Monthly Archives: June 2009

Recent news on the activities of the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board

 Recently the Director General/Executive Secretary of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim has been receiving quite a bit of publicity from the local press about recent actions taken to control creative expression in Northern Nigeria.

Several news sources have reported that Alhaji Rabo has been on a campaign around northern Nigeria encouraging other states to implement censorship boards. Nigerianfilms.com (likely plagiarizing from another unlisted sources, as is their tendency—I’ve had my own experience with that…) reports  on May 14 2009 that he visited the Borno Commisioner for Information, Dr. Bukar Usman, saying, `

`We are in Borno to seek for collaborative efforts to tackle a menace that is ravaging the entire Northern states. I am talking about the Hausa Video Film Industry.” […]

He said the film makers had deliberately changed the original concept of Hausa culture by introducing elements from Indian films. 

“The characteristic of the Hausa film today is that of `sing and dance’ adopted from the Indian culture. 
“This no doubt has poisoned and adulterated the rich cultural heritage of the Hausa man which is cherished all over the world,” he said. 
He said the practice was a violation of professional ethics by the actors as it was not in consonance with the provision of the Nigerian constitution. 

[NOTE: Could someone please explain to me how singing and dancing is a violation of professional ethics or of the Nigerian constitution?]

“We have been misrepresented by the actors as a group of unserious individuals who have nothing to show but sing and dance. 
“This must stop now, because we are duty bound to ensure that the situation is rectified without delay,’’ he said. 
He said that the state government had taken drastic action to arrest the situation. 
“But most of the actors have shifted base to neighboring states such as Kaduna, Kastina and Borno. 

The Commissioner of Information from Borno state said in response that

“We are ready to team up with you to achieve the desired goal.’’

  Ibrahim Sidi Muh’d of Leadership of 9 June notes that the Zamfara State Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Danmaliki

described the efforts applied by the Kano censorship board as commendable and worthy of emulation by all Muslims,” urging for the “Federal Government to ban all pornographic satellite stations managed by some western countries.” 

[NOTE: Interestingly many of the people in the North I know who have satellite, have Nile-Sat, a satellite company based in Egypt, but which nonetheless includes  Western stations like Fox Movies and MTV in their satellite lists.]

Leadership of 22 June 2009 reports that in a paper presented at Ahmadu Bello University’s Centre for Islamic Studies, Zaria,  

 “Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, yesterday reiterated that the Kano State government will not allow Hausa film producers to destroy the rich norms, culture and religious standing of the people.”

 Jaafar Jaafar in the Sunday Trust 21 June 2009, p. 42, [I typed this from a hard copy so sorry there’s no link]  reports that the

“Kano State branch of Books, Stationary and Sports Dealers Association (BSSDA) has accused the Kano State Film Censorship Board of intimidation saying its members are being made to pay ‘illegal registration fees.’”

The chairman of the association Chief Victor Okonkwo says,

“We got a copy of the law from the Kano State House of Assembly and it clearly shows that their main area is film and cinema, as well as pornographic publications. I find it difficult to reconcile their position of wanting us to register with them. We deal in textbooks and exercise books for primary and secondary schools; we believe the books have been censored already by their publishers.”

Okonkwo said that “after all the payments to the local government and the ministry of commerce for sundry taxations” he said the court should “take the association to court for a better interpretation of the law.”

[Update 27 June 2009. This story was also carried in The Guardian on 14 June 2009. According to 

Adamu Abuh of the Guardian

Okonkwo who addressed journalists in kano yesterday disclosed that dozens of his members have been hounded and manhandled by officials of the board and the police without recourse to laid down rules.

Brandishing a copy of the law establishing the censorship board in 2001, Okonkwo described the imposition of registration fee of N5, 000 on the association as well as payment of N3000 per each of his member annually as unacceptable.

[...]

Reacting, the Director General of the Censorship Board, Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim faulted Okonkwo’s claim saying that officials of his board have not breached the provisions of the laws

He disclosed that his board is empowered by law to exercise oversight function on published works, vendors and distributors academic or non academic publications.

He said: “We are mandated by the law to make sure these practitioners are operating within the confines of the law which requires that they are registered and once they have been registered, we are required to issue them license to operate.

