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BOOK REVIEW: Autobiography of Fon Angwafor III S.A.N of Mankon 

Genre:  Autobiography of Fon Angwafor III S.A.N of Mankon
Title: Royalty and Politics — The Story of My Life
Publisher: Langaa Research and Publishing CIG, Mankon, Bamenda
Reviewer: Sam-Nuvala Fonkem

The story of my life is told by a prince "born on leopard skin" who rose from very humble beginnings to become one of the most highly educated members of his tribe in the pre-independence days and an enlightened monarch of the Mankon people, whose welfare and progress became his overriding and paramount preoccupation.

It is the story of a big-hearted man who would be clocking 85 years come May 2010 and who has had the singular experience of celebrating the golden jubilee of his accession to the throne; a royal stool he had least expected to sit on when he recalls the hardships he suffered to acquire the financial and basic requisites of modern education.

The responsibility for getting a Western education was placed not on the Fon but on the maternal family of the prince as was the case in most royal families in those days, particularly because princes were hardly encouraged to attend the white man’s school where they were subjected to all sorts of indignities including corporal punishment. So only the sons of commoners were sent to schools. As he had no viable maternal uncle or relatives to sponsor his education, he relied on personal effort, tending tomato and cabbage gardens and helping his father manage a food supply contract he had with the Bamenda Prison.

The story of Fon Angwafor III is the story of a traditional ruler who did not only have to reconcile tradition and modernity, but also monarchical rule and modern democratic governance. His decision to run for a parliamentary seat in 1962 earned him the wrath of career politicians including the late John Ngu Foncha, leader of the KNDP of which Angwafor was a prominent member because they felt that traditional leaders should not meddle in politics.

The young Fon was not to be deterred. He felt Mankon people had been sidelined in politics and modern administration for too long and a parliamentary position would enable him advance the interests of his tribe. After consultation with his people, he ran as an independent candidate and won against four candidates fielded by other political parties. Since then, the Fon had always represented the Mankon constituency in parliament under the various political dispensations Cameroon has undergone until 1988, when he claims to have resigned from politics.

While the "Story of My Life" is a moving narrative of a farm-loving prince with a peculiar brand of humour marked by a not-so-cordial relationship with the Anglophone political class (with the glaring exception of the late S.T. Muna), one gets the impression that the 70 pages of narrative were grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the leadership space occupied by Fon Angwafor in the past half century.

The publisher and editors adopted the brilliant idea to have the Fon come across in his own words but unfortunately left the reader hungering for more as they failed to provide an exploratory road map for the Fon’s journey down memory lane. So many unanswered questions, loose ends and complete blanks for the autobiography of a man who is privileged to have lived this long to tell his story.

His relationship with the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, whom he assists at the leadership of the ruling CPDM party, is not adequately covered. How come he says he resigned from politics in 1988 only to step into Foncha’s shoes in 1990 as Vice President of the CPDM, when Foncha resigned? Could it be said that his resignation in 1988 was prompted by President Biya’s ban on 1st class Fons from running for parliamentary office?  Seventy pages of the 140-page book are devoted to lots of poorly engraved and miniaturized and uncaptioned photos.

While Langaa  should be commended for venturing into the uncommon genre of biographies, I would humbly suggest that a more fleshed out edition be embarked on or a professional biographer be encouraged to take up the challenge of doing an in-depth job, using ‘The Story Of My Life’ as a springboard to delve into the instructive and eventful life of a living legend who is not only a down-to-earth character, but also a Mountain of a Man who might have had the effect of making even men of average height feel like Lilliputians.

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