The Balondo-bakonja (original and pure Balondo people) civilization was born naturally along the banks of the Nyanga River or the Luapula River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The exact region is not yet known. But with the ongoing research efforts, it is likely that the proper birth place would soon be located.
However, contrary to that expectation, the specific time it must have evolved in its natural location in the Congo has not been given much thought because it is a timeless civilization that cannot be carbon-dated as in the case of Akwa Akpa (Calabar, Nigeria) in 1107 and the coastal South-west littoral region of Cameroon in 1150, the two places where it was successfully transplanted during the “First” and “Second” voyages. Also, while there are no conclusive reasons why the Balondo-bakonja voyaged from the Congo to distant lands during the First voyage, the tentative idea of a voluntary movement of the people to Akwa Akpa cannot be discounted.
On the other hand, knowing the reason(s) for the occurrence of the Second voyage from Akwa Akpa to Cameroon posed no difficulty since it was believed by the people to have been triggered by significantly high risk environmental factors caused by crocodiles which were killing their people whenever they went to the Calabar River to bathe and do their laundry. On top of that bad luck, another problem cropped up in that, even though Balondo-bakonja saw the crocodile as a common ‘foe’, the decision that was ‘hatched’ to relocate for a second time was still not unanimous due to the fact that some of them who are identified today as Efut- balondo opted to remain in south Calabar, Balondo’s primordial settlement in South-eastern Nigeria.
Interestingly enough, their historical separation notwithstanding, both Balondo people have reconnected in modern times without including in their Congolese origin and the two migrations that took place as major events in their life, the Ngolo, Balue, Batanga, Bima, Bakundu, Ekombe, and Ngbandi which are clans of the purported Oroko tribe who do not have any realistic account of their evolution in time and space besides a recently printed dubious and convoluted “The Making of Oroko” narrative about their common vagrant ancestor Ngoe and the fake “balondo-bananga” and “balondo-badiko” they invented to sustain their reprehensible intellectual dishonest quest for lebensraum or territory.
Our Creationist philosophy of Morimo/Ndongore
The said immutable historical factors that differentiate Balondo-bakonja from the Oroko group are unequivocally visible in our incompatible metaphysical/existential natures. In this instance, though it initially appeared to be a difficult task trying to intellectually figure out how people differed from each other, this problem is now solved by the scientific community’s ability to have formulated the criteria for establishing distinguishing characteristics of diverse populations, which were “evolutionism “and “creationism.”
Evolutionism is briefly the idea that people develop from a common ancestor whereas Creationism is based on the understanding that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of the Creator God rather than by natural processes such as evolution.
In fact, given that the Oroko wholeheartedly claim Ngoe as their ancestor, it is all too obvious that they belong to the evolutionary model of human development as opposed to Balondo-bakonja who have subscribed to creationism that is indicative of their firm belief that they were created by Ovase Loba (God) in the Morimo, a legendary pool of water or pond in the wilderness of the Congo including animals, fish, plants, and other life forms. Furthermore, in deference to Ovase Loba, they traditionally go through the ancestors (Bawu-ba balondo) who carry their messages to Ovase Loba whenever they are in need of favors. Last but not the least, they believe too in the afterlife, reincarnation, and Ndongore that vastly differ (with absolutely no inkling of similarity) from the vague Oroko belief system.
Our Area of Habitation
As one continues to dig deeper into the disparities inherent in the Balondo-bakonja and Oroko cosmologies, one would undoubtedly realise how much their settlement patterns do provide more essential clues about there being a lack of human commonalities between them. In proceeding, it is necessary to come to grips with the connotation of settlement as a natural and human-constructed phenomenon relative to a spatial dimension comprising lands, waters, atmosphere, and living creatures/humans. In the case of humans, it is a reflection of their basic experiences, needs and aspirations that are integral parts of life as shaped by their environment. Consequently, taking the time in examining these insights is very critical and also helpful in gaining a better understanding of the nature of Balondo-bakonja people who inhabit this spatial dimension endowed with flat, very fertile land, and many rivers/oceans awash in fish as well as other seafood that have been the envy of the Oroko people.
