Monthly Archives: January 2009

Interviews with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria

Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN, at Cannes 2008 (c) Ahmad Sarari

Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN, at Cannes 2008 (c) Ahmad Sarari

Before I go into more detail about my interviews with the director general of the Kano State Censorship Board and with the Vice President of MOPPAN, Dr. Ahmad Sarari, let me just give a quick update on the Iyan Tama case, which Dr. Sarari told me about. He said that the judge didn’t want to just “quash the judgment already done by the previous judge,” so he suggested that they “should compile a fresh new appeal” (which they did the following day). “So the latest development now is the constitution of the station panel, which will review the case and look at the previous judgment of the case and come out with a final conclusion, a final verdict on the case.” Dr. Sarari said that the advantage of this “special panel of jurists” would be that “if something comes out of that sitting, there will be no case to appeal for Iyan Tama. He will just be out pending on the termination of the final judgment.”

 

I asked him about about the thirty day deadline Justice Mukhtar Ahmed had given him on December 30 to appeal his sentence, and asked if this continuous delay of the appeal by the court would affect that. Sarari answered that he had discussed this issue with the lawyer. “He said that has no impact on the constitution of this special panel. Because that is we were afraid of, because Iyan-Tama has already been almost 28 or 27 days in prison, so we have two to three days for the time to lapse.”

(For more background information on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)

Now for some of the other details of the interviews: 

I interviewed Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim on Tuesday January 27, 2009. I went with a journalist I met last week, and “Malam Rabo,” as he is called here in Kano, kindly welcomed me to his office and allowed me to interview him after he said azahar prayers. I’m a bit embarrassed I wasted so much of his time (over an hour and 8,500+ words), but though he grew a bit impatient towards the end (I really did keep asking too many questions…) , he answered almost all of my exhaustive list of questions. He was quite gracious, but as the interview went on I could see that he is passionate about his calling to protect “Hausa-Fulani culture from illicit and alien influences.” He shed some more light on the Kano State interpretation of Iyan Tama’s “crimes.”

 

The most unfortunate part of the interview was that my digital recorder cut out at one point without me realizing it had gone off. And, excruciatingly, it cut out on the most important questions I was asking him, namely about the Iyan Tama case. Fortunately, I usually take extensive notes, so I was able to reconstruct the main gist of what he said. I will place here a summary of what he said about the Iyan Tama case, which will hopefully not conflict with the copyright of the two articles I am writing from these interviews. 

I asked him about several points that confused me about the case

 

1)Iyan Tama was charged with not having registered his company with the censorship board, but he has a receipt for registration with the board dated 2008, which anyone interested can view at http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com 

Malam Rabo answered that a receipt for payment was evidence of payment for the registration but is not the registration certificate itself, which requires further paperwork, letters from the bank, local government area etc. He asked me if I had a receipt for application to the university whether it would be proof of my admission, and then said, “of course it wouldn’t be.” He claimed that Iyan Tama had refused to follow up on the initial payment with the rest of the paperwork.

 

2) I pointed out that Part IV, item 16 of the 2001 Censorship law, which he says is the law under which filmmakers are currently being tried, says that “no films produced or issued by the diplomatic representative of a foreign country will be subject to censorship law.” Iyan Tama’s film Tsintsiya was sponsored by the U.S. embassy, so why is it being tried for not having been censored under this law? 

Malam Rabo answered that this was only one part of the law and that elsewhere there are other specifications for how to gain exemption from censorship. He said that to receive this exemption, you must apply to the board. He also said that the law was intended for non-profit educational type projects and that Iyan Tama’s film was a “purely commercial venture” and was not exempt under the law.

 

3) I asked him about how Iyan Tama had made public statements about how his film was not for sale in Kano. Why was he being held responsible for copies of the film which may have been smuggled into the states and sold by unrelated marketers? 

Malam Rabo basically said that if Iyan Tama did not want to be responsible for the films sold in the state, then public announcements were not enough. He had to communicate officially with the board about that.

