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The issue is a very intriguing one. It begs the question as to whether a people are shaped by the territorial borders that bind them together. In other words, does the American, or the French, or the German or even the Cameroonian behave in a way that typically characterizes his or her nation?
I suppose that in the case of America for example, the question of State borders does get relegated to second place – or perhaps not – as it is overarched, dwarfed and superseded by federal considerations. Whatever is the case, Cameroon as a case in point must raise special eyebrows because of its rather unusual complex configuration.
Not only does Cameroon use two official languages whereas most countries use one, but it also has over 230 languages of its own. Do not confuse languages with dialects. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, cited by Laura Lawless, defines a dialect as “a regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists.” As far as “a language” is concerned, a number of sources define it in relation to “language”, which means something different. The <freedictionary.com> says, about the two, for instance: “a. Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols. b. Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words’ c. Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.”
The situation in Cameroon is compounded by the many ethnic (some would say, tribal) groupings we have. So whereas in Nigeria, scholars can talk of a few “dominant” or “majority” groups such as the Fulani/Hausa, the Igbo and the Yoruba, in Cameroon, we have many more than those: Fulani/Hausa and other northern Sahelian families, the Bamileke, the Dualas, the Betis, the Bassas, the Bamums etc. If we add the Anglophone/Francophone divide to all of those, then the dish really does become composite.
A closer look at the last named category can be illuminating because its coverage or impact is national – or ought to be. So the question is: Is the Cameroonian Anglophone person different in behaviour from his Francophone brother or sister? When one traces the genesis to where the British and French stepped into our country and divided us among themselves, one can affirm that the Anglophones picked up “British” habits and the Francophones picked up “French” habits. One school of thought views the British as being conservative exclusive and stingy, whereas the French are seen as progressive, inclusive and generous.
My personal observation has led me to that conclusion. So while a Francophone boss receives a subordinate who wakes him at night with an urgent family problem and reacts sympathetically and helps out financially, the Anglophone boss will be less helpful and as the employee leaves, the former will call him back and remind him that the money given is “a loan”. Then he will add: “Don’t let me run after you for it!” The Francophone boss, on the other hand, gives generously but apologetically and says: “Use this for now. If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to come back!”
Watch us Anglophone elite at fundraising events. We usually do not give much, comparatively. When we invite journalists to cover an event, we always think of “reducing” the number of those to be invited. Sometimes we decide that there is no need to invite them because “It will cost too much money”. Even when we pay their mission allowances – after arguing that they should not be paid in the first place – we do not disburse all of it. When we are appointed to top posts, one of the first things we do is to reduce contact with our own people. We avoid them even when they come right to our offices and homes. It has been observed that if you really need assistance, go to a Francophone and he will help you faster. If you go to the Anglophone, he will not say “yes”, neither will he say “no”. He will simply keep you hanging on the line until you give up and “get the hell out of here!”
While the Francophone boss boasts that he has a child who has left EMIA and another who is in IRIC, his Anglophone counterpart will say he has two in America, one in Britain and another in Germany.
In fact, this kind of behaviour has made me coin the expression that “while the Francophone is looking for a pretext to give, the Anglophone is looking for an excuse not to give!”
That is my view. What is yours?