Fon Paul Fozoh II will spend two days touring and learning about Lubbock.
Texas Tech University received a royal visit on Friday (June 30), from Fon Paul Fozoh II, the regional king of Awing, Cameroon, during the last stop on his fourth trip to the United States.
As the king – or fon – of Awing since 1998, Fozoh is looking for ways to improve his country. As such, he comes to the U.S. every two years to meet with Cameroon's citizens living in America and discuss the development projects going on back home. On this trip, he's visited California; Minnesota; Georgia; Washington, D.C; and Chicago, to name a few.
"This is the first time he's come to Lubbock,” said Innocent Awasom, an Awing native who works as an associate librarian in the University Library. "He's been to other places in the United States, but he has subjects living and working here and he had to come reach out and meet them.”
In addition to meeting his people living in America, Fozoh also hopes to learn about farming practices in Lubbock, which has a similar climate to Cameroon.
"We come from a traditional farming background and Lubbock is the cotton center of the world, so he wanted to come see what's happening in Lubbock,” Awasom said.
While everyone in Awing contributes to the community, Fozoh has a large family there –20 children, multiple wives and 199 siblings – so he feels a responsibility to improve the region.
"Being one of the few educated monarchs in the region, he has this extra incentive to do a lot for his people,” Awasom said. "Reaching out here, seeing what's happening in other places and using that experience and that knowledge to develop his place is something he's keen on doing.
"Our king is a civil engineer by training, and he's interested in education, so that's why we're in the library, because it's the foundation of preservation of cultural heritage,” he said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to come to the library and see what we have. He's big on education, and school libraries are part of that.”
Although apparently a man of few words, Fozoh himself emphasized why he wanted to see Texas Tech's libraries and museums.
"Knowledge is wealth; I want my people educated,” he said. Looking around the University Library, he added, "I wish we could have this kind of library in my community.”
Martin Ndi Azese, now a lecturer and research associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, came from Awing to get his doctorate at Texas Tech.
"The development of our place comes from the sons and daughters,” Azese said, referring to natives, like himself, who leave Cameroon for a better education and hopefully one day return to benefit their homeland with that greater knowledge. "Having the fon come to see us is a good thing, reassuring us that we can keep making sure our area is developed. More than 50 percent of the development comes from us.”
While touring the University Library and the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Fozoh repeatedly asked his tour guides about the possibility of a new partnership between Texas Tech and Awing.
"The U.S. is very well organized,” Fozoh said. "There are nice houses and landscaping, and good education. I want to copy this in my community.”
In addition to his tour of the University Library and Southwest Collection, Fozoh also toured the National Ranching Heritage Center and the city of Lubbock on Friday. On Saturday, he is scheduled to attend a reception with local Cameroon natives as a fundraiser to benefit Cameroon's schools and drinking water.
"Back home, if the fon comes to your house, you're the luckiest person on Earth,” said Peter Mbapang, a Lubbock business owner from Cameroon. "It's our privilege to have him here.”
Fozoh will head back to Cameroon on Sunday.
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