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Cameroon: Nso: Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 4) Yah

If you missed part one to three on Nso Titles, do not worry, you can still read part 1 here; part 2 here; and part 3 here;

II-3. YAH

There are many categories of Yahs, almost all of whom derived directly from the palace in earlier years. Of late, beginning with Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) Yahships have been awarded to certain important lineages without regard to direct derivation from the royal lineage.

Yah Yefons

The highest-ranking Yah is Yah Yefon (Fengay or Queen Mother). She is the third ranking personality in the land (after Shufai Ndzendzev and Shufai Taankum) by status, administrative and religious function.

Upon assuming the throne the Fon appoints a Yah Yefon from among his female  children or  his sisters if his birth mother is no longer alive. Yah Yefon is treated like a Fon in all aspects except in special greeting (“bun”). She represents Yee Nso (Ngon Nso), the founder of the Nso dynasty.

The present Yah Yefons that are still alive today are; (At the time this article was written)

Yah Yefon Sehm Mbinglo I

Yah Yefon Ngah Bifon III

Yah Yefon Ngah Bifon II (Yah Adela Nsaidzeka Meyeh)

Yah Yefon Sehm III (Yah Rose Wirnkar)

Yah Yefon Ngah Bifon I (Yah wo Faa)

Yah Yefon Mapri (Yah wo Nso La)

The next Yah in rank is the Yah Yeewong  (mother of Nso). She is the second representative of  Yee Nso (Ngon Nso), the founder of the Nso dynasty.

When Ngon Nso died around 1421, her son Leh who assumed the throne created the title of Yeewong and Yefon to be combinable and held by a single individual. The two titles were later on separated with Yefon holding the higher title (very silently) and Yah Yeewong the next (very publicly) with  a rank equal to Fai Taawong who is also appointed by the new Fon at the same time as Yeewong.

 A few Yah Yewongs that are still alive today are:

Yah Yeewong Sehm Mbinglo I (Yewong wo Ntoh Nso)

Yah Yeewong Ngah Bifon III

Yah Yeewong Ngah Bifon II

Yah Yeewong Ngah Bifon I (Yeewong wo Kim Kikaikom)

Yah Yeewong Sehm II (Yeewong wo Jem)

Most Yahs of status in Nso today are descendants (inherited) of former Yah Yefons and Yah Yeewongs.

A few notable examples of these reigning Yahs are:

Yah wo Kai Jakiri (Successor of Yeewong wo Nturkui)

Yah wo Abakwa Jakiri (Successor of Yeewong wo Kih Kiyan)

Yah wo Mile 3 Bamenda (Successor of Yeewong wo Roo-Kong)

The next rank of  Yahs is based within the palace household, Yah Nkonin and Yah Yeela (leaders of the Fon’s senior wives – Kfem se Fon). They act as managers of the Fon’s household. These two Yahs must be of Mtaar origin. They also organize the Fon’s farm work in collaboration with the Yeesums.

Every Shufaiship of high standing and with historical underpinnings can also have a Yah. A famous Yah in this category is Yah wo Taankum. It is still unclear why some of the big Shufaiships are allowed to create secondary Yahships but the lineages themselves do not have a Yah of the main lineage compound.

The last category of Yahs are those that are crowned by the Fon in collaboration with the Shufais or Fais. The process of naming and enthroning a Yah is very involved. The Fon cannot name a Yah without approval from the Yah’s lineage or extended family. The Yah needs to do the very public “kibunfon” and a grand “kitar yiy” for the family and the public at large to recognize her as a Yah of standing. Recent examples include the “kibunfon” carried out by Yah wo Shusum (Sov), and Yah wo Mbassy in Nso Palace.

