Cameroon: How the Smooth Transition from Chief Mukete Snr to Mukete Jnr Reignites Age-Old Debate on Africanized Democracy

This reflection is inspired by the fact that despite mounting jurisprudential evidence to the effect that chiefs, monarchs, and even supposedly democratically elected leaders across the African continent would want to stay in power till death do them part, even when they are found grossly wanting in leadership, the Mukete royal family, and by extension, the Bafaws of South West Cameroon recently stood out as the shining city on the hill, with centenarian Mukete willingly abdicating the throne for quinquentinarian Mukete to take over.


It is the more informed by the fact that since elections in Africa continue to give Western-inspired democracy a bad name, the smooth transition engineered in triumphant detail by the Mukete dynasty in Kumba, could be a unique opportunity for Cameroonian and African intellectuals to relaunch across-the-board conversations on consensual democracy or Africanized democracy as a means of enabling Africa market its own brand of democracy to the world.


It is also inspired by the fact that with the increasing number of highly educated and internationally experienced Cameroonians and Africans joining the prestigious ranks of mainly elites who cannot be easily tossed around by racketeering and self-seeking political elites (who usually show up from political capitals and other city centres to buy favours from their illiterate and hunger-stricken traditional rulers), the new crop of leaders personified by the God-ordained emergence of young chief Ekoko Mukete would drastically redefine and codify the impartial role of traditional rulers in society vis-a-vis politics and development.


Emeritus Nfon V.E Mukete now in his 100s has been the Paramount ruler of Kumba and the Bafaws for over 50 uninterrupted years. He played an active role in the build-up to the independence of the Cameroons and eventual reunification. As Paramount ruler of the Bafaws, he remained exemplary and steadfast. In the process, God blessed him with an abundance of grace, which grace has enabled him to live doubled the life expectancy rate of Cameroon and counting.


Realizing it could become a curse if he were to abuse God's gift of longevity by stubbornly remaining on the stool and depriving the younger generation of an equal opportunity to rule, he in his infinite wisdom decided to abdicate and pass on the throne to his youngest son, Ekoko Mukete. Unlike other neotraditional rulers, monarchs and even supposedly democratically elected leaders who, once in power, invoke what The Guardian Post in one of its editorials has referred to as 'the dictatorship of indispensability', Nfon V.E Mukete decided, and wisely, that it was better to hand over the throne and spend the rest of his days on Earth impacting wisdom and leadership skills on young Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko, than make the mistake of dying with all the wisdom. 


In choosing the youngest of his sons, emeritus Nfon Mukete was not only sending a message to those in authority in Cameroon but to the rest of Africa that the youth could be leaders of today, not tomorrow. And, in his infinite wisdom, he was after all, right.


Ekoko Mukete is no new name to Cameroon and even Africa. His honesty and leadership qualities in the business world have earned him a series of recognitions and respect. It is also on account of this that the government of Turkey could quickly name him Honorary Consul of The Republic of Turkey to Cameroon. Such trust to especially Cameroonians come in short supply. There is no gainsaying the fact that you see a leader the moment you see Ekoko Mukete.


I enjoyed such rare leadership qualities when some concerned North West/South West elite with blessings from new Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Dion Ngute met in Douala a year ago to chart ways and means of making peace return to the restive English speaking regions and Ekoko Mukete was asked to volunteer concrete proposals. What baffled me was the fact that unlike others during the meeting who tried as usual to massage government's ego in the manner with which the conflict was being handled, Ekoko Mukete was a marked departure; delivering content with the searing intensity and explosive force, coupled remarkably with sweet emotion and compassion for the suffering masses. 


When added to the fact that no sooner was the nfon-designate presented to the Meme Administration than he swung into action in his chiefdom did that go a long way to justify the fact that life is not so a matter of position as a matter of disposition. Being a person whose unyielding enthusiasm for inspiring others is unmatched, he did not only hit the road running by identifying and enrolling the underprivileged in his Kingdom into vocational training centres, spearheading the fight against COVID19 pandemic spread but also organizing an ecumenical service to cleanse his Bafaw land. 


Acting henceforth as the legitimate representative of the people of Kumba and the Bafaw clan, Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko has become the new development broker and veritable intermediary between the government and his people as well as external actors in the development sector. As the interface between the outside world and villagers, Chief Mukete is well equipped to articulate their concerns. 


