Category Archives: Tradition

Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 2)

Last week, i shared part 1 of the paper by Shey Shemlon Shighan Stephen on MEN OF TITLE, POWER, INFLUENCE AND CULT MEMBERSHIP IN THE PARAMOUNT KINGDOM OF NSO’. It was about SENIOR COURT COUNCILORS (VIBAY VÈ KOV) & COURT STEWARDS (ATÁRNTO’). Today we shall continue from where we stopped and if you missed part 1, do not worry as you can still read it here. http://sheytatah.dk/titles-and-cult-membership-in-nso-part-1/

II-3. STATE COUNCILORS OF SACRIFICE (VIBAY VE DÙY)
In the court there exists a class of councilors called the Great Lords of Sacrifice – all Dùy , whose role is religious (Vibay ve Ntaŋri). They are also in charge of the State mortuary services (Vibay ve Kpù). The most senior of these Lords by order of rank (1-7) are:
1. Shúufaáy Bashwin
2. Shúufaáy Njavnyùy
3. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv-ntìntìn
4. Shúufaáy Dzәm
5. Shúufaáy Bambùy
6. Shúufaáy Kooŋgir
7. Shúufaáy Taaway
All Vibay ve Dùy are princes of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty.
Since these Lords are of the extended Royal family they are some of the most senior members of the Ŋgírì Fraternal cults. As the lateral cult opposites of the Atárnto’ they are forbidden from membership in the Ŋwéròŋ cults. In recent times it appears this restriction on Vibay ve Dùy is being reviewed even though it has not been lifted by the Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ . It is however noteworthy that a few times in history some members have left the ranks of the Lords of Sacrifice in order to gain membership into the Ŋwéròŋ cults as un-restricted Lords. This happened during the reign of Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-

1947) when Shúufaáy Tsenla’ Yer left the ranks of the Vibay ve Kpù to become a ngang (cult member of) Ŋwéròŋ.
II-4. COUNCIL OF ROYAL IN-LAWS (FAÁY WON JEMER VE FÒN)
Among the Advisors of the court is a special group of counselors that is given preferential treatment by the King (Fòn) because they are his in-laws. These Advisors are called Won Jemer ve Fòn (the Fòn’s sisters’ sons). All of them are of the aboriginal Mntaár lineages (or have been assigned) and are fathers of the Fòn’s mother. Here by rank (1-7) are the seven most senior Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba.
1. Faáy Nsà’me (aboriginal Mntaár)
2. Faáy Mbìvtinmbaŋ (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kiluun prince claiming Fònship)
3. Faáy Ki’ Mbala Nsәәnè (original Mntaár who absorbed renegade Mbiŋon/Kijem princes)
4. Faáy Jèm Njavnyùy (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kijem prince claiming Fònship)
5. Faáy Menjey e Tò’óy (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
6. Faáy Jèm Kiŋgá’ (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kijem prince claiming Fònship)
7. Faáy Ki’ Kiyán (original Mntaár who absorbed renegade Mbiŋon/Kijem princes)
In addition to the Three Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár), all seven Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba are members of the Taa-Mbàn expiatory cult.
Like the Three Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár), the Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba cannot be members of either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults because of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. As noted earlier this is an unnecessary restriction nowadays and it may be time to consider lifting it given the unsavory consequences it has produced of late in Do’ Ruun and Do’ Ŋgvәn.
II-5. OTHER STATE COUNCILORS (VIBAY)
Over the years, many Men of Title have been elevated to the rank of State Councilors (Vibay). The membership of newly created or elevated Vibays in either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults is generally determined by whether they belong (or are assigned to) the Ncheèlav , Dùy or Mntaár lineages. There is a customary rule that all Dùy Vibay are members of the Ŋgírì cult, all Ncheèlav Vibay are members of the Ŋwéròŋ cult and all Mntaár Vibay are neither members of the Ŋwéròŋ nor Ŋgírì cults.
A Kibay’s (pl. Vibay) membership in both Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults is a matter of negotiations (that could take years), and some extreme intrigue that may be connected to some seemingly un-related events, individuals or lineages.
A look back at the history of the elevation of some of these honorable men to councilorship exposes some of the most intricate and entertaining machinations in social and political power positioning to ever rock the fabric of the Nso’ Paramount Fòndom.
After the Nso’ Palace was moved from Kovvifәm to its present location in Kimbo (before or around 1825), it took more than 100 years for a Court Councilor to be added to the ranks of the Lords of Kovvifәm (Vibay ve Kov). This happened in 1929 during the reign of Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947). The State Councilor who was elevated was Shúufaáy Sov. Two surprising things happened during this elevation. Firstly, Shúufaáy Sov was elevated as a Mntaár Lord, despite the fact that everyone knew that the Sov lineage was Dùy. Secondly, to everyone’s surprise Shúufaáy Sov was also immediately made a member of the Ŋwéròŋ cults group.
We have to take a century walk back in history to understand this apparent contradictory power play. When Sov joined Nso’ (around 1815, shortly before the move to Kimbo) under Faáy Seh, Sov was put under Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv’s wing and the Sov lineage was considered Dùy. Faáy Seh’s successor Faáy Foinso’ fought hard to extract the Sov lineage from under Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and establish his own identity. To help him do this the then Paramount King of Nso’ Fòn Tar Manjoŋ (1840-1875) who was Faáy Foinso’’s personal friend, attached Sov to the Ncheèlav lineages and made Sov a member of the Ŋwéròŋ cults (ngang Ŋwéròŋ ).

