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We Didn’t Sell The Ntumfor Title To CPDM Stalwarts – Fon Dr. Akam 

Following the Saturday, February 7, Executive meeting of NOWEFU that took place in Bafmeng and the crowning of eight Fons’ special envoys, Dr. Akam, in this exclusive interview, talks about the meeting, the choice of the Ntumfors and the Ntumfor Nico Halle controversy. Excerpts:

You just returned from Bafmeng where you held your first Exco meeting after your election in November. What did you discuss?

We had an elaborate agenda and we discussed, amongst other things, the development of the Northwest Province. This is the first time NOWEFU is trying to be engaged in the development of the Northwest Region. We discussed the last General Assembly meeting that culminated in our election. We looked at what went wrong and made an assessment of what happened on that day. We discussed our secretariat project and how we could continue with it through fundraising. In fact, we plan to have fundraising activities in Yaounde, Douala, Limbe and Kumba in order to be able to complete that giant project.

In terms of development, what have the Fons identified as key developmental problems?

Well, we cannot pretend that we can develop the road infrastructure but we will take it upon ourselves to write to the various services that can help in the development of our roads, especially farm-to-market roads. We will also contact some government authorities whenever it is necessary to also engage in this area. Then, we also thought of talking to some partners to institute a ceramic industry in the Region. You know the Region has a lot of clay deposits. Some international partners can help train people for the purpose. We talked seriously of our agricultural output, with specific references to rice cultivation.

What was the attendance like during the first NOWEFU Exco meeting?

The general executive of NOWEFU is made up of 50 members. About 40 were present.

What happened to the others who didn’t attend?

They probably did not get the invitation early enough. For example, the Fon of Bafut was in the Southwest with his people and so could not attend.

One of the major outcomes of the meeting was the crowning of eight Ntumfors. Why did the number go up to eight?

Considering the projects we have and since we had problems trying to resolve the present problem with Ntumfor Barrister Nico Halle, we thought it was necessary to get people to help us cope with our programme; to get a number of people to help us advance in the fundraising, in our development projects etc. That is why we thought we should have these people who, by and large, represent the seven Divisions of the Northwest Region.

When one takes a critical look at the Ntumfors, they are all from the CPDM.  What criteria did the Fons use in choosing them?

Well, when we chose them – and I am talking like the one who took down the minutes of the meeting – we did not see them as belonging to one party. Besides, I was very conversant with three of them: the MP from Wum North, Hon. Fidelis Nji, the MP from Ngoketunjia, Musa, and Mr. Eric Njong. I knew that Hon Nji was CPDM and, for some strange reason, I thought that Musa, from a hitherto SDF stronghold, was SDF. Otherwise, I didn’t know about the political leanings of the others.

I think the people must have been known by the Fons and I don’t think there were any special criteria in choosing them. Those of us present knew those who were chosen and when they were proposed, we accepted them. There was a long list and we finally arrived at those we chose.

If there was a long list, that means you had some criteria to shifter some people that did not qualify and choose those who met the criteria…

The answer to that is simple. The people that were there knew those who were chosen. There was a heated debate before we arrived at a consensus on who to select.

Considering that all those chosen are well to do people, your critics are saying that NOWEFU is now selling the Ntumfor title to the highest bidder. What do you say to that?

There are even richer Northwesterners than those we selected! If money was the only criterion, then, we would have gone in for those who are richer than the ones we chose. I don’t think money was a factor.

Why didn’t think of any other title. What is so special about the Ntumfor title, considering that there are so many titles that could still have been validly used to recognise them?

I think the whole thing remains open between now and when the Special Envoys would be presented to the public. There is a possibility of increasing the number and even reassigning the title. Let me, however, point this out: you must have noticed that Ntumfor was not the word that was used. I am sure that, by the time they would be presented to the public, other titles would be given them.

There are promoters of culture in the Northwest, for example, and one would have imagined that these people would have been recognised as well. What do you say to that?

