerous regime of President Paul Biya. The phrase “we dong over” translates the notion of “a surfeit of effort” exerted to accomplish a herculean task. Parallel repetition accentuates salient themes such as ethnocentrism, abuse of power and governmental ineptitude. Awilo shines the searchlight on the canker of corruption and influence peddling that have become second nature to Cameroonian politicians: “ELECAM, court suprème, la sécurité na soso njaka dem for répé/ Si ton père est Général/Ta mère présidente du tribunal/ You check sei you fit go for ngata one day? / Noooooooo! The insinuation here is that the executive branch of government in Cameroon has usurped power from the judicial and legislative branches of government and rendered the judiciary and legislative arms of government dysfunctional.
“We Done Tiya Beti” is a lampoon on the malfunctioning of the election watchdog code-named ELECAM. Awilo is strong in his belief that ELECAM is Paul Biya’s gigantic election-rigging machine characterized by make-believe, theft and fraud: “Man di kale for Mbeng, vote carte commot for Mamfe. You Kale for Kumba, vote carte commot for Douala. You kale for Douala, vote carte commot for Mbengwi. You kale for Kumba, vote carte commot for Muyuka. Man fit vote five times if you get energy and transport. Vraiment de Dieu!”
Like most sane Cameroonians, Awilo is worried about the fate of democracy in Cameroon given the current turn of events. That’s why he pours opprobrium on that contraption called ELECAM: “ELECAM, shame!!!/Again, ELECAM, shame, shame, shame! / God go punish wuna nine times!” Awilo does not mince words in chastising the Biya regime which he describes as an association of thieves: “Si finalement, je dis bien finalement hein,/ On a légalisé le vol au Cameroun/ Better on ouvre les portes des prisons/ Pour la libération de vos collègues incarcérés pendant longtemps/ Pour que tout le monde soit en liberté provisoire!”
As far as Awilo is concerned, the younger generation of Cameroonians has no future at all. He bemoans the fate of Cameroonian youths whose future has been mortgaged by the Beti mafia in Yaoundé: “Vous avez volé, braqué l’avenir de nos enfants!/ Les enfants n’ont plus l’avenir./ Pour travailler au cameroun/ Il faut être spécialiste en caducée des malheureux/ Un pays qui nous sort des cartes chaque jour!”
Awilo derides the bogus grand projects announced by President Biya in the wake of the 2011 Presidential elections: “Le Cameroun des grandes ambitions/ Aujourd’hui, le grand réalisateur/A quelle heure?” This is a slap in the face of Mr. Paul Biya who is clearly power-drunk and dishonest. Awilo is very tenacious in his mockery of the Head of State as this excerpt indicates: “On vous a cadeauné le pouvoir/Caressez le pouvoir! / Mangez le pouvoir! /Nyoxer le pouvoir! / Ça vous appartient. /Vous êtes né avec le pouvoir! /Mange-le! Mange-le! /Donnez même le bisou au pouvoir. /Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! / Vraiment de Dieu! /Quelle honte! /Quel abus de confiance!”
Awilo points out that it is only a question of time before these power-mongers find themselves in prison: “Dans bientôt all man for ngata! / On vous connaît! / On vous connaît! /Question de temps!” The theme of ubiquitous power struggle is a leitmotif in Awilo’s songwriting. As he puts, Cameroon is sitting on a time-bomb on account of iniquitous political strife: “Quelle guerre politique!/ You go for Mamfe,/ Ayah Paul ana Agbor Tabi!/ You go for Tiko na dem dem/ Affaire ngraffi ana son of the soil!/ You go for Nkambe,/ Na Awudu Mbaya Ibrahim for SDF/ Ana Yembe Shey Jones!/ You go for Bamenda,/ Atanga ana Angwafor sei Fru Ndi must go Baba./ You go Ngoketunjia,/ Dr. Lesigha and Fon Doh…/ If man be know.”
This sagacious musician knows his country’s political chessboard like the back of his palm. He strikes an interesting parallel between Cameroonian politicians and the country’s corrupt police officers: “Affaire politique yi dong ton leke/ Muna policier wei yi de soso take’am/ Yi no di gee man no one day./ You go for policier yi house,/ Yi go ask you sei, tu m’as amené quoi?/ Yi come for youa house,/ Tu m’as gardé quoi?”
This analogy is very striking. In many parts of Cameroon there is common belief that police officers are part of the national problem rather than the solution. This is true of Cameroonian politicians who excel in the art of double-speak and circumlocution. In the final analysis, Awilo comes to the realization that only a biological solution will rid Cameroonians of the cancer that has been nicknamed “Beti.” It is on this count that the unfazed musician calls upon God Almighty to come to the rescue of his compatriots: “God, add small fire for Cameroon/ Mek we take dis ting!/ You done over slow./ Since weh dem born me,/ You done slow sotai I ton nyamangoro./ No be na you mek fire?/ Add fire! Add fire God! Papa God add fire!/ You done slow sotai Satan wan take Cameroon./ Add fire! Add fire! Ah!”
