The highest rank of Fai is the Atarntoh (all Nchelav), with the “Atarntoh ve Samba”, leading this group. These are family heads of some of the most influential lineages in Nso. In Fact some of them actually submitted themselves to Nso as Fons between 1450 and 1800, but it is unknown why they were made Nwerong leaders instead of Duy or Mtaar Vibai.
Unlike the Vibai who are councilors of the court, the primary role of the Atarntoh is that of Palace stewards, priests and guardians of the royal household. Atarntoh also sometimes act as advisers to the Fon.
In addition, the Atarntoh are members of the “Shishwaa” society whose principal duty is to keep Nso land free of famine. “Shishwaa” members are also responsible for protecting Nso institutions from any destruction and also act as the Fon’s peace envoys.
Here in order of seniority are the “Atarntoh ve Samba“
1. Fai Maamo (Nchelav)
2. Fai Faanjang (Nchelav)
3. Fai Mbingiy (Nchelav/Mtaar)
4. Fai Kuyntoh Nchelav (Nchelav)
5. Fai Kuynseh (Nchelav)
6. Fai Tsenkay (Nchelav)
7. Fai Nseeni (Nchelav)
All “Atarntoh ve samba” are only lower in rank to the ten (10) ” Vibai ve tiy se taakibu”.
The next category of Fais is the “Won jemer se Fon” (the Fon’s sisters’ sons). Since most of these are Mtaar (aboriginal Nso), they have a separate quarter called TaaMban (next to Nwerong’s compound). Their principal duty is to carry out inquisitions, expiatory sacrifices and cleansing rituals.
Here in order of seniority are the Fai “Won jemer ve samba“
1. Fai Nsame (Mtaar)
2. Fai Mbivtinmbang (Mtaar)
3. Fai Kii Mbala Nseeni (Mtaar)
4. Fai Jem Njavnyuy (Mtaar)
5. Fai Menjey Tooy (Mtaar)
6. Fai Jem Kinga (Mtaar)
7. Fai Kii Kiyan (Mtaar)
All “Won jemer se Fon” are higher in rank to ” Vibai ve duy ve kpu”.
The last category of Fais are lineage or sub-lineage heads. There are scores of Fais (too many to be listed) in this category and are drawn from all the segments of Nso society the commoners (Nchelav), the aboriginals (Mtaar) and the extended royal family (Duy). All Fais in this category are lower in rank to all Vibais, the Atarntohs and “Won jemer”
The process of en-stooling is elaborate, grande and very public, whether the Fai assumes the stool by inheritance, extension (“kisheer”), elevation (from Shey) or appointment by the Fon (fhum or buh).
Shey Stephen Shemlon (PHD)