Cameroon – National Day: Apologise To Us Or Lead Us In The March-past, Buea Chief Tells Governor Okalia

Chief Ewome Eko John alias Moja-Moja I of Fako, Traditional Ruler of Bwassa village in Buea Subdivision has demanded an apology from South West Governor Okalia Bilai Bernard after he ordered them to march on May 20 (National Day) along with their subjects under pain of losing their royal crowns.

He spoke to HiTv Cameroon Saturday, May 4, 2019, shortly after a protest march, across the Buea municipality, along with the dreaded Nganya masquerade.

« The purpose of this marching is because our peers, the fellow Fako people have been crying since the Governor made the statement that the chiefs have to march along with their villagers. So, our villagers have been disturbed, they have been disturbing us, they have been asking us questions. So today, our villagers, together with some external elites asked us to go on the streets and ask if we have a problem with the government. Since morning, myself with some of my fellow chiefs said enough is enough. But that we are not going to bring any violence here in Fako. We’re welcoming, we’re in a nation where peace should reign, » the chief said.

Moja-Moja I adds that: « Since morning, we have been marching from Bwassa to Bongo Square to Buea Town to showcase our culture, first of all, and to let the governor who said chiefs are going to march [know] that we can march even at night. He is not the one to tell us when to march with our peers with placards.

« Just imagine Mr. Governor. Can you say that to your chief? Can you say that to your chief? Give us a bit of respect. We also respect you. I am in Bwassa. If you care you come and pick me tonight, my villagers are still going to call me Chief.« 

The traditional ruler of Bwassa village called on the Governor to withdraw his April 25, 2019 statements that called on chiefs to take part in the National Day parade under pain of being dethroned.

Hear him: « Frankly speaking, you have to withdraw your statement. If you don’t withdraw it, even call some of the chiefs and explain yourself to us. I’m sure the mayor was by your side, and he wanted to sit there and watch the chiefs marching. Is that normal? I’m sorry if I’m going out of hands but that is what we agreed. It is from the bottom of the hearts of the Fako people.« 

Chief Ewome Eko John said the Governor’s marching orders have angered the gods and an appeasement was inevitable.

Hear him: « This [Nganya] masquerade came out today to appease the gods over the utterances made by the Governor. The gods were already angry, so we had to appease them. No matter the fact that he used a wrong statement, he remains our son. I’ll no longer call him Governor Okalia Bilai. I’ll call him Governor Moja Moja I. He’s also a Mola. He’s also a chief. If he says we should march, I put him chief of chiefs. He’ll be the one in front during the march past and we’ll follow from behind.« 

Indeed, South West Governor Okalia Bilai Bernard had on Thursday April 25, 2019, as he chaired a preparatory meeting ahead of the 47th edition of Cameroon’s National Day nationwide celebrations billed for May 20, said chiefs who fail to march with their subjects will be dethroned.

« During the 20th May this year, all the Chiefs will march with a placard indicating their village and with their population behind them, » Okalia said, adding that, « If that is not the case, it means those chiefs don’t exist. And if you don’t exist as a body, as a village, then you should neither be called a village nor be counted among villages.« 

« I said this some two, three years ago but the Chiefs refused to do it because they were still volunteer Chiefs. But today, know that the volunteerism is finish. Tradition is there, but you are tied to the state with an obligation. Eh Chief? You know noh? I don’t want to disclose it here. But we understand each other, » Okalia said with a feigned smile.

In a firm tone, he handed down a subtle threat: « If you fail to do what I am instructing, you’ll see 30 days after, the consequences of that disobedience. »

Okalia turned to the Mayor of Buea, Ekema Patrick Esunge to know the number of villages within his municipality and the mayor’s response put smiles on his face. He then instructed the Mayor to prepare placards bearing the names of all the villages in Buea – which placards will be carried by the Chiefs as they lead their kits and kins during the National Day parade.

« So Lord Mayor, prepare the placards because soon they will say they don’t have money. Prepare it. How many villages do we have in Buea? Ah,a hundred, put them on placards. Every Chief will march. And those who are in exile in Douala or Yaounde, Let them stay there. When they come back, they’ll find someone else as chief, » Okalia decreed.

The South West Chiefs Conference in a communique dated April 30, 2019 condemned the Governor for using such a tone in addressing custodians of the cultures and traditions of the people. The President of the South West Chiefs Conference, Chief Mafany Njie Martin on behalf of his peers said the governor did not have to remind them of their civic responsibilities.

« We, the South West Chiefs categorically condemn the demeaning and threatening manner by which the Governor of the South West Region reminded us of our usual civic duties, which we have always performed so diligently without be ordered to do so by whosoever, » the chiefs said in a statement in response to Okalia Bilai Bernard.

The chiefs say their native laws and customs do not allow them as natural rulers to march past the grandstand during official ceremonies.

« We completely dissociate ourselves from such a representation and remind the public that the traditions and customs of the South West people are full of values of respect, tolerance, nobility and unity. We therefore call on our population to remain calm and positive as we look forward to accompanying the State in all national events like we have always done, » the chiefs said.

But the Divisional Officer for Buea, Kouam Wokam Paul has since condemned the April 30 letter signed by Chief Mafany Njie Martin, cautioning him against « misconduct« .

It is not known what the reaction of the administration will be regarding this demand for an apology from the region’s chief executive.

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