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Cultural Decline in Cameroon and the way out: The Case of Lebialem

Our declining culture and cultural succession

With the increasing poverty in Africa sub of the Sahara , (poverty promoted by embezzlement, corruption and harsh economic climate) being implemented by neo-colonialists African leaders and worsen by Brettons Woods’ institutions- IMF , World Bank poverty aggravating programmes and strategies, most people are seeking for greener pastures abroad i.e. in Europe, America and a few in Asia. (Babisakana) financial expert affirmed in one of the editions of Le Messager Newspaper of Cameroon early 2008.

The accelerating poverty and massive exodus of Africans among whom are Lebialemers (People from Lebialem division Cameroon) to the West, has far reaching consequences. Villages are left empty or/and in some cases with only old people. Our cultural is serious dying as people are ready to auction it for pieces of silver in order to gain wealth, hence the giving of traditional titles by chiefs (Befua) to people who do not merit them or who do not even know their values.

Among the hundreds or even thousands of Lebialem people who have embarked on political or economic asylum/exiles, are our much loved nobles and chiefs (i.e. bekem, befua). These chiefs, some of whom are quarter heads have applied and obtained asylum in some countries thereby in principle, accepting that, they may NEVER ever set foot on Cameroonian /Lebialem soil again.

As a result, some villages such as "N, N, E, M" etc have been left as orphans though some have regents who many do not attached any importance as if it was the chief or noble himself . Some of these regents have very little and in some cases no authority over “their” subjects.

There is absolutely nothing wrong for a person to seek a better life for his family in this world in which more and more people continue to care only for themselves and never for others though it continues again to be more and more globalised (in terms of communication and technology anyway) .

As a matter of fact, one cannot blame nobles (bekem and befua) who have taken the West for their permanent residence or as a political or economic refuge. It is because they want to feed their families and have "better" facilities; health, education, freedom etc. The exodus of Africans and Lebialem people to permanently reside in the West may be a better economic and political refuge for some but hardly ever a cultural refuge for any.

What really puzzles me is the massive departure of “bekem” and “befua” to the West. I would kindly suggest that in areas or families where somebody has been crowned as successor (nkem or Fua) especially a quarter or family head, people in that area could work for the “placement” of the said individual so that he or she cannot really envy others as such. The successor could once in a while visit abroad but, not stay there permanently. It can be different if it is illness. Pa Nkemalem Nkainjo Peter. source Lebialemportal -interview.

In the regard of "placement" of nobles, quarter heads or successors etc, I salute the efforts of the People of Lewoh ( A Fondom in Lebialem-Cameroon) who “placed” their Fon. This could also be copied by areas, Bechati, Bamumbu, Lebang, Essoh Attah, Ndungated , etc.

“Placement” of people by “God Fathers” is a jargon now very common in Cameroon . This means influencing or imposing the admission of a person in a professional school or even the buy of a position for that person. In most cases, unqualified people are admitted in public professional schools and that has terribly contributed to the ever increasing inertia in Cameroon public service. This system can only be destroyed in Cameroon when a much more “patriotic” regime takes over from Biya and his cohorts and gives room for meritocracy.

Inasmuch as the absolutely corrupt and poverty aggravating regime continues to clink on power, mediocrity will continue to prevail. And in such cases, those who fail to “place” their people are the losers. I am forced to mix politics and culture here because our culture has been badly damaged by partisan politics and politicking.

Need to rethink succession in Lebialem

On the other way round, I really think there is the urgent need for our kingmakers to rethink succession. Let me say cultural succession because the word succession may be too ambiguous and others may be too sensitive treating this.

Cultural succession in this case means that if a living noble, quarter head or Fon knows/foresee that his biological child cannot preserved our culture well when he the Fon, chief, quarter or family head dies, he (the family head) may then, will cultural-succession , to any person from the Royal family.

What will become of our culture when chiefs (nobles) who have fled to the Americas and Europe die and hand the village/our culture to a kid(s) who have never been to Lebialem, or who do not even know the culture handed down to him or them to preserve or sustain.

Take the case of the Fon of Fontem, Fon of Nwemetaw, Essoh Attah, Njoargwi or any other Fondom or chiefdom if you want. Most of these Fons/chiefs are young and have very “ambitious” children. Though they seek to learn, some as a result of negative comparism may never want to live at home let alone in Cameroon ? What will happen when our traditions/culture is handed to this generation of people most of whom know little or noting about the culture? A Fon, chief, quarter head whose child cannot even express himself/herself in the dialect, yet expected to succeed his father/mother, communicate with his people and among others settle disputes in “Lemoh”…. In which language? We are really joking, I think so.

If succession was therefore open to all children of the Royal Family, we may not find ourselves in some current and future situations. That may be one of the best methods of maintaining our culture. In that case, any person from the Royal Family resident at home and who masters the tradition can succeed the Fon/chief, quarter head, if the latter dies in their respective areas.

I also strongly suggest that chiefs or quarter heads who have gone and seeked permanent residence and who do permanently reside in Europe or America or those who have gained asylum thereby accepting in principle that they will never go back to Cameroon, should be stripped of their cultural titles. In that case, if such a person before enthronement was called, say Richard, Gilbert, Jonathan etc and after enthronement became say Fuankwin, Fuatam etc, people should henceforth call them by their names such Jonathan, Gilbert and not Fuankwin Fuakam, FuanNdih etc etc.

Let them go with their real names and not with the traditional titles. If such people loved their titles or culture so much, while in America , Europe or Asia , they could create their own villages and titles like the case of “Fon” Fonjinju a Lebialemer highly regarded traditional leader in Melong.

Some people may consider this approach radical but, I think, even Africa itself needs to be saved by leaders who have the interest of and for the continent. When such leaders begin the implementation, they are called “radicals” or “dictator” by the West or his neo-colonised African peers. But I strongly believe such measures ought to be taken to partly savage our continent, countries and villages. Lumumba, Sankara, Mandela, Mortale Mohammed, Nkrumah, Gadaffi, and to and extend the Mugabe, Gwagbo Laurent, Kagame etc are examples. Not the Biya, Mubarak, Eyadema, Nguesso, Nguema, Bongo etc

Back to the issue, to avoid such situations, I strongly suggest that if any of us is made a chief, especially quarter head, because, (a chief is he who has subjects not chiefs nowadays who have just their wife or wives and child(ren) as their subject(s) stationed in a land where even none of these children may even know what culture is all about). We should therefore, support our chiefs quarter heads to be economically viable and stay at home i.e. Lebialem itself or at worst Cameroon in general. The efforts of all of us are needed here.

I strongly believe that the issue of succession be divided henceforth, into two, CULTURAL succession and MATERIAL succession. The former concerns us. I know this may mean modifying the laws of the Cameroon . Please can any legal mind shed more light on this?

If such measures or adequate measures are not implemented, we may in few decades or less, be confronted by what Professor Fidelis Achenjang calls “Fualessness” as written in the master piece: Lefua in Lebialem : Decline or Transformation. In it, Prof looks at Fualessness with respect to the wanton and abusive awarding of traditional titles to unqualified people. This may lead us to a level where everybody is a chief and in that case with or few no subjects. Prof did not use the exact wordings above.

To preserve our culture, let us adapt the strategy of the Catholic Church. The pope is always in Rome, so do must quarters heads always be in villages. Just as the church and Christians do contribute for the well being of the pope, so too the need for us to support our quarter heads or nobles, the custodian of culture.

AGENDIA Aloysius

Nwua Nkemndem Ajong-akroh Gabriel a Njentse Lebang

Son of Nkemndem Ajong Gabriel

Örebro -Sweden

www.lebialem. com

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