I thank you very much for this suggestion. As I said, the list is not yet closed and I would channel this suggestion to the other NOWEFU Executive members for consideration.

It seems that the Executive members of NOWEFU did not consider any one from the opposition to be made Ntumfor.

As I’ve said, I, in particular, did not consider the people’s political leanings. But, I’ll be surprised that my friends were aware of this situation and did not criticise it. For, don’t forget, Northwest Fons are made up of people of all shades of opinions and all political leanings. If it were like everybody knew everybody that were to be appointed to belong to this or that party, I am sure they would have raised some objections as to why those chosen were from the CPDM.

We noticed, also, that, you appointed a woman as Ntumfor; does that not go against tradition?

I think it is a wrong impression to say that a woman cannot be a Fon’s messenger. If, for example, the Fons want to send a request to the First Lady, I think that it would only be fair for a lady to go and talk on behalf of the Fons.

Maybe the confusion comes from the appellation Ntumfor, because, from a traditional stand point, a woman is not supposed to be the Fon’s messenger.

Well, I said the note that was sent out carried "Fons’ Envoy" even though ‘Messenger’ was put in brackets. For want of a reasonable name, we used that one. So, the lady aptly fits into our designation.

We have talked about CPDM bigwigs and the opposition; don’t you think you could equally have found independent minded Northewsterners to be selected?

Well, we continue to search. When the name of Mr. Eric Njong came up, I supported it because he is more independent minded than the other two I knew.

When you say that the list is still open, you give the impression that the NOWEFU Execo is looking for people who can sponsor their projects before their mandate ends.

We are not looking for sponsors; we are looking for people who can do work for us. Otherwise, we would have taken people like the Head of State or the Prime Minister because they can sponsor. We are looking for people whom we can send to go and lobby for us.

Would you then say that what happened in Bafmeng on Saturday, February 7, was a solution to the Ntumfor Nico Halle issue?

No, it wasn’t. The Ntumfor Nico Halle issue was discussed and I must tell you, frankly, that the issue is a thorny one; it is very complicated to handle. But, I still think that, with the wisdom that the Fons have, they will solve the problem. We cannot put Nico Halle down when he is not a Fon and start questioning him in the presence of Fons.

But, we cannot also take a decision either reinstating Nico Halle or dropping him completely because we would be hurting one side or the other. We want to take our time to solve that problem. And I want to add that, for all this time, that we have been unable to solve this problem, more and more complications have been adding to it. A lot of people have been calling us on the issue.

There are those who think that Ntumfor Nico Halle has had his fair share of the Ntumfor title and that the Fons should promote other Northwesterners. Some people ask questions as to why there should be only one Ntumfor while there could be as many Ntumfors as possible to represent the 400 Fons of the Northwest.

There are those who think that the Divisions can independently choose their Ntumfors and send to the Union. In which case, if the people of Mezam still want Nico Halle to be Ntumfor, he will still be. So, with all these shades of opinions, it makes the matter very complicated for us.

In the present circumstances, how does NOWEFU intend to solve the problem?

In talking about how soon we will solve the problem, we were empowered in our meeting of February 7 to seek solutions to the problem.  Some people proposed that we should take this matter to the General Assembly. I told them that if the Exco of 50 Fons could not solve that problem, it is not a meeting of 400 Fons that can solve it.

I proposed that the three elected officials of NOWEFU, namely, the President General, the Secretary General and the Treasurer General should meet in the presence of our Advisers – the Fons of Bali, Mankon, Bafut and Kom, and, probably, one or two representatives from the two sides. The group could then study the matter and make proposals to the General Assembly.

Don’t you think you are taking rather too long to solve this issue?

No. The decision suspending Nico Halle might have been in effect for long but, remember, that we only took power four months ago.

Is Barrister Nico Halle still Ntumfor?

I consider him as being on suspension because that is what the note of the former President said. And, so, he has not yet lost the title of Ntumfor as such.

So, he doesn’t function like one?

 He is on suspension.