Ekoko Mukete inching closer to the throne as Paramount ruler of the Bafaw people (C) Lashaking Infos

Young Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko is coming in at a time the Cameroonian society is in search of a place for neotraditional actors. This, with the creation of a House of Chiefs for former West Cameroon. This, against a background where their importance in politics and administration has been significantly reduced since independence and much more since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1990. Worth mentioning is the ambiguity between the statutory and non-statutory functions of traditional rulers in Cameroon. By statutory functions is meant those ascribed by the Constitution and other statutory instruments to include advising the government on chieftaincy issues, assisting in creating a standardized customary law and helping to eliminate customs and traditional practices repugnant to national law and natural justice. By non-statutory functions is meant those functions that are carried over from the past, mostly in modified form, and are thus, not easy to define. 


Despite this the challenge, it is expected that as a more educated and experienced leader, Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko would, just like his father, find it much easier to understand his role as a political and spiritual leader, mediator, custodian of the land and the tradition of the Bafaws, as well as the organizer of communal labour. Because of his socialisation and his experience as mediator and representative of various ventures in and out of Cameroon, he already possesses a considerable amount of cultural and social capital which will enable him to carry out his functions with effortless ease. At the same time, he would be confronted with the increasing demands and appeals by the media, the politicians and the elite to participate in and to spend on development. 


As a form of institutionalized social capital, Paramount chieftaincy has always been an instrument of elite formation and therefore, it would be no surprise that the coming of young Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko, a new generation of young Bafaw elite would emerge to add to the already existing ones.  It is hoped that young chief Ekoko Mukete would use the neotraditional system of the Bafaws as a cultural asset to attract investment both from the state and from private institutions.


As Paramount ruler of Kumba, Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko is only the visible tip of the iceberg of a larger neotraditional system with a long list of offices reaching down to the Kokobumas, the Kombone Bafaws, the Dikomis, the Kurumes, the Diekas, the Njeakas, the Ikiliwindis, and the Mabandas, amongst others. His recent endorsement by the 10 ruling families and the nine chiefs of the different Bafaw villages before the presentation to the Cameroon government through the Meme Administration quickly brought back to the forefront of public consciousness old discussions on the much-cherished form of African democracy, a more or less consensual political system, which could be used to develop an Africanized form of government since Western-styled elections are giving democracy a bad name in Africa.


Since independence, the neotraditional institution of the bafaws (like other neotraditional institutions in Africa) have gone through a fundamental transformation from being a political intermediary (between the colonial power and the bafaw population) to a more or less heterogeneous interest group. The early engagement of the Paramount ruler of Kumba in agro-industrial-development has been a successful strategy of retaining power and earning respect throughout these transformative years. 


Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko is coming to the throne at a time the erosion of the former position of the Chief as the overall leader before World War II, has led to a situation where many of the roles of the traditional ruler have become the object of vivid discussions. He is also coming at a time in Cameroon, when instead of the people choosing their leader and presenting to the administration of as obtained in his case in Kumba, it is the administration struggling to choose a leader and present to the people as is obtaining in Mouakang-Babungo in Ngohketunjia Division of the North West Region and elsewhere in the West Region of Cameroon. He is also coming at a time other ailing Paramount ruler in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon are continuing to hang onto power despite their inability to exercise the duties of Paramount ruler of their people. He is also coming at a time when some chiefs, as obtained recently in a village in the South Region, are beginning to question why the government should refer to traditional rulers as 'auxiliaries of the administration', whatever that means.


Even then, we continue to reflect on emeritus Nfon V.E Mukete's wisdom that after 50 years of rulership 'I decided to abdicate the throne for my youngest son, Ekoko'. Advancing as reason his not being physically strong to exercise the duties of the Bafaw Paramount ruler and Nfon of Kumba, senator V.E Mukete III was, in his characteristic manner also sending a Clarion call to other Paramount rulers, monarchs and even supposedly democratically elected leaders across Africa.


And so as the young Nfon Mukete takes the throne at such a challenging time for traditional authority in Cameroon and engages in the familiar actions of consolidating newly acquired power, the urgency of the moment remains the existential threat to this time tested institution. So, he needs to hit the ground running. He needs to search and find like-minded people and leaders interested in preserving the crown. He needs to gather sufficient courage for such a huge task because there will be no lack of real obstacles, those who benefit from the disorder. He is certainly going to find many friends, among whom is the young journalist Derick Barkah who started the "Save the Crown" campaign. If the risk is high, it is because the reward is huge. If he does it well, it may well be the beginning of an important place in history for him, the start of a legacy for Mfon Mukete IV Ekoko that no history book can ignore.


 Colbert Fulai Gwain is the promoter of The Colbert Factor, he also goes by the name: The Muteff Boy and is a social critic who has written widely on a broad range of issues affecting the society in Africa.