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« In Memoriam: Jean-Marc Ela, Africa’s “Liberation Theologian” is Dead | Main | How Ahmadou Ahidjo Under-Developed Northern Cameroon »

January 11, 2009


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Insightful- Very insightful- Thanks!

Dr A A Agbormbai

This is an interesting case of principle vs pragmatism.

The principle here is that meritocracy (and nothing else) should govern all decisions of appointments or selections into institutions.

Meritocracy is a fairness principle, but also one that engenders performance efficiencies, effectiveness, and productivity, and hence engenders accomplishments on the career path.

Meritocracy is also a powerful motivational tool when pursued ruthlessly. A nation that stands on strong, uncompromising meritocracy is a nation destined for great times.

It is no surprise that Obama's transition-team choices of future cabinet members and White House support staff are founded on sound meritocracy, only possibly compromised marginally by the need for ethnic diversity.

It is also no surprise that Cameroon has been failing mainly from its lack of widespread meritocracy.

Now let's look at the pragmatism aspect...

The practicality in this article derives from the fact that some regions (the Far North, in this case) are so disadvantaged that special measures must be taken to level the playing field.

The arguments martialled by the Far North MPs are compelling, and provide logically convincing explanations of why special measures must be admitted in this case.

This is one of those special cases wherein the pragmatics of a problem override principle. Or to state it better, principle must be applied only within the limits defined by the practicalities of a problem.

What this means is that the applicants must be split into two groups... Far North and the rest of the country. The selected applicants must also split into two groups according to a 60 : 40 ratio. 60% of the selected applicants must come from the Far North group, and 40% of the selected applicants must come from the 'rest of the country' group. In both cases meritocracy must govern the selection process.

Thus, we have combined or unified (1)pragmatics (the application of an appropriate regional balance ratio) and (2) principle (the application of meritocracy within the regional balance ratio). We thus achieve the desired regional balance, but we also achieve fairness within the regional balance.

This simple procedure can be readily generalised to the 10 regions...

Given the practicalities of the problem we identify an appropriate regional balance ratio of 10 percentages (one for each region). Then we split the applicants into 10 groups. For each group, we select its percentage of applicants according to a meritocratic protocol.

Note that this procedure is appropriate only as long as regional imbalance exists. The situation must be monitored continually. As soon as regional imbalance disappears to insignificant levels, we must return to the desirable formula of applying ruthless meritocracy in selecting applicants.

Meritocracy then becomes the sole consideration and the foundation stone for building a thriving nation, regardless of regions, ethnic origins, etc.


The oversimplified solution provided by the Head of State in which he bloated the number of selected applicants to unexpected levels is unsatisfactory. He has simply replaced one problem with another... Not a good way to start a new university.

It should be a straightforward matter to return to the assessed scripts to draw out the extra 500 or so Far North applicants whom the MPs demand.

Dr A A Agbormbai

Now let us look at two critical issues that arise in my preceding commentary... Regional balance ratios, and Ruthless meritocracy

Choice of Regional Balance Ratios

The choice must always be biased towards regions of greater imbalance. This means that regions of greater imbalance must have higher ratios. This applies to both national and regional selections.

For regional selections, the ratios must be biased towards the region in which the selection is made (this is the region in which the career activity is to be pursued), IF THAT REGION SUFFERS AN IMBALANCE. And the amount of bias should reflect the amount of the imbalance in that region.

Regional balance is only critical to government-related selections and appointments. Here fairness of meritocracy and fairness of regional involvement are critical to the success of a nation.

Regional balance is only desirable for private businesses, it is not critical. A private business can succeed without implementing regional balance.

But if it fails because of this (say it is so tribalistic that it employs incompetent people just because they originate from the owner's tribe) then this will be just one business failure.

The nation can cope with one business failure but it cannot cope with a failed government (one that is so tribalistic that incompetent people are appointed to critical positions, just because they come from a few favoured tribes).

Application of Ruthless Meritocracy

Ruthless meritocracy is the type of meritocracy that exists when there is no need for regional balance measures. It exists when a nation is already regionally balanced.

When ruthless meritocracy is applied there is still the need to take account of ethnic diversity in selections. The aim is for a meritorious and diverse group of selected applicants.

When balancing meritocracy and diversity, the thrust should be towards meritocracy... as it is the key ingredient for success in any nation.

This means that a person should not be selected just to satisfy diversity needs, when it is clear that this person is not good enough for the job.

It also means that a meritoriously-selected group may acceptably lack diversity if it is clear that no acceptably competent people exist in other ethnic groups. If this regrettable situation is the case then urgent ethnic/regional balancing measures must be taken to correct the problem.

When it all works well the applicants will be narrowed down (following a meritocratic procedure) to a select group of meritorious candidates that also have some diversity.

Two possible actions become critical...

1. If the diversity level is acceptable then this group is used to make the final selections. At this stage, it is acceptable to make small compromises of merit in favour of an acceptably diverse final selection.

