On Thursday April 25th 2019, Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai of the South West region during a meeting in Buea, ordered all chiefs in the region to march with placards indicating their villages with their respective population following behind them on this year’s edition of the national day to be commemorated on the 20th of May. ‘’This coming 20th May, all the chiefs will march with placards and their population will follow behind.’’ Governor Okalia Bilai said.
It was a statement that provoked laughter from the population present at the meeting because they could not imagine their respective chiefs who have always taken part in the national day event as VIPs, marching pass the grandstand with placards.
The governor further threatened to dethrone the chiefs if they fail to carry out what he instructed. ‘’I said it some two or three years ago, the chiefs refused to do it because they were still volunteer chiefs but today the volunteerism is finished. Tradition is there but you are tied to the state with an obligation. If you fail to do what I’m instructing, you will see the consequences in 30 days. Every village chief will march pass the grandstand…Those who are on exile in Douala or Yaoundé can stay there but when they come back, they will find someone else on their thrones’’ The Governor added.
Reacting to the Governor, the chiefs have today April 30th in a release signed by the President of the South West Chiefs Conference (SWECC) H.M Chief Mafany Njie Martin, disassociated themselves from the statement of the Governor. In the two-page-release, the chiefs reminded the South West Governor that they have never taken part in a march past and don’t intend to do so now and called on their population to remain calm and positive. They added that their traditions and customs prohibit them from taken part in such activities as demanded by the governor.
Many have before now wondered if some chiefs who are either bigwigs in the government or well respected by their subjects like Prime minister Chief Joseph Dion Ngute of Bongongo, Senator Nfon V.E. Mukete of Kumba, Senator Nfor Tabe Tando of Batchuo Ntai, H.M Fon Fontem Asabatong of Fontem, H.M Senator Fon Andreas Lekunze Nembo of Bamumbou, or H.M Chief Mafany Njie Martin of Liongo will equally respect the Governor orders and march with placards.
Well, the chiefs have clearly said they are not going to do so. Is Governor Okalia Bilai going to accept the chiefs’ decision or expect them to respect his order? Is he going to dethrone them for failing to respect his orders? Well, let’s wait and see.