 

From Malam Rabo’s office I went immediately to Klassique Productions, the office of Dr. Ahmad Sarari, elder brother (same father) of Iyan Tama and Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria. Dr. Sarari is an extremely kind and gracious man. He was trained as an epidemiologist in Russia and worked for years in a hospital. It was only a few years ago that he quit his job to focus on full time filmmaking—a pursuit the censorship crisis has greatly affected. I waited in his office while he did the La’asar prayers, and was particularly interested in a trophy sitting on his desk from the Kano State Censorship Board. When he came back in from his prayers, I asked him about it and he said that Iyan Tama had also received several awards for the Censorship Board for making good moral socially constructive films.

 

I asked him to respond to what Malam Rabo had said about Iyan Tama’s case. He said

1) In the issue of the receipt. It was true that there were other materials that Iyan Tama was gathering for the registration, but that he was in the process of acquiring materials that took quite some time to receive from banks and local government areas. He pointed out that almost all of the filmmakers in Kano were going through the same process of gathering files. Iyan Tama had also earlier told us, when I visited him in prison the first time, that the censorship board had not released certificates to anyone by the time he was arrested in May 

2) Dr. Sarari said that the law did make the provision for the exemption of films sponsored by foreign development agencies, but stated that in Iyan Tama’s case this law was not even relevant, because Iyan Tama had decided he would not release the film Tsintsiya in Kano State. One of the reasons for this was that Kano State had a ban on singing and dancing in films and there was singing and dancing (“though moral singing and dancing” Sarari hurried to point out) in Tsintsiya (as any good adaptation of West Side Story, not to mention Hausa film would!). So, whether he could have legally released the film in Kano State or not, he chose not to release it at all and made announcements on radio stations and in major newspapers that the film was not for sale in Kano State.

 

3) When I asked him about Malam Rabo’s insistence that there must be an official communication with the censorship board about the film not being released in the state, he responded passionately, asking what was Iyan Tama’s business with the censor’s board if he had entirely produced, exhibited and released the film outside of Kano state, and had the approval and support of agencies like the National Film and Video Censors Board and the National Film Corporation. Just because Iyan Tama is a “Kano man” does not mean he cannot go elsewhere to make and exhibit his films, he argued. “Why does he have to come inform the censor’s board that “I want to release my film in Kaduna.” Where is their area of jurisdiction? Their area of jurisdiction is Kano, right? am I right? So, they don’t have the power beyond Kano, and he released the film outside of Kano. So he wouldn’t have had to come inform the board, I want to do this and that, since he has no business to do in Kano.” 

Finally, when I asked him about Malam Rabo telling me about there being multiple places where the film was found in Kano, Sarari said that he had been at every court case and that the censorship board had not been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any marketer had received the film from Iyan Tama. He clarified that the copies of the film they had used in court were impounded from CD Palace, the shop owned by HRB Productions. But they had not been in the counter or in the main shop area; the police had broken into an office and found a few copies of the film in a desk drawer. These particular copies belonged to the actor Baballe Hayatu, who was the star of Tsintsiya, and he had been given copies of the film for his own personal use.

 

There was much more to the interviews with both gentlemen, but I will let it rest there for now, and I welcome either of them to leave comments on this blog if they have any corrections or additions.

Triumph/Trust Editorial convergences

Yes, Yes, I know I promised to post updates from my interviews with the director general of the censorship board and VP of MOPPAN. Bear with me, I’m having technology (namely NEPA and internet) problems. But I just wanted to make a quick post noting an interesting convergence between a couple of editorials I have noticed in the government owned Daily Triumph, appearing a few weeks later in the Abuja Based Daily Trust. Now, this isn’t necessarily an unusual thing. After all the report I started this blog with was published in about four different avenues (with the publication’s knowledge that it was elsewhere on the internet).  However, the voice and the tone of these editorials is remarkably similar, and I saw this same Mohammed Mahmud greatly defending the earlier Asabe Muktar/Murtala on the Finafinan Hausa listserve. Could they be one and the same?

