Archive | May, 2013

The University Of Buea Crisis: The Unspoken Truth And The Way Forward I & II

15 May

By Prof. Michael A Yanou

originally published on Monday, February 18, 2013

The University of Buea has had a turbulent history which has claimed student lives in the past and only recently resulted in the dishonourable act of taking the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nalova Lyonga, hostage for about five hours.

The events in UB have unfortunately continued to evolve negatively with the recent incident being the teleguided declaration by Fako Chiefs that threatened to use unorthodox methods to eliminate students and lecturers from other regions whom they suspect are forming the crisis to remove the current VC, a daughter of the soil.

The Region may not have been mentioned, nor those who teleguided them disclosed, but everyone knows what is actually happening! It is perhaps necessary as someone who has been teaching at UB since 1996 and spent the last five years as the President of the lecturers’ union (SYNES) to use this opportunity to disclose certain hidden truths to the Cameroonian public about the root causes of the crisis in UB.

I do this because of the fear of God and the need to ensure that for once we chart a new path towards sustainable peace at the University. At the root of the student crisis is the structure the student union government, otherwise called UBSU, should take. For students, it should ideally have a strong executive and a council (legislature). Their mantra is that the executive be elected in a popular vote by all students.

They argue that this is what the students who were killed during one of the strikes fought for and to abandon that will be the ultimate betrayal. Successive UB administrations and VCs alternatively believe in a weak student union government constituted by an executive which is voted by faculty presidents and not the student body. Between these two positions, both parties have never been able to find a middle ground.

To resolve this tension, UB administration has used two methods; they divide students and bribe some of them to support their preferred model and at other times try to force down the new model using selected students without involving the entire student body. The misfortune of this approach lies in the fact that these students who are selected and bribed are sometimes given the mandate by top UB officials to violently undermine their opponents leading to pitch battles on campus.

The various camps have regrettably been also used by certain top management to cause strikes and disturbances on campus using money as the major incentive. Closely connected to this dichotomy is the very sinister reality that students in these camps have been recruited and paid to cause violent strikes (including the hostage incident) to create a situation where a sitting VC is dropped to make room for a rival deputy.

Prof. Njeuma fell from power because students supported by some of her close collaborators made the university ungovernable. The last but one VC had his ultimate demise because one camp of students were actively involved in making the campus ungovernable with the view that he be dropped for those controlling these students to step into power.

When the current VC was taken hostage, I was solicited and succeeded to talk the students into releasing her not however without strong resistance from one of the camps of the students. Their resistance was partly because they did not want me to take credit for causing her release because it will undermine the agenda of their master who organised the hostage taking.

The idea is to once more demonize an existing VC as a failure who should give room to a rival deputy this all the more so since according to them is an aberration for an Associate Professor to be appointed in preference to them. In always trying to accede to power through using students to disrupt normal university life, top management feed their friends in the security with misinformation. Such misinformation will always include pointing fingers at the lecturers union, tribalisation of the events at UB, etc.
To understand the student crisis is to ask and answer the question who is the obvious beneficiary in the situation where a sitting VC is dropped? Only the blind and the hypocritical will identify SYNES and/or its President or UBSU and/its leadership as the beneficiary.
There is a lecturers’ angle to this crisis as well.

The vaulting ambition to be appointed to positions of responsibility (Heads of Department and Deans) is a major weakness in the UB system. Some lecturers will even sell their mothers if that is what it will take to be appointed. Such lecturers are vulnerable potential recruits for ambitious deputies in top management who use them to coordinate camps of students in the hope of achieving their ultimate prize.

Some of them are members of SYNES and are prepared to destroy the union for its insistence on respect for Articles 26, 54 and 74(c) of Decree No 93/034 of 1993, the law creating UB. This law states categorically that the VC, Deans and Heads of Department should be elected by academic staff before the Minister of Higher Education and President of the Republic signs the decree appointing them to their positions.