“it is in respect to that that we have been operating and we have been so magnanimous by trying to bring all stakeholders on board by the implementation of the law taking cognizance of the latitude that we should be humane ordinarily it is a popular saying that ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law.”

Rabo waved aside the threat of any court action against his board adding that arrangement have been concluded to ensure that those who contravene the provisions of the law establishing the film and censors are made to face the wrath of the law.)

 The most dramatic news, however, was the ban by the censorship board through the “mobile court” attached to it on “listening, sale and circulation ” of 11 Hausa songs which directly or indirectly critique those who “prevent us from doing our work.” Here are the articles from Leadership (republished on Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz’s blog) and the Kano-state government owned Daily Triumph.

 

Rabo has recently given a few interviews related to these activities to Al-Amin Ciroma in Leadership Hausa, and to Salisu Ahmed Koki, who released the interview on the listserves “writersforumkano@yahoogroups.com” and nurul-islam@yahoogroups.com. Publisher of Fim Magazine and Editor of Leadership newspaper, Ibrahim Sheme, re-published the interview on his personal blog:

 In the preface to the Hausa Leadership interview “Manyan Fulogan Shekarau Biyu na Neman Fesa wa Juna Tartsatsin Wuta,” roughly translated as “[Governor] Shekarau’s administration fight among themselves” (sorry, I’ve lost the poetry of the original), Ciroma describes some of the songs recently banned by the board. He points out [as I did a few posts back] that after Adam Zango’s song “Oyoyo” was released was poking fun at the government for imprisoning him and only increasing his popularity, a song was released by the K-Boyz threatening and insulting Zango. [NOTE: The song repeated many of the critiques by government employees and other elite against the film and entertainment industry, albeit with more “batsa”—“obscene” language. For more information about the song and its relation to other of the songs that are now banned, see Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu’s analysis here.] According to Al-Amin Ciroma, the rumour was that the director of the Kano State Pilgrim’s welfare board, Sani Lawal Kofar Mata, a Shekarau supporter and stakeholder in the film industry who is vying for governorship in 2011,  had sponsored the K-Boyz song, in defence of  Shekarau. He is also rumoured to have sponsored Ala, whose song Hasbunallah, which asks God to curse with ill-health those who are persecuting artists, is also on the banned list. 

In the interview [Please note that this was all in Hausa, so I am here writing my own translations/summaries of the conversation. If anyone notices any mistakes, please correct me. Also, as I perfect my translation of the interview, I will try to add more/make corrections to this document], Rabo tells Ciroma that The Censorship board is looking for any offensive song which has made its way to the public without permission of the censorship board. He says these songs spoil culture, such as the translation of the English obsenity “mother fucker”  which “Europeans without proper upbringings use.”  He said that these were the types of songs that were being used to insult leaders, or even culture or religion.  He also gave the examples of songs that “lie to the masses” by “spoiling the reputation of the government” or “telling lies about the governor.” “These songs have been released without permission.” Rabo, however, stated that the court had banned the songs while he was out of town, even exceeding the total number of songs the board had planned to ban.

When Ciroma asked if the Board had a law preventing music without permission, Rabo said that “Our law shows that anyone in the entertainment profession whether praisesinging or film or books or singing has a duty, before he releases it to bring it to be vetted, and to have removed anything that could spoil religion, culture, customs or the reputation of tradition. But this doesn’t prevent those who feel like they can break the law—that is those who complain… that the laws of the people of Kano don’t do for them, so they can spoil the reputation of Kano people. For them nothing will do except a law that says they should continue to maliciously injure the reputation of Kano.[…]”

 Rabo said that “anyone who dreamed that he was too big to follow the law,” would be caught out.

 Ciroma pointed out that there are those who can say that those who sang to spoil the reputation of Adam Zango were not punished by the board but now that someone has done a song with Ibro’s voice saying that the government had harmed him, that’s when the board will move to ban the song.

Rabo answered that any song, even if it takes the perspective of the government, is banned if it uses obscene language. He said that particular song had been released while he was in Saudiya Arabia.

When asked about how Kofar Mata had hired the singer Ala to sing a political song on CTV (state television), and who then had his production company office “visited” by censorship board officials, Rabo replied that those who under the censorship board’s jurisdiction should expect the board to visit at anytime to make sure they are doing things correctly.

 

The  second interview with Rabo by Salisu Ahmed Koki and published on the internet site groups, can be found here.

