Category Archives: Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim

Arresting the Music. Arresting Hope. Arrested for playing at a wedding “without permission”

Last night I wrote a post about a story my friend told me about some musicians being arrested for playing at a wedding “without permission.” However, since the case is still ongoing, I have decided to take down the post until things are a bit more settled.

[UPDATE: 16 March 2010: Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz has just published a story in Leadership on the Alliance Francaise episode  that mentions the incident I am referring to here:

Meanwhile a six-man band known as Police Band who perform at weddings in the state was equally smashed by agents of the board on allegation that they were performing without a permit of the board. The band is led by one Solomon alias Solo, an emerging entertainer.

Members of the band were mopped up and taken to a court which subsequently sentenced them to six months with an option of fine of N20, 000. The group was thrown behind bars but was later released after paying the fine.]]

When I first heard about this story, my friend told me that the Police Band was registered with the Kano State History and Culture Bureau….

Readers may remember that two weeks ago, the Kano State Censorship Board also shut down a 23,000 euro international concert organized by the French embassy and the Kano State History and Culture Bureau, being hosted at the Alliance Francaise, for not “seeking permission” to hold the event.

Update: 3-day international music festival cancelled by Kano State Censor’s Board

Daily Trust, 1 March 2010, p. 7

In an update to my last post, I spoke briefly today with Alain Service, the director of the Alliance Francaise in Kano, and he confirmed that the Kano State Censor’s Board sent a letter to the Alliance Francaise about two hours before the three-day KAMFEST music festival, an annual event that has taken place at the Alliance Francaise for the last 6 years, was to begin. Service said the letter told them to stop the festival. He claimed that the letter gave no other reason for cancelling the event other than saying that they had no right to hold the event without informing the Censor’s Board.

There were also brief articles in the Daily Trust and by AFP about the cancellation of the three-day event, which was to feature artists from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and France.

The AFP news report says:

Sharia police ordered the closure of an annual music festival funded and organised by the French embassy in northern Nigeria at the weekend, local officials and diplomats said on Monday.

“We have banned the music festival for the reason that we were not notified and our permission was not sought,” Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, head of the film censorship board in the northern Kanoregion, told AFP.

The French embassy said they had been told they could not stage the event at the local French cultural centre as they did not have prior authorisation.

“Following a notification by the Kano state censorship board, the Kano festival of music is cancelled” the French embassy said in a statement emailed to AFP.

The embassy has organised the three-night KANFEST music festival for the past six years through its cultural centre in Kano, featuring performances from Nigeria and other African countries as well as French musicians.

It seems strange to me that the Kano State Censor’s Board had the power to halt the event, when another Kano State agency, the History and Culture Bureau had helped in planning the event. One person I spoke to at the Alliance Francaise said that she thought the Censor’s board was limited to censoring films, but that since the event was cancelled at the Alliance Francaise she had heard that the censor’s board is saying that even performances at weddings have to gain permission from the censorship board ahead of time. When I asked the director of the History and Culture Bureau, Ali Bature about the relationship between the two state agencies, he said that the History and Culture Bureau had a “cordial relationship” with the Kano State Censor’s Board and had in fact been instrumental in helping to found the board in 2000 as a way to protect filmmakers and allow them to continue making films after the establishment of shari’a law in Kano State. He did, however, note, when I asked him, that there was no legal basis in the Kano state censorship law, for the individual registration of artists. He said the expectation was that guilds would be registered with the censor’s board but that individual artists were the guild’s responsibility. A copy of the entire Kano State Censorship law can be found in the Kano State History and Culture Bureau, for anyone who would like to peruse it. According to film industry practitioners I have spoken to, censor’s board workers on multiple occasions(one such occasion is described in one of my March blog posts) have visited locations of films being made in Kano to check whether each member of the cast and crew is individually registered with the board. Although I was not able to confirm this with Mr. Service, the rumour I have heard from multiple sources is that part of the reason the Censor’s Board shut down the event was because Maryam Fantimoti, who is not registered with the Censor’s Board, was slated to perform at the event.

[[UPDATE 3 March 2009. In an article in today’s Punch, “France Rejects condition for lifting ban on Music Festival,” [If you have trouble getting the link to open, you can also find the article copied here] Oluwole Josiah reports:

French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jean-Michel Dumond, told our correspondent in an exclusive chat on Monday that discussions with the officials of the censorship board revealed that they were targeting one of the participating singers who was said to have criticised the board for banning music within the state.

He said the board wanted the singer to be withdrawn from the concert, but that condition was not acceptable to the embassy.

“We don’t want to be involved in that kind of situation where it has to do with this person or that person. Ours is to ensure that we promote culture and get the festival to benefit the people.

“If it is reduced to an individual or dealing with one person or the other, we are not interested in that. We have been discussing with the officials of the government, and we do not really have anything to do with the censorship board,” Dumond said.

He noted that the Kano State Governor was not aware of the decision of the censorship board and would be seriously disappointed at the turn of events.

Josiah also reports that:

The French Embassy has said it would not accept the conditions given by the Kano State Film Censor Board for lifting the ban on the annual music festival known as KANIFEST.

It also said it was unsure of staging the annual festival this year or next year, as the position of the Kano State Government would determine the fate of the festival.]]]

Today, I passed by a roundabout near the government house several times, and the banner advertising KAMFEST was still there, flapping abandoned in the breeze.

Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano

I was told the following information by several people I will not name. I cannot, at this moment, verify the details of this report, only that it is oral testimony (over the phone) from several people who were involved in the event. I hope to talk to someone in the administration of the Alliance Francaise tomorrow to get more concrete details.

Apparently, yesterday, 26 February 2010, the three day Kano Music Festival, being hosted at the Alliance Francaise in Kano was shut down on the first day of the event by representatives of the Kano State Censorship Board and not allowed to continue with the rest of it’s scheduled events. According to one person I talked to, the festival was closed down because Hausa musician Maryam Fantimoti was to perform and she was not registered with the Kano State Censorship Board.

The organizers of the event had brought musicians from other parts of Africa and Europe to perform at the music festival. According to one press release on the Guide 2 Nigeria website:

There will be performances from several musical groups from across the globe including the famous Soubyana Music from Chad, the Dangana group from Niger, the Nassiru Garba group from Nigeria and the Trio Belhumeur from Upper Brittain.

