By Seraphine Lainjo Tata

Have you ever reflected on the intense spirit of competitiveness and high level of achievement characteristic in Nso’ people? Think about it for a moment. At the end of each academic year, a proportionately high number of Nso’ youths graduate from educational institutions with a General Certificate of Education. They are also counted amongst the top winners in national sporting events, for instance, the Guinness Mount Cameroon race, and national football tournaments. Individuals from Nso’ are widely acclaimed not only in Cameroon but in the international community. Archbishop Emeritus Christian Cardinal Tumi of Douala is known here and abroad for his contributions to the improvement of socio-political conditions in Cameroon. Professors Daniel Lantum and Verkijika Fanso have also made remarkable contributions in their various fields of health and history respectively. And Major General Ivo Yenwo is outstanding in discharging his duties in the Cameroonian military and other special national interests. Meantime, many others excel in their chosen fields as church ministers, politicians, military persons, physicians, educationists and development agents. Also, noteworthy, is the Nso’ man’s determination to play a leading role in shaping the democratic process in Cameroon through his active engagement in electing its leadership at the grassroots and national levels.  Evidently, failure is not in our nature.
Ngonso, Founder of Nso Fondom
 And this leads me to the bigger question: What defines the spirit and minds of Nso’ people? What is it that gives them the drive and courage to succeed? It is my strongest opinion that their cultural traditions may offer plausible explanations about their spirit of determination. And one of those traditions is what we are today celebrating – Ŋgonnso’- the Nso’ female heroine, for whom this journal is named and who migrated to Nso’ in 1394. But “who” and “what” is Ŋgonnso’? What is her contribution to the Nso’ culture that makes it distinctive from other cultures in the N.W. region? And how has it shaped the thoughts and perceptions of the people?  The 2011 edition of the Ŋgonnso’ Journal serves as a window into the world of the rich Nso’ heritage that has historically influenced peoples’ behavior, expressions, beliefs and values, their language and literature. Also read about the life and significance of Ŋgonnso’ in this very illustrative journal.
Tume Fondzeyuf

Jk Bannavti
JK Bannavti
Perhaps the best place to start is to answer the most important question of who Ŋgonnso’ is. Tume Fòndzeyuf artfully responds to the question in his write up- Retracing the Nso’ Genealogy and Cultural Hegemony….” in which he describes the migration of Ŋgonnso’, the only female amongst two brothers Nchare Yen and Mfoomban. The brothers disagreed over leadership issues and opted to move on, each taking along his following left behind , Ŋgonnso’  journeyed  with her subjects from Koovifәm to Taavisa and to Kimbo fighting their way through raids and defeating the original settlers, disease and wild animals. The story is an intriguing historical appraisal of sibling rivalry and adventure, presented in oral tradition blended in music and poetry. Another piece that addresses the peculiarity of Ŋgonnso’ as a woman is Female Portaits in J.K. Bannavti’s “Rock of God”.  Dr Emelda Samba presents Ŋgonnso’ as an indefatigable leader, visionary, focused and purposeful who defies all impending geographical and cultural impediments and gave her children a memorable legacy. A woman like this, with the kind of vision and determination to lead her people to the “promised land”, Nso’, is unique even by today’s standards.   But perhaps her greatest strength lay in her magnanimity.  For, in addition to her ability to mobilize people towards a goal, she also possessed superior diplomatic skills which enabled her to compromise and unite for the greater good, and in recognition of the prevailing cultural norms of male traditional leadership role.  Rather than insisting on being queen, she accepted to rule as Regent for her son. Ŋgonnso’ is thus an embodiment of what the Nso’ woman is today:  strong, wise, and collaborative.