Although the demand for such elections is a legitimate aspiration, the union has never used underhand methods to achieve this goal. No SYNES official, past or present, has ever benefited directly from the dropping of a VC or Dean due to a strike. To point a finger at SYNES as the author of strikes on campus is to say the least the height of hypocrisy.


The Way Forward

UB administration should engage with the student body to determine by consensus in a give and take manner the method and extent of reforming the union if that is the true objective. Banning UBSU, starving them of funds or using one group of students to hoist a “reformed” student union on campus is an unattainable objective.

Recruiting and cultivating student groups through financial inducements by top UB administrators should be discouraged. One way of doing so is to ensure that academic staff be involved in the selection process of officials to post of responsibility in the university. Government policy of picking a Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) to replace a dropped VC is the bane of the crisis in UB.

As President of SYNES UB, let it be known that some DVCs have made subtle offers to me to use the union to foment trouble in the past without success. Guess their objective! Consider the issue of allowing students form prayer groups that pray regularly on campus in the same way as music and cultural groups operate freely. The blood of Jesus can bring permanent peace at UB!

The University of Buea Crisis: The Unspoken Truth and the way forward (II)

The crisis in the University of Buea (UB) in particular and the Cameroonian university system in general has lasted for too long. At UB, apart from claiming the lives of two students there is the strong suspicion that the series of deaths of top officials at the helm of the institution in quick succession that happened in the not too distant past was also attributed to the crisis. This, surely, compels a further look at the problem from the spiritual dimension as well regardless of the threats by some officials to eliminate me. Before delving into the spiritual, let me for and on behalf of the silent majority of staff and students who are too scared to speak exhaust the practical aspects of the UB crisis in the hope that some well meaning person in authority will step in and deal with the problem of university governance in UB in particular and in all other state universities in general from the roots!

Article 54(a) of Law No 93/034/1993 which sets up UB states that “The faculty board shall in a prescribed manner, from time to time, elect one of the professors to be dean. In the absence of a professor, an associate professor shall be elected in like manner. The person so elected shall upon approval by senate and confirmation by decree hold office for three years renewable once…..” Article 26 and 76(c) of this decree which is perfectly consistent with our constitution makes the “appointment” of the VC and head of department subject to the recommendation of lecturers as well. This law which was well thought out has never been implemented. The problems in UB including violent strikes, hostage takings and kidnappings all have their roots in its non-implementation, simple. Top university officials who use students or the ethnic card to foment trouble to unseat a sitting dean, VC or head of department will certainly stop this practice if they know that the only way of grabbing the position is by election or the recommendation of their colleagues in the respective boards and senate!

I make bold to say that its implementation which the UB lecturers union (SYNES) that I head has repeatedly called for will also improve governance as well as increase accountability in the university. Talking about the sordid things happening in UB lets note that the vice president of UBSU who had been kidnapped for four days one Minang was found (as I was writing this article) left to die bound hands, leg and mouth deep in a banana plantation in the outskirts of Buea. Who is responsible for this evil act to this young Cameroonian? The youngman will speak for himself when he leaves hospital but is holding to a post or fighting to be appointed into one so priced as to justify the killing of children left in our care at UB? May I also humbly ask you my fellow country men this question: would an academic staff known by his colleagues to be engaged in sexual harassments of female students (Married women inclusive) or the selling of marks be elected or recommended by his colleagues lecturers to a post of responsibility under the governance system set up by the law creating UB? Would such lecturers dare to present themselves for such positions?

