By Makuna Tande
In the years leading up to the creation of Fako America, I had spent a lot of time mulling over the absence of a representative umbrella Fako organization in the United States. Over the years, I jotted down a number of points as to why this was the case and what could be done to rectify the situation. However, for one reason or the other, I never seriously pursued this idea to its conclusion. Things were to change when my brother, Dibussi Tande, came over to the States in May 1993.
Shortly after his arrival, I presented him with the idea of creating a Fako organization and asked him to write a founding document. Dibussi bought the idea but insisted that since it was my idea, it was my place to at least put down my thoughts on paper from which he would then draft a document. After several weeks delay, I realized that he was serious about creating a document only after I had presented my vision of a Fako organization. I finally wrote a document, which I titled “The Original White Paper of Fako America,” and presented it to him. In less than a week Dibussi created a polished and more complete version of the document.
Selling the Idea
The next challenge was to sell the idea of a Fako organization to the Mokpes in North America. At the time, only the Washington DC Area and the State of Minnesota had Fako organizations. It was quickly apparent that any successful effort to build an umbrella Fako organization would have to go through one of these organizations. I decided to target the Minnesota group, passing through Professor Mbua Efange, then at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Mola Efange and I would meet in DC in the summer of 1993 for the KUPEXA USA convention, where I planned to do my ultimate sales pitch. In order not to get Mola Efange out of my sights, I volunteered to be his chauffer during the convention weekend. I eventually sprang the “ambush” in a most memorable fashion. While driving between venues, I stopped on a highway, dramatically opened the car trunk, retrieved a copy of the FA White Paper, and handed it to Mola Efange to read. He was my captive audience, in fact, my hostage. I was not going to risk giving him the document to take home, without making sure that he was going to read it. I wanted him to read the document and respond immediately.
Mola Efange immediately bought the idea of a Fako umbrella organization in North America. Then came the challenging part: I had to convince Mola Efange to take a leadership role in the new organization and also draft him to sell the idea of hosting the inaugural convention to FECA Minnesota. To allay any fears about personal ambitions, I told Mola that I would never hold an Executive position in the new Fako organization. I assured him that if Minnessota agreed to host the convention, I would work to bring the rest of the nation to the convention. I also insisted that the name of the new organization should be FAKO AMERICA because we did not want to be tied to the rules or requirements of existing organizations in Fako. By the end of the car ride, we were in agreement, and FA was closer to becoming reality.
Mola Efange kept his end of the Washington DC agreement. On his return to Minnesota, he successfully convinced FECA Minnesota to host the inaugural convention, and throughout the Winter of ’93 the elders and key members of the Minnesota Fako community – Mola Jacob Monono, Mola Sam Ndely, Mola Steve Ndely, Iya Dora Ewusi, Iya Sally Wolete, Mola Augustine Kange, to name a few - held planning discussions and meetings for the inaugural convention. By the close of the ’94 spring season, the entire membership of FECA Minnesota was holding regular planning meetings for the convention. Luckily, FECA Minnesota had recently held a successful event in 1993. That experience would prove invaluable.
On my part, I worked to generate interest for the convention amongst the wider Fako community. I made personal calls to individuals in at least 18 states to inform them about the convention plans and also to solicit even more phone numbers of other Fako indigenes.
During this period, my brother and I decided to launch a Fako cultural newspaper called “Fako International”. Once again, another “white paper” was drafted, and once again, Mola Efange gave the project his unconditional support. Before long, Fako International was born and it would soon become the unofficial spokesman for Fako America ’94.
Introducing the Internet
During my phone calls I introduced a lot people to the relatively new medium of the Internet. Most people I spoke to did not have email addresses and had never used the internet. I provided information on internet email and actually created accounts for at least 35 individuals. With the newly minted email addresses, I started a Fako list on the internet to improve communication in the months before the conventon. The email list contained over 200 names by the time the convention opened in Minnesota, and anyone could instantly send a message to everyone on the list. It was a revolution.
The response to these out reach efforts was very encouraging. Even those who said they would not be able to attend the convention were thrilled with the idea of a national Fako organization. My feedback to Mola Efange in Minnesota was that we had a winner. My end of the Washington Agreement was upheld, although during the Minnesota meeting I was literally conscripted by participants to become the organization’s Interim Secretary.
And the rest is history….