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La succession de Wabo Defo. Directed by Daouda Mouchangou, Téléfilm, 1987, 113 min.
We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.
Jean Paul Tueche
, b. 1959
Jean Paul Tueche is a native of Bandjoun, in the Mifi Division in the western region of Cameroon. He is an actor and a playwright. His famous play The succession of Wabo Defo was published in 1987.
Bio prepared by Josée Vanessa Mboukem, University of Yaoundé 1, email@example.com
Ngie Kamga Jaseph,
Jean Paul Tueche,
The succession of Wabo Defo has been presented many times on CRTV (Cameroon Radio and Television), and it is also available online on YouTube. It is also a household film in Cameroon because the issues it raises are common practices across Cameroon.
The succession of Wabo Defo is a film made to warn those who try to buy traditional titles in traditional Cameroonian villages in a bid to have both wealth and honor. The film is all about the necessity to understand that a child who is prosperous and wealthy is not necessarily the heir of his parents. Furthermore, the play shows that corrupt elders who accept bribes to give such titles do not go unpunished.
The film opens with the sudden death of Wabo Defo, a wealthy elder and chief of Badjoun, who died all of a sudden without leaving any testament. There is the need to choose a successor in order for him to take over the title of “Elder”. The choice of this successor is to be done among the legitimate sons of the deceased. The choice is to be made by the elders as well as the other chiefs in the clan. Since succession is an important issue in this community, the widower whose son is designated as successor stands to benefit more from the abundance associated with chieftaincy than the rest. Because of this material advantage that must go with such a choice, some elders, who were friends of the deceased, begin scheming to change the Will of the late king, so that a successor is chosen from the household in which they have affinity.
The film then revolves around two corrupt elders, Tatuenye and Somosoffo. Each of these elders wants the successor of Wabo to be chosen among his wealthiest sons. They then go on to convince these wealthy sons that they, the elders can help one of them to become their father’s successor. On the one hand, Tatuenye wants Poula, who is an agricultural engineer, to be the successor of his father, Wabo Defo. On the other hand, Somosoffo wants Mouanye, a successful business man in the city of Douala to be the heir of the deceased.
Tatuenye tries to convince Poula, the agricultural engineer, that he can help him become successor. In a struggle to further excite Poula’s desire for succession, the elder tells him that being his father’s successor will make all his siblings to kneel before him and call him father. He further argues that no other title can grant him the honor and respect of his brothers than inheriting his father’s title. He concludes by saying that for this to be possible, he needs to see other elders and the chief to “grease their palms”*. He even goes to Poula’s mother and convinces her to accept the plan. Somosoffo, on his part is trying to scam Mouanye by also convincing him that he can help him take over his father’s chair. Mouanye organizes a meeting with all the elders and the agenda of the day is all about the successor of Wabo Defo. He opens the meeting by asking if anyone has the testament of Wabo Defo, be it oral or written. Tatuenye takes the floor and says that Wabo Defo did not leave behind any testament. However, he has a son that is very dynamic as he, Wabo Defo, was. That son, he said, is Poula. In a struggle to convince the chief and other elders, he claims that as an agricultural engineer, Poula, is able to make plants grow on rocks. Somosoffo, on his side, claims that Mouanye is fit to be the successor of Wabo Defo because he is as dynamic as his father was and a great business man in Douala.
Finally, the meeting organized by the chief, with his elders, to choose the right heir of Wabo Defo ends up in a quarrel and a fight. The chief sanctions the two elders who fought and they are asked to pay fines for their misconduct. The chief takes over the floor and says that two children cannot take over a single chair. As a result, those two elders who are designating two different heirs should come up and drink kadji if they know they are speaking the truth. None of the two elders accept to drink the kadji**. The two of them flee away. From their escape, the chief discerns that they have been lying and must have been corrupted. Consequently, he postpones the meeting.
In the meantime, Poula bribes the sub-divisional officer so that he should influence the chief’s decision. Mouanye and Somosoffo, on their part, go to a neighbouring village and bribe a man so that he should come with a bag on the day of the meeting to be organized by the chief, and declares that the bag had been given to him by Wabo Defo when he was alive. And that Wabo Defo had instructed him to take the bag to the chief, when he (Wabo Defo) dies. The intention here is to make a case for successorship in favour of one party. The attempt by the sub-divisional officer to influence the Chief’s decision fails.
The film gets to its climax when the man from the neighboring village comes up to the chief with a bag containing some belongings of the deceased Wabo as well as a picture of Mouanye. The man claims that he was a good friend of the deceased Wabo, who had given him the bag containing a photograph of his successor. The chief decides to perform some traditional rites on the man in order to find out whether or not this claim is true. It is finally revealed that it was actually a set up by Somosoffo and Mouanye. The man is driven away. Then, the chief organizes an election so that the heir should be chosen in a democratic way by all the children of the deceased. After the counting of the ballots, Tamo, one of the unpopular sons of Wabo Defo, is elected as the heir. He is reluctant to accept but is caught by the elders and initiated according to tradition. He actually takes over his father and becomes an elder in the village. The film ends with the two corrupt elders being sanctioned. For nine months, they will stay in their homes. For the said period, it is forbidden for them to attend the meetings of the village secret cults; to attend funerals both in their home village and in the neighboring villages; as well as to go to the markets. The funeral of Wabo Defo is finally organized.
* Metaphor for bribery and corruption in Cameroon.
** A local concoction to taste whether someone is lying or telling the truth.
The succession of Wabo Defo is written against the backdrop of a culture that gives much honor and value to traditional titles. As a result, people are always in a quest to obtain these titles. By using the struggle for inheritance of the title of an elder as the subject matter of the film, the author dramatizes the consequence of allowing oneself (as an important person) to be corrupted to the extent of attempting to sell out traditional titles held sacred by tradition. Although the film is set in Bandjoun, a village in the western region of Cameroon, it sensitizes elders not only of this village, but beyond (in Africa at large) to consider their tradition on inheritance as sacred and not to sell it out for money.
The main message of the film is that money cannot buy what is considered sacred in a tradition. Therefore, it is not because a child is financially stable that he should think that he must be the heir of his father. Furthermore, elders should not be influenced by wealth and should always view with high esteem what is sacred.
Successes of the play: The succession of Wabo Defo has been presented many times on CRTV (Cameroon Radio and Television), and it is also available online on YouTube. It is also a household film in Cameroon because the issues it raises are common practices across Cameroon.
Producer: Daouda Mouchangou,
Script: Zenabou Pomboura, based on the theatrical work by Jean Paul Tueche,
Images: Samuel Bognis,
Sound: Michel Tchadie,
Editor: Dina Eyango.