Like most tribes in the North West Region of Cameroon, the Oku people originated from the Tikari Plain of the West Region. All from one ancestral background, the Okus, the Nsos and the Mbiames are said to have broken apart at Kohvifum in the North of Nso due to some hereditary chieftaincy disputes within the ancestral family. Evidence of the turmoil and instability that characterized that dark era is seen in the hillside settlements that still exist to today; they were originally built to detect enemies from a distance.
ADMINISTRATIVE SET UP
Oku practices a somewhat federal system of traditional rule, with “kwifon - Ngumba ” (a secret society of notables and law makers and one can only become a member through initiation in to it) as its highest organ. It is a male regulatory society from which women are excluded. This society performs most of the local rituals and owns all of the land in the Fondom. It members are called “Nchindaasee” (society Guards) and most of the notables belong to this society, as do traditional healers and soothsayers. This society has the power to judge and deliberate cases and its sentences must be respected.
The Fon (traditional authorities in North West Region of Cameroon call Fondoms), ruler of the Fondom of Oku is answerable to kwifon society. The present Fon is His Royal Majesty, Fon Sintieh II who reigns over the Fondom.
His Royal Majesty, Fon Sintieh II, was enthroned on the 4th of April, 2006 after the death of his father, Fon Ngum III. His Royal Majesty is fluent in English and French and holds a B.A. Honors in Bilingual Modern Studies from the University of Yaoundé I and the Universite Jean Moulin Lyon III, France.
He successfully combines his royal duties with his duties in the Cameroon Public Service. He is currently the Principal of the Government High School Ibal Oku, Oku Subdivision. His Royal Majesty is married, inherited over 50 wives from his father and has more than 350 children and grand children for whom he caters.
The Fon is ready and happy to receive visitors in the palace, to give you “palace water” (palm wine) and blessing in the land of Oku. If you are chance, he may even take you around the palace for a guided tour of the palace, museum and craft shop.
The 34 villages that make up the Oku Fondom are ruled by 2nd and 3rd class chiefs, call “Fais” who are also family heads, all subordinate to the Fon.
The palace is stratified into at least three major sections: the Ngumba (kwifon), the Fon’s residential area and the Fon’s wives’ residential area.
Also in the administration of Oku, there is the Divisional Officer representing the Cameroon government and other services head, a Lord Mayor in the Elak council.
SOCIO – ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL BELONGING.
Economic activities in Oku largely revolve around gender-stratified subsistence agriculture. Men are engaged in Arabica coffee cultivation, bee-farming, rearing of pigs, goats, cattle and fowls, while women cultivate mostly food crops, such as maize, beans, Irish potato, sweet potato, yam, cocoyam, plantain, banana, fruits, etc. Women are vital to the survival of society, as they are the primary bread winners.
Oku people are generally welcoming, gentle and hospitable. The respect given to traditional authorities and elders is enormous and sometimes overwhelming. Further, a high degree of communal life is practiced. This means that people tend to share together in time of trouble and harvest. Families, which entail expansive networks of extended relatives, always come together to celebrate births and commemorate deaths. In the evening after the day’s activities, families will gather in their family houses and a fire will be built in the middle, where food is prepared. This is a time for story telling, visiting with other families and the sharing of food. It is also a time to visit friends and neighbors to borrow family items like salt or cooking oil if you are in need. The traditional dish of Oku is corn fufu (from maize flour) and jamajama (vegetables) and katikati (chicken).
In terms of cultural awareness and heritage, cultural weeks are organized frequently and are always animated by traditional music, dances and displays.
In addition to the Christian faithful spread throughout the 34 villages of the Fondom, traditional ancestral worship is still practiced, as evidenced by the many shrines, traditional forest, caves and water falls were gods of the land are believed to live, where sacrifices and rituals are frequently performed. The Oku people believe strongly in traditional herbal treatments or cures and are well known for their talents in this domain even today.
CLIMATE / RELIEF
There are two seasons in this part of Cameroon. The dry season begins in October and extends through March, during which time the average temperature is about 20oC and the air is dry and very cool. The rainy season begins in April and ends in September. Average temperatures are around 20oC during the day and 15oC at night. On the mountain, temperatures drop to 10oC.
Concerning relief, Oku is surrounded by several mountain ranges, some made up of rain forest and deep valleys. The valleys are generally covered by raphia and eucalyptus. Raphia is a basic raw material for fabrication of art objects and palm wine, which is used in ceremonies and also in libations.