The next university reforms should begin with not just the implementation of this beautiful law but also include its extension to all state universities in the country. UB officials claim that the current crisis is the result of opposition by a few students sponsored by the lecturers union SYNES and or some lecturers from an identified region whatever this means. Yet in another breadth they argue that those who have lost businesses on campus are manipulating the students behind the scene. Could this be an honest and rational explanation? In a wider Cameroonian context where ELECAM is being reformed to ensure that the vote of every single Cameroonian counts UB is “restructuring” the student union government to ensure that only a hundred students out of about 16 thousand students in UB vote for the student union executive UBSU….what an irony! A strong UBSU deriving its mandate from the entire students can only be a danger to a governance system that lacks negotiation and dialogue as an element of management. Admittedly, there is no way students can become the administrators of the university but is there anyway UBSU can be wished away?

What about the spiritual angle? The University of Buea at some point in time built a shrine on campus. This shrine is strategically located at the main approach to the school and can be seen by anyone who cares to visit the school even today! The question we must ask as Africans who are familiar with the dynamics at play in the spirit realm of our space are: how were the god(s) of this shrine to be maintained….by human or animal sacrifices? What are the consequences of any failure to maintain the spirits in this shrine? Is it not possible that the upheavals in UB that always take these violent turns and claiming lives at time have their root in issues relating to this shrine? Is this not time for the official priest/priestess of the shrine to clear the air? Lets be frank; spiritual protection cannot come from a shrine in a 21st century. Since we all claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, the answer is to turn to the God of heaven and earth and find genuine men of God in Cameroon to neutralize the forces at play emanating from this shrine.

A former VC had placed a ban on prayer meetings on campus by staff and students who adhere to the Pentecostal (born-again) form of Christian worship. The ban is still in place till date while student cultural and dance groups freely dance sometime half naked in the amphi-theatres most evenings on campus! Why should this be so in our Cameroon with clear constitutional provisions allowing for freedom of religion for all? Who is afraid of prayers that plead the blood of Jesus for peace and justice to reign in UB and why? I can understand the concern of a thieving UB official who uses his/her pseudo company to supply a memory flash stick worth 5000 frs to the university for 50,000frs about prayers on campus…but can we not all see the havoc caused by our collective silence? The way forward is to immediately lift this ban and see the peace and justice that the students themselves will use the power in the blood of Jesus to achieve at UB. For those who are planning my elimination as the solution, I fear not because the blood of Jesus is my protection!

Prof. Michael A Yanou 

LLB (Cal. Nigeria), LLM (Cal. Nigeria), PhD (Rhodes, SA)
Associate Professor of Law
University of Buea, Cameroon

Links to Sources:


Aborted Statehood and the Cameroons Reunification

7 May

By Nwanatifu Nwaco


Neither Yaounde nor Buea can claim to be the sole legitimate heir to the successor state that represents former German Kamerun. As a matter of international law, German Kamerun had ceased to exist as the many city states it had annexed before it. The First World War had created new subjects under international law, these were the successor states to this defunct Kamerun, split between British Nigeria and French Equatorial Africa. To begin to claim true reunification will mean a reconsitution of Kamerun as it was in 1911. This will mean 5 neighbouring countries of today’s Cameroon will have to cede back territories belonging to the anterior state of Kamerun.

The February 1961 Plebiscites were just a sampling tool  as to whether  British Southern and Northern Cameroonians liked to one day enter a union with “the Republic of Cameroun” or Nigeria; reason why the Plebiscite question was simply:

(I) Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Federation of Nigeria?
(II) Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroun?

Contrary to their wishes, there was no third option for complete independence.

If they truly wanted to reunite as two federal republics, the Foumban conference should have been where the ‘birth certificate’ of the Union was established; more appropriately, independence by reunification or integration. Further down the lane, the Feb 11 1961 plebiscite questions ( “Do you wish to achieve independence by joining…?’’ ) were inconsistent (even without the third option of total independence)  How can one ‘achieve independence’ by ‘joining’ ?

