Watching Southern Cameroonians like the Nick Ngwanyams, Munzus, the Ni Johns, Akere Munas, the Tumis, Agbor Nkonghos – Kah Wallas, Kamtos and several others in the East Cameroons smartly articulate and fight for the benefits of a federation or a confederation, one can not help but admire their tenacity.

These are some of the best, most honorable, venerated people in their field of expertise, who still believe against all odds that the merger between the Southern and East Cameroons could still be salvaged. Salvaged to bring an end to the conflict that has ravaged the Southern Cameroons into ruins.

In one week, the national dialogue in the Cameroons would be over. Perhaps their dreams of the Cameroons becoming a two state federation, a great country, with students striving to go to the moon will be realized.

If the build up to the national dialogue is anything to go by, they are about to come to stark contrast with reality. No dictatorship survives in a federation. That zero survival is at the core of a federation.

The fundamental question to ask is really simple. Does the dictatorial regime of Paul Biya want to survive? If the answer is yes, you know a federation is just wishful. That is the whole reason the federal status of the Southern Cameroons was unconstitutionally abolished in the first place with the stroke of a pen.

After these many years of perseverance, navigating the tides, going even against their own people to push for a federation, will the federalists now say at least they tried and have to now push for the next obvious option? Or will they cower and hope for another national dialogue?

Federalists are seeking constitutional changes in a dictatorship, but do not have the enthusiastic masses to beat the pavements and demand it. Their foundational position has been that the separatists are radicals, war is horrible, we are the next best option between separation and decentralization.

Obviously, any reasonable and rational group of people will find that easy to adopt. The people want peace, they will jump at a chance to freedom, it will build enthusiasm, good will and everyone wins.

Apparently, these folks are yet to be introduced to the French idea of zero-sum game when it comes to colonization. One party wins what the other side loses.

Some have called the federalists naive, sellouts, compromised. Compromised seems to be a big number in Ambazonian circles. It is the word lobbed at individuals who are not seen adequately as restorationists or separatists.

To a seasoned dictator like Paul Biya, there is little difference between the federalists and the separatists. Federalists are only a tool for him to quash the separatists. To Biya, the federalists want to strip him of his power and the separatists want to strip him of a territory. So, the greedy dictator sees both as enemies to be crushed.

Mr. Biya’s call for a national dialogue was very specific. It was about improving his version of decentralization and nothing more. His prime minister Dion Ngute is charged with creating a commission to implement decentralization.

Biya’s governors in the labelled North West and South West provinces after their visits with the prime minister re-emphasized the position of the government to the media. The appointed governors who both hail from East Cameroon indicated they were speaking on behalf of the people of the Southern Cameroons. They said they had come to express that the wish of the Southern Cameroonians is decentralization. That wish will be examined in Ngute’s commissions.

For experienced bureaucrats, if you want to kill an idea, you create a commission for it. Then you frustrate the commission with countless meetings, resolutions and finally pull the plug on the budget on the premise that the commission spent too much money. Blame the commission for the failure and create a new one. If the idea ever comes out, it is broken and disfigured.

Ambazonians say the future of the Southern Cameroons is not something for commissions anymore. Previous independent commissions had already developed tangible and credible proposals before. They say it is past the time for new commissions.

The separatists are far from excited about the national dialogue and with good reason. A significant percentage of the people invited to the dialogue have very little interest in the conflict. They have no sway as to the direction of the conflict. These by all accounts are outsiders.

Even the now unelected members of parliament in the Cameroons will be part of the dialogue. One would have imagined that as representatives of a deliberative body, they would have called for discussions and even drawn up their own resolutions as to the way forward. That has never happened in the 3 years of war.

These old members of parliament are more scared of the dictatorial regime than the teenage boys and girls fighting for a free state. Reason why they have remained silent as the conflict has claimed the lives of thousands of their fellow citizens and sent hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in dense forests. They lack even the courage to visit the regions and see the devastation firsthand.

As for the moderates and federalists, many separatists are waiting to sound the trumpet on “I told you so” after the national dialogue. Naivety is what will define the federalists if they fail to get the most moderate position in the Ambazonian war of independence; a two state federation that recognizes the original sovereignty of the Southern Cameroons.

The moderates and federalists will only have themselves to blame. They represent little to no interest group. Apparently, they have had honest intellectual and rational debates with themselves about what they think is good for society. They don’t just have anyone willing to buy them, there doesn’t seem to be a marketplace for their great ideas. Time will tell if they were far ahead of their generation or were too slow to catch up.

Ambazonians claim the Biya dialogue is a pep rally for the regime to sell the federalists on an even worse option, a watered-down federation called Decentralized Autonomous Regions. Most likely to be headed by elected officials and in another year these officials will be subject to appointed super officials.

Southern Cameroonians have learnt this lesson the hard way. When opposition parties won mayoral positions before, government delegates or super mayors were appointed by and answerable to the president only. That dealt a terrible blow to the local mayors.

Every local success was attributed to government delegates and of course to the president. Government bureaucratic failures were the responsibility of the mayors. And, in the next election cycle, the mayors were all kicked out in favor of staunch dictatorship supporters. Welcome to the French zero-sum game.

Perhaps it is time for the moderates to stop dreaming and start acting. Mr. Biya might have had a childhood dream of taking the Cameroons to the moon, but even at 86, a sound individual would know it is time to put the interest of your people first, at least for once.