This did not sit very well with Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. Later, Faáy Foinso’ made the mistake of being too popular with Ŋwéròŋ and of also making unauthorized friendships with the Oku Fòndom and associated vassal states. Faáy Foinso’ was assassinated and the Sov lineage lost their Ŋwéròŋ cults membership in the aftermath. So, when Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) elevated Faáy Sov to Shúufaáy in 1929 and made him a ngang Ŋwéròŋ he was just giving Shúufaáy Sov what was his, almost a century before.
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv was very unhappy with the fact that Shúufaáy Sov was now both a Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults member. This led to friction between Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and the Paramount King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947), culminating in the Ndzәәndzәv Crisis of 1956 (finally settled in 1968).
Now, why was Shúufaáy Sov made a Mntaár Lord? Because, if he remained a Dùy Lord he would have been ranked 18th after the Lords of Sacrifice (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri). So Shúufaáy Sov was made the 4th ranking of the Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Mntaár Nso’) so that he could be the overall 11th Lord of the Court after the Ten Lords of Kovvifәm (Vibay ve Kov). Shúufaáy Sov benefitted here from his personal friendship with the Fòn and from the fact that Ŋwéròŋ owed him payback as compensation for killing his father Faáy Foinso’ more than eight decades earlier. In addition, even though Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (the 1st ranking Councilor) was not happy with this elevation, Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (the 2nd ranking Councilor) was elated because Faáy Sov had revenged the killing of his father Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm during the infamous Nso’ war with Din around 1860. Then Faáy Sov (Ndzәmah) later led an expedition to Din around 1880, captured and decapitated the Fòn of Din, brought his skull to the Paramount Fòn of Nso’ and Manjoŋ (The War Society), and gave the Fòn of Din’s scabbard and staff to Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm as compensation for the loss of his father Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (who was Faáy Ndzәmah’s personal friend) in the Nso’-Din war of 1860.
Shúufaáy Sov’s elevation to Kibay opened the way for many more deserving men to be elevated to the rank of Councilor (Kibay), but their induction as dual members of both the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults was not always guaranteed as was the case with Shúufaáy Sov.
The case of Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv (Professor Nso’kika Bernard Fònlon) is an interesting edification of character and personal conviction that was once the hallmark of Nso’ Men of Title. Professor Fònlon was the unlikeliest of candidates for a Shúufaáyship. His parents were very devoute Catholic christains and Professor Fònlon himself almost became a Priest of the Catholic Church. So, Professor Fònlon’s devotion to the Nso’ traditional ways (which were considered heathen by his Catholic faith) could be considered at best tangential. However, in 1976 Professor Fònlon brought portable pipe-borne water to his people in the capital Kimbo and the then reigning King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) rewarded Professor Fònlon with the title of Faáy Ntoondzev, which was later elevated to Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv (Great Lord of the water source) by Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn III (1983-1993).
As a Shúufaáy, Professor Fònlon was not interested in integrating either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults. Many believed this was due to his Catholic faith, but the reason was elsewhere. In the 1960s while Professor Fònlon was very active in The Cameroons partisan politics, he was appalled by the corrosive effects of partisanship on the traditional institutions of the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom. In 1965 Professor Fònlon wrote a book titled “To Every Son of Nso’” in which he admonished his brethren and called on them to keep politics out of the Palace, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. In the 1970s and 1980s when he was elevated to Shúufaáy he chose to practice what he preached. He decided that he was going to keep himself and his politics out of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì.

This did not go down well with both cults and with the Fòns who had elevated him, but Professor Fònlon stood firm on his decision. When Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv died in 1986, even though he had not gone through any of the traditional initiation rites of either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn III (1983-1993) ordered both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults to mourn Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv’s passing, and they did with aplomb.
In the last three decades, many worthy Men of Title have been elevated to the prestigious level of Shúufaáy. Some have sought initiation and acceptance into either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults successfully, some have sought membership in both cults at the same time with varying degrees of success, and some are still waiting to be credentialed. In the ranks below them many who have already been initiated into either cults group are anxiously waiting to see if they could be elevated to Shúufaáy and given a chance to integrate into the other cults group.
II-6. AFAÁY AND ASHEÈY
Men of Title of ranks lower than Shúufaáy or Tárnto’ (aFaáy and aSheèy) who are not Mntaár generally belong to either Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults groups but not to both, except in extremely rare cases where such low ranking members may be members of both cults by Royal Appointment. As a general rule all Ncheèlav aSheèy and aFaáy belong to the Ŋwéròŋ cults group, all Dùy aFaáy and aSheèy belong to the Ŋgírì cults group, and the Mntaár aFaáy and aSheèy belong to neither cults group. Except in rare occasions, membership in both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults groups is often accompanied or preceded by elevation of the member to the rank of Shúufaáy.
II-7 KINGLY AUTHORITY AND CULT MEMBER APPOINTMENTS
As we have seen above, membership in the cults is very regimented. However, over the centuries Nso’ Kings have asserted their right (albeit very limited) to appoint members into either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults who otherwise would not have been admitted under normal procedures.
After a new Fòn is installed in Ndzәәndzәv, he chooses a day to visit the senior Ŋwéròŋ cult Yeŋwéròŋ (Ŋwéròŋ Vitsée) for the first time. The new Fòn on this first visit is allowed to select up to two males of his choice (be they Dùy, Mntaár, Ncheèlav or even his brother princes) to accompany him. Whoever is chosen to accompany the Fòn on this occasion is inducted as a Yeŋwéròŋ cult member (ngang Ŋwéròŋ ). If the individual who is chosen to accompany the Fòn is not titled, they automatically become a Sheèy. If the individual is already a Ŋgírì cult member, they will become a member of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. So, it is possible to see a simple Sheèy who is a member of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults if they gained access by accompanying the Fòn on his first Ŋwéròŋ visit. If the individual who accompanies the Fòn during this first visit is a Faáy, they may be elevated to a Shúufaáy. In 1947 when Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was visiting Ŋwéròŋ for the first time he chose his brother prince Faáy Mbisha to accompany him. Faáy Mbisha was elevated to Shúufaáy Mbisha after that visit.
It was enshrined during the re-introduction of Ŋgírì into the Nso’ Palace in the 1890s that the Fòn could take whomever he choses along with him (carrying his bag or stool-kava) on the rare occasions he visited the Ŋgírì cults, and that the Fòn could send any high ranking official of the Court to represent him (in addition to Faáy Taawong) in the highest echelons of the Ŋgírì cults (Yeŋgírì). Over the years Ŋgírì has resisted this power of the Fòn but to no avail. This is how Faáy Faanjaŋ (a Tárnto’ and Ncheèlav) ended up as an executive of the Yeŋgírì cult. Some senior Palace pages and attendants (Nchiylav Faáy) also ended up as Ŋgírì cult members this way even though they were Ncheèlav. Sheèy Laisin who was an attendant to Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) ended up as a Ŋgírì cult member by accompanying the Fòn on one of those Ŋgírì visits, even though he was a Ncheèlav and already a Ŋwéròŋ cult member.