Researched Shey Stephen Shemlon (PHD)

Complied and edited by Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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Cameroon: Nso: Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 3) Fai

If you missed part one on Nso Titles, do not worry, you can still read part 1 here; and part 2 here;

II-2. FAI

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)

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Reactions to Bishops letter (Very Mixed feelings from West Cameroonians)

The Bishops letter dated 29th April on the current Anglophone crisis has sparked mixed feelings as many believe they still do not understand the problem but playing the moral part on the crisis without understanding the situation. The Bishops are bent on promoting Decentralization and social Dialogue yet ignoring the release of those arrested and demilitarization of the regions yet calling for schools to resume. Many have read this letter and have the following to say:

The Bishops of Cameroon have spoken well, like the respected men of God that they are. They have provided a succinct diagnosis of the problem and rightly noted that it has evolved from a trade union issue to a political, administrative to constitutional issue. We all know that this escalation of the problem is due to the bad faith, excessive violence, murder, mayhem, and disdain of the government. The bishops offer a way out of the crisis that I think is reasonable: a dialogue that concerns the institutional form of the state, and reinforces the separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary, and the legislative. Biya needs to get that off the ground, They also want the state to “decide the destiny of the detainees according to appropriate judicial procedure.”

With all due respect to the men of God, I think they fail to understand the nature of the Biya regime. Biya is has only one way of communication and governance–rule by decree. In 35 years in power, he has not demonstrated a culture of dialogue or compromise. He engages only in monologues. The word dialogue does not exist in Biya’s vocabulary. How can the bishops expect Anglophone civilian political detainees who are charged with death penalty offenses to receive justice in a military tribunal? I fear that the bishops of Cameroon did not read the message the Holy Father, Pope Francis gave to President Biya when he visited the vatican last month. The Pope clearly told Biya to “respect human and minority rights” of Cameroonians! That is a clear reference to the atrocities perpetrated in the Northwest and Southwest regions. http://www.news.va/…/pope-francis-receives-president-of… The Bishops want dialogue between the parties. That is a good thing. There is just one small problem. Who is going to dialogue with the government when the Anglophone leaders are in jail? The Bishops need to tell Paul Biya one Latin phrase: habeas corpus! Release all the Anglophone political detainees. They have to remind him what the Pope told him, namely, that he has to respect human and minority rights in Cameroon. Left to itself, the Anglophone problem is slowly spinning out of control before our very eyes. The bishops of Cameroon mean well, but their message may be too little, too late to move Paul Biya. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Lyombe Eko Prof. at Texas Tech University but hails from Buea.

Aboh Anjah Martin questions if the Bishops have the legitimate write to call off the strike;

“Did this bishops organize any strike in Cameroon if no then why is it that they are those trying to call off the strike?”

Mark Bara laments on the letter stating that; “You must have read a certain Communique coming from the Bishops Episcopal conference signed by Bishop Samuel Kleda. They are calling for resumption of schools, end of ghost towns etc. In fact, the wordings of the Bishops sounded exactly like the CPDM government prepared text delivered to them in a holy masked because it failed the test woefully. In fact, we can grade it -5/20…I am by this short notice calling on Southern Cameroonians to reject the Bishops of Cameroon latest communique signed by Bishop Samuel Kleda. That Communique which fails to even call for the release of our people, it does not meet the aspirations of the Southern Cameroons people…The communique from Yaounde signed by Bishop Samuel Kleda is another form of tyranny and slavery. Enough.”

Ndzi Kibuh hammers that “Bishop kheda and his Episcopal council hate the TRUTH, the Bible says know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

It is worrisome that Bishops with all respect will involve themselves in such dirty political game masterminded by the Biya regime. God is supreme no matter what.” Marie Sengue

“Bishops who do not realize the arrest of innocent citizens, Bishops who do not demand for fair treatment of all are culprits in disguise…” Lestrong WCam

“This is worth nothing… See who is talking about decentralization here? We don pass that stage…. Finally the francophone bishops are simply doing something else. They need to understand what SC needs” Don Papi

I expected u start by urging Biya to release those who can dialogue nonsense.if you want to use God’s name be honest and call a spade a spade” Gillian Lemma

Total nonsense.see Bishops playing politics. at what time are they calling parents to send their children to school.to go study what? At what time?Has the school year not ended or they are talking of next year?they are threatened by the case against them?sorry they are out of topic” Enesto Akanga

Rubbish!!! The bishop that value country stability and financial motivation as school subsidies need to be recalled by God because he has missed the line of his calling already. No single francophone support the freedom of anglophones even their clergy!!! If you are my church leader, you must act in line with Christian norms or we disown you. That we have already done for any one who still wish to enter into covenant with injustice!!!” Grace Siefrank

