Yola — In a small rural community in the southern part of Adamawa State, women have established themselves on the throne, ruling the men for about two and a half centuries. Throughout the history of Arnado Debbo, it has been the exclusive right of women to ascend the throne of Dimgyeb.
The small, rural settlement, about five kilometers from Ganye town, the administrative headquarters of Ganye Local Government Area, is mainly inhabited by small scale farmers and petty traders. The community had flourished as an independent chiefdom until the advent of colonial administration when it came under Sugu District.
Before driving along one of the worst roads in Adamawa to get to the village, visitors have to obtain permission from the district head of Sugu, who usually sends one of his aides with the visitors to facilitate audience with the female ruler through her council members.
In accordance with the tradition of Arnado Debbo, visitors are kept waiting for some time at a small round hut made from mud and thatched roof as the aides work to complete the process of final confirmation from their queen.
As soon as final confirmation is received, visitors are ushered into the modest and traditional compound that shows the history of the throne. The ruler occupies the central hut, which is surrounded by few others. In the central hut, she sits on a simple chair in a thatched porch, with a female aide to her left and male courtiers sitting on a sprawling mat before her.
The 76-year-old Nyagangwu (ruler) of the village, Bintu Namda, was crowned in November 2014 after beating another female contestant to the throne. The contest followed a screening by members of the ruling clan to reduce the number of contesting princesses. She is the 16th ruler in the succession since the first female ruler, Gangwun Sukbarun blazed the trail for women 246 years ago.
Malam Atiku Gende, an 89-year-old council member who has worked with six rulers in the traditional house, explained that the traditional council consists of 10 kingmakers (kemembu), the Yeba (custodian of newly selected rulers) and four elders from the area. He added that the area under the control of the ruler extends to seven surrounding villages, each with its male ward head reporting to the Gangwu.
“The Kemembu are charged with the responsibility of selecting a new ruler. After selection, they keep her in my custody (Yeba) until the day she will be accompanied to the palace. Everything around her must be traditional. She eats from a wooden plate and lives in a traditional room,” he said.
According to him, the history of female rulers began more than two centuries ago when the kingdom was confronted with a mysterious problem – the kings died between three to six months on the throne. So the princess and kingmakers decided to experiment with women as rulers. That’s how the throne was conceded to the womenfolk.
He said the first woman to rule the kingdom reigned for nine years.
According to him, men no longer lay claim to the throne. In fact, it has become a taboo for men to show interest on the throne. He noted that the community is properly guided by the ancient tradition and the people are comfortable with their female rulers.
He said that following the consensus that transferred power to women, Nyagangwu Sukbarub ruled for nine years while the second female ruler, Nyagangwu Seuduu ruled for 22 years. Also, Nyagangwu Jubkuna ruled for 31 years, Nya Gangwu Shukji ruled for 17 years and Nyagangwu Kuhube who ruled for eight years.
Gende further said that Nyagangwu Nyagyeb ruled for 41 years; Nygangwu Nyabuu, 18 years; Nyagangwu Saante, 25 years; Nyagangwu Gan Ya Khantso, 11 years; Nyagangwu Nyasir, 16 years; Nyagangwu Wekangshi, 21 years; Nyagangwu Umma Toro, 17 years; and Nyaganwu Astadukko Buba, eight years.
The present ruler, Nyagangwu Bintu Namda, has so far spent two years on the throne, he said.
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