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 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