Dr Godfrey Tangwa
We go from Ngonnso’ the person; to Ngonnso’ the iconic figure in an article by Godfrey Tangwa entitled The Image of Ŋgonnso’.  Generations later, the image of “Ŋgonnso’” was captured in a statue- the one on the front cover of the journal - and depicting a naturally endowed beautiful woman traditionally clad in rich Nso’ beads and in front of her is a bowl, (ntara). This artifact was judiciously guarded over the years in the Nso’ Fòn’s palace but according to Godfrey Tangwa, “The effigy …. was looted, amongst many other artifacts, from the Nto’Nso’, (Fòn’s palace), by German colonial adventurers, during the opening years of the 20th century.”  In the article, Godfrey traces the prospective return journey of this memorable work of art from a German museum to its rightful owner, Nto’ Nso’.  In a highly publicized announcement, the German Embassy in Cameroon formally recognized the presence of the Ŋgonnso’ in its museum and promised to return it to the Cameroon Government. This remarkable success in locating and identifying Ŋgonnso’ in Germany marks the beginning of its return journey, but above all, it highlights Nso’ cultural values in the power of diplomacy, partnership and determination. 
Fr Tatah Mbuy (Sitting)
Perhaps Father Tatah Mbuy in The Importance of Culture to an African Society diligently explains the strengths that the Nso’ culture, amongst all other cultures in the Tikar clan, brings onto the platform of cross cultural communication and international diplomacy. Tatah Mbuy writes that culture gives people a sense of identity, social cohesion, morality and meaning.. These are all characteristics which the Nso’ man may have, intentionally or not, applied in his discussions with the Germans to ensure the safe and peaceful return of Ŋgonnso’.
The Fon of Nso
Fr Dufe Joseph
Whatever the case, in the Nso’ tradition, it is the Fòn who guards the spirit of the ancestors and protects the people from any endangerment. The Fòn is an institution and the custodian of the people. The palace is the seat of Nso’ tradition, customs and practices. Fr. Dufe Joseph Dzelon explains this concept in his Ethical Evaluation of the Nso’ Nation of Ownership. According to Dzelon,“The embodiment of tradition to the Nso’ is clearly the institution of Fònship. The Fòn is the central figure in this institution, the centre of the entireNso’ day-to-day affairs, be they political, religious, social, economic and traditional. The Fòn is expected to be the final morality – morality embodied.” By the same token, to understand women’s role in the palace, read Godwin Dufe’s intriguing interview in Palace Wiiynto’ Shares her Experiences– the rituals, customs and traditions of the acquisition, betrothal, and lifestyle of the Fòn’s wives. And then of course, the life of children living in the palace is portrayed in the elaborate drama of having the first girl child, Wan La’.
If we agree that Ŋgonnso’ is the corner stone to Nso’ people’s strong determination to excel, and I believe we do, thus the raison d’etre of our celebration today, then it follows that our forefathers and past leadership must have built on that foundation that has resulted in the present day state in Nso’.  Historically, Nso’ has been blessed with formidable leaders, most of them now deceased, many who impacted the lives of the people in their times. Mrs Prudencia Chila, was the pioneer woman politician in the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s, who tactfully blended her roles of mother, wife, politician and executive officer. Also noteworthy was the illustrious entrepreneur, S.K Kilo, who changed the business landscape in his time and died prematurely (45 years), living a vacuum that is yet to be filled.  Meantime, the centenarian V.T. Lainjo, one time Acting Prime Minister in the former West Cameroon Government, was amongst the first Nso educator, first council executive and political giant of his era credited with the construction of roads, schools, health centers. But His pupils, Dr.Bernard Fònlon and Archbishop Paul Verdzekov have remained house-hold names in their own right. In Nso’, Fònlon is synonymous to clean water “Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv”. He was instrumental in bringing pipe borne water to Nso’ through his personal relations to Pierre Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister from 1968 to 1978.. 