The latest example of Ŋgírì cult membership initiation by accompanying occurred in 2004 when Faáy Faa America visited the palace with Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) who was returning from medical treatment in the United States of America. Faáy Faa America (a Ncheèlav) who was carrying the Fòn’s bag accompanied the Fòn on his visit to the Ŋgírì cults. Faáy then became both a Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult member and was elevated to Shúufaáy Faa America.
III. HISTORY, STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONS OF THE CULTS
The founder of the Nso’ Dynasty Ŋgonnso’ was a woman, so she was not a member of any of the male-only cults (including Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) that existed in the Tikar capital Rifem (Kimi or present day Bankim) when she led her followers out sometime after 1387. So Ŋgonnso’ and her followers did not take any of the State institutions (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) and their occultism along with them when they left Rifem even though these institutions were in existence because her two brothers Nchare Yen (founder of the Bamoun Dynasty in Foumban) and Mfombam (founder of the Ndjitam dynasty in Bafia) all left with these institutions.
The first cult that the Nso’ Dynasty really had then was the Taa-Mbàn cult that belonged to the Visale (Mntaár) and was preserved after the Nso’-Mntaár Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. This cult has gradually lost its power and influence as we have seen especially with the re-introduction of the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults.
It is not very clear when the Shishwaa cult was introduced. However since this was a cult, one of whose primary functions was to keep famine at bay, it can be conjectured that the Visale (Mntaár) must have had a variant of this cult before they merged with the Nso’ in 1411. The Shishwaa cult actually gained power and influence during the extended periods of drought, periods of protracted wars that led to famine, incidents of locust infestations that devastated crops, and periods of other natural disasters that brought about hunger. The Shishwaa cult was already very prominent and extremely powerful by the time the Nso’ left Kovvifәm around 1820 to settle in Kimbo.
The Ŋwéròŋ cults were re-introduced into Nso’ by the Taaŋkùm clan (an offshoot of the Tikars from Rifem also) sometime after 1450. Recently the Tsenla’ Mbam clan has claimed that even though Ŋwéròŋ may have been introduced by Taaŋkùm, Ŋwéròŋ was actually their occult (shiv) that the Taaŋkùm clan usurped. There is however no doubt that Taaŋkùm brought Ŋwéròŋ to Nso’ because in Nso’ folklore and to this day, Ŋwéròŋ is still referred to as the Taaŋkùm occult (shiv ye Taaŋkùm).
The Ŋgírì cults were re-introduced around 1890 by the warrior King Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907), after the Nso’-Bamoun war of 1885-1889. The Nso’ army (Manjoŋ) looted both the Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults and brought back occultist artifacts that were used to enhance the existing Ŋwéròŋ cults and to create the new Ŋgírì cults. The late re-introduction of the Ŋgírì cults generated some resentment from Ŋwéròŋ and created a rift that still exists to this day as we shall see in the next part….

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)

Ngiri and Ngwerong Ndzeen celebrate Shu Shey Isaac Lukong

it is exactly 7 years today since one of the richest and successful Wirfon left this world for the land of our ancestors. Both Nwerong and Ngiri from Ndzeen shall as from today the 4th of February until the 7th of February spend 4 good days on top of his grave to celebrate his life.

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Pa Shey Isaac lukong who later and skillfully fabricated the name and title Shu shey got inspiration from the Fai to a Shu-Fai title, stating that if a Fai could be raised to the rank of a ShuFai, so too he could be raised to the Rank of a Shu Shey. Shu Shey lived a fruitful life from 1927 until 2009 when the cold hands of death snatched him from this world.

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In April 2011, the family organized a big event in his compound to celebrate his life. This was met with dances coming right from the Western Region accompanying one of Shu Shey’s son Mformi Dr Lukong Kenneth who lectured at the University of Dschang.

While this was happening, the combined MFU Gham and Bah were at the Tsenkar compound doing it in a grand style.

Other newly created traditional dances showed their first appearances during the event, an example is the famous Ceci’s dance group from Meluf.

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It should be recalled that Pa Shey as was fondly called was not only a business tycoon but fought for Youth employment and Education. This is proof of the one time private institution Christ the King College (CKC) especially in the 70s and 80s. The school reigned until it was handed over to the catholics. Pa is not only the proprietor of CKC but also the famous Central Inn that still exists today.

A lot referred to Shu Shey as an “Illiterate school Master” but his wisdom was far reaching. Today we remember him of some statements he made, some true and some exaggerated, but these jokes made him more popular as even non Nso became interested in meeting such a successful “Illiterate”. I personally made jokes about him, not because i head him say it but because i was part of those spreading the rumor.

