The ascension story of Mbinkar Mbinglo as you can read in Prof Daniel Noni Lantum in the monograph “Sehm III: Father of Nso Development (1947-1972) rather relates that there was a break from tradition in that he was seized for enthronement by Nwerong without the knowledge of Ndzeendzev. This, according to Lantum’s narrative, was after Prince Mbinglo sent mystical warning signals from his waiting “hide-out” in Mbah. The appearance of the rainbow in the sky was taken as a communication warning and signal to anyone who dared sit on the throne. Consequently, Nwerong fished him out and did an unprecedented recognition and enthronement procedure that departed from the established tradition. It was in leading the already Nwerong-recognized “Fon'” to Ndzeendzev, that Ndzeendzev who was embarrassed questioned who was in the Nwerong mask, and further declared that if that was Mbinkar Mbinglo, then he was not going to endorse him. That, according to the narrative, was the cause of the discord between Fon Sehm III and Ndzeendzev.
It should be noted, that if Nso historians endorse the above narrative, then the second similar break in the enthronement procedure was recorded with accession to the throne of Sehm Mbinglo I. The difference with his father’s enthronement is that he never sent any warning signal, but was the choice of Nwerong and aTaanto because of his “respect for traditional institutions and for his inflinching support to Nwerong during the 1989 Mbor Crisis” (my quotes).
Unlike his father, when Nwerong seized and enthroned him, he stayed in the Nso Palace because of Ndzeendzev’s resistance against the choice. However, with the tactful and diplomatic negotiations led by Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya of the Bamoun, Ndzeendzev and his Co gave in to Nwerong. This entailed the re-enthronement of the Fon. And it came to pass. Sehm Mbinglo I is today 27 years on the Nso throne come September 2020.
These two similar scenarios prove that it is difficult for a Prince to auto-claim Fonship and go successfully through without one of the parties in the enthronement chain being an accomplice. And in such an eventuality if Nwerong is not in complicity the difficulty could be enormous.
In another light, the process of grooming a Nso Prince for succession to the Nso throne is more the collective responsibility of society. While Nwerong, as the custodian of the land, keeps a close study of all potential princes, the rest of the members of the enthronement council also keep a close study. These could only caution the princes but would never make them know they are under study. The individual prince under the hidden guide of his Wiinto, shapes his destiny on to the throne through his public comportment. Close friends, who are conscious of the potentiality of the said prince to succeed the Nso throne, caution and help the prince to build confidence in the population and in the King makers.
It should be noted that there is the metaphysical phase in the process of choosing a successor to the Nso throne. This is done through the Nso Mtar, who are sent out to the world to divine amongst the potential princes who is most suited. The Nso Fondom always waits for the return of these gods’ Messengers to return with the gods’ choice before the enthronement is done. However, they are never given more than a day to do. This phase is threatened by political influences and the overbearing interventions of Nwerong.
Concerning the Fon grooming a potential successor, it becomes a problematic equation in that there are two families considered to be in the rulership roll of the Nso Dynasty; the Ngah and the Sehm, who in reality are one. Sehm II (1886-1907) and Ngah Bi’fon I (1910-1947) were sons of Yaa Yeefon Lirfee. The tendency for a ruling Fon to be biased against the other house in his choice of a successor cannot be ignored. Also, the Fon’s criteria, as an individual, to judge any potential prince may be flawed by bias and incompatibility with the established criteria of the King makers and the society. These are some of the reasons why the probability of any respect for the ‘wispered choice” of a ruling Fon is low.
The dream of a Nso Fon abdicating the throne to hand over to a choice he had groomed is far removed from the Nso cosmic view and practices of inheritance. However, with the postmodernist disorder, one cannot totally dismiss an eventual precedence.
Bulami Edward Fonyuy
The University of Bamenda-Bambili