Check it out

Iyan Tama, U.S., and Kano censors board by Asabe MURTALA published in the Daily Triumph, 23 December 2009

Iyan Tama, U.S., and Kano censors board by Asabe MUKTAR published in the Daily Trust 8 January 2009

Kannywood: The Unruly Vs. the Society by Mohammed Mahmud published in the Daily Triumph 21 January 2009

Kannywood: The Unruly Vs. the Society by Mohammed Mahmud published in the Daily Trust 28 January 2009

Come back later for details of my interview with Iyan-Tama’s brother and the Director General of the Censorship Board yesterday

I am currently busily transcribing interviews for a couple of articles that are due (elsewhere) soon, but wanted to write a quite note to alert readers to come back later in the day for details of my interviews yesterday with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, the Vice President of MOPPAN and also the blood brother of Iyan-Tama, and with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board.

Both interviews were quite informative about the ongoing Iyan-Tama case, and Dr. Sarari gave more details on the intimidation of Iyan-Tama’s family the night before the court case last week.

After the articles I’m working on are published, I hope to publish the full transcripts of the interviews here (including a brief interview with President of MOPPAN Sani Mu’azu).

(For more background information about the censorship crisis in Kano, see this report.)

Iyan-Tama’s case “not listed”

Today I arrived for Iyan-Tama’s rescheduled appeal (readers will remember that it had been scheduled for Thursday but the chief justice suddenly had to travel–see two posts back) at 9:51am. The appeal was scheduled for 9:30am, so I was afraid I was late. I waited until 10:43am in the back of the court room with a few other journalists (lawyers at the front), for the chief justice to arrive.

He said that the case was “not listed.”

This is the third appeal case I’ve been to that has been delayed. The first one was dismissed because the court was not satisfied with the way the appeal was prepared. The second one was postponed because the chief justice travelled, and now this third one was “not listed.”  I do not have a lot of experience in courts of law, but it makes me wonder if all cases have this problem or if it is just Iyan-Tama’s….

For more background on Iyan-Tama’s case see our report on the censorship crisis in Kano.

2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s family

Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama with his family. Courtesy of freeiyantamas flickr photostream

Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama with his family. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of freeiyantama’s flickr photostream)

 

UPDATE 27 January 2009: Article in Leadership by Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz about the attack

(see also on BBC and TopNews.IN)

UPDATE 26 January 2009: Iyan Tama’s appeal postponed again when chief justice says it was “not listed.”

Sitting in an internet cafe, enjoying the non-stop Hausa musical selection (including such banned hits as Maryam A. Baba’s “Rabo Rabo” and Nazifi Asenik’s “Dawo Dawo”) coming from the administrator’s computer, I was writing my advisor an email, when I recieved the following text:

Iyantama’s house was stormed by unknown people who claimed to be sent by some people to terrorise his family. The incidence took place on thursday around 2:15am. The terrorists did not take anything out of the house.

The hearing of the second appeal of Iyantama’s case is scheduled to take place on monday 26/1/09 at court one Audu Bako secretariat kano by 9:30am.”

(from a member of the MOPPAN Exco. [not sure if i should put the name])

(For more background on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)

Kano State High Court Chief Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s appeal

UPDATE: 26 January 2009: Iyan-Tama’s appeal postponed again when Chief Justice says his case “not listed.”

 

 

I went at 9:30 am to High Court 1 at Audu Bako secretariat for Iyan-Tama’s appeal case, which I had been informed of yesterday by a journalist friend and also Dr. Umar Faruk Jibril, the secretary of MOPPAN (The Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria) and Head of Department of the Department of Mass Communications at Bayero University. After being led up to the High Court by a friendly guard, I found Ahmad Alkanawy of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies, Sani Maikatanga of Fim Magazine, and other reporters from Trust, Leadership, BBC, gathered to wait outside the court. After some time, we heard that apparently the Chief Justice, a politically appointed judge who was to hear the case and apparently set the date, travelled and the case will be postponed until tomorrow or Monday.