Another source told me that over 20,000 euros had been spent on the cultural event, which did not end up holding, as it was closed by representatives of the Kano state government.

The Alliance Francaise has hosted the Kano Music Festival (Kamfest) for six years in a row.  The event had the support of the Kano State History and Culture Bureau.

Readers may recall that this is coming on the heels of a recent closure of 15 shops by the Kano State Censorship Board for selling films on the history of Islam. The Kano State Censorship Board has also been responsible for multiple arrests and business closures of those working in entertainment related fields. In a related closure of a cultural event, the hisbah closed down a fashion show organized in honour of designer Zainab Hamza in May 2009.

Kano State Censors Board bans films on the history of Islam and the prophets and shuts down 15 shops

"Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops," Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, p. 33

Two days ago (my internet has been down for a day and a half–thus the delay in posting this), I read in the Sunday Trust and the Hausa language weekly Aminiya a story I had heard from filmmakers a week and a half ago before my trip to Abuja. I hadn’t blogged about it because I had only heard ji-ta-ji-ta (rumours) about it, but the newspapers confirm the story.

Apparently, according to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, page 33, “Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops,” the Kano State Censorship Board closed 15 video shops over “selling tapes of the history of Prophet Yusuf.” (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the link to the article online. If I find it, I will link to it here. In the meantime, here is a photograph of the article.)

The Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, “said in an interview in Kano that

“banning the sales of such films has become necessary as it is against the teachings of Islam and therefore will not be allowed in the state.”

Rabo also mentions that

“under aged children who can easily be influenced are also involved in hawking such films along the streets without knowing the implications. He also said the ban was as well in the interest of potential customers who might not get to these children even if they found the films were bad.”

In response,

[S]ecretary of the Kano film sellers association, Malam Isa, described shutting down the shops by the censorship board as unfortunate as the director general of the board did not keep to the promise of briefing them on what stand it is taking on the sales of the film before acting.

“I can recall that the DG sometimes in October last year invited us for a meeting at A Dai Daita Sahu and during the meeting, one Islamic scholar, Malam Aminu Daurawa, mentioned that watching the film was not appropriate and after the meeting, we met the DG at his office on the matter and he told us that was just a dialogue among scholars which does not involve us. He then promised that he was going to inform us on any development thereafter but unfortunately he didn’t. The next thing we saw was the closure of the shops” he said.

Malam Isa said that the film sellers:

“have reported the case to the Emir of Kano and as Muslims we are ready to comply with the ban so long as it is Islamic scholars that will come together to prove that the film is contrary to the teachings of Islam.”

He also lamented the loss of business this was causing to the shop owners saying:

“business has been their major source of livelihood and now that the board has closed the shops, these people are finding it hard to survive.”

The Hausa weekly Aminiya, 12 February 2010, provides more details. I will provide a summary of the article in English here—please note that this is NOT a direct translation but a summary in my own words.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi writes in “Hukuma ta haramta sayar da fina-finan tarihin Musulunci a Kano” (p. 21) (“The [Censor’s ]Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”) that the director of the censors Board Malam Abubakar Rabo went to the Kofar Wambai market and closed four shops where they were selling films on the history of Islam, specifically the film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf [Joseph] and the film The Message.

In a radio program on Radio Kano, DG Abubakar Rabo said that “the censors board had closed 15 shops in Kano and he warned others who were selling the films.”

Aminiya reporters went to the Kofar Wambai market to see the shops that had been closed, and one of the film marketers, Musa Abdullahi Sanka who started selling film cassettes in 1976, said that the story was true. The Censors board had come and closed shops selling films on the history of the Prophet Yusuf and the history of Islam, The Message.

When Aminya asked Abdullahi Sanka what reason the Censors Board had given for closing the shops, he said that the censors said that they should stop selling the film because apparently there were some Islamic scholars who had issued a fatwa on selling films on the history of the prophets, saying such films were not appropriate.

The marketer responded saying that the businessmen wanted the well-respected Islamic scholars in Kano to come together and say whether the films were appropriate or not. If they said they were not appropriate, then how could they correct them? If they gave very strong reasons for banning the films, then the marketers would stop selling them.

The marketer told Aminiya that four shops in Kofar Wambai had been closed: that of Alhaji Salisu, that of Ahmadu Hussaini, that of Anas, and another Igbo marketer whose name he did not give.

He said that the film sellers got the films from Misira, others from Lagos, others were brought from Arab countries. He said that he had heard that the film on the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was made by Shi’a in Iran, and that is why the Censorship Board had cooperated with the fatwa of an Izala scholar against the film.

When he was asked if he had seen the film and if it seemed to be appropriate, he said that he hadn’t seen the entire film but that he remembered how when he had been fifteen years old, the late Islamic Scholar Sheikh Nasiru Kabara had told the history of the Prophet Yusuf, and what he had seen of the film followed exactly what the scholar had told them.

The Secretary of the Film sellers association of Kofar Wambai Market, Malam L. Isa said that the discussion with the Censors board had started last year. The Censors Board had invited them to a meeting organized by A Dai Daita Sahu (the government sponsored Societal Reorientation Directorate) on 24 October, where it was said that Sheikh Aminu Daurawa had preached a sermon in which he said that it was not right to watch this type of film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf. “When we heard this, we asked the director of the Kano State Censorship board about this. He told us we shouldn’t worry that it would not affect us. But we were surprised that day, without notice, without letting us know, people came to the market and closed shops belonging to those in our association.”

He said that after the shops were closed, they complained to Malam Rabo who did not listen patiently to them. This is why they went with their complaint to the Emir of Kano. “What is happening with us right now. We went to Director Malam Rabo, but he didn’t listen to us or give us any good answer. He even kicked us out, so we got up and we went to our father, the emir of Kano, and carried our complaint to him. Since there are big men in power, we should let them know what is going on with us—If they don’t know what has been happening, they will now know.”

The Secretary continued,” We called on the emir to negotiate between us and Malam Rabo because we have been obeying the government and the censors board, but now there is no understanding between us. People were sent from the board to us without anyone letting us know there was  such a law.”

Another marketer Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim K’ok’i, better known as Palasd’inawa, also expressed his unhappiness at the actions of the Censor’s Board. He said that they had been watching films on the lives of the prophets since they had been children. On Muslim holidays, the Kano state television station used to play them.