Moreover, there was never a unification treaty between the independent and dependent territories. If legality is to be followed, a constituent assembly should have concieved a constitution for both but what happened was that the 1960 Constitution of former French Cameroon was simply amended on 1st September 1961 meanwhile the Southern Cameroonians only joined the union on 1st October 1961. This goes to say nothing was ever done to ratify the 11 February plebiscite. So technically, The French speaking Republic of Cameroon only granted defacto not dejure citizenship to the stateless Southern Cameroonians who had refused Nigerian citizenship. Hence one cannot secede from an entity they  formally never joined-‘formally’ in this context means legally. In our case, we are dealing with geopolitical entities, and there were legal procedures that had to be undertaken and validated before French Cameroun and Southern Cameroons could be considered a nation. Those legal procedures were not exhausted. So logically, there can be no secession.

So up until 20 May 1972, the union was temporary, worse still the 20 May referendum was a fraud because East Cameroonians were asked to vote to cancel the plebiscite of 1961 in which only west Cameroonians had voted. As such in the absence of a union treaty, East Cameroonians shouldn’t have voted. The woes of Southern Cameroonians got worse when the name of the country was reverted to the pre-plescite name on 4th February1984, it’s the name we currently use today. So by act of state, former French Cameroon had opted out of the defacto union or had by implication annexed or erased the dual nature of its national identity.

When you go to England you are not considered an English person, you go to France the same. We are here killing ourselves about Anglophone Vs Francophone problems, and this denial to acknowledge that there is a problem with the nature of our national unity makes it more problematic. The tendency for the folks of French expression has been to narrow it down to an ‘ethnic’ issue as though it were a ‘Bamilike’ or ‘Nordists’ minority issue or have either missed context-represented it as though it were a national problem just as corruption and economic crisis. Even if they did succeed to restore their nation-statehood, there are a lot of ethno-perception differences among the Anglophone such that If there were to be secession today, by tomorrow, South West will want to secede from North West.

The Anglophone question is unique and stands out alone from the other minority and governance problems. it’s about identity and the republican nature of this country. In Canada as in Scottland, the ethnic and linguistic minority have a kind of social, political and cultural space, autonomy and equality that they enjoy today. They even have the option to quit and have put it to referendum before. One of the benefits is that the federated state gets its due respect, however Cameroon is dabbling with a form of regionalism and decentralization as per its 1996 constitution.

“I’m Speaking to the Anglophone Community of Cameroon” is an unusually candid 54 page pamphlet published by “Les Editions Du Kamerun”, authored by Enoh Meyomesse, who has become the first French-speaking Cameroonian to admit that the gross injustice meted out by the Francophone authorities against their anglophone counterparts is the root cause of the simmering civil war that will erupt in the country. However, may be we could try being Pan-African instead, then there could we see the oneness that motivated the reunificationists like the UPC and KNDP. The point is that what happened in 1961 was that Cameroun was under a state of emergency, and extended that state of emergency into the Southern Cameroons and proceeded to strangle the life out of the Southern Cameroons successor state of West Cameroon.

