Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo (24 August 1924 – 30 November 1989) was a prominent Cameroonian politician who served as the first President of Cameroon from 1960 to 1982. He played a significant role in leading Cameroon to independence from France and in reuniting the French and English-speaking regions of the country. During his presidency, Ahidjo implemented a centralized political system and established a single-party state under the Cameroon National Union (CNU) in 1966. In 1972, he abolished the federation and transitioned Cameroon into a unitary state.
Born in Garoua, a major river port in northern Cameroun under French mandate, Ahidjo was raised in a Muslim household by his Fulani mother and Fulani village chief father. He received both Islamic education and formal schooling, completing his secondary education in Yaoundé. Ahidjo joined the civil service in 1942 and worked in various cities across Cameroon, which contributed to his understanding of the country's diverse ethnic makeup and governance challenges.
Ahidjo began his political career in 1946 and served as a member of the Assembly of the French Union from 1953 to 1957. He became President of the Legislative Assembly of Cameroon in 1957 and later served as Deputy Prime Minister in the government of André-Marie Mbida. In 1958, Ahidjo became Prime Minister at the age of thirty-four. During his tenure, he focused on moving Cameroon towards independence, fostering unity, and cooperating with the French colonial powers.
Ahidjo faced opposition from radical groups, such as the Union des Populations du Cameroun, who rejected French influence and advocated for a more revolutionary approach to decolonization. Despite these challenges, Ahidjo successfully led Cameroon to independence, and in 1960, he became the President of the newly independent country. He faced a rebellion from the Union des Populations du Cameroun in the 1960s but managed to suppress it with the help of French military forces.
One of Ahidjo's key accomplishments was the reunification of the English-speaking and French-speaking parts of Cameroon. He worked with Premier John Foncha to integrate the two regions and establish the Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1961, with Ahidjo as the President and Foncha as the Vice President. However, differences emerged between Ahidjo and Foncha over territorial administration, leading to the abolition of the federation in 1972 and the establishment of a unitary state.
During his presidency, Ahidjo implemented authoritarian measures, including the suppression of opposition and the establishment of a one-party state under the Cameroon National Union (CNU). He centralized power, controlled the government, and maintained a clientelistic network to ensure loyalty. Despite these authoritarian tendencies, Cameroon experienced relative stability and economic growth under Ahidjo's leadership.
Ahidjo resigned from the presidency in 1982, citing health reasons, and Paul Biya succeeded him. However, a feud developed between Ahidjo and Biya, leading Ahidjo to go into exile in France in 1983. Accused of being involved in a coup plot against Biya in 1984, Ahidjo was sentenced to death in absentia, but he passed away from natural causes in 1989.
Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo's presidency left a lasting impact on Cameroon's political landscape and its journey towards independence and unity. Although his leadership was marked by authoritarianism, he is recognized for his contributions to the development and stability of Cameroon.
Date of Birth: 24th August, 1924
Time of Birth:
Place of Birth: Garoua