Upon successfully completing such painstaking efforts by researchers who want to learn about Balondo-bakonja, they would unquestionably ascertain how fearing that their natural resources might one day be coveted by a less endowed people, they (Balondo-bakonja) had not hesitated from the get go in establishing clear-cut boundaries to hold their envious Rumpi hillbilly neighbors at bay, thereby preventing them from trespassing on their maritime settlement with absolutely no hilly topography.
Quite often, a boundary is formed naturally and it might be something like a river, mountain range, or an ocean; sometimes too it exists because generally when people acquire land to build homes, towns, and nations, there is always that primitive inclination to secure the boundaries and/or borders. As previously indicated, Balondo-bakonja were no exception to this mindset because they also had to secure the territorial boundaries of their coastal settlements 1) to legitimise ownership of the region they occupied 2) ward off trespassers from encroaching on their lands, and 3) establish clear-cut differences between their people and the ‘other’ particularly the Oroko hillbillies on the periphery of their semi-circle land formation which encompasses only the pure Balondo-bakonja.
In that aspect, the Balondo-bakonja coastal region in the so-called Ndian division ( Cameroon) is directly bounded on the North by the Ngolo, Baima and Batanga, South and South-west by Bakolle and Betika people, West by Isangele, Rio-del-Rey regions, Fish towns and creeks, East by Balue, Ngbandi (Mbonge), Ekombe, and Barombi, South-east by the Bomboko, Bimbia, and Bakweri people.
There is that possibility (too) that based on the landenvy complex of the Oroko which was cited earlier, only the boundaries with them were constantly being watched and patrolled by Balondo-bakonja rangers, so that they would not encroach on their maritime settlement. Nevertheless, all simulated humanoid scarecrow and actual human efforts to stop them did not seem to be working.
For example, Ekondo-Enene has been perpetually under siege by needy Masolle and Kita Balue indigenes that have employed several clever methods to steal land from them to sell to mostly Northwest farmers. Frankly, it is unbelievable as to the extent that these Balue land thieves of Oroko extraction would go to achieve their dubious vaulting ambition, which in essence is costing Ekondo-Enene people more time, energy, and money to protect their borders that they might one day consider sealing off with a Wall of Trumpian proportions.
Our settlement behavior
‘Unfortunately but fortunately’, such a dishonest and unpalatable Oroko behavior explains more elaborately how divergent geographical characteristics impact human behavior.
By impact on human behavior, it simply means how people naturally adapt to their environments. For instance, Balondo-bakonja are sedentary and self-sufficient by nature virtually because of being a coastal people, who quite often never migrate to settle in oroko/other people’s lands-except maybe for employment reasons when they are transferred by the government/corporation as middle class employees to work in cities or regions beyond the confines of their homeland. In sharp contrast to their adaptation pattern, the Oroko from landlocked barren hilly lands beyond reach of Balondo-bakonja coastal land are migratory-always moving from place to place like nomads, most of whom wind up on CDC and PAMOL plantations as farm hands, never to return to their deserted villages with very harsh conditions that are responsible for their mass exodus to several coastal towns in Cameroon including Ekondo Titi as well as other Balondo-bakonja homelands where they have not only settled down but systematically engaged in stealing the people’s land.
The natural boundary point of view persists even within the framework of linguistics because Balondo-bakonja do not speak the brand new European-made Oroko that is a mixture of Balue and Ngbandi (Mbonge) dialects. They have continued to speak their very ancient Balondo language comprising of all of the following properties that are clearly the same fundamental linguistic structures of Euro-American languages: (1) phonology, what it sounds like; (2) morphology, its rules for word formation; (3) syntax, its rules of grammar; (4) semantics, meaning and relations to words; and (5) pragmatics, its use in different social contexts, i.e., the use of verbal and nonverbal language. In addition to meeting the criteria for a real language, it further represents, in a very significant way, the source of knowledge, canons of proof, and structures of truth that are the main sources of the Balondo-bakonja universe. This means that the language is co-terminus with the awareness of a natural affiliation with the Balondo-bakonja community.
As a result of the natural affiliation factor, in order for Balondo-bakonja to become more socially effective, they must accurately project the signals appropriate to their language and linguistic group-Lingala and Efik languages.