Mgr verdzekov
Archbishop Verdzekov
Prof. Bernard Fonlon
 Archbishop Verdzekov remains an icon and an embodiment of faith in the catholic tradition. In I Remember Father Verdzekov, Martin Jumbam writes how this young, placid, humble, and well read man of god touched the hearts of many in his way through his church sermons, writings in the church periodical, Catholic Panorama, and speeches to students. In Professor Fònlon’s Homage to Archbishop Verdzekov, Killian Faáy, presents a succinct scholarly analysis of two accomplished legendary Nso’ men, and incidentally very good friends, and explains how Fònlon turned his human frailties into strengths that propelled Verdzekov to the highest heights in Christendom and academia. Fònlon acknowledged his failure in his pursuit to priesthood and alerted his childhood friend Verdzekov about his possibility of not becoming a priest. He encouraged him along the way through the junior to the senior seminary. And then of course, our celebrated artist, Nfoómi Fred Yiran who distinguished himself through the use of artistic form in promoting the image of Nso’. His works in public and sacred places – Nso’ Cathedral - and in our homes are testimonies of his creative genius. But perhaps Fred Yiran is nationally recognized for his artistic rendering in Cameroon Times Newspaper, of PWD Bamenda (a local football team), as the victor during the embattled fight in 1960’s, and 1970’s, for football supremacy in Cameroon. Read J.K Banaviti’s Nfoómi Fred Yiran, Missing Link in Cameroon’s Reporting.
Nfoomi Fred Yiran

Nso’ leaders come and go, but some have undeniably left remarkable footprints, and appreciably affected the direction of the country and the life of the people. Today Nso’ is blessed with two other leaders Mayors Njong Donatus and Fidelis Fònyuy who by all definitions, are widely acclaimed and are endowed with unsurpassed leadership qualities. These two mayors were elected democratically based on what they stood for, transcending traditional local voting patterns to unite the various groups of people. Both men continue to enjoy strong support from the population in realizing development projects that improve the quality of life of the people: constructing community roads, schools, markets, and ensuring the provision of other social amenities. Emmanuel Wirdzerem traces Mayor Njong’s path to leadership and his vision for the people of Kumbo. Berinyuy Shiytum in his write up MBiame: A Revolution in the Making, highlights Mayor Sheèy Fonyuy’s profile, leadership qualities and winning strategies to uniting and building a prosperous Mbiame. These two persons epitomize the political leadership that Nso’ needs.
Nso Women
Evidently, Nso’ women have upheld the standards of leadership principles set forth by their predecessor, Ŋgonnso’. As stated above, I recall the unsung heroines like Prudencial Chilla, first Nso’ woman member of parliament, who raised women’s consciousness to assume leadership roles at the national level as well as Bridget Nsawir, a two term parliamentarian and for a long time,  head of the  Kumbo Catholic Women Association... But Olive Shang went a step further to build women’s assertiveness strengthening their skills to take control of their destiny. In the article Kongadzem, Stanley Bongam writes about Olive Shang’s work with women; she organized training workshops on health and image building, and set up economic cooperatives and loan schemes. In her radio program, “Calling the Women”, she produced a series titled, Breaking the Ice, in which she discussed sex and sexuality. Bertha Yenwo took the cue from her predecessors, and propelled Nsobahti women to become a development force to be reckoned with through her social projects in Nso’ with vulnerable groups, empowering people with special needs, and providing writing desks for the girl child. Also in Kongadzem, Fako, the writer looks at the socio-cultural and economic contributions of the group to the lives of the Nso woman in the South West region of Cameroon. To this day many women empowerment entities abound in some regions in Cameroon including Bongkisheri in Douala.  Also worth mentioning is our gifted and death defying centenarian, Yaa Catherine Lahka who at 115 years continues to share her gift of life with the young. The story about Mami Lahka takes the reader into her life and relations with people as she narrates her marriage and childbearing years in Nigeria. Her husband died early and she returned to her village to raise her kids, including the retired Christain Cardianal Tumi, Archbishop of Douala.
