8 .The death of Fon Kwangga

(from File NW 321. The Fon of Bum)

On 24.ii.53 the Council Scribe writes that the Fon is ill and wishes to have Ful by him. He has a chest complaint. [The implication is that Ful, now member of the Federal N.A., cannot travel to meetings at Wum while looking after the Fon.]

In July 1953 The Fon was visited by the Rural Medical Officer who reports that he is suffering from incipient cardiac failure and that hospitalization is urgent.

12.1.54 The Court Clerk reports: "The Fon died at 8 pm. He passed away in the comfortable arms of the Chiefs of Nyos of Funggom and Sawi of Bum."

14.1.54 Letters from D.O. Sprilyan - he writes one of condolence to the Fon of Nyos (known to be an old and close friend of Fon Kwangga's) and another to the Court Clerk asking what steps are being taken to notify the successor.

15.1.54 The Court Clerk writes to the D.O. that he had asked Ful and other big men to let him know the address of the successor but got no answer. He hopes that brothers have written to the successor. He thinks there will be a long fight for the Chieftaincy by the late Fon's brothers and suggests that the D.O. writes to Ful for the successor's name to avoid an 'indirect fight'. (As usual the C.N.C. is slightly off beam when it comes to traditional matters.)

16.1.54 The D.O. writes to the Resident that he understands the successor is at Jos, and word has already been sent to him to come home. "The Chief of Nyos is at Lagabum and is keeping a watching brief." (We can perhaps presume the latter to be Sprilyan's informant.) Sprilyan subsequently writes to Fon Yai's employers, Gold & Base Metal Mines of Nigeria Ltd., to ensure that he has received all the employee benefits due to him.

[EMC: As to the sending away of a favoured heir, widely claimed in anecdote, this same file shows that on 28.ii.38 Fon Kwangga had sought employment for his son John Yai as a Provincial Messenger at Bamenda or Court Scribe at Misaje, stating he had left the Bamenda Government School in 1937, reaching Standard IV. The D.O. notes that he left school because he failed the Standard IV examination, and that his educational standard did not qualify him for employment in the Nigerian Civil Services. There is no local record of his subsequent employment history. The tax- returns for 1940/41 show that over 50 tax-payers (adult males) were absent in Nigeria (21 in Takum, 14 at Jos), over 60 in the plantation area, with no large concentrations in the rest of S. Cameroons. It seems likely that the path to the Jos tin mines had already been opened by earlier Bum travellers.]

Glossary Contents Working Notes
Sally Chilver's Field Diary Phyllis Kaberry Fieldnotes Published Account

For further information contact Ian Fowler