“It shouldn’t be that the judgment of a single Islamic scholar becomes the basis of the entire Muslim culture. Now Malam Rabo should tell us what kinds of films that we should be watching, because they have banned Hausa films saying that they are spoiling women and children. So now why are they banning films on Islamic history, since no one can say they are spoiling culture?’

The director of the Kano State Censors Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim explained the reason for the ban. He said that it is in accordance with the culture and the findings of Islamic scholars who said that such films were not fitting as they were not respectful to the prophets.

The gist of Malam Rabo’s statement was that the Kano State Censors Board was created keeping in mind Islam and the judgments of Islamic scholars who guide the community. The board had heard from the association of Islamic scholars and other religious organizations that people were trying to make money on offensive films made about the lives of the messengers of God. He also noted that they had called a meeting through a Dai Daita Sahu (Societal Reorientation Directorate) where one of the Islamic scholars had shown the danger of these types of films that were insulting to the Messengers of God and culture.

Malam Rabo said that this is the reason the Censor’s board said that the selling of these types of films must stop because it was not fitting to show another man in the film claiming to be the Messenger of God. He further said that the Board would continue to hunt down those who brokered and spread films in Kano state, especially, he emphasized, those who were selling films on the sides of the roads because this is illegal.

To read the article in Hausa, see the photo of the article here:

Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”], Aminiya, 12 February 2010, p. 21″]

Interview with me in last week’s Aminiya

Here is an interview Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi of the Hausa language weekly Aminiya did with me in December while at the Indigenous Language Literature conference in Damagaram, Niger, December 2009. It was published in last week’s Aminiya, 5-11 February, on pages 20-21. Despite the awful pictures of me, I was quite pleased with how the interview turned out (and pleased with how he edited and corrected my Hausa!). To read the interview, you will probably have to download the photos and open them at 100%. (If the photos are showing up too big to read, try clicking on my home page link. It should allow you to access beyond the margins. UPDATE: 13 February 2010: Actually probably the best way to read the article(as pointed out by Desertgills) is to click on the photos–that should take you to my flickr page. After that click on the All sizes icon at the top of the photo and pick “original size”–that should make it big enough to read… UPDATE 7 April 2010, I actually just found an online version of the interview, so no need to go to all the trouble clicking on photos.)

There were several funny things I thought I should note. First of all, the headline on the front page of Aminiya is “Ta Karya Hannun Mijinta kan Kud’in Cefane”/”She broke her husband’s arm over cooking money.” Aminiya typically features sensational tabloid-style headlines to human interest stories like this. I laughed when I saw it though, because of all the photos on the front of the paper, mine is the only one of a woman. So, naturally, the reader might think that there is this crazy baturiya who broke her husband’s arm….

from Aminiya 5-11 February 2010, pages 20-21

The second cringe moment comes on the second page (page 21) when I am talking about 19th century writers who were writing about “love” in addition to other social issues. I was making a point about the dangers of judging novels as “merely” romance novels because they include elements of romance, and also pointing out that Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and other literary icons of the early 19th century were writing in a reading culture that was filled with the popular “Gothic romances,”  often called “trash” in their day. Jane Austen mocked these novels in her satirical Northanger Abbey, while Charlotte and Emily Bronte took the tropes of the Gothic Romance to the next level in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. My point was that these writers were reacting to and building on this popular literature and a reading culture that is necessary for the emergence of any literature. I remember in the interview, talking about “Jane Austen” and the “Charlotte Bronte.” Unfortunately, that somehow got transcribed as “Jeane Austin” and “Sheldon.” Please note, that while Sidney Sheldon is a popular writer, he was not writing in the 1800s, and he was not whom I was referring to…

Here is a summary of the interview in English.

Malam Bashir asks me how I started to become interested in Hausa.

I tell him that I grew up in Jos, where my father is a professor at the University of Jos, and I started learning Hausa there. But when I started my MA degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I was required to learn an African language and decided to continue with Hausa. I went to Sokoto, where my teacher Dr. Malami Buba brought me Hausa novels and films.  I had been planning to base my research on English language Nigerian literature, but when I started watching Hausa films and reading Hausa novels, I realized that there were a lot of people outside of Hausa speaking areas who had no idea it existed, even to the point where people often complain about the lack of reading culture in Nigeria. But I saw it was not the case in the North where people were reading Hausa.

He asked me what I could say about Hausa writers and filmmakers.

I said that they really impressed me. I said I had always been interested in writer’s movements and the history of literature [such as the Romantic poets etc]. When I came to Hausaland, I realized that the sort of literary/art movement I had always been interested in was happening here in Hausa. I said that I was impressed by how writers and filmmakers and singers often worked together. I mentioned Ibrahim Sheme’s novel ‘Yar Tsana as particularly impressive and said I also loved the novels of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Nazir Adam Salih, etc.

He asked me about which films most impressed me. This was the most embarrassing part of the interview because there were films I wanted to talk about but I couldn’t remember their names. I mentioned Sani Mu’azu’s film Hafsat and the film Zazzab’i.

He asked me about the importance of the Hausa language in the world.

I said it was one of the most important languages in Africa, that some statistics show it has more speakers than Swahili, which means it is the largest language spoken in Africa after perhaps Arabic. I also thought that the proliferation of Hausa films and novels was helping the development of Hausa. I gave the example of those who were not of Hausa ethnicity but who enjoyed the films. I mentioned also that when visiting the office of VOA-Hausa earlier that year, one of the reporters showed me some Ghanaian Hausa films made in Accra.  I further mentioned the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o who is always talking about the importance of writing in African languages. Also if we look at the history of literature in English, if writers like Shakespeare [Chaucer] etc had not chosen to write in their own languages, although English was not yet the language of power at the time, English would be a much poorer language and we would not have these great literary works with us.

He asked me if I was thinking about writing a book in Hausa.

I said that there were certainly writers who wrote in languages of their adopted countries, like the Polish-British writer Joseph Conrad and the Russian-American writer [Vladimir Nabokov]. However, I said that my Hausa was not strong enough to write a book yet, but maybe if I lived in Northern Nigeria for the next fifty years, my Hausa would be good enough to write creatively in it. Right now I write in English.