 

After spending some time chatting with journalists, I went with National President of MOPPAN, Sani Mu’azu and other members of MOPPAN exco, to Goron Dutse Prison to see Iyan-Tama. This is the second time I have been to see Iyan-Tama in this prison. After depositing our phones and bags, we went through heavy iron doors to a dusty court yard and a small office where after a few minutes Iyan-Tama arrived. He joked with the friendly “keeper” and other guards and said (in Hausa–my translation from my memory of what he said) that he was fine. He didn’t have a problem in the prison; he just wanted to get out and continue with his life.  He also explained that if someone was trying to find the registration for his company “Iyan-Tama Multimedia” and neglected to put in the hyphen, it would not show up in the search. That would explain the “mysterious” (see discussion on the Finafinan Hausa listserve from people who had never heard of her in the film industry or in related publications and accuse “her” of being a front for someone else) Asabe Muktar’s claim in the Daily Trust of 8 January that “Hamisu Iyan Tama did not register with the Corporate Affairs Commission” because “she” supposedly,

 

” applied for registration to the Corporate Affairs Commission with the names of the two companies, i.e. IYAN TAMA MULTI MEDIA LTD and LENSCOPE MEDIA SERVICES LTD. As it is normally done the names would go for “Availability check and Reservation of Name” at the CAC office. The following information followed my applications: [.... Lenscope Media was found to be registered, while]

 

2. IYAN TAMA MULTI MEDIA LTD, a letter/notice form from the CAC was sent with the following as content: “The CAC is pleased to inform you that one of your requested names has been approved and will be reserved for 60 days. Approved Name: IYAN TAMA MULTI MEDIA LTD. Serial Number: 1394473 Reserved Until: 25/7/2008. Approved By: Oyindamola Daramola. Submitted By: Ibrahim Adamu. “So Hamisu Iyan Tama did not register with the Corporate Affairs Commission.”

 

Of course, since “she” did not put “Iyan-Tama” with a hyphen the search would not have come up with “Iyan-Tama Multimedia.” It struck me as somewhat suspect that “she” would “trust” a bureaucratic search over a hard copy of a receipt from CAC that Iyan Tama presented before the court. I had also been surprised to see it in the Trust, because I had seen a slightly different version in The Daily Triumph, a state government-owned publication, which regularly publishes editorials condemning the film industry. (See also this recent article by Muhammad Mahmud in The Daily Triumph, a vocal supporter of the mysterious “Asabe” on the Finafinan Hausa listserve.)

 

Following our visit, I also did a brief interview with Sani Mu’azu, which I am going to try to get published. If I do, I’ll post a link here. If not, I’ll post the entire interview here. (UPDATE: 12 February 2009. Here is the interview with Sani Mu’azu.)

 

(For more background information about the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)

The Heroism of Ordinary People: An Interview with Helon Habila

Nigerian writer Helon Habila at the Göteborg B...

Nigerian writer Helon Habila at the Göteborg Book Fair 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an interview I did with Nigerian novelist Helon Habila about a year ago, November 2007. I did my MA thesis on his novel Waiting for an Angel, and was thrilled to get to interview him for Leadership newspaper.

Award winning novelist Helon Habila grew up in Gombe State. After earning his BA in English at the University of Jos in 1995, he taught at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi. Moving to Lagos in 1999, he became the arts editor at the Vanguard and wrote a novel, published as Waiting for An Angel in 2002, which won the Caine Prize for African Fiction in 2001 and the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2003. Habila has published stories, articles, and poems in journals world-wide and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of East Anglia. After a stint as the first Chinua Achebe fellow at Bard College in New York, Habila took a position at George Mason University where he teaches creative writing. He is in Nigeria from November 17 to November 24 to promote his second novel Measuring Time. In this interview on behalf of LEADERSHIP, he speaks with Carmen McCain, a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, about his writing.

