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Book Review : A Short History and Traditions of Bambui: 1700 

Author: Barnabas Chungong Bonu
Publisher: Reignite Action For Development, UK
Pages: 223
Reviewer:  Francis Tim Mbom — Barnabas Bonu’s book is a comprehensive and very rich package of basic historical facts about a place that is fast becoming a hub for every field of education in the Northwest Region.

Bonu, 84, is a teacher, who began plying his craft at the age of 16. His wealth of experience as a teacher lends undisputable credence to his account of who the Bambui people are; where they are coming from and what has transpired in this Kingdom of well over 20,000 inhabitants.
The book gives a historical account of the life of the people as well as provides the reader with fine information about its economic, social and cultural life and the geographical location and demographic make-up of the people.

Professor Anthony Ndi of the Catholic University of Bamenda in his foreword to the book finds that, “In this volume…Bonu has finally met the needs of research students, tourists, and may well become a work of reference for traditionalists.” Prof. Ndi goes on to state that in “telling the story as it is without bias…the book recommends itself to a public wider than Bambui village.”

Bonu states that his account of the history of Bambui is just to enable the citizens of the place, residents as well as policy makers, to have a fine knowledge to guide their understanding of certain issues and aspects and a base for researchers to “uncover what I have left out” (page 4).

He begins his historical account by locating Bambui. “Bambui is a village in Tubah Sub-Division, Mezam Division, Northwest Region of Cameroon…It covers an area of about 80.5 sq km…It is 10 km from Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest Region of Cameroon” (page 20).

The name Bambui, the author says, was originally known as Mb∂. From his account, the Bambuis, like some other tribes in the Northwest, migrated from the Tibati Plateau in the Adamawa Region. Passing through the Mbam valley, they came to nestle in the Ndop plain in the 17th century. They, finally, moved to their present location.

“The Bambui people first settled on a hill called Phedie. Today, the hill is reserved as a sanctuary for fetching grass for thatching ‘Kwifor’ houses and the ‘Atsam’ in the palace.”
Bonu states that the original name of his people, Mb∂, metamorphosed to Bambui when the German colonialist, Dr. Zintgraf, conquered Bali Nyonga, another village in Mezam, and proceeded to name every other village beginning with the prefix, ‘Ba.’

That is how Mb∂ became known as Bambui, Nso as Banso, Mendakwe as Bamendakwe; and other places such as Bafut, Bafang, Bafoussam, Bamessing, Babanki and so on. The author goes on to give a historical account of all the Fons who have ruled Bambui beginning with Fon Zetingong who founded Bambui to the present Fon Angafor Mbombo’o III who has been on the throne since 1995.

And talking about the esteem with which the Fon is held and deifying powers which the Fons generally in the Northwest Region command, Bonu states that here, “Fons do not die as commoners. They are said to disappear and will appear again. Tradition says the Fon is missing.” Again, he says, “the Fon is never sick.

Tradition says ‘there is a cold in the palace.’”
He goes on to tell how people by tradition, again, do not have to enter the palace with caps on their heads. The book talks about the administrative structure of the Bambui Fondom where, although the Fon is the head, he remains, like every other citizen, a subject to the authority of the Kwifor or higher Supreme Council of the land. “By tradition, the Fon can be disciplined by the Kwifor.” (page 31).

Bambui hosts several institutions of higher learning today, beginning with the Regional Major Seminary of the Catholic Church. But the holiness supposedly exuding from this formation centre has not been powerful enough to divert the Bambui man from his traditional religion which, as the writer states, is used to invoke blessings and other benedictions from their ancestral deities.

“Bambui traditional religion offers many sacrifices to invoke the blessings of the gods on many events…at the beginning of the planting season for a good harvest; in times of war or misfortune; preventing wicked men from transforming into storms or the wind and destroying crops,” states the author.

But he notes that the many sacrifices have rather been economically counter-productive because the tons of food, animals slaughtered as well as palm wine that flows during such social gatherings, have instead contributed more in rendering the Bambui man poor. But as a proactive tribe, he writes that as late as February 2012, the Kwifor in Bambui came up with several Decrees, one of them practically reducing the number of days for funerals to just a day.

Bonu’s account also incorporates bits about other surrounding villages like Bambili, Finge, Babanki, Kom and many others. The publication has gone as far as including maps that will help policy makers actually situate the boundaries of this village, as well as surrounding ones. The book will also help any administrator to be able to go about the many land disputes that have bedeviled the people of this area for years.

The disputes, the author writes, have on occasion resulted into some fratricidal wars. But the passage of time has quelled down this habit as the peace loving people and their Fon have come to understand that peace with their neighbours is more valuable than wars. The book was launched of late in Bambui and Barrister Innocent Bonu, son of the author, indicates that the book sells at FCFA 7000.

First published in The Post print edition no 01438

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