The Oroko dialect does not contain a word of Efik language that constitutes one-tenth of the Balondo-bakonja diction. As well, it cannot rival one bit the preponderance of Balondo language usage by Pidgin English speakers.
Finally, the Balondo language is a prominent African language that is unique and incomparable to Oroko and other undeveloped African counterparts, which is why European linguists started studying it since the 1840s until 1985 when Julianna Kuperus (Austrian linguist) produced the first well-written Balondo Grammar Book which she captioned, “The Londo Word”.
On that note, she was very successful in capturing all the essentials of Balondo linguistics as a result of interviewing only pure Balondo-bakonja in Yaounde. Sadly, Oroko dialect was hastily put together in recent times and as such spoken only by Oroko, not Balondo-bakonja who speak a more refined very ancient tongue, billions of years old.
Our Cultural Supremacy
Quite apart from the indubitable aforementioned distinctions, the most overarching and inarguable facts that dispel the myth and/or overly mistaken notion that Balondo-bakonja can identify with Oroko are by far these two main social constructs of cultural supremacy and cultural super power. Relevant to cultural supremacy, Efut-Balondo dazzled the imagination of the art world (1860s) with the production of a piece of beautiful work of art known as “the Funeral Head Dress,” copies of which are now found in world museums. How is that important to rebut falsehoods about Balondo/Oroko cultural similarities? It is very important so as to demonstrate that before Balondo-bakonja reached the coastal shores of the South-west littoral region, they were already bringing with them a very rich and sophisticated civilization whose influences were later on felt in other cultures so much that it was always seen as a cultural reference point. For example, they shared their Ekpang food, Ngomo Ya Betuli and Malle/Nganda dances with the Bakweri; Ekpe with the Banyang; Malle with Ngbandi (Mbonge) and Bakolle (Bamusso); Amekoko, Mosembe and Malle dances with Balue, Ngolo,and Bakundu. The transfer of these cultural values was very interactive like in a classroom full of students being taught their lessons by their teacher. A case in point of this cultural phenomenon is when on April 16, 2010, Kumbe-Balondo was paid huge sums of money to travel to Bisoro (balue) to teach them the Malle dance. Unquestionably, non-balondo who are seen dancing these dances might be mistaken for Balondo. No, they are just showing off what was borrowed from Balondo-bakonja.
Besides sharing aspects of their culture with the ‘other’, they expanded their cultural supremacy by being the first people ever to construct both land and sea trade routes. The former comprised North westerners travelling by land to Boa in the south of the Balondo-konja homeland to purchase “Kenjas of Mbonga” and in the process they could have equally borrowed “Nyangbe” society and/or title which is currently held by most of their nobles-they say “he is Nyankpe”- a lion or a very powerful person. The latter was taken by mostly Ijaw and Ibibio fishermen and women sailing to individual Balondo bakonja ports on “beach market” days to exchange mostly smoked fish for food stuff. Concurrently, Nigeria’s Ibo traders ferried merchandise along this route after traversing the tumultuous waters of Mbo- Enene (the Atlantic Ocean) from Oron to Ekondo-Etiti, a business activity (awarawa) that rendered the town a full-fledged Custom post which raked in billions of francs cfa for the government without of course losing sight of the resourcefulness of the Bakassi Peninsular in the Balondo-bakonja waters.
Our Military Might
About the 1750s through the 1800s, the Balondo-bakonja cultural supremacy would extend itself to a “military super power” as made manifest in its external confrontations with the Itokis (Bakundu) who seized the land in the northern Balondo territory that Lobe claimed was theirs and the Bakolle (Bamusso) who illegally occupied the Boa Island in southern Balondo. In the north, King Nambuli nwa Ndem overran the Itokis while King Afo successfully crushed the Bakolles in the south. After the war, King Nambuli proceeded to build Masole, or refugee camp to keep his war captives. They were primarily Bakundu and Balue indigenes that he would later employ as servants. He named a small hill there “Mokori nwa Nambuli” (Nambuli’s slope) a landmark intended to remind them that he owned the land. On the contrary, King Afo buckled under the Bakolle plea for a peace treaty that would allow them to lease the Bowa Island in exchange for monthly royalties that would be paid to the King. It would last for almost a century before being abruptly terminated with the advent of the post-colonial government.