The 1961 reunification between the Southern Cameroons  which was not yet a sovereign state and the independent Republic of Cameroon was a union founded on uneven bargaining terms because the still colonial status of Southern Cameroons effectively disqualified it to enter an international treaty with an already a sovereign state. As such it came into the union by incorporation (absorption and annexation) and not by treaty.  The Southern Cameroons acquired autonomy not independence, by becoming the appendix of an independent country. If the de facto state of SC was independent just for one day from the UN or from Nigeria and Cameroun which were already de jure states and exhibiting by it self all the attributes of a sovereign state as defined by Article 3 to 6 of the Montevideo Convention of 1933, then one could lay claim to an independence day. At the time of “joining” the Westphalian styled Cameroun Republic, Southern Cameroons did not have an anthem, a seal of state, coat of arms, a flag or ability to formulate and execute foreign policy, mint currency or wage war. Those in use belonged to the British foreign and commonwealth office. So October 1st 1961, would count as a day of “Emancipation” to the sovereign statehood within the now Federal Republic of former independent French speaking Republic of Cameroun.
Worthy of note is the fact that Nigeria gained independence on 1st October 1960 while former French Cameroon gained independence on 1st January 1960, So within this window period from October 1960 to October 1961, the Southern Cameroons was never an independent state but was an internal self governing trust territory of the UN under British administration.  It should be retained at heart that they joined on October 1st 1961, that is exactly one month after Cameroun revised it’s constitution to accommodate the ‘newcomers’.  Reunification would have meant both entities ceased to exist in order for a successor state to be formed, by holding a constituent constitutional assembly where a new constitution as to the republican character of the new state they wanted to form was to be debated and adopted, as was done for example between Tanganyika and Zanzibar to become the Tanzania of today, the short lived Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde union, the unsuccessful Central African Federation, the failed Senegambia Federation, even Chad and Libya negotiated a merger during their border war in 1980. In the case of Cameroon, the SC accepted adopted the artifacts and attributes of sovereignty entirely from its usurping benefactor state. 
Also worthy of note is the joint communique issued on 14 October 1960 by the pro-reunification champions Ahidjo and Foncha firmly declaring their intentions to unite their respective entities into one federal state cannot be held as a valid reunification birth certificate because it was a mere expression of intentions that led up to the 11 February 1961 plebiscite to sample the choice of statehood for the Southern Cameroonians. Sarcastically and metaphorically put, the plebiscite question to determine the Southern Cameroons future independence, statehood and nationhood was like a drowning man’s only option of choosing to vote either for “YES” or “OUI”. 


The sadness of African state building or formation is that their ethnic groups run horizontally while their state boundaries run vertically! While the English language bond and the shared hate of the British southern Cameroons colonial history and experience in Nigeria might have given them and still does provide a common choice to reject integration with Nigeria in preference for reunification with former French Cameroun, the people of Bamenda and Victoria divisions did chose to reunite more due to their ethnic sameness they had with the adjacent West and and Littoral provinces of the Republic of Cameroon respectively. Equaling here to the coastal Sawa Bantu tribes in the south and the Tikari semi-Bantu tribes of the western grasslands respectively and not otherwise.

However, Dr. Endeley’s points in favour of integration with Nigeria when re-read today given the outcome of reunification seem visionary. the sheer numerical strength of Bamenda division over Victoria division did however decide the fate of the abortive state of Southern Cameroon. Since then the election results that are pro and anti government are a testimony of this sub-national ethnic affiliations and suspicion between the two regions.

To talk of an Anglophone problem is a reductionist account that is meant to mis-define a crisis of nationhood within an out of the Southern Cameroon entity. This entity must never be equated to an ethnic group as obtains in East Mumgo. As a matter of straight fact,the Cameroon state is made up of nations that are desperately trying to become a nation-state.I call the North West-South West dice rolling not an ethnic issue,but rather an elitist power wrestle relationship between sub-national artificial geographies. Even though ministerial, precisely prime ministerial appointments,CDC blame games, Kumba chieftaincy politics and the University of Buea staffing preferences still keep those skeletons in their cupboards, the ‘Oben Peter’ years and their overt xenophobia are in the past, observing the lingering fracture margins between these two communities that we all hope time and new perspectives or change of views about our identity can succeed to bridge.

The North West political elites might have lobbied the presidency to visit Bamenda, but the protocol of attendance and representation was decided not by them. If the South West elites are vowing pay back, then it’s their storm in a cup of tea! When the president visited the North, Littoral or the south regions did elites of the other regions yell at their peers? Of course representatives of these other regions resident there were invited to the tribunes. For intelligence’s sake, he was visiting his arm forces as commander in chief, who happened to be stationed in the North West. Whatever promises that emerged from the visit should be seen as political carrots and sticks- he created a university there and then as a carrot, the stick today is an overwhelming win by his party in this opposition party homeland.

