The Emir and the Women of Kanam

June 25, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

TN photo



Prince Charles Dickson



So we took the long and tortuous road to Kanam, a local government some almost three hours outside of Jos. Did I say tortuous, well truth be told; it wasn’t really that bad a road compared to many a Nigerian road, or even roads in Plateau.


We were guests of WOPPI Women for Positive Peacebuilding Initiative. I must say I have been practically to all the 17 local governments of Plateau but not Kanam. The reception was something else. It was a project that was funded by Nexus Fund, a small but very creative group that helps local communities tackle mass atrocities and equally have a big focus on dangerous and hate speech.


Before I go far, Kanam is a Local Government Area in Plateau State, Nigeria. Its headquarters is located in Dengi. We were at Dengi…the sight of herdswomen was almost a first for me, with their female farming counterparts. I am sure you read right. Herdswomen, who not only sold by-products of cattle such as; fura de nono but herdswomen and indeed female farmers. All united!


Kanam has an area of 2,600 km² and a population of 165,898 at the 2006 census. The postal code of the area is 940. And trust me, as with many things Nigerian the Post Office that has that code barely works, not sure a letter has passed through it in ages.


The languages spoken in Kanam are Boghom, Jahr & Basharawa, of course Hausa is spoken, and then it has a proud community of Igbos. You remember, “No Igbo there, don’t go there myth”; Kanam fulfills it. There are Yorubas too, and other ethnic groups well represented in Kanam.


And so we know, Kanam shares borders with Bauchi state and it does with Taraba state too, but as is the case, there are virtually no pliable roads. There are families who are from either Plateau or Bauchi just by virtue of one bush path and choice.


Kanam has an emirate, and the emirate has a steeped history from Kano. They say the name Kanam itself was adulterated from Kano, they have a peculiar history that ties them to Kanam Borno Empire and also the Caliphate, and this adds beauty to them; Kanam is one of the only two emirates in Plateau.


Let me start from the sad situation in Kanam Boghom (also known as Bogghom, Bohom, Burom, Burum, Burrum, and the Hausa people calling them too. Burmawa, Borrom, Boghorom, Bokiyim) is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken by the majority of people in Kanam local government of Plateau State, Nigeria. The Boghom people are mostly farmers, though some of them engage in rearing animals. Historically, hunting was a major occupation of the people too. But this area of Kanam like many suffers gross underdevelopment, in the rains like it is now; they are virtually no means of transportation.


The above is the story of many villages in Plateau and Nigeria in 2018.


Now to part of the meat of my admonishment, my friend the emir of Kanam HRH Muhammadu Mu’azu Muhammadu II is a perfect example of what I probably will refer to as ‘not-too-young-to-govern.’ He had contested the stool with his uncles and came out top. His people love him, he is urbane, educated and charismatic and it was obvious for all to see.


Nigeria needs leadership that is loved by all, an urbane, educated and charismatic ruler. The palatial mosque by his soon to be equally completed palace tells the story of vision. However while it may not be his direct responsibility one wanted to see these visions in the area of education, health, and more.


While we sat with the emir in his palace he pointed to an old woman seated with us; “we once used to go into her kitchen after playing to pick food as kids.” The old woman laughed and the emir proceeded to share his thoughts on gender and conflict resolution.


He said there was need to start paying special attention to the different experiences of women and it was critical in designing successful conflict management and peacebuilding programmes. He talked on the role women play and the obstacles they continue to face in post-conflict resolution and peacebuilding.


Conflicts often force women to organize themselves to safeguard basic necessities and to carry out activities related to, for example, education and healthcare. These activities have a role to play in ensuring lasting peace and governments must ensure women are included in key peace negotiations at all levels.


There are obvious reasons why women are important to the peacebuilding process. For example, they constitute half of every community and men and women in partnership must do the difficult task of peacebuilding. Women are also the central caretakers of families and everyone is affected when they are excluded from peacebuilding. Women are also advocates for peace, as peacekeepers, relief workers and mediators. Women have played prominent roles in peace processes on the Plateau and Kanam particularly.


However, efforts to foreground the perspectives of women in peace processes and to prevent gender-based violence have met with limited success. Women’s participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding is limited by a number of factors, majorly cultural pressures against women putting themselves forward, that pressure women to refrain from travel, and not to engage in important public arenas. Where women do participate, they may not have the required education or training.


Having extensively spoken it was obvious that what WOPPI, and Nexus Fund had done with women in his domain was yielding results.


And whether it is the late Grand Khadi of old Benue-Plateau Justice Yahaya Kanam, Alhaji Inuwa Baba, on time SSA to both Obj and Jonathan, or Dr. Munatsir Kanam, a former Commissioner at the Nigerian Law Reforms Commission, or Professor Alhassan Gani current Vice Chancellor of Federal University Kashere. The just retired, Grand Khadi of Plateau Justice Adamu Kanam; Ibrahim Kafi one-time chairman of the Christian Welfare Board.


Great men from Kaman, but we need to give *ordinary women, like the emir stated the chance to take some form of charge. Kanam is one place that has never experienced a religious crisis and it is in Nigeria. In every Kanam family there is one Christian or Muslim. And so it is in Nigeria, but we have simply refused to fuse, to create synergy to develop…do we want to remain underdeveloped and in perpetual conflict.


Like I was told by the transition caretaker committee chairman, Kanam is one of the most difficult local governments to govern, and so is Nigeria, but for how long will the search for a true and thorough way—Only time will tell.



*To ordinary women like Hajia Lantana, Fatima, Bridget, Maggie, TMK, Patience, Justina, Hajia Mairo, and many women working to bring peace in local communities you are appreciated.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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