I’ll skip the next question and move on to the first question on page 21, where he asked me what I think about what happened between filmmakers, writers, and the Kano State Censorship Board.

I said that I had much to say about this but I would focus my comments on my own area of expertise. Since I know about literature and the history of literature in English, I would talk about the parallels between what I saw here and what happened then. I said that Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters [which somehow got transcribed as “Jean Austin and Sheldon”] were writing in England during the 1800s, and they were writing about love. They were writing during a time when there were lots of books floating around [Gothic romances etc] that people said were not great literature, that these novels were spoiling the upbringing of young girls etc (the same things that are being said now about Hausa literature). But I said that though the novels of Austin and the Brontes talked about love, they also talked about other social issues of the time, poverty, and class and injustice.  I said that we could draw a parallel between this English literature and contemporary Hausa literature. Although there are films and novels that focus on love, there are also a lot of other social issues that are caught up in these stories. During the conference in Niger, Malam Rabo (the head of the Kano State Censorship board) proclaimed that he would not read any more love stories for a year [he said that writers should focus on more “important” social problems like declaiming drug use, etc]. But I would ask him, if he says he will ban love stories, what will that do to Hausa literature and films? There is danger if there is someone sitting in the government saying that writers and filmmakers must write or make films about certain prescribed issues and not about others. There should be some amount of distance between creative artists and the government, because the writers and filmmakers are the voice of the ordinary people. They have the power to present problems that ordinary people suffer, so they shouldn’t be prevented from bringing these things out. Also, if Malam Rabo says that for a year he will refuse to read love stories at the censorship board, this is a way of suppressing the voice of women, because many of the stories classified as “littattafan soyayya”/love stories are those novels written by women. Also, these books might deal with romantic love but they are also about problems of the household and the relationships between husbands and wives. If you say that writers must write about the problems of drugs etc., it seems that you are saying that the problems on the street are more important than the problems of the household or the family. I believe it is very dangerous to say you are going to ban an entire theme in literature and only allow the themes you are interested in. Each writer should be allowed to write on those things that he or she wants to write about. If you want to send a message to the readers, then you can write your own book. If the readers like it, then they can read your book and leave behind the love stories, but one mustn’t prevent writers from writing about their lives. There are a lot of complaints about writers writing on adult themes that spoil the upbringing of children, but there are other avenues to address this beside issuing bans. For example, there could be a law passed [like that of the National Film and Video Censors Board] that books with adult themes cannot be sold to children–there can be a differentiation between books written for children and those written for adults.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi asks me about what I think about Malam Rabo’s statement at the writer’s conference about how the foreigners and Europeans who said they were interested in Hausa language and culture were not really interested  in it–that they were just tricking and deceiving people for ulterior motives.

I say that I can only talk about myself–that there is no way that I can know about the motivations of every other European or foreigner who comes here. But I said that I truly do love Hausa language, literature, and culture. I came here to this country to do research and I would love to stay and live here and continue to raise the interest of those outside in Hausa language and culture. I am certainly not lying about this. I truly love Hausa and Hausa people.

He finally asks me about my marital status and whether I could marry a Hausa man and live here.

I said that marriage is according to God’s will, and that I will follow whatever God has prepared for me.

DG of Kano Censor’s Board taken before shari’a court

In a fascinating turn of events, Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, the Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, has been arrested by the police and taken before the shari’a court by the Kano State Filmmaker’s association.

Here is the article “Police Arrest DG Kano Censors Board” by Nasir Gwangwazo published yesterday, 4 August, in Leadership. Ibrahim Sheme has also republished the article on his blog.

Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, was yesterday arrested by the police over a complaint filed against him by the Kano State Filmmakers Association.

A reliable source told LEADERSHIP last night that Rabo had been dragged to a Sharia Court in Sabon Gari, Kano, by members of the association over an allegation credited to him, in which he was said to have described movie makers as a bunch of homosexuals and lesbians during an interview he granted Radio Kano recently.In the interview, a copy of which was made available to LEADERSHIP, Rabo stated that he had proof that many of the filmmakers were gay, saying his intervention in the industry had helped sanitise the situation.

The statement incensed the filmmakers, and they wrote him a letter demanding a retraction and an apology within 48 hours.But at a follow-up press conference recently in Kano, the director-general repeated his claim, warning that he would publish more damning reports about the alleged immorality in the industry if pressed further.The association went ahead with its threat, suing him before the Sharia court, which was said to have advised the association to report the matter to the police first. >p>According to a member of the association and the immediate former chairman of the state chapter of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Malam Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Rabo was picked up yesterday by two plain-clothes policemen at about 4pm and taken to the Metro police station located on Bank Road in the city, following a complaint by the filmmakers.At the police station, three leaders of the moviemaking association – Nura Hussain, Ahmad Alkanawy and Isma’ila Afakalla – endorsed the association’s formal complaint, which Rabo reportedly denied. According to Gidan Dabino, the case is due for hearing at the Sharia Court, Fagge, today. When our correspondent contacted Rabo on phone last night, however, he denied knowledge of the issue, saying he was in a meeting and promptly switched off.

Following the arrest, there has been much discussion, on the Finafinan Hausa yahoo group. Ibrahim Sheme has posted one of his responses on the internet group on his blog, saying that Rabo’s intention has never had the interests of the filmmaking in Kano at heart.

According to people who have written me about this (this is unverified rumour), Rabo was given bail, but apparently left his car and driver and went away on an acaba.  He is being charged in a shari’a court for “kazafi (invented lies to assinate character).” If convicted, the punishment is 80 lashes with a whip.

Readers will remember that this latest event was precipitated by accusations Rabo made on the radio, saying that filmmakers were homosexuals and lesbians. The filmmaker’s association responded with a letter asking him to withdraw and apologize for the remarks in the next 48 hours or face legal action in a shari’a court.  Rabo responded several days later with a press release, threatening to release more evidence saying, among other things:

This address is a by product of the pressing need of the media to balance their stories and the board to have a fair right to reply on the ‘empty threat’ of those practitioners who’s future is endangered or eroded due to our sustainable sanitization exercises. These miscreants are enemies to the present peaceful atmosphere and the cotemporary achievements of the Board because they are the beneficiaries of the old age. The age of un coordinated and un-professionalized Kannywood industry.

