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 “firstname.lastname@example.org” and email@example.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.”
“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;”