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Analysis:The Fondom Institution: The Power and the Glory 

By Peterkins Manyong

Last Friday September 18, the people of Mbaw Yakum (Bambalang) in Ngoketunjia Division enthroned a new Fon to replace Fon Fosi Yakumtaw who "disappeared" recently. The ceremony, which attracted a mammoth crowd, demonstrated how alive and strong the fondom institution still is in the face of modernism which has eroded a good portion of Africa’s tradition.

Although only 23 years old, the new Fon, Shomitang II, has enough charisma and eloquence to inspire confidence in his people that he will cope with the enormous task ahead of him. Without hesitation, he chose Edward Ngalah, President of the Mbaw Yakum Development and Cultural Association, MYDCA and his uncle, Fon Chafah XI of Bangolan as his special adviser. The "cry die" of his father, expected to take place in the dry season, promises to be a great cultural fiesta.

The confidence the people of Bambalang have in the youthful Fon was demonstrated not only by the impressive turnout, but from the enormous advantages assured him. For a start, there are 29 maidens from which he can choose as many wives as he deems necessary. Far from being unhappy about it, each of the maidens earmarked is said to be rather prayerful that the royal pollen grains be sprinkled upon them. This culture of pluralism in matrimony which characterizes Fondom requires special attention here.

Proponents of the one-man-one wife philosophy may be inclined to perceive absurdity in this open endorsement of polygamy. What they should understand is that nothing is wrong or right, but thinking makes it so. Those who have grown up in traditional set-ups would agree with this analyst that polygamy is not the monstrous practice they make the world believe. If the English King Henry VII of historical fame had many wives, he wouldn’t have caused his wife Catherine so much pain by divorcing her and Cardinal Wolsey so much grief for opposing the King.

The infinite wisdom of our kingmakers is demonstrated by the care they take to ensure the fecundity of the new Fon, it being imperative that he produce an heir to make for continuity. For this reason, the potential Fon must have demonstrated some libertinism by impregnating at least one female. The virtue of royal polygamy lies in the fact that the queens all wear cowries.

The traditional consequences of a sexual relationship with such a woman scare even the most gallant Casanova and thus keep HIV/AIDS far from the palace. Polygamy also encourages tolerance and checks hypocrisy that quite often begins from the altar where the couple promises eternal constancy to acquire sanctimonious binding and win loud applause, only to start practising the opposite not long after.

Hon. Simon Achidi Achu made a salient point when he told a CRTV interviewer recently that it is better to embrace polygamy than fidelity while owning an estate of concubines. King Solomon, the greatest royal polygamist ever, had 700 wives and 300 concubines, yet attained salvation (1 Kings 11.3)

Unofficial polygamy is the mainstay of the matrimonial institution which is today in crisis due to the ignorance or mischief of many an educated women. This vice of wife insolence is well depicted in this half rhyme by the author of "Don Juan" "Oh ye lords of ladies intellectual, inform us truly, have they not henpecked you all?"

Those who condemn polygamy in intolerable terms don’t prescribe what measures should be taken to end the practice of husbands snatching by unmarried women, some of whom justify their act by wondering aloud whether the woman in the house wrote or passed any competitive examination to enter there. The obnoxious phenomenon of street children is a consequence of the fact that a man who is restricted by monogamy can’t take another wife and so can only make his concubine a mother.

Fondom has another privilege .Some Fons like that of Bambalang, inherit a lot of property, though in the process they also inherit many wives and children. When Fon Angwafor III of Mankon says he doesn’t know the number of children he has, we should do him the honour of taking him at his word.

Fondom is sincere and surpasses what we describe as modern democracy. It is hereditary, but has checks and balances, unlike our "advanced democracies" that whereby the executive suppresses the other arms of government and professes alternation of power, but make this impossible by organising massive electoral fraud. What Camara Laye terms the radiance of the king is in earnest seen in traditional Fondom.

For this very precious aspect of our culture to survive, elite must stop manipulating our Fondoms. The regime in place would be better off sustaining Fondom than by destroying it. We can’t pretend to be promoting tourism, while trying to extinguish the only source of the fire that keeps it alive.

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