Hitherto, this nasty development will not in any way deter the Board on its commitment to safeguard the Kano State ideals in addition to societal values because our statutory legal undertakings are not only the promulgation of state legislation but also constitutional above all holy and sacred.

[…]

Moreso, additional doziers at our disposal will not in any way help the film stakeholders when released to public especially in this period where some further negative developments are continuously unveiling and circulating.

[…]

Furthermore, let me use this opportunities to re-iterate one of the fundamentals of this administration which is the rule of law where equality before law is necessary. Therefore, the Board is happy that constituted measures like threat to sue organisation or person(s) is welcome by our style of leadership. Even though the Board will not hesitate to table publically at the right time and at the right place all at its possession out of social responsibilities and trust but with no meaning to join issues or make filmmakers vulnerable. Let me at this juncture warn that: “Kada Dan Akuya yaje Barbara ya dawo da ciki”. [MY TRANSLATION—CM: A male goat should not go to a female goat and return pregnant…]

For the post on this blog that includes a transcript of Rabo’s statements on the radio, the  letter and press release from MOPPAN and the subsequent entire press release from Rabo, see this link.

Arrest of singer Aminu Ala and the most recent scuffle of MOPPAN with the Kano State Censorship Board

In the most recent news from Kano, singer Aminu Ala was arrested Saturday. Ala has long been known as a strong supporter of the current Kano state administration, but has recently been “on the run” since his song “Hasubanallahu” was banned by a mobile court judge linked to the censorship board. When I spoke to his contacts today about the arrest, they lamented that the song, which is written in the form of a prayer that God should punish those keeping singers from doing their work, has no bad language in it and mentions no names. According to an anonymous source, he was arrested by “workers from the Kano State Censorship Board” and detained in a police station in Sabon Gari. Eventually the same day the police were told by a superior to let him go. However, while Ala is no longer in detention, the event has increased the tension between the Kano State Censor’s Board and the entertainment industry. [UPDATE 8 July 2009: Actually what happened is that he was released on Saturday but told to show up at the Mobile Court attached to the Kano State Censorship Board at  at 10am on Monday. When he did, they told him to come back at 10am Tuesday. When he and 60 other friends, supporters, and journalists showed up at 10am Tuesday, 7 July 2009, they were all told to come back at 2pm. When we came back at 2pm, he was finally read his charges–supposedly releasing his song without the approval of the censorship board. He said the charges were not true, and the prosecutor asked to reconvene on Thursday. He was denied bail until Thursday and taken to jail in a police vehicle…  On Thursday he was granted bail but on the condition that he not speak to the media. See the more recent posts for the details.]

Page one of Kano State Censorship Board Press Release 3 July 2009

Page one of Kano State Censorship Board Press Release 3 July 2009

KSCB Press Release--3 July 2009--page 2

KSCB Press Release--3 July 2009--page 2

In the past week there has been a small war of representation going on between the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board and the Motion Picture Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria. The DG Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem continues to claim that film practitioners were indisciplined and had decadent personal lives before he was appointed to lead the Censor’s Board. MOPPAN claims that Rabo’s statements are tantamount to slander of the industry, and threaten they will take him to the Islamic courts if he does not withdraw and apologize for the accusations.

UPDATE 5 August 2009: Rabo was arrested by police on 3 August 2009 and taken before the shari’a court yesterday on accusations of “kazafi (invented lies to assinate character).” If convicted, the punishment is 80 lashes with a whip. See post of 5 August 2009.

Note that these accusations against the film, music, and popular literature industry are regularly made by its detractors in local media on the state radio, as well as in state-run newspapers. A few months ago there was an ad from the Kano State Censor’s Board played on state-run Radio Kano that told parents not to let their children read Hausa novels because they were spoiling their education and upbringing. I have often heard writers, filmmakers and singers lament that they do not have the resources to combat what they call “government propaganda.”

I will post below the statements that were exchanged in the past.

(Please note that these translations were done quickly and are not necessarily translated word for word, although it has been checked for accuracy by a native speaker. I take responsibility for any errors in the transcription or translation of the radio piece; however, the letters and press releases have been reproduced as released.)

On 29 June, 2009, the following short piece was broadcast on the state owned radio station, Radio Kano, in the programme, “Labarai da Rahotanni” [News and Reports]

Radio Presenter:

Ustaz Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem yace sun sami yan fim din Hausa a zama karazube marasa tsafta. Su kuma suka ga lallai ne sai an shigar da tarbiyya da tsafta a cikin sana’ar domin ka da a lalata tarbiyya al’umar jihar nan …

Ustaz Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem said they had found stakeholders in the Hausa film industry to be disorderly and indecent. And they [the Censor’s Board] saw the need to bring sanity and decency to the industry that is spoiling the cultural orientation of this state.

Rabo’s voice:

Mun zo mun samu bayin Allah nan, a tsari na taci barkatai. Kowa shaida ne, al’umma shaida ne. Suna cin dunduniyar juna, suna tona asirin juna, suna fada da juna, babu shugabanci, babu [bin] na gaba, babu tsari, babu doka, babu order, kai da gindi suke zaune, zaman yan marina kowa da inda ya sa gabansa. Hassali ma waccan fitana da baiwar Allan can da aka samu kowa ya gani, su suka tonawa kansu asiri a tsakaninsu mujallun da suke yi da sunan finafinan Hausa kowa in ya karanta zai ga yadda suke bayyana maganganu tsirara. Babu kara babu kawaici duk badakallar da ke tsakanin su ta shaye shayen miyagun kwayoyi suna ta neman juna maza da maza, mata da mata, za’a dauki yarinya a yi fim da ita da iznin iyayenta ba iznin iyayenta, za’a dau matar aure a shiga da ita fim ba tare da maigidanta ya sani ba sai dai in ya ganta a hoton fim irin wannan badakalar barnar da take ciki yau da muka shigo muka ce an taka birki, an hana.

We came and found that the industry was indisciplined. The evidence is everywhere. They were backbiting each other, exposing each other’s secrets, fighting with each other, no leadership, no progress, no system, no law, no order. They were self-absorbed, everyone doing what was right in their own eyes. They were exposing each other’s secrets between themselves in the Hausa film magazines. Anyone can read and see how they were directly speaking about it. No respect, no manners, taking dangerous drugs, having sex with each other, men with men, women with women. They would use a girl in a film with or without her parent’s permission, they would take a married woman and make a film with her without her husband knowing unless he saw her in the film. All of this type of spoiled and disorderly behaviour, we have arrived and we say it is prohibited, it is ended.