Today i shall be glad to share some of the statements we claim came from him and the aim is not to mock at the fallen hero but to immortalize him and remember him in our prayers as we celebrate his life. It could be an opportunity for some of us who heard some of these jokes and statement to recall and share. Some were a blend of English, Pidgin & Lamnso

  1. As a student, we complained that we were not well fed. When Pa was invited at the General assembly he said; “Wuna talk say wuna no di chop flop, How toilets dem do flop”
  2. A put water wuna koi shwaa shwaa bivir’am
  3. When playing Football with GTC, impossibility, kiwu ke nan te wir sho, i binsin
  4. He is telling a Lie’am, he has taken every money and consumption it, look at the market, no toilets (This was an accusation to BB Wirnkar, the then mayor during Ghost town in the early 90s)
  5. I have 5 child in BCGE but only one children passed
  6. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail (Motto of CKC)
  7. When they talk of rich people in Nso, Here we is…
  8. i put light wuna koti kwa kwa bivir’am etc

NB: Note should be taken that, there exist only ONE Shu Shey in Nso and if there is anyone with this title it is either as a joke or a mockery to the Nso Culture. The title was only accepted Shu Shey Isaac lived. When he died, Fai Maamo who bore the Fon’s message reiterated that the Founder of this Title left with his Title and that no such title was going to Exist again.

I also see people refer to me as Shu shey, Shey Don Kosho also wanted to inherit it since the original Shu shey is/was from Tsenkar, today it is mostly used by Barrister Akuwiyadze. For what ever reasons any of us uses it, the allusion goes back to the original and that what makes him Unique and special even in the grave.

 

Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 1)

MEN OF TITLE, POWER, INFLUENCE AND CULT MEMBERSHIP IN THE PARAMOUNT KINGDOM OF NSO’

Shey Stephen Shighan Shemlem PHD from S3 to S4 wrote a paper which i refer to as a compendium or a pamphlet on Men of title,Power, Influence & Cult Membership in the Great Paramount Kingdom of Nso in January 2011, posted on shundzev online forum precisely on the 31st of January. This was like a New year present to the Nso folks that year. This Paper covered close to 35 pages enough to be classified as a book.

A few years ago, following our debate on some of the Nso online groups and our culture, the classification and the misconception of the 7 and 10 Vibaays respectively, i thought that his works could be of immense assistance to many of us lovers of our roots to understand the rich and cherished culture the Nso kingdom us built upon.

Due to the many pages of the Material, i have decided to share them in parts maybe weekly to help grasp in detail and digest what he took pains to research and put on paper for posterity. This paper is therefore not my work but that if the person mentioned above.

Nso culture

I. INTRODUCTION

This treatise examines the structure, roles, membership and responsibilities of Regulatory and Fraternal male-only societies in the administrative, social and political life of the Paramount Kingdom (Fòndom) of Nso’ in the Savannah grass fields of North Western Cameroons.
The Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ (founded by Princess Ŋgonnso’ around 1387) is the largest and currently the premier Kingdom of the Tikar race in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Kingdom is made up of the four sister Kingdoms of Nso’, Mbiame, Oku and Dom, (with the overall Paramount King resident in the Fòndom of Nso’), and vassal states like Ŋkar, Nsә’, the Noni Fòndoms and other smaller Fòndoms.
In all, a total of 25 (twenty five) Fòndoms make up the Paramount Fòndom of Nso’, with a current total population estimated to surpass one million citizens within and outside of the territory of the Paramount Fòndom also called Bui Division, in the North West Region of the Cameroons. Of these 25 Kingdoms, 4 are direct descendants and/or offshoots of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty. The other remaining 21 were integrated either voluntarily or forcefully between 1400 and 1890.
Here is a full listing of the Kingdoms of the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ with some annotated details:
Nso’ – Paramount – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty (circa 1387)
Mbiame – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty offshoot (circa 1575)
Oku – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty offshot (circa 1652)
Ŋkar (intgrated circa 1820)
Nsә’ (integrated circa 1850)
Kiluun (integrated circa 1830)
Ndzәrәm (integrated circa 1875)
Ndzәrәm Ŋyam (integrated circa 1875)
Ndzәәn (integrated circa 1830)
Gwan – Kitiiwum (integrated circa 1820)
Roŋ – Taasai-Mbam (integrated circa 1410)
Nchokov – Ndzәnnso’ (integrated circa 1410)
Gashoŋ – Ndzәnnso’ (integrated circa 1400)
Yun Din – Upper Din (integrated circa 1860)
Fònto Din – Lower Din (of Nso’ Legend – integrated circa 1884)
Djotin Kinengti (integrated circa 1860)
Djotin Fònti (integrated circa 1860)
Dom – Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty offshoot (circa 1800)
Lassin (integrated circa 1860)
Ŋkor Korchi (integrated circa 1860)

Throughout this essay, the number seven (7) appears very prominently (and often) when discussing title and senior cult membership rankings. Since our research has not discovered any cultural, social or historical significance of the number 7 (samba) in the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom, we can only conjecture that since all decisions of either the councilors or cult leaders were made by majority consensus, the odd number 7 was chosen for the number of senior decision makers to prevent any possibility of deadlock in decision making.
We may appear vague in our analysis at times considering our hands may be tied and we are forbidden from exposing certain cult secrets, but we remain explicit enough for the reader to understand the points we are attempting to clarify. Some details may be shocking to the non-Nso’ observer but rest assured that some of what is said here was last practiced more than 100 years ago.
We start by examining the administrative setup of the Kingdom to understand the role of the Court Councilors (Vibay or aShúufaáy), the Court Stewards (Atárnto’), other Title Holders (aFaáy, aSheèy), and their membership in the cults. We further examine each of the cults in detail to elucidate what membership entails.
The responsibilities and societal expectations of Men of Title and guardians of the occult are higher than those of regular mortal men of the society, so we shall include a section on these societal obligations with explanations of the reasoning behind them.
A lot has been said about the degradation of Nso’ culture and we conclude this essay with some suggestions of a few remedies which from our point of view can modernize Nso’ culture while ensuring its survival for the next 500 years.
Please note that in this write-up, some of our Lamnso’ language forays may not be in strict conformity with the latest directives from the Nso’ Language Society. Despite the fact that we have tried our best to respect these directives and delayed the release of this paper to ensure conformity, we are painfully aware that some avid readers may still find issues of concern, so we sincerely crave your indulgence for these orthographic variations. You will also notice that we combine both British and American syntax (including Pidgin), something that may be considered sacrilegious by some English language aficionados.