Salisu Ahmed Koki prefaces the interview with an essay on the history of the Hausa film industry, starting out with a celebratory tone:

 “And just like the tiny and equally soullessly-wrapped up pupae growing into a beautifully designed and flip-flying butterfly that can fly to various destinations at will, the Hausa popular drama has transmogrified into Home Videos that evenly instigates cultural fusion and diffusion whose implications and impact on the Hausa culture critics posits is an area yet to be fully appreciated by researchers.”

 

The essay then moves to record the many complaints that have been made against “Kannywood.”

“They are said to be employing unorthodox, unprofessional and fluke-characterized techniques and methodologies in writing, acting and shooting their now widely condemned movies.”

 

Similarly,

 

“Most of the Hausa film makers are accused of distorting the closely guarded Hausa culture which by all indications served as the sole excuse ceased by the present administration in Kano State to take stringent majors in curbing the excesses of this so-called rogue Hausa film makers.”

 

Part of what was seen as the “cultural destruction” via the film industry were the sensational reports of a polygamous lesbian wedding apparently involving one or two film actresses:

 

Part of the symptoms of the alleged excesses of the present crop of Hausa filmmakers is said to be the almost uncontrollable pollution of the closely guarded and respected Hausa culture that leads to some female admirers of Hausa Filmmakers to publicly showcase their sexual orientation, meaning that some women did publicly declare that they are going to emulate Californians by getting married to each other publicly and fearlessly, an action viewed by many as a taboo. It is a story of awe and confusion and it is what can rightly be described as the most demeaning abuse of fame ever to bear its ugly head out of the now allegedly promiscuous Hausa film industry; a rare show of feminine crudity and a terrifying tale of rumpus manifestation of prevalent lesbianism that is eating deep into the fabrics of Kanywood.

 

(NOTE that in an interview with BBC, the supposed “groom” of the occasion, Aunty Maidugari, disputed the allegations, denying that the occasion was a wedding or involved lesbians. The BBC article reports that:

She said the elaborate wedding celebration held on Sunday was actually a ceremony to raise money for the women’s weddings to men.

She said: “One of them gets a husband to marry so I organised in order to get something sorted.”

The theatre where the ceremony took place has since been demolished by Kano city’s authorities.

Eyewitnesses said there was a large turnout and guests were given leaflets as a souvenir showing Aunty Maiduguri surrounded by her “brides”.

But she said the words on the pamphlets meant “love and understanding”.

“They are my sisters, what will I put apart from love and understanding or love and kindness?”

 

These allegations of “feminine crudity,”  “uncontrollable pollution,” and “alleged promiscuousness” of Kannywood stakeholders  indicate that one of the greatest fears about Kannywood, as indicated by popular imagination and in media propaganda, is an anxiety about women’s bodies and women acting independently of  male regulation. )

 Salisu Koki’s essay continues:

 “Soon followed an announcement that the government has sternly banned all forms of Gala and stage plays to be performed by men and women of the Hausa film industry, indefinitely!”

 

The essay that has gone from a celebration to the history of the Hausa film to a litany of current condemnations, transitions into an interview with Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, the self-identified Director General of the Kano State Film and Video Censor’s Board (although the law instituting the censor’s board makes mention only of an “executive secretary”) and also formerly Deputy Commandant of the Kano State Hisbah Board.  (To see  the interview I carried out with Alhaji Rabo in January of this year, click here).

 

In both the interview with Salisu Koki and myself, Rabo emphasized that the Kano State Censorship Board is not unique.

 

“it is because of the need in every responsible society or community to have moral values been upheld and things done the right way to the taste of the uniqueness of the individual community or society that censorship is accorded a unique priority in the history of mankind, this is why you see Censorship Board in the history of the Greeks, you see it in the history of the Persian Empire, in that of Europe, and in that of the United States America in particular which emanates from the need to build a ‘hays code’.”

 

[NOTE: For more information on the Hays Code, Rabo often cites, see this wikipedia article. The code was abandoned in 1968 for the MPAA Rating System.] Later on in the interview when asked about the court cases between the KSCB and the filmmakers, he raises this topic again:

 

I hope our stakeholders are not mistaking by seeing the KFCB as a home of punitive measures, as if we are the only one. Punitive measures taken by a censorship board globally is the tradition, even NFCVB use to take defaulters before a court of law, High Court of justice for that matter; our is ordinary Magistrate Courts where the provision of the law is very light and mild.

