His Royal Highness Miskoom Martin Muduutrie Shaldas III, the 31st King of Shendam land in Plateau State was born on January 21, 1953 to the family of Miskoom Shaldas Dongkwap II and Nna Elizabeth Mipuoe as the scion of the Kukur royal family of Shendam. Before his ascension to the throne as the Long Gamai of Shendam, he was installed the “Kanai” by the late Long Gamai HRH. Hubert Shaldas II on February 2012. The “Kanai” title confers seniority among the princes in the two ruling houses. In this interview with Jude Danwam, the traditional ruler explains how he was chosen by the Kingmakers and his vision for the development of his community.
Can you tell us how you became the 31st Long Gamai of Shendam land?
Well, my emergence as the 31st Long Gamai of Shendam land was in line with our tradition. Before you contest for the position of Long Gamai of Shendam you must belong to one of the two royal families: the “Mafe Lotkerem or Mafe Kukur’ of Shendam land and I came from the “Mafe Kukur” ruling house.
Due to my wealth of experience as a local government administrator, and one who is very conversant with activities at the grass root, it was easy to convince the King Makers that I was fit to carry out the task of ruling my people.
The process was very tasking and rigorous, I must say. You know we have six members of the traditional king makers(selectors) and they are the “Kbou, Kasun, Shinduar, Kawap, Nkiong and Kanakur” whom within the period of contest by the princes of the two royal houses filled the vacuum of the Long Gamai of Shendam land created as a result of death of my predecessor. These chieftains who are non-royalist(Ma-saplong) hold the ace as their votes in consonant with the wishes of the gods determine the emergence of a new Long.
As tradition entails, the ‘Kbou’ who is the Chairman of the College of Selectors and the ‘Kanakur’ who assumed guardianship of the entire members of the two royal families would continue to act in very close liaison so as to avoid the emergence of any usurper and also guarantee a hitch-free exercise among many other activities that are not for the Press before I occupy this position.
We understand you were the “Kanai” the highest title a prince can occupy in Shendem land, what is so special about this title?
I was the ‘Kanai’ and the role played by the ‘Kanai’ is that the ‘Kanai’ often serves as a link between the king and the princes. For whatsoever reason, no prince is allowed to approach the king with his own personal problem or needs, he must go through the ‘Kanai’ who is the only person the tradition allows to present your needs or issue to the king.
After the “Kanai” has presented your problem or request and it became necessary for the King to see you then he can sent for you.
Could one say that this position influenced your emergence as the Long Gamai of Shendam land?
Yes, I was the ‘Kanai’ the highest position a prince can occupy in Shendam land but you know the Gamai people have a deep-rooted tradition and based on those laid down traditions and pure conviction by the College of King Makers(selectors) about my kind of person and wealth of experience in local administration contributed to my emergence as the Long Gamai of Shendam land since, I also came from one of the ruling houses.
You are one monarch on the Plateau with a unique identity which , you carved for yourself or is a tradition to carry this elephant stick-pin on your head?
The Gamai people as I earlier said areIdeeply rooted traditional people. What I carry on my head is an old tradition, from years immemorial. This elephant turf-pin you see on my head is the symbol of purity. You cannot carry this if your ways and hands are not clean, that will fetch you serious consequences.
If you enter my palace and look around, you will see the pictures of some of our ancestors carrying this elephant turf-pin who ruled Shendam land as captured by white men; when they came in contact with them centuries ago.
People always say that traditionalist are idol worshipers but I tell you, they pray to the Creator of the world and all that is in it. As a people, our tradition established the presence of “God the creator of the world” and has values that are even contained in the Western religion, we later accepted them and are practicing them today.
With the problem of insecurity facing the Southern Zone of the state, what are traditional rulers doing in this zone to address insecurity?
In those good old days, no stranger came to a community and left without the king’s knowledge because there were various traditional structures, districts heads were there, in various communities and they served as measures of checkmating the society and are expected to know everyone that lives in their areas.
In Shendam alone, security agents are not enough in the local government headquarters talk more of outside the local government. Police men who are in Shendam are not up to 150, so we have to device a way of encouraging our youths to key into Vigilante activities to compliment the effort of the various security agencies in the locality.
You see this Boko Haram menace we are battling with today is as a result of the bastardisation of the traditional processes of checkmating the society. Because every community leader knows his people and as well knows what is happening in his environment.
For us in Southern zone, we have earlier on constituted a security committee which I am the head. The committee recorded some significant results, because at the heat of cattle rustling in Southern zone within Mikang and Langtang LGAs we were able to penetrate there and cattle rustling came to an end. We are still doing our best as custodians of our traditions to sensitise our people and youths to desist from any form of criminal act.
How did you intend to carry out with this responsibility bestowed on your shoulder as the Long Gamai of Shendam land?
You know Shendam LGAs is an old one. It was the administrative headquarters’ of the old colonial government, so I don’t just limit myself to my domain but I reach out to my neighboring LGAs, like Mikang, Qua’an Pan and Langtang LGAs to ensure that we work together for the peaceful coexistence of our people for greater development, so I integrate with other traditional rulers all the time very well.
I have taken it upon myself to run an open door leadership, that is why you can see me with my council members. I don’t claim monopoly of ideas, everybody has one or two things to add to the growth and development of our land and as such I do give room for meaningful contributions.
As the Long Gamai of Shendam land, I do give out my numbers to our people so that they can call me in the event of any happening. And I tell you, sometimes I received calls from people around 12 midnight, sometimes 1.00AM, reporting one thing or the other.
I will use this medium to call on my people to join hands with me for the growth of Shendam land, Southern Plateau State, the entire state and Nigeria as a whole. We must be our brothers’ keepers and be tolerant to one another for the good of our beloved nation Nigeria.