When he barked out the “marching order” some two weeks back, Southwest Governor Okalia Bilai Bernard may not have imagined for a split second that fiat was going to kick up much controversy with most of the chiefs kicking back in anger. But they did, and told him in no mistaken terms that he had gone a bit too far, crossed the red (royal) line if you will.
Then the Buea Mayor whom Bilai had instructed in the full view of television cameras to prepare propaganda placards for the May 20 event sought to water down the gravity of what from all indications was an administrative goof and a traditional taboo committed by the governor. The mayor said the governor was misunderstood; that enemies and unpatriotic dissidents living in Buea and Yaounde were, in a manner of speaking, making mountains out of molehills.
The mayor’s rebuff, posted on social media was full of invectives. He made snide remarks about hungry chiefs who were no longer benefiting from surreptitious land deals; others who had cowardly fled Fako in the face of a rampaging militia and who, as a consequence could not even defend their subjects from the hideouts where they had run out of easy cash.
Undaunted, the chiefs, through the President of the Southwest Chief’s Conference, insisted by way of a communiqué which he published online, that Mr. Bilai had offended, desecrated the chieftaincy institution by reducing their Royal Majesties to “marching schoolboys.” On account of the governor’s audacious posturing, he asked for a boycott of May 20 activities by all chiefs as a mark of protest. He had support from many of his peers. The Divisional Officer, DO, for Buea sought to douse the raging fire ignited by the rather flippant governor but was told by certain chiefs and social media enthusiasts that he was fishing in unauthorized waters, more or less.
Some people even suggested that the populations should stay at home in support of their traditional rulers whom the governor had set out to treat with scorn and disdain.
May 20 is inching closer and despite reminders from other enlightened and influential chiefs that the governor’s bluff be called, there is still uncertainty as to whether the governor’s “marching orders” would be obeyed by sundry chiefs. The chiefs most irked by Okalia’s audacity have been stating that the governor would logically have ordered top government brass like Prime Minister Dion Ngute, and the centenarian, Nfon Victor Mukete to show up on the marching groung on May 20, pick up their own placards and lead by example. Failing, they would all be stripped of their chieftaincy crowns and other paraphernalia.
As recently as two days ago, His Royal Majesty Dr. Robert Esuka Endeley, Paramount chief designate for Buea issued a communiqué that clearly stated that the chiefs were duty bound to come out on May 20 as a mark of patriotism and respect for the state.
In a terse message which he posted on face book he said inter alia:
“The Paramount chief designate of Buea HRM Dr. Robert Esuka Endeley is by this press release calling on all the chiefs and population of the chiefdom of Buea to no heed to calls to boycott National Day Celebrations in Buea.
“He then calls on them to show proof of patriotism and loyalty to the state and Republican institutions that are upheld by the constitution of this our beloved country, Cameroon.
“Contrary to divergent views expressed by various individuals in their respective capacities, concerning the celebration of this year’s National Day in the Southwest Region, We, of this chiefdom value and stand on the supreme general interest shared by of (sic) the majority Cameroonians of goodwill.
“ Hence he calls all and sundry to massively turn out en masse for the 2019 edition of the National Day Celebrations on the 20th May to exercise their civil rights…”
Okalia Bilai has since showed neither resolve nor remorse for the apparent insult of their royal highnesses.