Its a pity for Cameroon. Bishops are too carried away from the path of the people. What humanity do they want to protect with that crap. Shame to those Bishops”  Illoh Ikenge

Since the crises sparked off 6 months ago, I have been to Church on many occasions and have listen to Mass Intention with captions like:
– For Peace to reign in our beloved country Cameroon
– Asking God to grant peace in Cameroon etc….
Bidding prayers or Prayers of the faithful have also taken same suit and coining. I have NOT heard any Prayer in church supplicating for retributive and equitable Justice. Does this pretext challenges Pope Pius X’s (he himself a Conservative Roman Catholic) assertion that “where there injustice there is no hope of peace because peace is the work of justice”? Cameroon’s painful troubles are embedded in the number of gross unjust and hidden agendas inflicted on Southern Cameroonians for 55 years. Let us do Justice then peace will reign!
” Tangka Eric

Mbilam Samson Jumbam thinks that the letter does not reflect that written by the Bishops of Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province reiterating that; “The current Letter proves nothing but complacency of Francophone Bishops. How long have they taken to react to the Anglophone crises? The message is teleguided. After all, petrol bonds will flow

Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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Nso Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 2) Shufai

II-1. SHUFAI

Administratively the Shufai is the highest authority that is next in rank to the Fon. The Shufai belongs to the select council of “taakibu” advisors of the Fon.

The highest ranked Shufais are the original ten lords from Kov Vifem (Vibai ve Kov). They sit on stones (instead of stools) in the Fon’s court to signify their permanence as advisors to the Fon. All of the ten lords from Kov Vifem came as Fons between 1450 and 1800 and submitted their people and culture to be integrated into Nso.

Here below in order of rank are the  ten Vibai ve Kov Vifem (Vibai ve tiy se taakibu):

1. Shufai Ndzendzev (Duy)

2. Shufai Tankum (Duy)

3. Shufai Tsenla (Mtaar)

4. Shufai Do Run (Mtaar)

5. Shufai Do Ngwen (Mtaar)

6. Shufai Ndzendzev Tsen (Duy)

7. Shufai Yuuwar (Duy)

8. Shufai Shuv (Duy)

9. Shufai Lun (Duy)

10. Shufai Wainseeri wo Yer (Duy) <—- about to change

It should be noted here that in matters of state duties Yah Yefon (Fon’s mother – the queen mother or her  representative) is ranked third after Shufai Ndzendzev and Shufai Tankum.

Because of the pacts drawn at Kov Vifem before the palace was moved to Kimbo, it was very difficult  for any Fon to promote any Fai or newly arriving Fons to the rank of Kibai. The ten Shufais from Kov Vifem fought very hard to maintain their number at ten from 1825 when the palace moved to Kimbo until the reign of Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947).

Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) insisted on increasing the council of advisors to include Fais with a broader view of the modern world that Christianity and European colonialism were bringing and to better advise the Fon on matters of Education, Trade, Commerce and Industry. Despite stiff resistance from the ten Vibai Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) convinced Nwerong of the necessity to increase the number of “taakibu” councilors and in 1929 he elevated Fai Sov to the rank of Kibai.

This elevation angered the most senior Kibai (Shufai Ndzendzev) so much that a rift was created with the Fon. This rift ran for the next three decades and resulted in the Ndzendzev crisis of 1956/1957. Despite this, the1929 elevation of Fai Sov opened the door for the elevation of other Fais to the rank of Kibai.

Here in order of seniority (year of elevation) are the Shufais that were elevated by Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947), Sehm III (1947 – 1972), Ngah Bifon II (1972 –1983) and Ngah Bifon III (1983 – 1993).

1. Shufai Sov (Mtaar)

2. Shufai Nkavikeng (Duy)

3. Shufai Kuy Meliim (Mtaar)

4. Shufai Ngangndzen (Mtaar)

5. Shufai Nsaansa (Duy)

6. Shufai Mbisha (Duy)

7. Shufai Kuyla Yer (Mtaar)

8. Shufai Kii Kitiwum (Mtaar)

9. Shufai Rookov (Mtaar)

10.Shufai Nkim Vekovi (Mtaar)

There is a third category of Vibai that are all of the extended royal family (Duy). These Vibai are considered lower in rank to Fai Taawong and Yah Yeewong. They play the role of state councilors of sacrifice and are also prominently in charge of the Fon’s burial.