Radio Presenter:

Babban daraktan hukumar tace finafinan ya ce wannan ce ta sa wasu tsiraru daga cikin masu amfani da wannan mummunar hanya su nemi kudi, suke yin fada da hukumar.

The Director General of the Censor’s board said that it is because of the Borad’s actions that the minority in the industry, whose goal is only to make money, is fighting with the board.

Rabo’s voice:

Wanda yake fakewa da wannan tsari na ci barkatai yake cutar ‘ya’yan mutane ko yake samun alfanu, yau an zo an taka mar birki, me taka birkinnan ka ce Zai gan shi da haske, ka ce zai rungume shi a matsayin abokin cigaba? Ai bata taso ba.

For those who are hiding behind this indisciplined industry and are spoiling children or are profiting from it, the day has come when [these abuses] have been brought to an end. And you expect that person who has been frustrated to embrace the one who has frustrated him? Ai, that doesn’t even arise.

Radio Presenter:

Ustaz Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem yace babu gudu babu ja da baya, hukumar za ta ci gaba da hukunta duk wani mai kunnen kashi ciki har da masu tallar magunguna mai dauke da hotunan yadda ake aikata alfasha a bainar jama’a.

Dayyabu Umar me mai rano ke dauke da Rahotan.

Ustaz Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem says no running away, no going back, the board will continue to punish everyone who is at fault, even to those who sell medicine with pictures that will bring depravity to the community.

Dayyabu Umar brought this report.

The subsequent letter and press release from the Motion Pictures Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria [given to me in soft copy on 3 July 2009 by a member of MOPPAN. Note that I have inserted my own translation into the body of the press release, which was issued in Hausa. The letter was issued in English]:

June 30th 2009

The Director General,

Kano State Censorship Board,

Kano.

DEREGATORY RADIO STATEMENT BY DIRECTOR GENERAL, KANO STATE CENSORSHIP BOARD.

Following your radio programme titled “Labarai da Rahotanni” On the 29th day of June 2009 at Radio Kano where you defame the characters of our industry operators labelling us as lesbians and homosexuals: “Suna zama mara tsafta suna neman juna maza da maza, mata da mata.” ;a statement that no responsible government officer will dare make. We wish to draw your attention that making such derogatory and degrading remarks will not only damage the image of the film industry and its members but will also tarnish the good image of the people of Kano State at large.

2. It is against this that we demand you to withdraw your statement and apologize to the industry and its members within 48 hours otherwise we take legal action against you in accordance with the shari’a.

Mal. Sani Mu’azu

National President

cc: The Commissioner of Police,

Kano Police Command,

Bompai Kano

The Director

SSS

Kano

The Attorney General,

Commissioner of Justice,

Ministry of Justice,

Kano.

The Director

State Security Service

Kano

The Chairman,

Sharia Commission,

Kano.

The Director General

Societal Re-orientation

Kano State

The Commander General

Hisbah Board

Kano.

The Secretary

Kano Emirate Council

Kano

The Chairman

Council of Ulama

Kano

Above for your information and further necessary intervention, please.

Mal. Sani Mu’azu

National President

Press Release [from MOPPAN]

Kungiyar masu shirya finafinai ta kasa na kara bayyana damuwarta bisa kalmomin

batanci da Darakta Janar na hukumar tace finafinai da dab’i na jhar kano ke yiwa ‘ya’yanta.

[MY TRANSLATION OF PRESS RELEASE IN HAUSA]

The Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) would like to express its dismay at the slanderous accusations against her members made by the Director General of the Kano State Censor’s Board.

Wannan ya biyo bayan hirar da aka yi da Darakta Janar a wata kafar yada labarai mallakar gwamnatin jiha a ranar litinin 29-Yuni-2009, inda ya shaidawa duniya cewa yana da tabbas bisa dabi’ar fasikanci da wai wasu masu sana’ar shirya finafinai ke aikatawa wanda ya hada da zinace-zinace da madigo da luwadi a tsakaninsu.

This follows after the interview conducted with the Director General by one of the media houses of the state government on Monday, 29 June 2009, in which he claimed to the world that stakeholders in the filmmaking profession have involved themselves into immorality such as lesbianism and homosexuality.

Sakamakon haka kungiyar na kira ga Babban Daraktan da ya janye wannan kalami na sa kana ya nemi afuwar wannan masana’anta nan da awanni 48. Rashin yin haka zai sa wannan kungiya ta kai kara gaban kotun shari’ar musulumci

Kungiyar na kuma kira gare shi da ya dubi darajar sunnan Annabi ya daina shigar da maganar Hiyana cikin maganganunsa kasancewarta yanzu matar aure ce. Wanda hakan ka iya cutar da mijinta na auren sunna.

As a result of this, the Association calls on the Director General to rescind and apologize, in the next 48 hours, for his slander against this profession. If he does not do this, this association will be forced to take him before the shari’a court. The association also calls on him to value the teachings of the Prophet and resist from involving discussions of Hiyana in his speeches since she is now a married woman. Talking thus may harm her husband and the reputation of their marriage.

Har ila yau muna kara kira ga hukumomin shari’a da hisbah na jihar kano da su jawo hankalin babban daraktan da ya kiyaye harshensa yayin da yake magana kamar yadda shari’ar musulunci ta yi umarni.

Finally, we call on the shari’a implementation agencies in Kano state to hold the Director General accountable for making sure his language is in keeping with the guidelines as established by shari’a.

Sani Mu’azu

President

(End letter and press release)

In response to the letter and press release issued by MOPPAN, the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board issued the following response on 3 July 2009. [I re-typed the press release issued by the Kano State Censorship Board, leaving in any spelling/grammatical errors made in the original. To view the original, see the posted photographs of the press release. NOTE, THE PHOTOS APPEAR NEAR THE TOP OF THE POST–I WAS HAVING TROUBLE GETTING WORDPRESS TO PLACE THEM WHERE I WANTED THEM IN THE TEXT–CM]

PRESS RELEASE-DELIVERED BY THE DIRECTOR GENERAL KANO STATE CENSORSHIP BOARD MAL. ABUBAKAR RABO ABDULKAREEM ON 03/07/2009 AT HIS OFFICE

Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen of the press

‘EMPTY THREAT’ IS HEREBY EMTED

In the name of Allah most gracious most merciful, may Allah’s mercies and blessing be upon the exalted prophet of Islam, prophet Muhammad peace be upon him his household and his companion till the dooms day.