2. If the diversity level is unacceptable then it is acceptable to make meritocratic compromises to arrive at an acceptable composition of this final pool from which the final candidates are selected. Once an acceptable diversity level is achieved we can proceed as for (1) to select the final candidates.

What we find therefore is that the attainment of an acceptable level of diversity almost always incurs some loss of merit. Provided this loss is acceptably small or is not critical then the exercise can be claimed to have been successful.

Dr A A Agbormbai

Note that even when meritocracy is applied only within regions (as part of including regional balance) the commments made under 'Application of Ruthless Meritocracy,' in the preceding commentary, still apply.

This is because applying meritocracy within a particular region also calls for accommodating ethnic diversity within that region.

All these simply complicate the selection process. But again, in life, being fair has never been an easy undertaking. It is part of the pursuit of righteousness. Probably why most people prefer wrongdoing... i.e. are sinners. Doing the right thing can be too difficult.

Dr A A Agbormbai

Note also that the meritocratic compromises recommended in points (1) and (2) of my second commentary must be small, insignificant, or uncritical.

It is most unwise to make critical or significant compromises of merit just to satisfy diversity needs.

The guiding rule here is the good health of the nation as measured by the ability of the selected candidates or appointees to perform well or excel at their career. And their performance will be measured by their on-the-job achievements. The larger these accomplishments are the better it is.


Interesting quote from the blog of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Hina, in the Far North province, which sheds more light on one of the gripes of the Northern elite, viz., the refusal of teachers from the South to move to the Northern provinces:

"P.S. the lycee (high school) is just in shambles. The kids are more out of class then in class because basically the government assigns where the professors work, so they could just get assigned to a village they don’t want to go to and then they just never show up or just show up whenever they want to. Also, since there really are not many professors in the first place many of the teachers are just graduates from the lycee who are really not qualified to teach… but are better than nothing. I had a conversation with a teacher who said it is ridiculous, however, he gets paid 25,000 CFA a month. By comparison, I get 160k a month from Peace corps. A mattress costs more than 25,000 CFA. That is 50 bucks a month. Not much. But a job here… which is really hard to find. Another problem, why get an education and waste 8 years or more of your time and money in highschool/college if you are going to come out poor and with no job to start anyways? Many a people who drive moto-taxis or work in boutiques have masters degrees… what a waste.

Innocent Mancho

Sirens of destitution

The deluge of forbearing tomorrow
Anchoring the subterfuge of beseeming joy
Submerged by promises of endearing hearts
Churn by dreams that rekindle the joy that once was

The rising moon and the setting sun
Spell doom on a nation’s youth
Hunkered by generations of visionless rulers
Clad in monstrous clown suits

Adherents of cultic spheres
Vampires gnawing even the flesh of formless foetus
Rape and plunder the creed of their brotherhood
They congregate-men riding men in orgies of an immoral clan

Blinded by the blood of the innocents
Deafened by the cries of begrudging widows and orphans
Stoned by the evils of their bigotry
They fail to heed the rising tides

The waves surge in anger bearing
In their rage the echo of the Obasinjom warrior
Spitting the fire that they thought extinguished
Crushing! Crushing! Crushing! Crushing!

Purging the land of the filth they have spun
And on their graves we shall spit the curse of barrenness
From the bosom of the Mongo and from the footstool of epassamoto
A lamb will rise to tame the beasts and sooth our souls.

Innocent Ndifor Mancho

Ma Mary

Jerry, the recipe from the IMF ie structural adjustment programs that they imposed on poor countries, involved starving off social services like health and human investments like education, therefore only partially fault of Camerounese govt. Witness what they do when US economy is teetering on the brink. No SAP here, no sir. On the contrary, they administer hefty stimulus packages to "jumpstart" the economy. Why? You think about that and give us the answer.

Ma Mary

We should solve this problem because....

Southern Cameroonians should go there to teach as well payed expartriates.


Interesting "on the ground" report from a peace corps teacher in the Far North province:

My school is run by an effective principal, who has been really great about helping me get settled in and helping get the things I need. Even my students are great. They actually want to learn, which is not something I’m used to. But the situation at my school is pretty dire, since the teacher’s college opened in January in the provincial capital, which lead to the exodus of a lot of teachers in the province, who wanted to take advantage of the first teacher’s college in the Grand North of Cameroon, but leaving a lot of students without teachers. At my school, they told me that there are 16 teachers, but I will say, I have yet to see any number of teachers that goes beyond 10. This week was my first teaching at school and besides Monday, I think there were around 4 teachers at school Tuesday and Wednesday, and then yesterday there were just 3 of us. I know many of them don’t live in the village, but commute from other towns, but the fact that there are 600 students and 3 or 4 teachers at school is really sad. One day this week I had a free period and one of my students came up to me and asked if I could teach the class. I was supposed to teach that class later that day, but those kids weren’t doing anything, so I took advantage of the fact that the teacher didn’t show up and taught. It worked out really well for me, because I was then able to go home before the heat started kicking my butt.

Rest of posting here - http://gloriaincameroon.blogspot.com/2009/02/new-post-is-fantastic.html

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