Our True Identity
After those wars as well as the ones they allegedly fought against the Germans and the British colonizers, the Balondo-bakonja did eventually assimilate their peripheral hillbilly neighbors-forcing them to answer Balondo-a name they bore for over three hundred years before ceasing to continue using it in 1973 when they revolted and adopted the new name and identity of Oroko with absolutely no cultural roots-just a political organization erected for all descendants of Ngoe ancestor scattered all over the Ndian and Meme divisions. Additionally, there is no gainsaying the fact that the “balondo-bananga” and “balondo ba diko” they claim to be members of their Oroko clan are imaginary balondo people they made up, because Balondo-bakonja do not know them, never heard of them, and cannot tell where they are culturally situated. Realistically, our proper identity comprises only us, the original Balondo people with the general name of Balondo-bakonja and Efut-balondo (Calabar, Nigeria), pure Balondo-bakonja who did not migrate to the coastal South-west littoral region of Cameroon. It is also part and parcel of who we are based on the logic of geography. Essentially, all Balondo-bakonja everywhere have been living permanently in well-mapped out coastal regions that are still easy to locate unlike the Oroko villages that are dispersed in diverse undetectable and hard to reach hilly environments. In the same vein, all Balondo-bakonja maritime settlements have been around prior to the advent of colonialists to the Congo, Akwa Akpa (Calabar), and Cameroon. For instance, with the exception of the Congolese settlement that cannot be carbon-dated, their communities had been established in Akwa Akpa in about 1107 and the coastal south-west littoral region of Cameroon in probably the 1150s-that is previous to the arrival of Mary Slessor to Akwa Akpa in the 1870s and Fernando Po to Cameroon in 1472. The bottom line? The Balondo-bakonja personality and environmental integrity have not changed to Oroko but remained pretty much intact and uncorrupted.
These undeniable distinguishing historical, geographical, and linguistic characteristics coupled with the irreversible cultural supremacy and super power qualities of Balondo-bakonja that were progressively highlighted in the preceding paragraphs underscore the cultural competitiveedge their civilization has had over not only most South-west cultures but particularly the Oroko group as evidenced by not only its uniqueness but how long it experienced a period of political, philosophical, artistic, and scientific achievements that formed a legacy with unparalleled influence on the entire South-western cultures from about the 1100s to the 1900s. Under the prevailing circumstances, there is no way that any one in his or her right senses can imagine that the dominant Balondo-bakonja civilization would be grouped with Oroko clans as same people when they never individually or collectively influenced any culture in the South-west. In other words, the subjugation of the mighty Balondo civilization by baby Oroko will never happen, for, the sun is yet to set on this resilient Balondo-bakonja civilization whose shining cultural influences on other Southwest cultures is contemporaneous or on going.
By the way, when grouping people together, they are anthropologically grouped as clans of a particular individual, family or tribe. Briefly, the main anthropological definition of clan is “people who share a common ancestor”. But Balondo-bakonja never ever shared a common ancestor with any Cameroonian people, especially these Oroko people who in a bid to liberate themselves from the Balondo pre-established cultural stranglehold on them, hastily constructed such an artificial tribal identity (1973) on a foundation typically devoid of the perspicuity, gravity, and authority of ancient cultures like Balondo. In fact, for purposes of political correctness, they are best served by referring to Bakossi as a clan of Oroko, in view of the fact that by openly claiming Ngoe as their ancestor, the Bakossi have fanatically adhered to the theory of evolutionism. Again, be it known to Oroko and the rest of the world that Balondo-bakonja were created by Ovase Loba (creationism), they influenced most South-west cultures and their cultural supremacy over the Oroko lasted for over three hundred years-during which time they answered Balondo throughout. Thus, Balondo are not Oroko, “a mendacious nonsensical tribal schema” made up by an ethno-culturally backward villagers. They are Balondo (bakonja) and Cameroonians who inhabit the coast not the hills and whose staple diet is the “Ekpang” not “Mukere na Ndonga!!
DR. AJA ORO
Balondo Cultural Heritage International