Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Plight of Successorship, A Real Social Destabilizer - Georgette in serious pains

A successor is a person who succeeds another in a position.  In Cameroon, Successorship is a common practice especially in the Western region, where the people uphold their traditions and customs with estimable values. Some inheritance are mouth watering and life upgrading while others beehives and downgrading.

Inheritance conflict is often the final straw for challenged families, whereby couples suffer, brothers’ fight with each, witchcraft becomes the order of the day and some people even lose their lives.

For some reasons, real successors(those chosen by the deceased before his death, because others force their way, and at the end destroys the family) are  best family builders.
A successor must not only be the first son or the child of the first wife, but someone in whom the predecessor has faith in. It might even be the last child, or the brother of the predecessor

Recently, a friend of mine Georgette lost her father in-law in a village called Bamendjo in the Western Region of Cameroon. The late Pa Tamedjeu who died at the age of 89 had 8 wives (4 alive and 4 dead), with 43 children. His eldest son 62 years old, is an Entrepreneur in the Economic city of Douala. His youngest wife is 31 years old, and his youngest child 6 years.

He owned many titles in the village, because some of his children are big business men and others big farmers. In their tradition, the more successful your children are, the more envelops you take to the Traditional Palace. The more wives you have, the more titles you get. The more titles you get, the more closely you become to the Traditional Ruler, and that automatically gives you a seat in the Traditional Council were you become a NOTABLE or ELDER . 

Being a Notable or an Elder, gives one the advantage to participate in the law making of the community, share in decision making, benefit from certain community favours, and even get a chance to advise  the Traditional Ruler. As the saying goes, 'he who dines with the king is a small king'.

Pa Tamedjou was buried hours after his death, because he was a Notable, and the burial was strictly intimate (only family and close relatives, so we couldn’t assist).

Pa Tamedjou’s official funeral was set two months after his death and it was a come and see. His children arranged the main road leading to their village, set up high class canopies, hired the best restaurant services and put projector bulbs all over the village.All these to give a glamorous look to the occasion and showcase their financial muscles.

In the Western Region, it is during funeral celebrations locally called CRY-DIE or FUNERAILLE, that families exhibit their wealth. It is also during this occasions that the successor is arrested (I use the term arrested because that’s what they do). Some elders of the late man’s family and other notables have a way of accomplishing the deceased’s will in picking his successor.

They have a traditional rhythm of drums played by a group of traditional musicians, and the prospective successors(all children of the deceased)will be dancing circularly. Those responsible for arresting the successor out of the crowd will be observing the dance, and as soon as the appointed one passes in front of them, they will clear him off his feet, press him to the ground so that he doesn’t run (some people hate successorship, while others even bribe the elders to have it) and carry him into a secret place, where he will later come out and be presented to the public
Some people know beforehand that they will be successors, while others are taken by surprise
Georgette’s husband 42 years old, is the 4th child to the second wife of the late Pa Tamedjeu. They have been married for 6 years and blessed with 3 children one boy and two girls.
Being a close friend, I went to the village two days before the celebration to assist in the preparations.

While in the village, Georgette  will take me to a corner from time to time and ask that we pray so that her husband should not be arrested as the successor.

The eve of the occasion we didn’t sleep. We prayed and fasted all night till the next day. The ceremony started with a mass in honour of the deceased, followed by heavy entertainment.
During the mass service, Georgette caught high fever, and I took her to her husband’s modern hut in the village, trying to convince her to be strong.
For some reason, she knew her husband would be the successor, but she prayed hard that it shouldn’t happen because we all know the consequences.

Then the high moments came, when the drum beats went high and higher. I was very observant not to miss any piece of the action. The prospective successors all danced in a colourful traditional circular form including Bertrand, Georgette’s husband as the music took a different turn of signal.

Georgette as well as the wives of her other brother in-laws refused to watch the dance for fear of the unknown, and so while she was indoors due to her fever, her other mates too were suffering from the same thing.

Rumors had it the previous night that Pa Tamedjeu’s junior brother was to succeed him, but it was just flying news.

I was filming the musicians as they danced in ecstasy, when I saw dust raised from the dance spot. The successor had been arrested. Yes and True! it was Bertrand. I stood spellbound as the poor boy managed to run away, but was under the grip of some heavy arm men, who were there for the purpose. People shouted for joy, others were shocked and gun shots filled the air. Bertrand cried aloud in disapproval and refused to follow the elders, but he was dragged along like a cow that is being led to the slaughter.

Georgette’s sisters ran to break the news to her and she cried inconsolably. She didn't even stop when some elderly women came to take her for some traditional rituals.

It was so pathetic. All the wine and good food we kept for the after-hours soured in our mouths as we saw living hell dawned on Georgette. She had no choice. She has to carry this basket of stress, as her life would never be the same again.

That evening after consoling my friend, I returned to Douala leaving them in the village.
When they came back into town  three weeks later, I visited them. Georgette had suddenly changed. She looked older, worn out and was suffering from acute nerve ache.

Tradition demands that the successor, crosses over the all the widows, or pay for a certain traditional cleansing rituals if the widows accept. Crossing over them means having sex with them once or continuously, irrespective of the age.

Two of the widows accepted the traditional cleansing rituals, accompanied by cash compensation, while the last two refused and insisted they wanted sex, not only because they were still young and vibrant, but because Bertrand will henceforth be their husband. They were traditionally right and so Bertrand had no choice than to sleep with these young wives of his late father who have automatically become his new wives.

Poor Georgette can’t handle it. When she married Bertrand she didn’t bargain for this. She had always had her husband to herself, and now in a twinkle of an eye, things have turned upside down.

Her husband now shuttles between the village and his base, struggling to fit into his new coat. He no longer has time Georgette and their children.

He has grown grey in a short while. He now takes care financially morally and otherwise of the four widows and their children, with little or no help from his brothers, who are not happy that he was the chosen one.

Bertrand’s world has been destabilized he can’t satisfy his wife and kids any more. He is looking forward to relocate to the village, where he will start a new life.

At the time of the story, Georgette, is contemplating otherwise. Will she divorce her husband? What will happen to their children? Will she accept to share her husband with some village women who doesn't even know he value of true lovE.

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