Africa is mostly perceived as a challenging continent, with a comparatively lower life expectancy. It is therefore usually more than a blessing to have a man or woman live up to 100 years of age. Recently, a grand prince of the Kom Fondom in Boyo Division of the Northwest Region, Pa Tom Yong, was led majestically into church, in a solemn mass at the Bamenda Pastoral centre, to celebrate 100 years of a life satisfactorily spent here on earth. Over a thousand people were gathered, mostly from the Kom Fondom, located some 60km from Bamenda, regional capital of the Northwest region of Cameroon.
Kom is renowned as a very jealous preserver of its cultural values. It predominantly practices the matrilineal system of succession, and harbours the Afo-A- Kom statue, the statue which first gave fame to Cameroonian culture in 1963.
Foyn Ndzi II, via his envoy, Prince Ngam Nsom, was celebrating a grand Prince of the Kom Kingdom; a man who stands tall in the values of truth, justice, development, peace and unity. To Pa Tom Yong, these would not be simply words, but values upheld in practice, and transferred down to his Bobong community, Kom and the entire society, yet beginning with his 17 children, 49 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. In his usual humility, Tom Yong would cook for his guests and place the pot before them; and you better have the good sense of reserving some for the next unknown guest.
This was the least that he expected in attitude from the numerous guests whose company he adored. This description was aired by one of his sons, Loh Samuel, Mayor of Njinikom Council, one of the localities in Kom. To Seven-year-old Bemsimbom, one of Tom Yong’s USA-based grandchildren, grandpa is simply like Jesus.
During this occasion, the Fon did not reserve his pride when referring to the most trending project in the Kom Kingdom: the Abah la’a Ntoh or the Kom palace reconstruction project. Started some two years back, the project which succeeded in rallying most sons and daughters of the kingdom, has visibly transformed the palace into an enviable tourist destination. The project model which consists of robust online fundraising methods and undisputable accountability is still a low hanging fruit from which many similar projects continue to draw inspiration.
Among the many outstanding project forerunners in its Coordination Team, the Fon of Kom used the Bamenda occasion, which took place last December 27, 2020, to honour Mrs. Rosemary Ngong Kiffa ( Afo Akom USA President Emeritus) and Dr. Promise Kimeng Yong ( Professor of Chemistry). While both individuals are USA-based, it was a sign from the palace that the Kingdom is watching. Via a solemn Royal message, both were honoured as models of our times. They were both distinguished with royal cladding. In a rare act from royal hands of the Foyn, Mrs. Rosemary Ngong Kiffa was dressed with a loincloth, a more significant way of typically dressing up a woman at the palace. This is the second instance for her after the late Fon of Kom, Foyn Yuh II, draped her in 2016 with one of the three pieces bearing the sweat of his mothers. The Fon’s extraordinary move then for Mrs. Kiffa as a dynamic female leader of Afo-A-Kom America was further sealed, this time, in her function as one of the members of the Coordinating Team of the Kom palace reconstruction Project.
A tireless master in fundraising, Dr. P.K Yong, who encompasses numerous attractive skills, practically talks money out of the pockets of Kom sons and daughters, when it comes to supporting this common development cause. The Fon adorned him with numerous traditional symbols: a complete traditional dress from the throne, comprising of the symbolic ‘moon’ otherwise perceived as camwood in some circles. It is a mark of royalty, leadership, respect and dignity conferred. These honours from the throne which are in various categories are non-transferable. Truth be told, once conferred, it is no longer just a symbol, it is a status change in the traditional rungs and file. The reflection from the moon is gentle, and leads us out of the dark, and so must the bearer.
As the saying goes, to whom much is given, much is equally expected. Kom dignitaries in Douala-Cameroon did not mince words to underline this message in a reception later offered in their honour a few days after. To the grateful Dr. P.K Yong, learning to love and raise kids is the best legacy he can pride himself of from his iconic father. And, may the wisdom of our venerable ancestors inspire us more to embrace ‘Iwayn, Afojinaa, Nyamngviyn’, otherwise love and honour for humanity, wellbeing and prosperity, core values, pillars of the Kom People.
By Collins Songbi