Like most despondent Cameroonians, Awilo is convinced that only the biological remedy will rid Cameroon of the Beti mafia orchestrated by the tenant at Etoudi. He seems to entertain the melancholic thought that God has taken leave of Cameroon:“You done slow sotai Satan wan take Cameroon.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is that the Almighty is a permissive God who gives men enough leeway to do what they want. Then He strikes with a sledge-hammer at the opportune moment. Awilo appears cognizant of this ontological truth when he sings: “Some taim God di hide/ God di take yi taim/ Slowly but steadily.”
Awilo’s piece ends on a rather pessimistic note, with no hope for change in Cameroon any time soon: “We don tiya/ Kontri no wan change-oh!/ We don tiya/ Kontri no wan change-oh!/ Kah Walah Edith Kabbang, 000,000/ Ayah Paul Abine, 0.0,000/ Fru Ndi Ni John, 0.4000,000/ Biya Paul, 35,000,000/ C’est lui le gagnant!” There goes Awilo again with another punch in the face of ELECAM.
In a nutshell, Awilo is an upstart in the arena of protest music in Cameroon. He is unfazed by Paul Biya’s bully antics and scare tactics. He wants the world to know that Cameroon is an existential anomaly, a sore finger on the landscape of Africa. Cameroonians need to keep an eye on this young musician. He knows his country pretty well and has mastered the craft of converting political material into marketable musical stuff.
About the reviewer Dr. Peter Vakunta is professor at the United States Department of Defense Language Institute, POM-CANotes
1.THe last moment has come. Cameroonians have understood and confirmed the message from the big witch.
2.We don’t want the Beti, We are tired of the Beti, We’ve fought too many battles with the Beti, We’re tired of cursing the Beti, We’re tired!
3.MTN, Orange, Camtel, Agency for the distribution of mosquito nets / You have helped your father win with no effort /What breach of trust/ And swindle without fuss! What a shame for your clients!
4.Tribe of the Head of State of Cameroon
5.“Elecam, suprme court, forces of law and order are all children of Papa./If your father is a General/ Your mother president of the court/ Do you think you can ever go to prison?/ Noooooooo!
6.You live in Mbeng but your ballot paper is seen in Mamfe. You live Kumba but your ballot paper is seen in Douala. You live in Douala but your ballot paper is in Mbengwi. You are in Kumba but your ballot paper is in Muyuka. A person can vote five times if he has the energy and transportation fare. Good heavens!
7.ELECAM, shame!!!/Again, ELECAM, shame, shame, shame! / God will punish all of you nine times!”
8.If at the end of the day; yes I said at the end of the day, hein Theft has been legalized in Cameroun, Then the doors of prisons should be thrown open To set free your colleagues incarcerated a long time ago. This would give everyone some temporary freedom!
9.You have robbed our children of their future! Children no longer have a future. To work in Cameroon You must be a specialist in the antics of the underprivileged, We live in a country that changes colors like a chameleon!
10.“Cameroon of big ambitions /Today the big achiever/Isn’t it too late? Power was given to you for free /Caress power! / Eat power! / Have sex with power! /It’s all yours/ You were born with power! /Eat it! Eat it!!/ You can even kiss power/Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! / Good Heavens! /What a shame! /What breach of trust!
11.Soon everyone will be in jail! / We know you! /We know you! / Question of time!”
12.What a political warfare! You go to Mamfe, Ayah Paul is against Agbor Tabi! You go to Tiko, it’s still them It’s the tug of war between the Graffi and indigenes! You go to Nkambe, It’s Awudu Mbaya Ibrahim of SDF against Yembe Shey Jones! You go to Bamenda, Atanga and Angwafor say Fru Ndi must return to Baba. You go to Ngoketunjia, Dr. Lesigha is at daggers drawn with Fon Doh… Had we known!
13.This business of politics could be compared to police officers Who never give but only take. If you pay a policeman a visit He will ask you what you brought for him If he pays you a visit, he’ll ask you what you kept for him.
14.God, add a little bit of fire for the sake of Cameroon We need to bring an end to this mess! You have been too slow. From the date of my birth to date, You have been slow to point of making me feel that I am a snail Didn’t you create fire? Add fire! Add fire God! Papa God add more fire! Yo have been slow to the point where I nurse fears that Satan will take over Cameroon. Add fire! Add fire! Ah!
15.Sometimes God hides/ God takes His time/ Slowly but steadily.”
16.We are tired/ The country doesn’t want to change-oh!/ We are tired/ The country doesn’t want to change-oh!/!/ Kah Walah Edith Kabbang, 000,000/ Ayah Paul Abine, 0.0,000/ Fru Ndi Ni John, 0.4000,000/ Biya Paul, 35,000,000/ He is the winner!