In this interview with JAMES ABRAHAM, the Emir of Kanam, Alhaji Muhammad Mua’zu Muhammad, speaks about his experience on the throne and how he has ensured that there is peace in the emirate
How would you describe your experience on the throne as the Emir of Kanam?
As you already know, my name is Muhammad Mua’zu Muhammad; I’m the seventh Emir of Kanam. I was given the name of my grandfather, who was the sixth Emir of Kanam. I succeeded my grandfather, not my father. I came to this world about 46 years ago, on January 28, 1973 as the first child of the late Emir, Muhammadu Ciroma Kanam. My mother is also from the royal house. She is the village head of this community and she is named Saadatu Muazu. She is alive and strong; she is guiding us; this is one of the secrets of our success. I enrolled at Dengi Central Primary School in 1980 and finished in 1986. It was at that time that Nigeria’s educational system was changed to 6-3-3-4 format. After my primary school education, I went to Government Secondary School, Kurgwi in the present day Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State. The school has been upgraded to School of Preliminary Studies, Kurgwi. And I was there from 1987 to June 1992. From there, I went to School of Preliminary Studies in Keffi in Nassarawa State briefly and then returned home. That same year, I took the Nigerian Defence Academy entrance examination and passed. Just two months into the programme, my grandfather withdrew me because of reasons best known to him. Maybe that is why I am here as the Emir. When I returned home, I later attended the state polytechnic (Plateau State Polytechnic), where I obtained a diploma. Thereafter, I enrolled at the University of Jos for a BSc programme in public administration in the political science department. I graduated in 2004 and on graduation, I was preparing for the National Youth Service Corps programme when I was asked ascend the throne of my forefathers. So by March 30, 2005, I became the Emir of Kanam after the death of my grandfather. I served as his Private Secretary for many years before ascending to the throne. Since 2005 till date, I have been the Emir of Kanam. I am married with four wives and eighteen children; nine males and nine females. These are blessings from God and I am most grateful to Him. I will say that my experience has been good so far. I have been enjoying my people and my people have also been enjoying me. They are there for me and I’m there for them as well. That’s why I said we are enjoying ourselves. When I travel, I come back with love and happiness. Since 2005 till date, I’ve found the people of Kanam to be very loving. During Friday prayers, they come out in large numbers to see me and wish me well. I thank God for that and I don’t have any regrets. I’m so much happy that I succeeded my grandfathers on the throne and received their blessings which we are enjoying now.
What has been the most interesting part of being an Emir?
I think it is when you have your people’s support to be their Emir. What that means is that they completely trust you. For me, it is the most important aspect of life. As a prince, your hope and aspiration would be to follow in the footsteps of your forefathers by being on the throne someday. And on the day you are called upon out of hundreds and thousands of others, nominated and confirmed to be on the throne, you know it is something so great. It is a rare privilege. So the day I was called upon to be the Emir was a very great day indeed. I succeeded my parents at the age of 32. And I have now spent 14 years on the throne.
What were you doing before you became the Emir of Kanam?
I was a young prince who was giving his grandfather support. The most interesting part of it is that I was born in the palace. My dad left for school when I was seven months in my mother’s womb and then, she was moved into the palace. My grandfather was so anxious to welcome his grandchild. So I grew up in the palace. After my father returned, I returned to my father’s house but I maintained a very close relationship with my grandfather. When I finished from secondary school, my grandfather took me under his wing. I was assisting him to write letters and do other things that had to do with western education. And after I got a diploma certificate, my grandfather appointed me as his private secretary. So I was the private secretary of the late Emir and I served him for 15 years before it pleased God for me to succeed him on the throne. While serving as his private secretary, I was also in the university as an undergraduate. In fact, I had to return home every week from Jos to ensure that everything was going well as regards doing my job. I was handling many responsibilities in the palace and doing other duties that had to do with the traditional institution here in Kanam before my ascension to the throne. I did not have much time to engage in some activities youths of my age engaged in as I was seriously engaged by palace activities not knowing that I was being groomed for greater responsibility at the palace as an Emir. So, I thank God for everything.
How much do you miss your old life?