[NOTE: Readers may recall that film stakeholders Adam Zango, Rabilu Musa (AKA Dan Ibro) and Hamisu  Lamido Iyan-Tama were given the "light and mild" punishments of three months, two months, and three months in prison respectively, for varying percieved offences.]

  Now what I will like people to appreciate our own measures as excellent nd is better than that which is obtainable in the US for instance; the logic is this, employment preventive measures is far better than curative, because it is our tradition, it’s our religion to guide stakeholders, preventing him/her from defaulting or erring. Now, what we are doing is before you are allowed to go ahead and kick start the shooting you are required to first of all submit to consultants the proposed script for the film for their vetting, so after been vetted by the consultant, tell me who will complain on it on merit? Unlike allowing somebody accomplished the project, and allowing him to release it into the market and then when some foul are found in it, you then effect an arrest or ban order, is this wise? And believe me that’s what is obtainable in the US, that’s their version of censoring. Our preventive measures can be regarded as Shari’ah and also the tradition of the Hausa Fulani.

 

Rabo relates that the need for censorship in Kano State was precipitated by the

 

“confusion, or rather mix-up of cultural values which was largely attributed to foreign influence and the weird culture of blind copy-cating of foreign cultures by most of the Hausa filmmakers which results to public outcry in the 1999-2000 of then Kano”

 

He reinforces that the establishment of the Kano State Censor’s Board is constitutional:

 

And the interesting thing was the power giving to the state governments in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whereby state governments are regarded or rather are given the leverage to go ahead and establish their respective state Censorship Bodies on film making and other thearitical activities and section 16 of the 1999 constitution of the concurrent legislative list is the main bedrock which result to this very kind of state Censorship Board Law, meaning that what we are doing is in consonant with the constitution of the federal republic

 

 [NOTE: The constitutionality of the board is, however, being challenged in a lawsuit by the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria against the Kano State Censorship Board and other bodies in a Federal High Court. In the most recent hearing, the high court judge threw out the objections to the lawsuit brought by the Kano State Censor’s Board)

 

In discussing filmmaking, Rabo says that professional education is necessary:

 

Considering film making as a profession just like journalism and accountancy, we don’t want to believe that illiteracy can bring the needed security into the filmmaking fold, rather the skill, and the knowledge. We are emphasizing on skill acquisition, this is our primary responsibility, and this is why all professional crew are mandated to have the basic training, to have the basic knowledge of filmmaking before they are certified to either direct, to produce, or act a professional role in a film. Of course there are artists that have abundant talent, and some can be special artistes, but notwithstanding how talented somebody is or gifted by the Almighty if he is taken to a film school where he will be groomed, if he is well shaped by the professionales that knows the film business bette, he will fare better in the film making business compared to when he or she is on her own.  

 

He also seems to see a certain amount of civil servicization of the film industry a way to move it forward:

 

“Also, the issue of a production firm to have the basic office accommodation where at least a computer system is there with a Secretary ought to be considered and checkmated. Most of the companies before we are here are nominal, nominal in the sense that they are nowhere to be found. Most of the so-called production companies believe you me, are mobile and they are not there. Believe you me, we would by God’s grace try to standardize things, and we can only do that with the cooperation and understanding of the stakeholders, that we are out for their betterment, and if they cannot appreciate that, then that’s their problem. Most of them exist without the knowledge of their local authorities; their respective local government authorities don’t even know them, because they don’t have office accommodation. What we are now insisting on is that, you must go back to the local government where you are located, be registered, and be introduced to us by your local government authority before we register you, that’s the best way for us to help the government fetch the required tax from the companies and that’s why we are saying that a tax clearance certificate must accompany your application, and the most astonishing thing to us is that all these to them are stringents, they consider every measure to sanitize and breed order to the system, a stringent measure. That’s why they complain and I don’t think we will compromise on this.

With regard to popular opinion about the actions of the KSBC as being a “personal” or “political” mission, Rabo claims that:

 

“We are on a professional and legal mission, not on political or related issues; I can assure you here and now that there is no any sentiment attached to our activities.”