Must the visit of a president to a part of his country become an issue over which rancor and political division flourishes? hell to the No! A leader should at regular intervals tour his country as a matter of duty and service to his citizens to avoid them wooing him to visit his own backyard. personally i find it utterly stupid for anyone to use what is supposed to be a right as an excuse or sought after favour to exact political vengeance. just shows us how this vague regionalism in Cameroon’s case can be a disuniting factor for a fragile state or serve as a platform for obnoxious ethnic inspired agendas of exclusion of other ethnic groups.

Well it’s a good thing the central government has changed nomenclature from ‘National Day’ to ‘Reunification day’ but as it stands, more needs to be done so as to give the celebration the legitimacy it deserves. I believe Reunification occurred on October 1st 1961 when a federal state succeeded the dependent and independent states of Cameroon. there are many potential days to match that title such as the 11 February plebiscite or the constitutional revision of 1st September 1961. Celebrating 20th May as reunification day seems out of historical accuracy to me, since both states were already reunited by incorporation, unless they mean to tell me that from 1961 to 1972, the union had been just a “civil cohabitation” now being issued a marriage certificate as per the referendum of May 20. Also, nothing can stop Yaounde from declaring February 4th 1984 as a national day too! remember the now celebrated May 20th national or reunification day constitutionally died following this 1984 revision.

So I ask you again what you mean by Anglophone equality? is it in political rewards for leap services and sycophancy? So unless the former Southern Cameroonians more appropriately, not Anglophones, as a people with a common colonial legacy and ideology about nationhood resolve their baseless internal differences, black-legging will remain their best bargaining asset, checks and balance as they relate with the powers in Etoudi. By the way Anglophone denotes an English speaker who isn’t from England, in the case of Cameroon many former East Cameroonians will qualify as Anglophones by mere fact that they can read, write, hear or speak the English language.


 it should be noted that at her independence in 1960, the French speaking Republic of Cameroon’s flag was green, red and yellow with no star on either stripes. By a constitutional revision on 1st September 1961, Article 1(5) read thus ”The flag shall be of three equal vertical stripes of green, red and yellow, charged with two gold stars on the green stripe.” 
The Southern Cameroonians only became ‘Cameroonians’ by acquisition on 1st October 1961, that is 1 month after this constitutional revision. So it goes to say the Southern Cameroonians as per Article 1(1) of the said constitution were to be henceforth after inheriting the independence of the Republic of Cameroon, become a federated state of that country, under the name West Cameroon. After the unconstitutional referendum of 20 May 1972, the federal state gave way to the Unitary state, hence the federated states of east and west Cameroon ceased to exist – just one Cameroon, as such the 2 stars on the federal flag merged into a single star now at the centre of the unitary flag. Cameroon was thus in its 2nd republic. 
Contemporary squabbles over the republican nature of the unitary state began on 4th February 1984 when Biya in another amendment reverted the country’s name from ‘United’ back to simply the ‘Republic of Cameroon’. This was the name under which French Cameroun acquired independence on 1st January 1960, that is 1 year and 9 months before it incorporated the Southern Cameroons into itself. The legal activist Fon Gorji Dinka considered this name change an act of secession from the 1961 reunion by Biya, hence firing the first short in what will culminate after the All Anglophone Conferences 1 & 2 between 1993-95, by pressure groups and regional leaders, leading to calls for a return to the federal state system or an outright restoration of sovereign statehood for former Southern Cameroon. 
In response, there was the revised constitution of 1996 which shied away from calling itself a federal constitution by masking itself in decentralization and regionalism… the rest is politics and history in the making!


Up coming article:


 For several years now, there’s been an ongoing debate on the etymological and lyrical contrast of the French and English versions of the Cameroon national anthem, between Cameroon historians and constitutional thinkers. It is absolutely impossible to talk about the two anthems without having to make recourse to how both came about nor the tabooed side of the coin which ends in a question about Anglophone identity and dissatisfaction with the state of the reunion of the Cameroons militant opinions. The controversy generated by this debate has largely been confined to academia and elite circles, it is hugely unknown to the general public. Before one dives into the debacle of righting this mire, one should first take a look at the decoloniazation and state formation history between the two polities.

