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Over-Decentralisation Has Destroyed Our Development Efforts – Fon of Bafut 

Interviewed By Azore Opio

The Fon of Bafut, Abumbi II, was in the Southwest Region, recently, to crown three regents (Atanchos) who are expected to represent him in Fako Division. The setting of the colourful ceremony was the junction town of Mutengene. At the end of the ceremony, the Fon talked to The Post. In this interview, he explains how regents are chosen, gives insights on the resilience of Bafut culture and expresses a strong wish for the government to hasten the on-going decentralisation and democratisation process.

The Post: We see quite a happy crowd of Bafut citizens at this ceremony. What criteria did you apply in selecting only three of them to become your regents?

Fon Abumbi II: I want to tell you that leadership in our traditional rulership is a family affair; it is not elective. That means these people who have been chosen by the people of the Bafut Fondom and the kingmakers belong to the ruling class; that constitute the 11 royal families of the Bafut Fondom. With us, leadership is hereditary.

What is the rank of the Ninfor and the "Mandere" dance which we can see throbbing in the yard?

The "Nifor" is a traditional ritual which entitles people to have the right approach towards the Fon, talk to him and greet him. Otherwise, tradition bars anybody who hasn’t acquired this title to even approach the Fon and then address him. Meanwhile, the Mandere is a Bafut dance. It is 600 years old! In the past, it served as a martial music to motivate Bafut warriors to fight in the defence of the Bafut Fondom and, after the victory, we normally came and danced in the palace. Today, we dance it to celebrate victories against underdevelopment.

Let’s know about the hierarchical ladder in the Bafut Fondom.

The Fon of Bafut is the Paramount Chief of the Bafut Fondom. He is assisted by Chiefs (Atanchos), Sub-chiefs, Quarter Heads and Family Heads.

As a Fon, how are you conserving the Bafut culture from the rapid encroachment of Western influence?

The Bafut people are a very conservative set of people. They are very proud of their culture and they are willing to sacrifice anything to defend it and live within their culture in spite of the influence of Western cultures. We are prepared to let our youths take over the baton of practising our culture.

You are an embodiment of the Bafut culture. How do you rate the Bafut traditional political set-up and governance vis-à-vis Western democracy characterised by campaigns and elections?

The main principle of traditional governance is consensus: we disagree to agree. Once a decision considered good is taken, everybody supports it. In the Western system, it is one man, one vote. You have elections which end up in a lot of bitterness. The majority dictates to the minority. In the traditional system, we continue to debate until a consensus is arrived at. That is why we are more stable than the Western democracies.

You took part in the creation of the Northwest Fons’ Union, NOWEFU. Recently, there was a storm in the NOWEFU tea cup; why the storm and how was it calmed?

I was the Pioneer President of the Northwest Fons’ Union and I was President for over six years. We did disagree on a few things, but, in the end, we sent all those areas of disagreement for further studies by Committees. And I think that, at the Committee level, we shall be able to arrive at a consensus for the way forward.

Has NOWEFU fulfilled its original intent?

We can’t say we have totally fulfilled our mission. We formed NOWEFU as a lobby group to achieve the development of the Northwest Region. We haven’t succeeded totally because our Ring Road still has to be tarred. Underdevelopment still exists in the Northwest. We are still to do more.

What’s your take on the political and economic trends of the country?

We are moving forward with our democratisation process. And I would like to encourage the political authorities to move very rapidly with the decentralisation process because that is the only way we can develop our people at the grassroots. Over-decentralisation has destroyed our development efforts.

If the Bafut model of governance were adopted for use at the national level, would you say it would work?

Why not? The cardinal principle in our traditional political set-up is consensus. During the one-party system, consensus prevailed and it worked nationally. Why can’t it work today? I am not saying that the one-party system is the best. But, I’ll quickly say that the consensus system is a very effective system of governance.

Tradition demands that you marry several women. How many wives do you have?

I will continue to have. I have many wives – over 30 and I want to progress. My grandfather had over 100! Why can’t I attain that level?