 

Rabo also claims that with regard to problems faced by the board:

 

“ The problem of non-confidence by the general public in the products churned out by our crops of filmmakers is a central problem, and if confidence is lost, everything is lost, and that confidence is what we are assiduously working towards restoring. The crux of the matter is and will be the pursuit of excellence and professionalism in film making and that’s why we are all out to see to it that we will not leave stakeholders that are fond of dishing out all rubbish for the viewership of the teeming public unturned or alone, we will touch you, the way you molest the law; we will deal with you, the way you negatively dealt with the law;”

On Students, optimism, and movies they like

Last week while sitting in the high court waiting for the next hearing in the  MOPPAN lawsuit against the Kano State Censorship Board and other bodies to begin (it ended up being rescheduled for July 15), I received a phone call from a student representative saying they had been waiting for me for an hour in class. It turns out that I had apparently been assigned by the Mass Communications Department, which is hosting me while I am here in Kano doing my PhD research, to lecture the 4rth year course “Media and Gender” that I had taught last year. Everyone else in the department is so swamped with multiple teaching responsibilities that I felt it would be unfair to my colleagues refuse, especially because I already had material I had prepared for the course last year. This will be, however, the last time I am able to accept such an assignment from the university during my time in Kano because of restrictions (starting in August of this year) on work non-related to my research from the academic sponsors of my PhD research. Yet, while I was less than thrilled about teaching during a few months when I had planned to work on several articles and my dissertation research, I find it difficult to hold on to resentment when I am physically present in the classroom. It’s such a joy to be in a class full of smart, spirited, and open-minded students, who seem so genuinely excited about learning. In them I see a hope and idealism that gives me encouragment after a month in which, I admit (perhaps some of it the lingering effects of the robbery), Nigeria had me very discouraged.

 

In all of the classes I teach, I have students write out a few of their reasons for taking the course, what they hope to do with their degree (in this case Mass Communications) when they graduate, and (for fun) their favourite movies (or in literature classes that I teach, I also add novels).

 

While we were discussing stereotypes, I asked, as an example, what might be some stereotypes about Nigeria. They called out “un-patriotic” and “unromantic” in addition to the expected “corruption,” “indiscipline” etc. But in answering my question about why they had studied Mass Communication, many of the students defied these stereotypes about Nigerian cynicism and “unpatriotism” with idealistic paragraphs about how they wanted to help their country and society after they graduated. The students mentioned wanting to establish careers in print and broadcast journalism/media, public relations, marketing, advertising, NGO work in health communication and behaviour change, fashion design and academia. In addition, (I’m afraid these responses reflect the gender inequality of the class which is made up of about 2/3 men and 1/3 women—an inbalance that I believe is reflected in the university at large) some of their motivations for studying Mass Communication were as follows:

 

Male: “[I want to] promote national unity in my country, growth in terms of economy, politics and culture, to protect individual rights, human rights and freedom of speech”

 

Male: “I want to help people to know their rights through media”

 

Male: “I hope to… be able to communicate efficiently globally”

 

Male: “I hope to become a professional journalist so as to come up with positive changes in the profession”

 

Male “[I hope to] promote peace and gender issues through the mass media, and to highlight the obstacles and stereotyping issues.”
Male: “I am taking the course because I was disappointed and embarrassed on how women are treated in our societies. I hope to learn how I could be able to help in addressing such problems…. I want to help in educating and informing people and equally to engage in investigative journalism.”

 

Female: “As the saying goes the pen is mightier than the sword. So in order to effect changes in our community and the nation at large therefore there is the need for effective communication…”

 

Male: “[I want to] disseminate some issues affecting our people that are not or under reported in the broadcast and print medium. To become the voice of the voiceless.”

 

Female: “I would … like to establish my own media organization to give people a means of employment and helping people to air their views and to also create awareness among them on various issues arising”

 

Male: “After realizing the power of media, I decided to study mass communication to help the less priviliged.”

 

Male: “I hope to use [the Mass Communications Degree] to serve in developing my country, the nation and beyond by being a sincere media practitioner.”

 

Female: “I hope to educate, enlighten, and entertain people both in rural and urban areas in order to make them know what is happening around the globe”

 

And specifically from women on gender:

 

“I hope to learn my role as a female in broadcast media and the position of my opposite sex as well (male) so that I can’t be cheated.”

