His Highness the Fon of Bum being decorated by the Governor of the North-West Province
Born around 1918, Fon John Yai had formal primary education in the Bamenda Government School, from where he graduated on December 22, 1937 with a School Leaving Certificate. This qualification earned him some relative advantages over other Fons of the Bamenda Grassfields when he subsequently became ruler of Bum in 1954.
Register of Chiefs Certificate When his father Fon Kwanga (popularly known as Tum died, John Yai was far away from home, in the tin mines in Jos (Nigeria) where he was working. During his absence Nenembang was on the throne for two months as regent. He was enthroned on February 12 1954. He demanded a warrant as permanent president of the court "as his late father was", which was granted. Capitalising on his late father's advances and experiences on the path of modernity, he carried on with the socio-economic transformation of Bum, bringing his land and people both national and international recognition. Fon John Yai was among the first Fons to be recognised by the West Cameroon Government on December 3, 1966, following the Recognition of Chiefs Law of 1960.
After assuming power in 1954, John Yai adopted as policy to fight for the liberation of his people and the entire Southern Cameroon from the shackles of colonial rule. In this regard he became one of the principal actors in the nationalist struggle. His role in the struggle also elevated the status and institution of Fondom to one of the important factors in that struggle from the 1950s.
In 1956 the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, visited British Nigeria, but could not proceed to the Cameroons. So Fon John Yai was among the delegation sent by the Southern Cameroons Government to welcome her at Lagos and explain to her the case and demands of the peoples of Cameroon. While in Lagos, the Fon made contacts with some important British colonial authorities such as the Governor General. In the speech delivered by their delegation to the Queen, mention was made of independence for Southern Cameroons. In the follow-up of this visit to the Cameroons by the Governor General in 1957, the Bum Native Authority was one of the reception areas. And Fon John Yai, naturally, was the chief host. Fon John Yai, in his speech to the Governor General, apart from complaining about the general poor administrative relations and working conditions of the colonial subjects, mention was made, for the first time in the open, of the issue of the reunification of the English and French Cameroons. Although the Governor General referred the issue to the UNO, Britain and France, the point had been made, and posterity would appreciate the pioneer role played by Fon John Yal in redressing the Southern Cameroons predicament. Lancaster House 1958
H.R.H. the Fon of Bum chats with Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 By 1958 Fon John Yai was a member of the Southern Cameroons House of Chiefs, which had powers of senate. Also in 1958, he was one of the dignitaries of the Cameroon/Nigeria Delegation to the U.K. to negotiate for the independence of Southern Cameroons. He participated in the 1958 Lancaster Agreement on the Constitutional Arrangement for the Independence of Southern Cameroons. While in London, he visited famous sites like the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court, the Tower of London, Cambridge University, the British Museum, the Zoological Gardens, and the National Gallery. In June 1960 Fon John Yai's efforts in making Bum look modern on the one hand, and in pursuing the nationalist struggle on the other, were recognised by Queen Elizabeth II of England, with a certificate for "enlightened leadership especially in the field of community development and education".
After independence for the Southern Cameroons was achieved in 1961, Fon John Yai started to extend his diplomatic ties with other traditional and religious authorities of high office in Cameroon. Since then his daughters have married Fons of different polities in the Bamenda Grassfields, prominent amongst whom are the Fons of Mankon, Babungo, Ntundip and Waat, and Ardo Sali of Bum. He has been very active at various Chiefs' conferences in various capacities. As a long standing friend and political associate of the late Dr E.M.L Endeley, Fon John Yai was well known and appreciated by the Bakweris. In 1993 he was made guest of honour by the Sultan Ibrahim Mbuombuo Njoya of Bamum in the later's palace in Fumban. During this visit both monarchs discussed important issues of common interest and concern. In the area of religion, he, during a Baptist Field Conference at Songka - Bum, took the sudden decision to be baptized immediately. The Pastor accepted and he was baptized that same day November 25, 1990. H.R.H. the Fon of Bum with the Sultan of Bamum - Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya
Fon John Yai has been honoured with many awards since independence. These include the Honourary Game Warden of Kimbi Game Reserve (1962) and awards for services rendered to the nation by the Ministry of Territorial Administration. He was also given a medal in recognition of his role and services as member of the Board of Directors of the Cameroon Electricity Corporation (PowerCAM).
In an address (dated 4th May 1997) prepared for the Fons' Meeting of the Bum Subdivision shortly before his death, Fon John Yai highlighted his achievements thus:
I forced men to work with their wives to get a good yield for themselves, plant a lot of cash crops like coffee and palm trees, build good houses for themselves and help lift the standards of living for the people.
Despite occasional differences in opinion and approach, Fon John Yai was able to work in relative harmony with his sub-chiefs and local council authorities. His achievements and successes within the Bum Fondom are many and varied, and his fight and efforts towards the end of his reign, to make Bum more united, have been recognised by all sons and daughters of the land. He leaves Bum in a spirit of reconciliation and the pursuit of common ideals. It is up to posterity to built on his achievements and improve upon his shortcomings.

This page was created by Ian Fowler