Henry N Kiven
Henry Kiven (WIH Chairman)
And as the Nso’ socio political leadership evolves, and ushers in strategic development changes, the economic domain is also keeping pace with innovative models of growth. No doubt then, that Ŋgonnso’’s steadfastness and hope has been passed on to the 21st entrepreneurial mind of the Nso man, who remains positive and convinced about a bright future for young people as we read the interviews on Buifoot’s and the Wirfòn Investment Holding WIH (LLC).  Buifoot is a socio-cultural grouping of young men and women of Bui Division which uses sports as a medium to engage and unite the youths to become productive in their communities. Youths are encouraged not only to play football and other games but to make more social contacts, share information, and participate in cultural events. It envisions unity between the hearts and minds of young people in Bui and the Diaspora. On the other hand Wirfòn Investment Holding, WIH, portrays an optimistic economic venture with a strong vision, a formidable social support operating under good governance and transparency. It aims at raising capital to build a conglomerate company with headquarters in Kumbo. A percentage of their profits is dedicated to social programs in the health and education sectors for community benefit. WIH is a fascinating story of hope for sustainable development in Nso’, spearheaded by the best and the brightest minds. It is a combination of intuition and lessons learnt. Both Buifoot and Wirfòn Investment Holding aim to encourage independent, responsible and enterprising citizenry or in the words of the famous saying, they seek to teach people how to fish rather than just give them fish.
Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)
Education in the Nso’ community owes a great deal to the strong moral and ethical values of the 18th century Christians and early 1960s Muslims. Religion undeniably enhanced the Nso’ man’s deep Faáyth in the value of a good education in the development and survival of the people. And testimonies of success stories abound, and give us reason to celebrate, as we read the articles on religious intervention in influencing the souls and minds of the Nso’ man – Islamic Education, and The impact of the Shisong Sisters. However, conflicts are bound to occur between religious and cultural belief systems.. Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy) identifies clashes between Christianity and the Nso’ culture in his piece Mediating Belief Systems, and Nkardzedze in where are the Saints?, addresses the same issue. Both writers however, agree that culture and religion complement each other and must seek a common ground. They call on the leadership of both institutions to strengthen what unites and minimize any divisive tendencies. According to Nkardzedze, Pope Benedict expounds on the positive role that culture may play on religion explaining how in biblical times the people’s belief in astrology, led the wise men to discover Christ in Bethlehem. Speaking to the Australian Aborigines, Pope Benedict said “And did not the magi find their way to Christ by means of a star?”
Fr Nkardzedze Left with Parents and Bishop
Last but not least are the wonderful articles on the Nso literary tradition.  Artistic expression as a form of communication allows the emotions of the Nso writer to flow uninhibited as he/she narrates the events of the day or the thoughts at heart; praising, criticizing, appreciating and documenting social behaviors and attitudes of the people. However, the richness of the Nso’ language is still preferred and highly appreciated because literary work almost inevitably loses meaning when translated into the English language. Examples of the richness of the Nso’ language is captured in Tume Fòndzeyuf’s ….The unbeatable Voices of Meluf Lyrics in which he presents the oral tradition of Ŋgonnso’ and Nsaikimo Killian’s, Yaya Wirba and Princess Shongka writes about two women traditional song writers and social critics. This is not to say that an Nso’ literary tradition does not exist in English as well.  Professor Daniel Lantum, for instance, in “Crisis of Female Nobility,” laments the desecration of traditional titles of nobility, such as “Yaas” and “Sheèys,” that are bestowed upon women who do not respect their sanctity, but he does it using a conventional poetic style.
Prof. Daniel Lantum
Ngonso Journal (Cover Page)
Thus, we conclude the introductory section of the Ŋgonnso’ Journal. As you peruse the pages I hope you’d agree with me that, the journal covers a very broad spectrum of the lives of the Nso people at home and Diaspora, their traditions, beliefs, art, literature, history, contributions to health and national development, in their attempts to leave behind a strong legacy. I would have loved to highlight many more articles skillfully written for the benefit of our readers, but space constraints makes that difficult and for that   I strongly apologize. We should however recognize that for a year now, the elaborate preparations, individually and collectively, have united us behind one project, the Ŋgonnso’ festival. This historic celebration ensures the convergence of the past, the present and future generations and rekindles the spirit of “Nsohood”. It further raises the consciousness of the old and the young to think of Nso’ as one clan with a common heritage, common vision and common destiny. And in the spirit of our dear mother, “Ŋgonnso’”, all Nso’ people must sink their differences and fortify their strengths to emerge as the true beacon of hope in the North West region. And so the spirit of “Ŋgonnso’”’ lives on………….

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