 

“I’m interested in knowing why people tend to differentiate male from female while we are all human and we could actually do similar things…. knowing about gender in our society will help me interact more, know my rights, etc.”

 

“I feel not a lot of women are in the media industry. I also feel as a woman I have a lot of potential to give the media industry…. I … took this course to let other people know that a woman is capable of handling the camera, capable of being a good journalist and has the concept of being innovative in advertising. This would reflect what I intend to become in future… to give the notion that a woman is as capable in the media industry as any other man.”

 

Now, certainly some of these responses might have been an attempt to present themselves to me in a positive light, but (being an irrepressible optimist who can’t stay down much longer than a month) I tend to hope that the liveliness and passion I see in these fourth year students (in their classroom discussion as well as their written career goals) are an indication of better things to come. (If only these bright young students can escape the swamp of the past and present… Is this just the idealism of all students before they get pounded down by life? Can we (to appropriate an Obama campaign cliché in a question that is as applicable to Nigeria as it is for the U.S.) take hope and turn it into substantial change? Can the media, through pointing out inequalities and injustice, actually bring about change or merely be impotent scolders with no way to act? For those who want careers in advertising and public relations, will campaigns like the “Good People, Great Nation” actually be of any use to anyone or just another slogan for people to make fun of [as a student so ably provided “Bad People, Nonsense Nation.] Have the “beautyful ones been born” yet? Will they ever be born?)

 

[…]

 

Not only do these little papers give me a better idea about the personality of the students and the composition of the class, but I always find the question of their favourite movies fascinating. My little survey is completely unscientific, but I think it provides some insight into the media that have influenced the popular imagination of this generation. I’ve divided the responses into rough categories here. I had said that they should (just for fun) write their favourite movies, and then as an example said, it can be anything: Nigerian movies in any language: Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, English, Tiv…, Hollywood, Indian films etc. As a result I got quite a few people who just gave me a category like “Hausa movies” or “Indian films.” Some of them would write things like “Nigerian movies, English and Hausa.” (I have not noted in the results each time a person noted multiple loves.)

 

These responses come from 65 students. If this is like my other class (which ended up being a total of 135), more students will trickle in as the semester goes on.

 

Nigerian films (5 people mentioned Nigerian films in general as their favourite category, with two others mentioning specifically Nigerian English films)

Specific English Nigerian films other people liked were:

First Lady

Violated

True Love

World Apart

 

Hausa movies (10 people mentioned that their favourite movies were the general categories of Hausa films).

Two others were more specific, with one person saying:

 “Hausa comedy (Ibro)”

and one saying “Filazal, a film produced by FKD productions”

 

Yoruba movies (also called Yoruwood by someone)

Three people mentioned Yoruba films as their favourite category

One person mentioned the Yoruba film Oleku, as a favourite

 

Igbo film (one person mentioned Igbo film as their favourite category)

 

American films (two people mentioned American films specifically as their favourite category; however, students mentioned more specific titles of “Hollywood” movies than any other category. I realize these are not all technically American films, since many of them are multi-national productions. I was not sure whether to classify Slumdog millionnaire, which was mentioned quite a few times as a “Hollywood film” or Indian film. I have decided to classify it as Indian, since that is how it is often referred to here, and since there are so many under the American/Hollywood division.

 

Hollywood films

–any detective film (American)

Who am I?” Jackie Chan (Check whether this is Hollywood or Hong Kong production)

Anaconda

The Pirates of the Caribbean

Titanic

Prison Break (two people mentioned this TV series as their favourite and I know many others in the Kannywood film industry, including myself, who are obsessed with the series)

Roots, produced by Alex Haley

James Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies)—American movie

300 Spartans

Lord of the Rings

Music (not sure if this is a Hollywood movie or not?)

Soul Food

Harry Potter

Cat & Rat

Hope Floats, ConAir, Princess Diaries

Double Platinum, ATI, Slumdog Millionaire (see this counted under Indian category), Maid of Honor, The House Bunny

Pretty Woman

X-Men

High school Musical

 

Indian films/Bollywood (Five people mentioned Bollywood as a favourite category)

Slumdog Millionaire (four people mentioned this as a favourite film

Kal ho na ho (also one of my favourites, was listed twice)

 

Finally, the Islamic epic The Message was listed by one person as their favourite film.