Background: early this week in my interview with the Kano state Radio, series of issues were addressed particularly the achievements of this administration in the sanitization and standardisation of the Hausa home video practices of which some known and repeatedly historic problems of the industry were revisited for comparison but unfortunately some few questionable elements of the film makers un-equivocally and negatively lauded a particular matter just to open a new chapter for disharmony with mischieves in order to bring back the forgone battle of words between the state with its citizenry in one side and the film practioners on the other.

This address is a by product of the pressing need of the media to balance their stories and the board to have a fair right to reply on the ‘empty threat’ of those practitioners who’s future is endangered or eroded due to our sustainable sanitization exercises. These miscreants are enemies to the present peaceful atmosphere and the cotemporary achievements of the Board because they are the beneficiaries of the old age. The age of un coordinated and un-professionalized Kannywood industry.

Hitherto, this nasty development will not in any way deter the Board on its commitment to safeguard the Kano State ideals in addition to societal values because our statutory legal undertakings are not only the promulgation of state legislation but also constitutional above all holy and sacred.

Specifically, Dear press and I want remind you about an interview granted by a re-known actress and aired in the Ray Power Radio station, Kano on 18th May, 2007, where such social ills bedevilling Kannywood where addressed by the actress i.e. Farida Jalal. The interview has now become a reference not only to me only but also to the general public (find attach 15 mins oral interview of the said actress).

Moreso, additional doziers at our disposal will not in any way help the film stakeholders when released to public especially in this period where some further negative developments are continuously unveiling and circulating.

Notwithstanding continuation of the referred interview where actresses and actors revelled atrocities of their colleagues as relate to the film business. There are equally more stronger evidences, like Gwanja-Danja panel report, assorted copies of film magazines particularly those published in vernacular among others.

Furthermore, let me use this opportunities to re-iterate one of the fundamentals of this administration which is the rule of law where equality before law is necessary. Therefore, the Board is happy that constituted measures like threat to sue organisation or person(s) is welcome by our style of leadership. Even though the Board will not hesitate to table publically at the right time and at the right place all at its possession out of social responsibilities and trust but with no meaning to join issues or make filmmakers vulnerable. Let me at this juncture warn that: “Kada Dan Akuya yaje Barbara ya dawo da ciki”. [MY TRANSLATION—CM: A male goat should not go to a female goat and return pregnant…]

In conclusion, the Board is appealing to the general public to please keep watch of their wards as relates to film industry and the rest of the popular cultural creative industries and make very good sense of judgement not only in the area of film categorisation and timing but in its entirety.

Finally, the Board is using this medium to invite you members of the media to attend the opening ceremony of a six days training-workshop on Monday 6th July, 2009 by 10:00 am at APCON lecture theatre along Kano Eastern by pass.

SIGN: MANAGEMENT

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;”

Federal High Court strikes down Kano State Censorship Board’s objections; MOPPAN’s Lawsuit will go on

Excuse me if I do not use the correct legal terminology in this post. I’m new to the court scene and slowly learning…

Yesterday, the Federal High Court struck down the objections filed by the defence in MOPPAN’s lawsuit against the Kano State Censorship Board, the Executive Director/Director General of the KSCB Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, and the Kano State House of Assembly,  (I’m not sure if the National Film and Video Censors Board is still being included in the lawsuit, since there were attourneys representing only three of the bodies) meaning that the lawsuit will continue. The court will meet again regarding this on May 20.

This is the first court proceedings I have attended for this particular lawsuit, so I’m not as familiar with the case as I was the Iyan-Tama case. However, according to my January 27, 2009  interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari , Vice President of MOPPAN,  the motivation for the lawsuit was as follows:

What principally we needed was an injunction restraining Kano State Censors Board from attacking, harassing, humiliating and imprisoning our members. We dragged four bodies to the court.  One is National Film and Video Censor’s Board for issuing a license to our members which gives them the right to exhibit, to sell, and show their films throughout Nigeria, yet a particular state attacks or arrests them for doing that, and they have not come out and said anything. Is the registration they issue our members fake or does it not have jurisdiction in Kano? So here I’m saying there’s a clash between the national and the state jurisdiction of two boards. What we understand in accordance with discussion with our lawyers is that when there is a clash between state and federal law, the federal law takes precedence, so does the interpretation of that in the court. We dragged the Kano State Censors Board to court for its action. We dragged the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board for the guidelines he issued out which we believe are quite unconstitutional. They contradict some fundamental human rights because the guidelines are too stringent and are quite unbearable. And we dragged the speaker, Kano State House of Assembly for allowing the section of the law establishing the board which contradicts national law. We need them to review the law. We have to look at the laws establishing the board because most of them contradict national laws.  That’s why we dragged the four of them to the court.

 

The case was going fine in the court. We brought our evidence. They said we had to exclude the DG of the censor’s board out of the case. Our lawyer vehemently defended that he had to be in. They said we had to include the Kano State government. We said we sued Censor’s Board and the state house of assembly, because the state assembly are the lawmakers, so Kano State Government is automatically included in the case. He slated 26 of October for the final ruling of the case, and unfortunately [Sarari laughs]… there was this strike [of court workers]. They just resumed this month. So we are just urging our lawyer to find which date are they going to give, and we are very much hoping that the ruling is going to go in our favour.

 

Yesterday, 26 March 2009,I arrived in the court a bit later than noon, but there was another case in process: a series of rather pitiful looking men in frayed clothing accused of being “Indian hemp” dealers, including a very, very old man with a white beard and blind in one eye who was the only one among them who seemed to speak English. (There was a translator for the rest.) “I am guilty, your worship,” he said, after the charges were read. The judge spoke up, “This is an appeal case,” the judge says. “You can plead not guilty.” “I’m guilty” he maintained several times, until the judge told him he could sit down.  I probably looked quite sympathetic to them, so during a break in the proceedings, the old man who I was sitting quite close to asked me if I were from the BBC and asked me for money. I felt bad, but said sorry, and moved over to the side of the room where the Kannywood folk were seated.

