A YouTube video showing President Paul Biya appearing to be completely unaware of his surroundings at last month’s US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, has recently gained traction and sparked a lot of controversy on social media.
In the video, President Biya is seen remarking, in French, about the large crowd as he is guided to his seat on stage.
“Wow! So I have become a celebrity… Who are all these people present? Are there any important personalities among them?” President Biya asked his aide who frantically tried to explain the situation to him, to no avail.
“Yes, President Kagame just spoke and it’s your turn… Your mic is on. You have been introduced,” the aide explained.
President Biya, who will be 90 years old next month, still did not seem to understand that the audience was waiting for him to speak even after his aide prompted him repeatedly. He sat and flipped through the pages of the document he was supposed to read and even farted twice while seated on stage.
Reactions to the Troubling Footage
The video was particularly worrisome for many Africans who wondered how Biya, who was clearly incapacitated, could be deemed fit to rule a whole nation. Additionally, many wondered how he was still in power after all these years.
President Biya has ruled Cameroon since 1982, making him the second longest ruling president in Africa after Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Biya is also the world’s oldest head of state.
“The major problem mitigating against us as Africans is the problem of “Leadership and Followership” the people are the real enablers of these leaders. For Paul Biya to have lasted this long in power, he has the support of many people in Cameroon. When will Africans wake?” lamented one Twitter user.
On the other hand, Adeola Fayehun, whose YouTube video was recirculated on Twitter, expressed concern for President Biya’s health status and questioned why his family did not seem to care about him enough to make him step down.
“How can there not be one family member that will think they need to put an end to this public embarrassment?” Fayehun asked.
Fayehun also added that he was likely being kept in power, so those around him could continue taking advantage of him to steal public funds.
She especially held this view concerning President Biya’s 52-year-old wife Chantal Biya, a former model who is famous for her huge wigs and flamboyant fashion. President Biya married Chantal in 1994, 2 years after the death of his first wife.
For some Nigerians, the video was taken as a clarion call to vote the right person into power in the upcoming presidential elections.
72-year-old Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is one of the foremost presidential candidates and the candidate of the current ruling party, has already showed multiple times in public gatherings that he may be physically unfit to rule the continent’s most populous country.
Moreover, many have questioned the veracity of Tinubu’s age, considering the ages of his late son and first wife when they died, as well as some conflicting documents. It is estimated that his age is more likely between 85 and 90 years old.
Tinubu’s health status is just one of the many controversies surrounding his presidential campaign, another one of which is his alleged ties to drug trafficking.
President Biya’s Never-Ending Reign.
President Biya is only the second president in Cameroon’s history, having taken over from late Ahmadou Ahidjo who held the office from 1960 to 1982. Ahidjo resigned from the presidency in 1982 and died of natural causes 7 years later.
President Biya has won every presidential election since then, although there have been recurring allegations of election fraud.
After being re-elected in 2004, Biya even contested the two-term limit placed on the presidency in Cameroon’s 1996 constitution. A single term runs for 7 years in Cameroon, so at that time, it meant he would be unable to run for the presidency again in 2011.
Though heavily protested by the Cameroonian masses, the National Assembly voted to remove the two-term limit from the constitution in 2008, allowing Biya to run again unchecked 3 years later and in subsequent elections.
Biya’s regime has been marked by authoritarianism and corruption, as is the norm with Africa’s long-serving presidents.