 

A few others listed no films at all, one saying “The national and local movies are just developing, … personally I do not have any favourite movie because they do nto represent our culture and mode of thinking and doing things, but maybe if I come across any that pass this test I would accept it.”

 

So, that is my little portrait of my student’s goals and movie favourites. Hopefully I will be able to maintain my enthusiasm through the rest of the month I am trying to cram this course into. (Send positive energetic thoughts my way… I really have to get my articles done too….)

Mobile Court bans listening to 11 Hausa songs

A notice about the 11 banned songs in a shop . Photo courtesy of documentary filmmaker Alex Johnson.

Last week Mukhtar Ahmed, the magistrate of the mobile court attached to the censorship board, banned 11 Hausa songs. According the the article by Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz (originally published in Leadership newspaper, but also published on his blog, here,) the justice has “banned listening, sale and circulation of 11 Hausa songs, describing the songs as obscene, confrontational and amoral.” Included in the ban, apparently is

“selling the songs, playing them, and downloading them by any means. He said the order was issued by the court in accordance with section 97 of the state Censorship Board Law 2001 Cinematography and Licensing Regulation of the same year. Ahmed explained that by the provision of the said sections of the law, any person who for the purpose of or by way of trade, makes produces or has in his possession blasphemous, pornographic or obscene writing or object that will corrupt public morale can be charged under the law, among others.

I was also just forwarded an email from a listserve, that apparently re-posted from a Daily Triumph article (which I have not been able to find via google yet–my internet is very slow), from 4 June 2009, the following:

kano State Film censorship mobile court has banned the sales of some 11
hausa songs it describe as obscene in the state.

Announcing the ban order, the presiding judge at the court, chief magistrate
mukhtar ahmad, said the songs include:

1 Walle-Walle
2 Martani(bilio)
3Auta
4 Sauka a babur(ibro)
5Girgiza kai master9ibro)
6Oyoyo
7Ibro Sankarau
8kowa yaci Ubansa/uwarsa
9gari yayi zafi
10 Wayyo
11Hasbunallahu

According to him, the court is going to prosecute anyone found selling the
songs, playing it, downloading it by anymeans in accordance with section 97
of the state censorship board law 2001 cinematography and licensing
regulation of the same year.

he added that the law in the section states that any person who for the
purpose of or by way of trade, make products or has in his possession
blasphemous,pornographic,or obscene writing, or object that will corrupt
public morale, can be charged under the law,among others.

the triumph
jumadal thani 9/1430AH
thursday,june4, 2009

It is interesting to me that most of these songs (most of which I have heard) are subtly or directly critiquing the censorship board and/or Kano State government, many of them based on the experiences of the musicians. For example Adam Zango’s “Oyoyo” critiques the government of Kano State for imprisoning him.  See, for example, Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz’s analysis (published several months before this ban) of said “confrontational” song here.  d’an Ibro’s “Sankarau” similarly uses metaphoric language to skewer the Kano State government for imprisoning him. In a conversation I had with Nazir Hausawa about his song “Girgiza Kai” back in February, he explained to me that his purpose in the song was to point out the hypocrisy of critics by juxtaposing the “work” musicians are doing with “real social ills.” Particularly interesting is his use of the proverb at the very beginning of his song: Mai dokar bacci, ya bige da gyangyed’i. The one who says sleep is against the law is the one nodding off…….

I might add to this that it is fascinating that Justice Mukhtar Ahmed is responsible for proclaiming bans on these political songs in Kano State, when he was only a few months ago found by Kano State Attorney General Barrister Aliyu Umar to have not followed “due process” in the trial of filmmaker and former gubernatorial candidate Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama. I quote again from Adbulaziz A. Abdulaziz’s 12 March 2009 article in Leadership:

The Kano State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Barrister Aliyu Umar, has cast aspersions on a Senior Magistrate, Muhtari Ahmad, for convicting a renowned filmmaker, Alhaji Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, saying due process was not followed in the trial that led to the sentence of the movie practitioner.

The AG told a Kano State high court presided over by Justice Tani Umar and Justice Soron Dinki yesterday that the magistrate rushed to deliver the judgement before completing hearing on the case brought before him in which Iyan-Tama was accused of violating Kano State censorship laws.