The King’s Religion is the People’s Religion!

7 May

“Cuius Regio, Eius Religio” – Joachim Stephani (1544–1623)


I shall take you over to a kingdom in west-central Africa, where their King was allegedly “healed” by a certain Christian Pastor from a protracted ailment, whom he invited to his palace later for thanksgiving. During the deliverance and fortification ceremony to rid his palace and kingdom of ‘evil spirits’. He asks the ‘Man of God’ to destroy all the ancestral shrines and deities in his village, blaming them as causes of every misfortune, underdevelopment and every other ill that affects or afflicts his land and people. A stand-off and show of spiritual force ensues between pro-Christians and pro-African traditionalists. With arsenals open and war cries being  yelled against this iconoclasm or sacrilege, only the timely arrival of armed government forces prevent these hither to peaceful coexisting clans-people from physically confronting each other with and the bloodbath that could have followed.

Viewed from the perspective of a political anthropologist, the ‘Grassland Fondoms’ of the Western Highland region of Cameroon reveals a political setup that could serve as a template for reinventing the state in Cameroon as per this model. The Fondom syncs culture, tradition, religion and administration, providing and demanding compatible services as a de jure state does. Below is a breakdown of the power and administrative structure of a Fondom and its reflection in the modern state or a religious organisation:

1. The Fon or iFo’o equates to a head of state, the Pope in Catholicism, the Patriarch in Orthodox Christianity, a Caliph, Emir, Sultan in Islam. The Fon is the supreme military and spiritual leader of His Subjects,  just as the Pope is the defender of the faithful, the president of the republic or monarch is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. As spiritual leader in ancestral and traditional worship, he is the chief priest who represents ancestral continuity and intercession between the living and the spirit realm.

2. The Kwifoo is a the traditional legislative institution as well as it is a secret society that represents the entire population of the kingdom.  The members of Kwifoo are called Ikum and are literally speaking kingmakers and can discipline a Fon as the parliament in a state can impeach or censure a president or a council of Cardinals can excommunicate a faithful or clergy. Along with the Fon, they serve as  law makers and customary judges for civil and criminal matters.

3- The Fon is aided by a set of quasi-regal persons who execute functions and roles equal to those of governors and civil administrators, Bishops and priests, Imams and Sheikhs respectively. These delegation of powers  includes princes, princesses (Mafor, Mofor, Ndifor, Tapifoo, Nde’eh, Nchinda), vassal and tributary Fons (sub-Fons) and lineage chieftains. As in all organised units, there is an order of merit to reward honourary titles and merits for acts of valour and services rendered to the Fon or the Fondom (Akamentso, Ntsofoo, Ntumfoo). These too are also incorporated into the administrative, judiciary and leadership corps of the Fondom.


The right to a religion and the freedom to worship are the things that keep secular states in balance from becoming theocracies. No wonder nation-state builders have always advocated the separation of religion from the state. Freedoms and rights are just almost but they are not the same thing. Though recognized by his people and government as their representative and administrative auxiliary, when a custodian of the customs and traditions of a people uses his position to proselytize for the causes that he supports or begins to break the traditional institutions and cultural landmarks he is charged to safeguard without consulting other hierarchical and subordinate authorities in his kingdom, it defeats the intention of the act and diminishes his legitimacy as well as the cultural identity of his people vis-a-vis other clans who are or may not be adherents to the new found faith. I wonder what it will be like for them if they are rejected in the great beyond of afterlife by the Jewish ancestors for whom they are with lightning bolt speed and conviction discarding their own African ancestors today? Why not leave the ‘all powerful and knowing’ celestial deity fight its own battle and war?