Here in order of seniority are the seven Vibay ve Kpu:

1 Shufai Bashwin (Duy)

2. Shufai Njavnyuy (Duy)

3. Shufai Ndzendzev Ntintin (Duy)

4. Shufai Dzem (Duy)

5. Shufai Bambuy (Duy)

6. Shufai Koongir (Duy)

7. Shufai Taaway (Duy)

Only an existing Faiship can be elevated to a Shufaiship. Neither the Fon nor Nwerong can create a new compound or lineage and immediately elevate it to a Shufaiship. The process is complicated and drawn. The Fon must not only obtain the consent of the other Vibai (willingly or by coercion), he must get the consent of both Nwerong and Ngiri who must admit the new Shufai as a “ngang” Ngiri and/or “ngang” Nwerong.

In addition to these impediments the Fon must also contend with the “parents” (extended family and lineage) of candidates for elevation to a Faiship or a Shufaiship or for a newly created Faiship. It is considered an affront on a lineage for the Fon or Nwerong to attempt to elevate a Faiship to a rank that will be considered higher than that of his fatherly lineage. This is largely due to the tacit agreement in Nso society that someone cannot inherit a Faiship or Shufaiship when his father is still alive. This would be interpreted as an attempt to kill the father. For this reason a new Faiship cannot be created or elevated  without authorization from the “father” Faiship to create the new “Kisher” (extention) of the family lineage.

This haggling with lineage heads on elevations and awards even occurs between the Fon and his own brothers of the extended royal  family (Duy). When the Fon attempted to replace Shufai Tsenla Yer with Shufai Bambuy in the rank of “Vibai ve Kpu”, he faced a revolt from almost half of the royal family despite the fact that Fai Bambuy was the descendant of a Fai Taawong. The Fon finally won the day with support from the senior Vibai and Shufai Tsenla Yer lost his position in the “Vibai ve Kpu” ranks, but retained his Shufaiship and in addition gained the title of Ngang Nwerong, a title which was not automatically granted to the “Vibai ve Kpu”.

As shown above Ngah Bifon I (1910-1947) defied all odds to elevate the Sov lineage to a Shufai. Other Fons following him encountered similar problems. When Fon Sehm III (1947-1972) attempted to create a new Faiship with Professor Nsokika Bernard Fonlon as head, Fonlon’s extended lineage of Jem objected. It took until Ngah Bifon II (1972 – 1983) to reward Fonlon with a Faiship (Fai Ntoondzev), after he and Nwerong convinced Jem that Fonlon was no longer their son but a symbol of Nso given his relations with the external world that permitted him to interact with big world leaders like the Canadian Prime-Minister and bring portable water to Kimbo. The pressure was too much for the Jem lineage to bear. They relented and Fonlon became Fai Ntoondzev.

Professor Bernard N Fonlon

A few years after the creation of the Ntoondzev Faiship, Ngah Bifon II (1972 -1983) attempted to elevate it to a Shufaiship but failed. This time the strong objections came from Nwerong who felt elevating a Nchelav Faiship to a Kibai would diminish the power of the Atarntohs in “taakibu”. It took until Ngah Bifon III (1983-1993) for Nwerong to be convinced that the same reasons that necessitated the elevation of Sov in 1929 could be equally compelling in the elevation of a Nchelav Fai to a Shufai. Nwerong accepted the argument and Ntoondzev was elevated to a Shufaiship a few years before Fonlon died in 1986.

Here  is the list of Shufais in the recent category discussed above:

1. Shufai Tsenla Yer (Duy)

2. Shufai Rookov Meluf (Mtaar)

3. Shufai Kiron (Mtaar)

4. Shufai Tsen Nkar (Duy)

5. Shufai Keeri (Mtaar)

6. Shufai Ntoondzev – Fonlon (Nchelav)

7. Shufai Kuyntoh Wonntoh (Duy)

8. Shufai Taankum Kuy (Duy)

Ntoondzev’s  elevation to Shufai opened the way for other Nchelav Faiships to be elevated to Shufaiships. The case of Shufai Langhee is notable  among Nchelav Shufaiships not only because Nwerong outwitted the Fon but because of the astonishing collaboration between Nwerong and Ngiri to achieve this.