The senior state counsel, who led a delegation consisting of the Director of Public Prosecution, Barrister Shu’aibu Sule, and the Assistant Director, Binta Ahmed, literally stripped the judge naked in the marketplace. He said the trial was “improper”, “incomplete”, a “mistake” and requires retrial before a more “competent magistrate”.

“I am not in support of the conviction in this trial”, said the attorney-general, “It is obvious that the trial was not completed before judgement was delivered but there and then the presiding magistrate went ahead and delivered a judgement”, he added.

The fact that musicians see their music as a form of “self-defence” is also interesting to me because I also just read in an article “Islamization of the Mass Media” published by Dr. Bala Abdullahi Muhammad, the Director General of A Daidaita Sahu (The Societal Reorientation Board) in the Bayero Beacon (May 2009, p. 28), that the Quran says “God does not like any evil to be mentioned openly, unless it be by him who has been wronged thereby” (S4:158).  Another article in this issue of the Bayero Beacon ,”Journalism in Islam” by Idris Zakariya (p. 19), quotes another verse: “God does not love the public utterance of hurtful speech, unless one has been wronged and God is hearing, knowing… (S 44:148-149).” Now I am certainly no Islamic scholar and I would welcome readers who are to enlighten me on the contextual meaning of these short verses, but it would seem to me that these songs (and indeed others by musicians talking about censorship laws which directly affect them) are speaking publically about events which they have been “wronged by.” [If I am taking these verses out of context, please correct me.] In this way, the statement by the mobile court judge is right on at least one thing. The songs are “confrontational.” But is confrontation wrong in every situation? And if the problem is obscenity, why is not the “Zagin A. Zango” by K-Boys included (perhaps it is and the name is different?)? In this song, the K-boys attack Adam Zango (whose song “Oyoyo” was on the list), calling him a bastard, d’an daudu, and other names. It is certainly one of the most “obscene” and slanderous Hausa songs I’ve heard. And it is not as if it has not recieved publicity either, as it was featured in Fim Magazine in November or December of last year.

Also, I’m certainly no legal scholar, but could anyone who knows the answer to this question let me know in the “comments section”: Is it actually legal to ban listening to something in the privacy of one’s own home, as long as one does not distribute or sell it? Constitutionally or under shari’a law?

The question arises, because I was just this weekend reading an article on the developments of the hisba in Kano state “The Search for Security in Muslim Northern Nigeria” by Murray Last and published in Africa 78 (1) 2008 (p.41-62). A few paragraphs from the article [all bold emphasis is mine]:

Only three  domains are seriously affected [by hisba sharia enforcers]: women in public (their dress, their proximity to unrelated men–in conversation, for example, or in public transport); alcohol and non-military music and singing. This last affects praise singing at weddings for example (where dancing may also occur), or at sports  such as boxing or wrestling, as well as songs used for spirit possession whether done in ‘play’ or in divination and diagnosis.  Technically no shari’a enforcer can enter a private house, nor can he act upon suspicion or rumour. (p. 51)

[...]

The Hausa text which is widely distributed in the shari’a states to explain the rules governing hisba goes back to 1788 AD, well before there was public transport to worry about. The text is a short book written originally in Arabic by ‘Abdullahi dan Fodio, the younger brother of Shaikh ‘Uthman dan Fodio, before their great jihad was successful. He wrote it, it seems, in Zamfara where the Shaikh was successfully preaching and teaching; as a result, new Muslim communities were setting up properly Islamic administrations there. Once the Caliphate was established, some twenty years later, so too was the institution of hisba: we know the name of the first muhtasib, the judge responsible for enforcing proper observance of shari’a in public spaces, but nothing of his actual work is recorded. It was clearly different from the ‘police’ (shurta) and from the role of gaoler (yari). But eyewitness accounts from visitors to Kano and Sokoto in the 1820s suggest that the muhtasib overlooked much improper behaviour taking place in areas of town where transport workers and off-duty servants or slaves found their relaxation. There is no suggestion there was a public hisba force out on the streets day or night looking for miscreants. Instead it was, I suspect, retainers from the major political houses who acted as peacekeepers in town as, when and where required.

I am posing these observations as questions because I actually would like feedback from Islamic and legal scholars who are better versed in the interpretation of Islam and of Nigerian constitutional law than I am. I think a conversation in the comments section of this post could prove quite fruitful.