Kumba - Here is some part of forgotten history that might let the dust settle on current debates questioning the legitimacy of the paramount chieftaincy of Nfon V. E Mukete of the Bafaw land.
The Bafaw (Bafo) tribe is made up of 11 villages found in Meme division of the South West Region. The Bafo are generally a friendly people and in different times of their history have always welcomed people of varied descents and belief.This friendliness of the Bafos might have even contributed in obscuring their history.
But thanks to the National Archive Ibadan, University of Ibadan, Nigeria we got a copy of the, "RES BAFO ASSESSMENT REPORT 1923 - 1924, that has shed light on the controversy now ranging around the origin of the paramount cief position among the Bafos.
According to this assessment report, circa 1920, a certain Mulango acting as the head of Kumba misinformed the Germans on his origin. He lied to being the son of Ebako Diko of the Mbababaye family, a royal family to Kurume Bafo.
Whereas he was a slave from Israib village in Nguti sold to Ebako Diko on Credit.
Now during the colonial period most parents preferred sending their slaves to school than their children because of the harsh treatment in German schools.
This was exactly what happened to Mulango. He had been sent to school by Ebako Diko, studied the German language and was made district head on behalf of the tribe.
After the defeat of the Germans in Cameroon, the country was partitioned between the French and the British. For easy administration, the British portion was attached to Nigeria. For better administration, the british decided to identify every village in the area. The Divisional officer for Kumba Division R.W. H Dundas was charged with this identification. He attached to the RES ASSESSMENT REPORT 1923 - 1924, the appendixes which covers the geonology of the Bafo families, village statistics, Route network reports and a map of the Bafo area.
In the Report Dundas states that it was compiled between the end of 1922 - 1924 and was not just written but investigated through all the Bafo villages of Bolo, Dieka Kurume, Dikomi, Ikiliwindi, Kumba, Kokobuma, Konbone, Ekona, Eboka and Mambanda.
Dundas was assisted in compiling the report by some notables including Ese of Kurume, Mulango of Kumba, Ekale Bokeng of Kombone, Eseme Elangwe of Kokobuma, Nguti of Kurume, Elango of Dikome, Makunnase ni Mediki of Kumba (Son of the village founder mediki Bekong of Kumba).
Accordng to the RES BAFO REPORT, with the exception of Kumba, Njanga and Dieka that were newly formed, no main chief was ruling the entire tribe. There was no paramount chief.
The only regulating body in the German period that acted as the sole authority for the tribe was a juju (masquerade) cult that was based on Mamfe Road and spread its power accross the entire tribe.
When the problem of reconstructing the tribe arose around late 1922, there R.W.H Dundas and then High commissioner Major Ruxton had the same suggestion contained in Memo 54 of 1613/24 to all the villages proposing for a main chief that will serve as a paramount leader in Kumba .
The report continues that in section 7 of the said Memo, major Ruxton had to suggest to Sir Moorehouse the resident representative in Enugu, Nigeria that the British move suggesting that a single village head (paramount ruler) was worth considering. His reply, letter No. 09113/24 confirmed it, stating clear that the decision was a good one.
At this juncture major Ruxton wrote to Lagos suggesting to the governor general that it was necessary to carry out intense investigation of each family background before any decision was taken. The governor gave his approval in a letter dated October, 1924.
Furthermore, the report says that after the enquiries, a great cocoa farmer, one Abel Nkembone Mukete (the father of Nfon V.E Mukete) from Kombone was found capable to handling this prestigious position. He was son of Ekale Bokeng of Kombone who had once been a powerful juju priest of the Difon, a local spiritual cult.
Dundas said in the report, "Abel Mukete's appointment to my surprise was welcomed with joy in each village and by virtue of his tact and good sense of direction he has proven his determination to lead the tribe positively even though he earlier did not cherish the idea of ruling as a major chief of the tribe since this will disturb him from his cocoa farm duties"
Many Bafaw dignities that the Standard Tribune spoke in relation to this report said they were relieved as the issue has been causing a lot of disturbances in the tribe, since the document could not be traced in Cameroon.