By Andrew Nsoseka
Southwest Governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, has irked the Anglophone community again by ordering Traditional Rulers of the Southwest Region to march with banners on May 20th or be dethroned.
The Governor issued the public threats to the Traditional Rulers, on Thursday, April 25 in Buea, during a preparatory meeting in prelude to the 2019 National Day celebration.
According to the Regional Chief executive, if the Chiefs fail to carry placards and march alongside their subjects, he will slam sanctions on them, among which, is the monarchs losing their crowns.
He also threatened Traditional Rulers who are fleeing the Anglophone Crisis to return to their base before the event or they will be replaced.
Before the official commencement of the meeting, the Governor complained that the Chiefs and other stakeholders were absent from the preparatory confab.
Governor Sends Military After Regional Delegates
Meanwhile, after observing that some Regional and Divisional Delegates were absent during the preparatory meeting, Governor Okalia Bilai ordered the military to go and fetch the Delegates and escort them to the meeting ground.
The Delegates were ferried to the Buea Council Hall, where the preparatory meeting was taking place.
Observing that the seats meant for Chiefs were unoccupied, Okalia said: “See the chairs for the Chiefs, they are empty. On May 20, all the Chiefs will march with placards, indicating their village, and their population will follow behind. If that is not the case, it means those Chiefs don’t exist. And if you don’t exist as a body and as a village, it means you cannot be counted among villages. I said this, three years ago, the Chiefs refused because they were still volunteer Chiefs, but today, the volunteering is finished…you are tied to the State with an obligation. I don’t want to disclose it here, but we understand each other. If you fail to do what I am instructing, you will see 30 days after, the consequences of disobedience.”
Turning to Mayor Patrick Ekema of Buea, Governor Okalia instructed: “So, Lord Mayor, prepare the placards because they will say that they don’t have money. How many villages do we have? A hundred? A hundred placards. Every chief will pass. Those who are in exile in Douala or Yaounde, let them stay there, when they will come back, they will find somebody else as Chief,” Okalia threatened.
At the meeting, officials charged with dividing tasks to committees, also goofed. Instead of creating a new list and appointing officials to head the committees, they took the committees’ list of 2018.
The hall became rowdy when in reading names of those to head the different committees, names of some officials who were already transferred or replaced in their duty posts still surfaced.
In response, Governor Okalia Bilai said it was a mix-up that will be rectified.
SDF Secretary Reacts
Reacting to Okalia’s threats to Chiefs, Buea SDF District Secretary, Innocent Mbunwe, said the Governor needs to be called to order.
“How do you sit in your capacity as an appointed public servant, and want to compel Traditional Rulers to march on May 20. Worse still, the Governor expressed his contempt and disrespect for Traditional Rulers by threatening them. That is abominable, he is not a kingmaker, and he threatens to appoint Chiefs to replace those who don’t work as he commands. Governor Okalia needs to apologise to Southwest people and the Chiefs. His outing showed his complete disregard for Southwest people, the Anglophone community, and our traditional institutions. He believes his office stands above everyone and every tradition; he should be called to order!”
Meanwhile, Governor Okalia Bilai’s utterances about Chiefs is not surprising to many, having served as Senior Divisional Officer for Fako and now Governor of the Southwest Region, he certainly knows the mafia administrators like himself play in the designation of Chiefs in the Southwest Region. So, if some of the puppets who have been hand-picked by the administrators fail to toe the line, they might be replaced by those who brought them to the throne. The Governor was roundly criticised in 2016, when he referred to some citizens as dogs that need to be tamed.