 

The MOPPAN case started around 1:30pm. The judge read a summary of the previous accusations and appeals (sorry, I know I don’t have the legal terminology down). Apparently, the defense had objected to the individual inclusion of the director general/executive director of the Kano State censorship board in the lawsuit. Since I was at the back of the courtroom and there was no mic, I couldn’t quite follow everything the judge was saying, but it seems that there was some confusion over the terminology used for Rabo in the lawsuit/defense. Apparently, the censorship law makes provision for an “executive director,” while Rabo calls himself the “director general.”  The judge said that regardless of which terminology was used, it was clear that MOPPAN was intending to sue the author of the “guidelines.”

 

Another objection was apparently that MOPPAN had not obtained leave to sue one of the bodies. The judge said he cannot strike it out just because they did not obtain leave.

 

Another objection was that they should include the Kano State government in the lawsuit. The judge said that no one can be forced to sue a body they do not wish to sue.  

 

My description is quite sketchy since this is my first time attending one of the proceedings; however, the basic gist is that the judge struck down the objections of the defendants and said that the lawsuit would continue. The mood after dismissal was bouyant. Among the surprisingly large number Kannywood stakeholders who had come to court in support of MOPPAN, there were grins, handshakes, and congratulations all around.

Raids on a film set last weekend and other developments in “Kano State Censor’s Board vs. Kannywood”

[NOTE: 25 March 2009: This is a corrected version of an earlier post.]

Kannywood filmmakers have only recently begun shooting their films in Kano again. For the past several months, more and more stakeholders have gone ahead and registered individually with the Kano State Censorship Board, so that they will be able to work in Kano State instead of travelling outside to surrounding northern states. (Such travel is not ideal for filmmakers who live in Kano: several stakeholders have been killed in road accidents going to and from location, and the cost of production goes up when everyone is staying in hotels.) However, the registration process involves both the payment of a registration fee and an interview with the censorship board before an id card will be issued that gives the holder permission to work in Kano. Those I talked to about registering a month ago had a resigned air. “We have to work,” I was told over and over again. Baba Karami, producer, actor, and marketer, told me he had a family he was trying to support and he would follow the law. Another director and actor told me that although he was not going to register as a director in the state (he would keep shooting his own films outside of Kano), it would not be fair to the producers of other films he appeared in as an actor if he did not register as an actor. Apparently the Kano State Censorship Board will not allow any film in which an actor who is not registered individually with the censorship board appears to be released in Kano State. Among those I ‘ve spoken to over the last few months, there has been the feeling that registering with the Censorship Board–“following the law”–would provide them with some modicum of security from being included in the sweeping arrests of Kano film industry stake holders. A few even told me they thought the Kano State Censorship Board was trying to improve filmmaking in Kano.  However, the stakeholders I talked to yesterday–the same ones who had been resigned to registration–were angry.

According to several crew members I spoke to yesterday, last Saturday, 21 March, a film set on the outskirts of Kano State was raided by police. According to my sources, every one on the location was registered with the Kano State Censorship Board and the necessary paperwork to shoot the film in Kano had been completed. Two police vehicles showed up and police asked the director to show proof that he had registered the production with the censorship board. The director produced it. Then they began to call out crew members randomly to check if they had their Kano State censorship board identification with them. About three actors had forgotten their id cards at home. The police served them with a “court summons,” but the summons said that rather than going to the mobile court they should go to the censorship board to present their identification.(Readers, please correct me if I’ve made errors on this.) 

The feeling among those I spoke to was that with such raids on film locations the Kano State Censorship Board was not merely trying to “sanitize” the industry but “destroy” it. One  actor told me that he paid the fee to register with the censorship board three months ago, but he is yet to be called in for the interview that is necessary before he is given his registration. As seen in the Iyan-Tama case (for more explanation in the words of the director general of the censor’s board, see this interview), the magistrate court attached to the censorship board does not find proof of payment for registration acceptable proof for registration. In the case of this actor, he has tried his best to complete the paperwork and the delay in completing it is from the board. If this actor works in state, he is at risk being arrested and fined by the censorship board. There are directors who have asked him to appear in their Kano productions but he has had to turn down the work because he does not want to be arrested for not having completed his registration.

In other news, there has been a radio announcement on the government radio station, Radio Kano, that actor/director Adam Zango (who currently resides in Kaduna and was among the first to be jailed by the mobile court attached to the censorship board after the Hiyana scandel) is “wanted” by the magistrate court in Kano and that he should be brought from anywhere in the country back to Kano to pay a fine of N100,000 and continue the prison sentence he had not completed in Kano. I spoke with Zango’s manager Falalu Dorayi yesterday, who told me that an appeal has been made to the high court and Adam Zango had been given bail. He also told me that their lawyer had said they have no business with the magistrate court in Kano, since they are on appeal at the high court. According to Dorayi, the magistrate court has no authority to make such an announcement, but the announcement has succeeded in causing extra worry/danger to the “wanted” actor/director/musician and his colleagues.

I am trying to transcribe and translate the interviews I did with Dorayi and with the crew member of the film whose registered colleagues were arrested. If I complete them, I will post them on this blog.

Today I also went to the latest court case in MOPPAN’s (Motion Picture Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria) lawsuit against the Kano State Censor’s Board. I arrived late because I went with my neighbor to pay a “get well” visit to a friend, and discovered via the lawyers who were chatting outside that it has been adjourned until Thursday at noon, at the federal high court, Court Road.

For more information about the ongoing censorship crisis in Kano, see other posts:

From/On Censor’s/Critic’s perspective:

My interview with the Director General of the Censorship Board, Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim

Kano State Censorship Board Opens a Website

The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again

Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences

On/From Filmmakers:

My interview with arrested editor Sulaiman Abubakar in NEXT

My Interview with Vice President of MOPPAN Dr. Ahmad Sarari

My interview with Sani Mu’azu, President of MOPPAN

On the current censorship crisis in Kano

Outside links:

Hard Times in Kannywood from NEXT

Award-winning film Lands Director in Jail from IPS