II. TITLE HOLDERS AND CULTS
In this section we examine Title Holders by lineage in three categories:
  Dùy (Extended Royal Family)
  Ncheèlav (Commoners and Retainers)
  Mntaár (Visale – Free Commoners and Aboriginal Nso’ Landowners)
Title Holders belong to all three categories above and their ranks range from the highest Kibay (pl. Vibay) or Shúufaáy to the lowest Sheèy. The Title Holder’s membership in a cult is however not only determined by whether they are Dùy , Ncheèlav or Mntaár, but also by other intricate considerations.
The cults in the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ are divided into four groups (two principal and two subsidiary cults):

o Ŋwéròŋ Cults:
 Principal cult grouping
 Regulatory in nature
 Members are mostly Ncheèlav with some Dùy and some Mntaár
 Has Masquerades
o Ŋgírì Cults:
 Principal cult grouping
 Fraternal in nature
 Members are mostly Dùy with some Mntaár and very few Ncheèlav
 Has Masquerades
o Taa-Mbàn Cult:
 Subsidiary cult
 Expiatory in nature
 Membership is exclusively Mntaár
 Has no Masquerades
o Shishwaa Cult:
 Subsidiary cult
 Interlocutory in nature
 Membership is exclusively Ncheèlav
 Has no Masquerades

We now examine each of the title groups and their cult membership with a view to understanding the power base of each cult as determined by membership.

II-1. SENIOR COURT COUNCILORS (VIBAY VÈ KOV)
The highest ranking administrative civilian authority or Title Holder next to the King (Fòn) in the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’, is the Court Councilor who is called a Kibay (pl. Vibay) or Shúufaáy (pl. aShúufaáy) . The highest ranked aShúufaáy are the original ten lords from Kovvifәm (Vibay vè Kov – Vibay ve tiy se taakibu) who came as Kings (Fòns) or senior princes between 1450 and 1800, and submitted their people and culture to be integrated into Nso’.
Here below in order of rank (numbers 1-10) and category are the ten Vibay ve Kov.
Dùy (The Seven Great Lords – Vibay ve Samba)
1. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
2. Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
6. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәvtsәn (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
7. Shúufaáy Yùúwar (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
8. Shúufaáy Shùv (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
9. Shúufaáy Lùn (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kiluun prince claiming Fònship)
10. Shúufaáy Waiŋsәәri wo Yer (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)

Mntaár (The Three Aboriginal Great Lords – Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár)
3. Shúufaáy Tsenla’ (senior Nso’ prince of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty)
4. Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
5. Shúufaáy Do’ Ŋgvәn (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm automatically belong to both the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults because they are respectively the Second and Third ranking civilian personalities in the land. Before their enstoolment (installation) a candidate for Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv or Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (like the candidate for the Kingship – Fònship) because he is of the Dùy lineage, is generally a member of the Ŋgírì cults. Upon installation he automatically belongs to the Ŋwéròŋ cults pending performance of the initiation rites.
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv Tsen, Shúufaáy Yùúwar, Shúufaáy Shùv, Shúufaáy Lùn and Shúufaáy Waiŋsәәri wo Yer are all members of the Ŋgírì cults by virtue of their belonging to the extended Royal family Dùy. Their membership in the Ŋwéròŋ cults even though guaranteed because they are Vibay is still a matter of negotiation. Upon completion of the negotiations (that may last years) they then become members of the Ŋwéròŋ cults pending performance of the initiation rites. Shúufaáy Lùn surprisingly appears to have some prerogatives with the Ŋwéròŋ cults that appear to place him in rank above the other four aShúufaáy listed above.
There have been a few instances when membership of one of the above in the Ŋwéròŋ cults was revoked (albeit temporarily). The latest case was Shúufaáy Yùúwar whose Ŋwéròŋ cults membership was revoked after he had a dispute with the King, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1983-1993). Shúufaáy Yùúwar was temporarily replaced in the Court by Shúufaáy Tsәn Ŋkar. The revocation of Ŋwéròŋ cults membership is said to have led to Shúufaáy Yùúwar’s untimely death.
The three Aboriginal Mntaár Lords (Shúufaáy Tsenla’, Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun and Shúufaáy Do’ Ŋgvәn) are neither members of the Ŋwéròŋ nor the Ŋgírì cults, even though the same is not necessarily true for other newly elevated Court Councilors who have been assigned to the Mntaár lineage. This non-belonging of the leading Mntaár Lords is an extension of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411 between Nso’ and the Visale (Mntaár) that balanced power between the three branches of the State: Ncheèlav (Regulatory), the Mntaár (Land Ownership) and the King with his Dùy Royal family (Administrative). It was agreed sometime after 1450 when the Ncheèlav acquired the Ŋwéròŋ cults, that making the Mntaár (represented now by their three Lords) part of the Ŋwéròŋ cults would give them too much power especially since they had also ascribed to themselves parental rights to the mothers of all future Kings. When Ŋgírì was introduced the same restrictions on the Mntaár Lords were extended to Ŋgírì.
This automatic exclusion of the highest ranking Mntaár Lords from the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults has however produced some vexing disputes over the years when the Mntaár Lords have agitated and claimed the rights to have their own branches of the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. A few decades ago (1970s/1980s) this led to the Maakibu Masquerade Crisis that pitted Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun against Ŋwéròŋ and the Paramount King. The issue was peacefully resolved and Shúufaáy Do’ Ruun retained his Maakibu masquerade but with very high restrictions on where the masquerade could go and how its members could decorate themselves on Maakibu outings. Recently however the Do’ Ŋgvәn Crisis of 2010 did not end so well. When Shúufaáy Do’ Ŋgvәn decided to create his own Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults, the reaction from Ŋwéròŋ was swift. His compound was destroyed and he was forced to seek refuge with one of his children (sub-lineage Faáy) in Kikaikom. The Cameroon administration and the Paramount King of Nso’ are still investigating the incident.