CARMEN MCCAIN: I was wondering what your creative process is like. Where do your stories come from?

HABILA: I really cannot say exactly, but I am really inspired by books. Sometimes I write in reaction to books I have read. Then there is also my experience: Measuring Time has a lot of that—my experiences as a child growing up. There was a time when I realised that I wanted to write about my hometown. From that moment whatever I did I viewed it through the eyes of fiction, thinking of how to represent the people I met, the things I did, the places I saw. I was thinking of them as already a part of my book that I was going to write. I was going to write Measuring Timeeven before I started writing Waiting for an Angel.

In both of your novels the act of writing itself seems to take on a political significance. What, to you, is the political responsibility of the writer?

Well, quite a lot, especially as an African writer. I think there is that tradition which started from the first generation of African writers. They were writing against the whole colonial system, which was very repressive, very racist, very dictatorial. They actually used to have congresses where they would discuss the best way to write fiction in a way that would address the political issues of the day. Even before that, in traditional African society, from the folk tales, there’s always a kind of moral lesson, a kind of didacticism that is seen as an aesthetic part of that story. So politics more or less becomes an aesthetic in African fiction. There are no boundaries between what is purely political and what is art. Art becomes politics and politics becomes art. So I think people like me who find themselves in that tradition, and have that temperament, that awareness of what is going on, who feel that things shouldn’t be the way they are, have a duty to speak out. It is tradition and it’s also a matter of temperament, because there are definitely writers in Africa who don’t write about politics. They write art for art’s sake, or whatever you want to call it.

Could you say more about the influences of Hausa literature on

Helon Habila liest, P13

Helon Habila liest, P13 (Photo credit: lutzland)

your writing?

Definitely. I grew up reading the translation of One Thousand and One Nights in Hausa and the works of Abubakar Imam, Magana Jari Ce, Ruwan Bagaja, etc. So there is that magical or folkloric representation of reality, which is very different from pure realism. I was definitely influenced by that. And before that I was also influenced by folktales told to me by women in the compound. So, these Hausa books I discovered later were almost a continuation of that story tradition with the magical elements, spirit figures and things like that.

Both of your novels deal with history. In Measuring Time, the character Mamo wants to write a biographical history. Is this one of your own goals?

Definitely, I think so. Because so much that we have is fast fading away and being taken over by the modern, I see writing itself as cultural conservation. That is exactly what Mamo’s project is, conserving the history of people…, because they were misrepresented by the [missionary] Reverend Drinkwater. If you represent what has been misrepresented, you are putting the records right. And that is what history is supposed be. Taking moments of glory, and also ordinary moments—moments of humanity, of value to the community, and putting it down in books. It doesn’t have to be about generals, it doesn’t have to be about chiefs, it could be about ordinary people, their heroism. That is the whole point of the book, that lives should be celebrated, regardless of what office or what lack of office that person has.

Newton Aduaka, the winner of the Golden Yennenga Stallion at the FESPACO film festival, is making a film based on Waiting for an Angel. How involved have you been with this?

I’m not really involved. I’m just the author of the novel. I see film as being totally different from literature. They are both narrative art forms, but they have different ways of representing their story, their subject. I trust him as an artist. I think my novel is strong enough to stand on its own, even if the movie is a bit different in some of its portrayals.

Have you ever thought of writing a screenplay or becoming involved in film?

I really want to do that some day. Some people approached me to write a movie script. I started writing it and then it became a novel! I’m really enjoying the experience. I don’t know how far it’s going to go, but I’m definitely going to go into movies one of these days. To write, or even direct, if I have the chance. The movie industry is just incredible, and I think this is the moment to get involved.
All right, thank you so much.

Thank you, you’re welcome.