No class of people whether classified by creed or ethnicity holds the monopoly over religious fundamentalism. I read news reports not long ago how some zealot had in premeditation burned Holy Korans, again how another had made a blasphemous yet trivialized mock video of Islam’s prophet. Moving back in time from Osama Ben laden the godfather of terrorism  to Anders Breivik the far-right Christian extremist mass murderer in Norway, we saw aeroplanes become missiles in the hands of some zealots  now styled and branded as ‘terrorists’ which they used to slay 3000 thousand people; not forgetting the young Nigerian whom despite his father being an influential banker concealed a bomb in his panties but failed to detonate it aboard an America bound flight and also about others who without consideration for anthropology and heritage went about destroying the ancient relics and mausoleums in Mali and later on by calls from yet another leader of faith under the excuse of idolatry called for the destruction of the great pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt. Except for some psychopathic individuals, I believe few people are born religious fanatics. When individuals for one reason or the other congregate into groups for some common purpose they choose their options to achieve what the what. Terrorism at that level becomes more complex because it is difficult to define who then is a terrorist as in the case of the April 2013 Boston bombings.

Nigeria is no stranger to the politics of ethno-religious politics. This has been the the ground on which public office seeking and power sharing has been anchored since its independence. With the rising spate of sectarian violence orchestrated by the dreaded ‘Boko Haram’ militant group against the people and the state of Nigeria, one is taken aback as to what really motivates them. How does one win a war against an enemy for whom death in any form, whether suicidal or killed means victory?  Arising from the ashes and remnants of the ‘Maitatsine’ Islamic jihads of two decades earlier or a nostalgia for the Sokoto Caliphate Jihads by the charismatic Usman Dan Fodio in the 19th Century; the Boko Haram tragedy presents an ideal case study of how very lethal the fusion of ethno-religious leadership in a secular state can be.

The state in Africa is arbitrary, arising from colonialism and the unification of peoples with different political cultures, the successor state has been too tribal and religiously fundamental, all of which concoct  a recipe for it to go pariah. The sadness of African state building or formation is that their ethnic and religious groups run horizontally while their state boundaries run vertically. The powerful Lamidos in the north of Cameroon and Nigeria the face of these increasing powerful radical religious clerics have either had to share the loyalties of their subjects with them or have either become powerless or waned in authority due their collaboration with civil and military administration or may be because religious leadership presents a more appealing package than traditional authority.

If some zealots and bigots could have their will done within a twinkle, museums, historical sites, archaeological and other monumental landmarks will be demolished and forgotten. If this was the case, the christian missionaries and Islamic Caliphs who Christianized and Islamized Africa would not have left any relic existing today in their quest to convert Africans. Sometimes when I learn of all these in the news and in readings from history books, how religious extremists and fundamentalists use religion as justification to replace one  form of oppression with another, it rumbles like a quake at the foundation of my sanity.

African spirituality of the interconnection between the living and the non living centered around and derived from a supernatural being. Ancestral veneration, libations and sacrifices is an aspect of worship by the living which prepares and connects them for the eventual transition to the unseen but felt non-living after reality. That’s why we have diviners and spirit mediums. African spirituality is the most diverse and varied form of belief. Religion is organised and enforced propaganda or hypnotism! Before Modibo Adama’s  jihadists entered the Bamum country or the British Baptist Missionary Society ‘light bearers to the dark continent’ set foot on the beach at Bimbia, nor Dr. Eugene Zintgraff and his camping company entered the court of the  Fon of Bali Nyonga’s, Africans before then fought wars to defend their lands, crops and herds from migratory groups and not to propagate their spiritual beliefs. The Jihad came along with the sword and the Evangelists came along with the machine gun and today wars are fought by those wielding religious manifestos. So the food for thought is if there is any compatibility between  African traditional leadership and institutionalized religious ideologies within the context and situation of a secular state entity?

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” – Desmond Tutu

By Nwanatifu Nwaco