Langhee was a Nwerong page who went through the traditional palace stewardship of nine (9) years. He graduated automatically as a Shey and started the Langhee lineage. When the original Shey Langhee died, the Langhee Sheyship was elevated to a Faiship and his son Professor Chem Langhee who succeeded him as the first Fai Langhee quickly rose in Nwerong ranks. He endeared himself to the extended royal family by marrying a princess. Fon Ngah Bifon III (1983 – 1993) whose daughter Fai Langhee married attempted unsuccessfully to elevate Fai Langhee to a Shufai after his success with Ntoondzev. The other Vibai strongly objected because in their eyes “Chem Langhee was no Fonlon”. However, an unusual collaboration of Ngiri and Nwerong convinced Fon Sehm Mbinglo I (1993 – Present) to elevate Langhee to a Shufai.

This unusual but welcomed collaboration of Nwerong and Ngiri was recently aired again when in 2003 Fon Sehm Mbinglo I (1993 – Present) saw the need for a Fai in the American diasporas and created Faa America Faiship. In 2004 when Fai Faa visited the palace with the Fon who was returning from medical treatment in the United States of America, both Nwerong and Ngiri wanted to have the charismatic Fai Faa America as a “ngang”. So, in a strange chain of events, they tricked both the Fon and Fai Faa to commit Fai Faa as both a Ngiri and a Nwerong member. The only way to resolve the issue was for Fai Faa America to be a “ngang” Ngiri and a “ngang” Nwerong. To do this, the Fon had to elevate the Faiship of Faa America to a Shufaiship. Negotiations for this elevation took two (2) years because of some resistance from the Vibai despite the fact that the Fon really had no choice when confronted with the Nwerong and Ngiri political chicanery. Shufai Faa America completed his en-stoolment and “kibunfon” as the newest Kibai in December 2006.

As we can see from above, the elevation of a Nchelav (commoner) to a Shufaiship is rare, but some have been elevated in recent times to increase the realm of the Fon’s councilors.

Here is a list of some recent Nchelav elevations to Shufai:

1. Shufai Kuy Ka (Nchelav)

2. Shufai Langhee (Nchelav)

3. Shufai Taashiv (Nchelav)

4. Shufai Kitav (Nchelav)

5. Shufai Faa America (Nchelav)

Elevation to the rank of Shufai is a very public event that involves the whole palace, Nwerong, Ngiri , Duy, Nchelav and the public. The preparations take time, the celebration is grand and the event is registered in public memory. The “kibunfon” of the new Shufai is memorable and is generally followed by a “tee shishur she Ngiri” or “tee shishur she Nwerong”,  a “fum mfuuh” and a grand “kitar yiy” for the family.

We shall in the next part examine the title of Fai which is next in rank to the Shufai, with some  Fais (especially Atarntohs) having functional and administrative ranks that are higher than some Shufais.

Shey Stephen Shemlon (PHD)

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Nso Titles in the Paramount Fondom of Nso (part 1) Military & Civilian Titles

This paper shall be shared into parts to give readers ample time to be able to grasp something about the Nso Titles and its administration in the Paramount Fondom of Nso. This paper is based on the research by Shey Stephen Shemlon wo Vilan (PHD)

The Paramount Fon Of Nso

The Nso Paramount Fondom (Kingdom) is made up of the three brother Fondoms of Nso, Mbiame and Oku, (with the Paramount resident in the Fondom of Nso), and the vassal states of Nkar, Ntseh, the Noni Fondoms (Din, Mbinon, Lassin, Nkor), and other smaller Fondoms like Ndzerem, Kilun, Ron, Ndzeen, Gashong, Nshookov, Kijem, Tev, Mboon, etc.

This essay on titles and titleholders applies to practically all of the Fondoms of the Paramount Fondom of Nso, although the appellations might vary in some cases from Fondom to Fondom. However, most of our discussion is going to center around the Paramount Fondom of Nso from which most examples in this treatise will be drawn.

