Interviewed by Kingsley Fomunyuy Njoka
Pa Peter Chilla studied in the Prisons College in Enugu, Nigeria, and started working in the then West Cameroons, and continued until his retirement as a Senior Prisons Warder.
Sir, how are you fairing today after serving your country all these years?
I have nothing to complain about, because I am a happy man. I do farming as a hobby. But before now, I must confess that it was very difficult, as I had to be running around looking for documents for my retirement file. These are documents I had submitted long before and had to establish them again.
I discovered that the whole protocol was simply to create a forum for retired people to pass bribes around. Otherwise, I don't see how archives could be kept safe in those days while files go missing today in this age of information technology.
What would be your advice for change to come?
Honestly speaking, the thought of change in this country is a pipe-dream. Any advice will simply slide off like water on a duck's back. For example, when Mr. Biya was given the reigns of the country, a certain commission was created to seek advice from those of us who came from the then West Cameroon, on how to make life and working conditions better for Cameroonians. All the information and advice they gathered was thrown in the dustbin. Any advice I give today will surely be neglected.
How is governance today different from those days?
I'm afraid it's like comparing day to night. I am not giving credit to the West Cameroons because I worked there, but when something is good you have to say it. Everything then was transparent, and well spelt out. All government activities were published every week in the West Cameroon Gazette for all to see.
This is Gazette No 25 of 17th June 1972, in which you will find appointments, promotions, advancements, annual leaves, resumption of service and many other things. All promotions were by merit. From the General Orders, (another document) the status of every civil servant was known. It contained all civil service regulations and there were no stories of text of application.
Your rank, your dues, from the document could be known, and there could be no story of corruption like today. You could not be elderly to somebody in service and he turns round to be your boss. All staff were audited without notice and the Director of Audits was selected by Parliament, so you could not influence him.
Today, it is exactly the opposite. Today, the president appoints and gives orders, who can audit him? Honestly speaking, nobody who experienced that system will like Cameroon today.
What about the economic situation and living standards then and now?
The government was in control of everything, including prices of goods in the market, which were monitored regularly. in those days, when you went to "Kings Way" stores for CDC workers, prices were kept at affordable level. Life was easy for all. You speak of the West Cameroons with such nostalgia.
Do you regret finding yourself here today?
No. I don't regret it for it is part of history and it is interesting to have experienced both systems. How else would I be telling you all these things now?
But if you were to choose between that period and now?
I definitely prefer those old days.