The Three Aboriginal Lords are however members of the Taa-Mbàn cult. This is arguably a toothless cult with no masquerades, whose expiatory powers and influence have waned over the years. Since the conditions of 1411 have greatly evolved in the last 600 years it may be a good idea to revisit the Kovvifәm Agreements and allow the leading Three Aboriginal Mntaár Lords to belong to both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults as is the case with the other Seven Lords of the Court (Vibay ve Samba).
II-2. COURT STEWARDS (ATÁRNTO’)
The Ncheèlav Palace Stewards (Atárnto’) are part of the commoner/retainer class even though some of them actually came as Kings (Fòns) or senior princes. The most senior Stewards in the Court are the Seven Ŋwéròŋ Stewards (Atárnto’ ve Samba), listed below in order of seniority (1-7
1. Faáy Maàmo (joined Nso’ as a renegade Babessi prince claiming Fònship)
2. Faáy Faanjaŋ (came with Ŋgonnso’ from Rifem in 1387)
3. Faáy Mbiiŋgiy (original Mntaár who later absorbed renegade Mbisey and Kijem princes)
4. Faáy Kùynto’ Ncheèlav (former Palace retainer and Ŋwéròŋ page)
5. Faáy Kùynsә’ (renegade Mbiame prince with matrilinial ties to the Nsә’ Fòndom)
6. Faáy Tsәnkày (former Palace retainer with ties to the Ndzәәn Fòndom)
7. Faáy Nsәәnè (joined Nso’ as a renegade Mbiame prince claiming Fònship)
Since the Atárnto’ are the most senior members of the Ŋwéròŋ Regulatory Society (including the cults) they are forbidden from belonging to the Ŋgírì cults as part of the agreement that separates the Regulatory cults (Ŋwéròŋ ) from the Fraternal cults of the Royal Family (Ŋgírì). This separation can still be traced to the extensions of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. However given a little unknown power of the Fòn that we shall examine below, some Atárnto’ have at times in history been appointed to play prominent roles in the Ŋgírì cults.
All Seven Ŋwéròŋ Stewards (Atárnto’ ve Samba) are also members of the all important interlocutory cult called Shishwaa.

To be continued

 

 

Kumbo water Crisis: Kumbo people stood their grounds

Kumbo people stood their grounds even against the Fon & The SDO.

 

kwa2

Last week some newspapers carried news of the Kumbo water crisis with some powerful media houses covering the conflict of what is referred to as the Fon and the Mayor tussle tearing the people of Kumbo Nso aside and into camps. The council vs the palace, The SDF vs the CPDM, the Kumbo water Vs the Nso water etc.

The chairman of the SDF party Ni John Fru Ndi did not stay quiet as he blamed the Fon of Nso for the escalation of the crisis attributing it to His Royal  Majesty’s involvement to politics and taking sides with the ruling party the CPDM.

kwa

Today the crisis took a different turn. The interim Nso water board (that of the palace) dispatched its workers to disconnect water from the homes of the workers of Kumbo Water Authority (KWA- that of the council) for failure to pay their bills. It is worth noting that these people did not pay bills as favors and preferential treatment offered them for their services as workers. This was done with the immediately effect and as if that was not enough, the KWA workers reacted by reconnecting the tap water.

kwa1

The palace workers became furious and decided to remove the pipes as a counter reaction. The council workers could not but seek the intervention of the administration.

kwa4

The SDO and his etat major stormed the palace for immediate action. The Fon after negotiation felt that water was an important and necessary commodity for his people irrespective of which camp they belong ordered that the the council workers be allowed access to water in their homes.

kwa3

The furious crowd that ran to the palace when they saw the SDO and his etat major drove to the palace stood their grounds that council/kwa workers were no longer going to consume free water. They took the opportunity to warn the administration of the delay of the court case which might be interpreted as  delaying justice. The crowd also threatened the mayor’s home as the next stop to completely deprive him of this commodity if action is not taken to address the situation

The SDO and his entourage left the palace with a deadlock, but the question remains, how long shall we have to take to resolve this shameful situation we find ourselves in.

From the action today, i can only but state that tension rises daily and something needs to be done, and fast as such.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)

 

Prof. Nsokika B. Fonlon is 29years in the grave

Professor Bernard N Fonlon

Professor Bernard N Fonlon

Today 26th of August 2015 marks exactly 29years the cold hands of death snatched our mentor, author, orator,etc a man of the people Nsokika Bernard Fonlon who on a mission in Canada only returned as a corpse in 1986. A Great lost to Africa, Cameroon and Nso in particular. One who provided portable water to his people. Today 29years after the people of Nso are in conflict on the control and ownership of this precious gift of life from our father.

Today the 26th of August this afternoon, the people of God and Good Will shall assemble at the Kumbo Cathedral and later at the cemetery where his grave is found to honor him, remember him and most especially Thank Him and pray for his soul.