I can say that I never missed any old life because except for a brief period when I was in secondary school, I can say that my life, while growing up, revolved round the palace. So the life I was leaving before becoming the Emir is the life that I have continued to live. I only miss my grandfather. You know, my grandfather was ill for three years before he died. He had a mild stroke and so, he could neither walk nor talk. I was the one doing the speaking and the walking for him. I would assist him to sit on the throne and then sit beside him and together, we would do the job. He would nod his head to say yes to the issue brought before him in the palace or shake it to say no, signifying his disapproval if that was the case. That was how we worked together throughout the period he was ill.
How did you feel when you got to know that you would succeed your grandfather on the throne?
Honestly, I felt very grateful to God and I also felt so complete. But somehow, it was a moment of joy on the one hand and sadness on the other hand. This was because my late father was being decorated as the crown prince as he was not there to wear the crown. It would have been him but in God’s infinite mercy, He did it the way He wanted it. I was officially announced by the government as the new Emir on March 30, 2005, but the selection exercise was done the previous day. During the contest, I was told that I scored three votes to emerge as the Emir while the other contender scored only one vote. We were seven that contested the position but two people were eventually nominated and voted for.
How have you been able to ensure that there is peace in Kanam Emirate which has people of many tribes living there, including Hausa, Boghom, Igbo, Jahr, Basharawa and Yoruba?
The secret behind whatever successes we have recorded on the throne is through total submission to the will of God and engaging my people at every stage of affairs. I allow them to state their views and I say mine after that, then we find a common ground. You see, the traditional monarchy in modern times is not the same with how it was practised in those days. Now, it must come with globalisation. You must have an open-door policy that will give room for people to talk and you advise. And then, they look at you as their leader and they accept it. Don’t forget that I rule over people who have the fear of God. When you have people of that nature, everything is made much easier for you as a leader. In Kanam, we have both Muslims and Christians. And in every household in Kanam, you find a mixture of adherents of both religions as family members linked by blood. Even in my house, I’m the Emir of Kanam and I’m a Muslim. I totally believe in Islam but I have brothers and sisters who are Christians. I also have heirs to this throne (referring to the Emir) who are also not Muslims. We look at one another as one irrespective of the religion you profess. If you want to fight, who are you going to fight with? Are you going to fight your brothers or sisters because of religion or what? In one of the churches in Jos, the late Emir’s sister, who is called Mama Kauna, is currently the head of choristers. In Kanam, you hear somebody bearing a Muslim name, but you may later find out that he is a Christian or the other way round. There are so many interesting things to tell you about how we have been living as one people in Kanam. So, that has been the secret.
What has been your biggest challenge since you became the Emir?
I don’t think I have any challenge that is beyond my control. I must always thank God for that because He is the one who has been helping us.
Can you give us a brief history of Kanam?
Kanam is one of the oldest traditional institutions in Plateau State; it even predates Plateau State or even when it was still called Benue-Plateau. The beauty of it is that Kanam is populated by people of different tribes, from various places. For example, we have the Boghom, who have other subtribes known as Kingboghom, Tankwal and Kingpi, where I come from. We also have the Jahr people who have a different dialect and also have subtribes made up of Mbat, Kantana and Garga. They all migrated and settled here. But when you look at the Boghom tribe, the subtribe called the Kingboghom started from an ancient man who happened to settle here earlier. When you talk of the Tankwal, most of them are the Jukuns from the Kwararafa extraction. You also find members of other tribes living peacefully in Kanam. But when you talk of the Kingpi where I hail from, know this royal house is an extraction of the royal house of Kano. We are from the subtribe of the Kutungbawas who were the rulers of Kano before the Jihad and precisely, the 37th Emir of Kano, known as Mohammad Sharefa. They were referred to as the Sarki Kano and often referred to as the seven Hausa before the Jihad. Our great, great grandfather, Mohammad Sharefa, ruled Kano from 1702 till the 1730s, and he fathered my great grandfather who migrated and settled here. He finally moved to this area around 1740 after settling briefly at Ningi, in the present day Bauchi State. So this royal house came here around 1740. On arrival, we met people here but they did not have a unified traditional institution. The people also had the problem of drought. But when our great grandfathers came in, they were able to provide solution to the problem of drought. So that was how we were known in their language as the people who brought out water when they dug the ground. Four clans exist in the community. We have those who do the selection of traditional rulers; we have those who rule as traditional rulers; we also have the kingmakers and we have another clan that is also part of the selection process. This is Kanam and this is the beauty of the community.
It is often said that there has never been a religious crisis in Kanam. Is this true?