The titles will be analyzed in two categories; civil and military. Although controversies surround all titles nowadays, this essay will concentrate on an analysis of civilian titles where most misunderstanding abounds.

It is necessary to bring some clarity to the categorization of titles, title hierarchies and meanings, duties and obligations attributed to title categories and the processes surrounding title awards; because the reigning confusion in the field of titles is seriously undermining our tradition and eroding our culture. Some have even posited that if ignored, the bastardization of our traditional titles could spell death for our culture.

To buttress the point, just imagine what would happen to British culture if any Tom, Dick or Harry could declare themselves a Lord or Knight themselves a Sir or Lady when they so desire. Or, imagine what would happen if an Earl woke up one day and decided that the Earl title was too low for him and declared himself a Lord, demanding all the rights and obligations due him.

It is the need for this clarification that has necessitated this expose.

I. TITLES AND TITLE CATEGORIES

There are two categories of titles in the Fondoms of Nso:

1. Military Titles

2. Civilian (Social, Religious and Administrative) Titles


I-1. MILITARY TITLE CLASSIFICATIONS

Military titles are assigned to the military hierarchy as recognized in the Fondoms of Nso:

General (Nformi – all grades)

Platoon or Legion Commander (Ngwang – all grades)

Squadron or Regiment or Company Commander (Tav – all grades)

Special Forces Intelligence Officer (Gwei – all grades)

Other Derivative Military Titles

Military titles have so far generated less ambiguity and confusion, principally because a Ngwang for example is the same title in Nkar, Din, Oku or Mbiame. Gwei is the same in all Fondoms. There is also no confusion with the various regiments or squadrons (Samba, Nchoro, Jwim, etc.), even when it comes to the Derivative titles that these regiments and companies confer on their warriors.

There is still some ambiguity however as to which military title is higher than which civilian title especially since most of these titles are now just ceremonial titles, modernity having infused another dimension to our concept of chivalry or achievement and moderated our need for wars of conquest and assimilation.

No one has however attempted to rank Nformi Bah or Nformi Gham for example among the Vibai for well known administrative reasons that seek to keep authority over the military with the Fon and his councilors. For that reason we will keep the classifications separate and not attempt to merge and rank civilian and military titles.

1-2. CIVILIAN TITLES

Confusion still reigns in the category of Civilian (Social, Religious and Administrative) Titles because of the preponderance of presumption and usurpation that permeates present day Nso titleholder circles especially in the diasporas of the Cameroons, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Cases have been reported where people would decide to anoint themselves Sheys, Yahs, Fais or Shufais and insist to be treated with all the dues and prerogatives of the title.

Cases exist especially in the diasporas where people were conferred lesser titles and they decided that they deserved higher titles, either out of ignorance of the system of traditional honors and awards or because no one around them knew the truth or understood the system any better.

This confusion however does not exist in the case of inherited titles. Nobody will dispute the Kibaiship of a Shufai Tsenla for example when a new one is installed and accepted by the family. In the same light no one will ever dispute the heir to Yah wo Kiyan for example if She is properly installed.

With the non-inherited civilian titles that are awarded or newly created by the Fons, confusion abounds.

We shall analyze each of these titles separately to bring clarity to the categorization of titles, the processes of title awards, title hierarchies and meanings, and the duties and obligations attributed to title categories.

I-3. CIVILIAN TITLE CLASSIFICATIONS

Civilian (Social, Religious and Administrative) Titles can be classified roughly as follows in descending order of status:

Shufai (Vibai – all categories)

Fai (all categories – some Fais rank higher than Vibai)

Yah (all categories – some Yahs rank higher than Fais and Vibai)

Shey (all categories – some Sheys rank higher than Fais, Yahs and Vibai)

Other Derivative Titles (some rank higher than Sheys)

II. CIVILIAN TITLE CATEGORIES AND RANKS

The highest civilian title next to the Fon is Shufai. There are various categories of Shufai, some lower in rank than the next categories of Fai and Yah. Even though some Sheys may be higher in functional rank than Fais and Yahs, it is rare to see a Derivative (Secondary or Tertiary) title that supersedes the other titles in rank.

We shall examine each of the title categories extensively in order of rank.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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