Permit me share a reflection from Rev Fr Gerald Jumbam on the painful celebration of the passing into eternity of this Great Man of the people.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem

Fr. Gerald JUMBAM

Fr. Gerald JUMBAM

BERNARD FONLON: APOSTLE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

Fr Gerry Jumbam

Celebrating The Painful Passing of an African Holy Man

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

 

Introduction

A very wise man once said that ‘the more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for’. These words certainly ring true for all Wirfon about the life of Dr. Bernard Fonlon, who has, since the 1960s, made all of us and our kingdom the center of attraction among communities.  While grieving over his death which we commemorate today, we must come to the realization that there is so much for us to be thankful than to be thinking; that there is in Fonlon, so much joyful tears to pour than sorrowful ones to shed. The invitation today on this solemn day of his life, is that, we cross the boundaries of our own thoughts and feelings, and travel in pilgrimage with Fonlon, on this fateful day, in search of some spiritual pleasure, along with him, that brings us next door to God. By this, I challenge all and sundry to visit three of some Christian virtues he excelled in and of your choosing. Scan in your mind’s eye, through the last 18 installments I have delivered to you, and pick just three values you have understood in the life of this charismatic and saintly figure. Do this in a reflective and prayerful way, in the spirit of a pilgrim, not a tourist. And make some strong resoutions around them. The fruits, in later years, of such spiritual exercise,  will surprise your hopes and you  will be your own witness, of what such things work on human beings who look up to God.

As we visit these simple Fonlonian Christian virtues where the divine and the human meet, may we realize not only how close B. Fonlon is to us, but also how near God is – God, who is not watching us at a distance, but fairly deep within our own hearts. As you make this prayerful voyage therefore,  travel from one Christian good quality of Fonlon to another, feeling therein, the awareness of the Holy Spirit that journeys with you. 

And yet, what tribute, what homage can we really pay the man Fonlon?

Homage to an Exemplary Christian Life

Maybe the simplest tribute suits him best: he was a simple man. This, to me is the worthiest thing to say about Bernard Fonlon. What is meant of course is more than that Bernard Fonlon avoided advertising himself or hid his talent under the table, and thus passed his life in nothingness, unheard and unaccompanied. His was a nature that didn’t just pander into pretentious self-effacement or a myopic simplicity that was sister to mediocrity. His simplicity was that which enriched people’s lives – a dynamic modesty that was fearless, frank, forward-looking and that fought battles for the  unfortunate. Even in politics, in simplicity and self-effacement, Fonlon was the arrowhead and master strategist of the pioneer government of reunited Cameroon who called the shots from the background. The world was lucky and held its breath by  this simplicity for 62 years.

Being a statesman fitted him well enough but it was among his lesser distinctions. The heights achieved in his professional life – the deserved acclaim as an incomparable Cameroon politician and recognition as one of the greatest writers Africa has known – cannot fully explain the effect he had on people, whether they were close to him or only acquainted at a distance through his job. Why did so many feel pangs of personal loss when Dr. Fonlon died on the 26thof August 1986.

Sheer long life must figure in the answer – sheer long life in the spirit of the proverb, that “age is a matter of the mind and if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Bernard Fonlon’s 62 years were of more quality than some 100 years of little or no significance. He believed very well with the musician that “one day in this house is better than a thousand elsewhere”, and therefore his 62 years were diamonds spent on busy life-enhancing godly purposes. He had been part of the national fabric immediately he came back from Europe from studies, was one of the pioneers of the creation and enhancement of the budding schools of higher learning – the national university of Cameroon and the English speaking Major Seminary of Cameroon.  But perhaps there was something additional in the country’s understanding of him. Even those whose experience of him was limited to his public career may have discerned that more than tremendous capability and influence were being conveyed by the magnificent actions of a man who was already a legend while still living. Here, his manners and his verbal felicity charmed his audiences and endeared him to all who met  him, Bernard Fonlon. And we must not forget that his upbringing had been sufficiently privileged to make him what he was to be. A boy taught the extraordinary power of the written word before he was 9 by missionaries, and who would become a teacher at a very early age to one of the greatest minds in Nso, might have imagined all that lay ahead for him was just will-power, determination and heavenly grace to conquer whatever challenge came his way.

What a Role Model!

They say you should never meet your idol for fear of disappointment. Yet here am I with my idol, Fonlon, top floor, sitting opposite him for close to seven months in deep thought, study and writing, and I am neither disappointed nor tired. There is in  all of us, the hunger for some symbol of a man  or woman to light up our path, as role-model. There is in every community a thirst to pass on to other generations, the exploits of some unique individuals  for communal continuum. Bernard Fonlon stands, unquestionably, as that one man for Nso, even for Cameroon and even beyond. The proof of this is that the extent of the present-day problems of Nso, of Cameroon and of Africa, can be measured by the distance we have travelled as Kingdom community or national community or continental community from the idealism of men like Bernard Fonlon. It is for this that we commemorate on this promising morning of Wednesday 26th August 2015, exactly 29 years the passing to eternity of an outstanding  we commemorate. Idealism is no weak or ineffectual condtion lived by lazy unreal morons. In his idealism, Fonlon made himself one of the most charismatic and most pragmatic of  men prepared to sacrifice his life for what he believed in but equipped also to work to bring his ideals to life by serious effort, competence, honesty and integrity – all the words that seem to have run out of fashion in our present washy-washy modern culture. It was this character of his that made him live many virtues worth thinking about. 

