By Tata Mbunwe
The newly coroneted paramount ruler of Buea, Chief Dr Robert Esuka’ Mbella Endeley, has been advised to shun dirty politics played by most of Cameroon’s politicians.
He was cautioned by Presbyterian Church Moderator, Rev Samuel Fonki Forba, during an ecumenical service that opened the public coronation ceremony of the paramount ruler in Buea on Saturday, March 19.
Rev Samuel Forba, who led three other religious leader in the ecumenical service at the event, said the 46-year-old ruler should abstain from politics all together and remain politically neutral amid widespread reports of corruption, embezzlement and “bad leadership” in Cameroon’s political system.
Among scores of political, religious and traditional leaders, Rev Samuel Forba slammed the country’s political system and frowned at sit-tight leaders in the system, stating that their clinging unto power demonstrates lack of love for their people, Cameroonians.
Rather, he told the new paramount Chief, who was recently approved by Prime Minster Dion Ngute, to focus on preserving the cultural heritage of his Bakweri people and to promote unity among them, instead of playing politics.
The call for Chief Esuka Endeley to be “neutral and apolitical” comes amid reports of the declining strength of traditional institutions in Cameroon, mainly cause by the interference of political power.
Taking over a highly contested throne that was opposed by some members of the royal Likenye family the new Paramount ruler, in his speech, vowed to reignite unity amount the Bakweris.
He said the first priority of his reign will be to bring back the Bakweri cultural festival which will be held annually in all seven Sub Divisions of Fako Division, where the Bakweris live.
Chief Esuka Endeley also promised to construct the Bakweri multipurpose cultural centre that will be used to showcase and sell the Bakweri culture.
“It will be a house; it will also have a museum and a library. It will be a building that will host multipurpose activities and an event hall. We can have a Menyoli library or Wonangai auditorium in that facility or we could have a Musonge ball room in that facility. This building will be a testimony of our unity for generations to come. It will be an example for our children. This will be an ideal place for us to put the statues of some of our prominent cultural and political icons,” he said.
Chief Esuka Endeley comes at a time when chieftaincy in Buea has lost respect, given the rise of “fake villages and fake chiefs” in the chiefdom, who are in the business of indiscriminately selling land.
According to University of Buea’s first Vice Chancellor, Prof Dorothy Limunga Njeuma, the paramount chief is being seen as a “reformer” ready to “restore integrity to the Chieftaincy institution”.
The young ruler equally takes the throne at the time of armed conflict in the English-speaking regions.
Though relatively more calmer than other towns, Buea has not been spared from the crisis and the influx of internally displaced persons into the town has intensified the irregular sale of land and social amenities like housing, water and electricity have become scarcer.
These challenges, according to Prof Samuel Ewusi Kale, increase “the level of expectations and explain the massive human, moral and financial support of people from Buea and across the world in the coronation of this monarch”.
The paramount ruler could also face a great challenge, that of remaining “neutral and apolitical” as advised by Moderator Samuel Fonki Forba.
Abstaining from politics: How possible?
The young Buea paramount ruler takes over the throne at a time political power has been intertwined with traditional authority, such that chiefs are considered the “auxiliary of administration”.
Most at times, political power has been said to have weakened traditional power in the country.
Many of the country’s powerful traditional leaders are either holding political positions in government, or are working closely with the administration in a way that some turn to doubt the independence of traditional institutions.
Chiefs in Cameroon think their power has been weakened, especially given that appointed divisional officers, senior divisional officers and governors, who are appointed, have more decision making powers than them.
In the Northwest and Southwest regions, a once dissolved House of Chiefs, which aims, among other things, to protect the power of traditional rulers, was reinstated in 2020, although it has been given just a consultative role on traditional issues.
After witnessing the coronation of the Buea paramount ruler, the President of the Southwest House of Chiefs, HRM Atem Ebako, said the event to him marked a “rebirth” of the chieftancy institution.
“The Chieftancy institution has been robbed in the mud for a long time by certain institutions. So now what we saw yesterday is a rebirth of what the traditional chiefdom should be. And that’s why I’ve been very happy all along,” he said.
“The church has caused the decline of the Chiefs. The administration has caused the decline of Chiefs. But this time around the law has given the house of chiefs the right, to express its opinion and we are going to do this very, very effectively so that the status of the chiefs will be brought to a level that everyone will know that the chieftaincy institution is a strong one,” he added.