Some Christian Virtues Worth Emulating

Dr. Fonlon’s primary passion was for the truth. He believed with his role-model Cardinal Henry Newman that “Error may flourish for a time, but Truth will prevail in the end.”[2]  Bernard Fonlon therefore believed that a community of people must be rooted in truth, and that God’s truth be defended against brute power and political expediency – even if it cost the defenders their liberty and their lives. In whatever he wrote he made sure his mind was keen and alert, probing every detail of what he considered was the truth, divest himself of preconceived ideas and avoided blatant falsehood, half truths and even the deliberate omission of relevant and essential facts. For in a country with members that perpetrate impunity, celebrate mediocrity, and cling to power at all cost, Bernard Fonlon stood for honesty, humility and candor. He would like to think he had helped us in the search for truth, and if, even at this late stage, we welcome him into hour hearts and actions, we are reminded that  ‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes an upright person because he is upright will have the reward of an upright person.’ (Matthew 10: 41.)

For two decades now, Fonlon used his home as a welcome shelter for a diverse population of strangers who were stranded in Yaoundé. To all traditions and cultures shaped by the Bible, offering hospitality is a moral imperative. Fonlon understood this so well and endeavored to welcome the needy and strangers and to treat them fairly. This expectation is not based on any special immunity to the dangers unknown people might present, but rather, it emerges from knowing the hospitality God has shown to us.

He was a man of prayer, and he prayed most beautifully for God’s light to shine in his heart and in the hearts of others so they be able to appreciate what it is to be a Christian. He was planning to take on another serious step in the story of his life and come back from Canada to us before his life was cut so tragically short in Ottawa. Fonlon was 62 years old, at the late afternoon of his natural span. For my generation, something of our own early days went with his passing. We missed in our early days the factual touching of the fringes of the cloak of a man whose writings and stories of his life meant so much to us.

The practice too of a “private retreat” at Mballa II. This retreating in  Yaoundé enabled him to step aside from his ordinary routine for a time to reflect and to pray, to slow down, to be still, and to listen. Ideally, this practice of retreat motivated him to recognize the significance of prayer, quiet, and solitude in order to be in the presence of God.

The Task of Today

The old school motto of ‘diligence breeding prominence’ holds a special place in life’s triumphs. Diligence also, in many ways, is a useful tool in spiritual life. Yet, diligence is not enough. It must go with patience and long-suffering – an outstanding quality in any spiritual journey. It should never be forgotten that on this journey of the beatification, we are pilgrims not tourists. Tourists hurry to catch up; but pilgrims take it one step after another, prayerfully, penitently and courageously. Consequently it is required to be visionary, to capture the action plan for the process, keeping to the road-map we have begun, which will make us think clearly and which is implementable,  taking it step by step until we get to the level.

In a world of instant enjoyment, in a world of momentary gratifications, the demand for urgent results – with no hard work – has trickled into every aspect of life. We are a generation of quick-fixers and our spiritual lives aren’t exempt. In the early days of the Fonlon beatification bit some couple of months ago, the best qualities needed to be involved were passion and enthusiasm –  participants,  spectators, propellers – it didn’t matter. Once you were passionate and enthusiastic, it was enough. But we are evolving and moving ahead, and enthusiasm and passion would be inadequate in sustaining this spiritual mission at this stage.  All the seemingly boring stuff – garnering people together, sending messages, organizing prayer sessions and holy masses, stock taking,  strategic plans and organizing plans, getting along with pastors of souls, contacting Hierarchy when in doubt,  – they are what, at present, shall help to improve standards.

Human living is not a sprint game.  Yet,  we have to do our assignment. It is not now now or hit and run. It is the skill to assemble for prayer, to requesting in personal prayer and Holy Mass, the intercession of Fonlon on studies, on courage, on speaking and writing well, on employment for the youth, on the virtue of chastity, on dignity in the African soul, on battle against corruption, on merit in political and economic preferment, against overweening madness for power in state or church, on the celibate priesthood, on the religious life and on chastity in family life,  – those are the things and people we should listen to, at this hour. And as Wirfon, the members of his local Church, the greatest good we would do to this process at present, is to resolve that through the ideas and example of our son and brother Fonlon, we are determined to raise a generation of Christians who in few decades time will make Nso land one of the foremost moral and spiritual  Kingdoms on earth.

So the foundation is essential. You don’t rush. It is a marathon race. You don’t sprint when you begin a marathon race, you have to lay the foundation and let it be strong. It is a privilege to be beginners and the beginning is always rough ad full of uncertainties, and without a beginning there is no ending – so we are on the side of history.

But in some special way, at this hour, it has fallen on the laity of the Local Church to dare and do. You have been propelled by Hierarchy to move on. There should be no turning back again, and no fear of taking risks and making mistakes.  Remember that the God who provides a young man with yam in the bush to feed his wife and child, will provide him with a hoe to dig it. Therefore, mobilize yourselves, set up a competent efficient and god-fearing leadership, and do what it takes to lay a foundation for future generations to get on board and take on the baton. That future generation watches you with keen eyes even when they still suckle at mothers’ breast or turn round mothers’ belly in the womb.

Conclusion

There is a good Irish proverb which Fonlon should have known, considering his closeness to Ireland: “Let your feet follow your heart until you find your place of resurrection.”[1]We therefore pray to God that our feet may meet our heart as we invite Fonlon to pray and plead for us, the despairing people of a continent in throes:

Bernard Fonlon, you gave hope to the African people in times of despair, ignorance and despondency. You did this in your writings and in your life. You have inspired countless young people of this same continent to look up and hope for better days in toil and sweat. Inspire them now –  as you are already ahead of us – to keep always with them the flag of human dignity and the pride of the black race flying high. You told us “I believe in the power of clean lives, in the strength of unity, and in the might of right”. Help us therefore to be instruments of uprightness, of unity and of truth. Teach us how to be docile sons and daughters of the Truth that is Christ especially in Holy Mass. May your chaste and celibate life inspire our generation once more to see the wonderful benefits of chastity and celibacy in a bewildered world. Amen.