Tag Archives: censorship

Aminu Ala given bail on condition that he does not speak with media

Authors Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino and Ibrahim Sheme on the Finafinan_Hausa listserve both report that Aminu Ala was released yesterday, July 9, 2009, on bail, but on the condition that he does not speak with local or international media. The case was adjourned until 20 July 2009.

On his blog, Ibrahim Sheme reports on the granting of bail

But there’s a caveat. Ala was barred from granting interviews to local and international media – clearly a desperate attempt to muzzle his freedom of expression and the freedom of the press on the issue. The court ruled that his bail would be thwarted if he does so.

Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino gives a detailed summary in Hausa of the court case on July 9, which I will copy below. He reports that despite the large rainstorm of the night before and the water on the roads, the court was completely full at 10am when the case was scheduled to begin, including even “girls and married women who had heard the news of the case on the radio.” The judge did not show up, and they were told to wait or come back at 1pm. At 1:45pm, the judge finally showed up, and gave Ala bail until the court meets again on 20 July, except that (Gidan Dabino puts this in all caps) “THE COURT PROHIBITED HIM FROM TALKING WITH DOMESTIC OR FOREIGN JOURNALISTS.” He continues “We and those from outside will continue talk.” In the meantime the Kano branch of the Association of Nigerian Authors came out with a press release on 8 July 2009, which I will copy in it’s entirety after the report in Hausa by Gidan Dabino.

KOTU TA BA DA BELIN ALA
Barka da warhaka ‘yan’uwa, kamar yadda na bayar da bayanin yadda aka ce an daga zaman kotu sai 14 ga wata, baya ta haihu, domin an sami kuskure wajen rubutun da ma’aikatan kotun suka yi, amma bayan kai kawo da aka yi aka gano kuskuren ma’aikatan koton don sun rubuta kwanan watan da ba daidai ba, bayan kai kawo da ka yi an dawo da zama kotun yau kamar yadda aka ambata a baya.
Yau da misalin karfe 10 na safe jama’a sun yi dafifi sun cika kotu, cikar kwari kotun ta yi, duk da ruwan sama da ake yi, yau kotun har da matan aure da ‘yan mata da zaurawa da suka ji labari a rediyo, sun sami hallara. Amma mai shari’a bai fito ba, ya ce sai karfe 1, nan ma bai zauna ba sai 1.45 sannan ya zauna  kuma Alkalin kotun ya yarda ya bayar da belin Ala, sannan za a ci gaba da shari’a ranar 20/ga wannan wata.
Sai dai KOTUN TA HANA SHI MAGANA DA ‘YAN JARIDU NA GIDA DA WAJE.
Allah sarki! Mu da muke waje za mu yi hirar. Ai gari da mutane maye ba zai ci kansa ba!
Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Kano, Nigeria

You can visit my blog Taskar Gidan Dabino at http://gidandabino.blogspot.com
The ANA press release is as follows:
Press Release
At an emergency meeting held at the Bayero University Kano, today, July 8, 2009, the Association of Nigerian Authors Kano State Branch, frowns at the arrest of one of its members Alhaji Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (ALA) over the alleged release of a song that has not been censored by the Kano State Censorship Board.
The Association is seriously looking at the implication of the arrest which is seen as an attack on liberty and freedom of expression. The Association has observed that the authorities in Kano are hostile to art and literature. This action and other past actions of the authorities are seriously undermining the position of Kano State as the leading centre of learning, art and literature.
The Association wishes to advise the authority to be cautious on the way it handles the matters of authors and other producers of art. Art and literature are part and parcel of every
society and no society can do without it.
Yours faithfully,
Dr. Yusuf M Adamu
Branch Chairman
Alh. Balarabe Sango II
Public Relations Officer
July 8, 2009




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Commissioner of Information from Borno state said in response that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chairman of the association Chief Victor Okonkwo says,

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

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

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

Adamu Abuh of the Guardian

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Similarly,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Salisu Koki’s essay continues:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Mobile Court bans listening to 11 Hausa songs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

Helon Habila speaks on censorship in Kano

Helon Habila liest, P02

Helon Habila liest, P02 (Photo credit: lutzland)

(a post in which I meditate on my research obsessions and recommend a recent opinion piece on “Art and Censorship in Kano” by multiple award-winning Nigerian novelist Helon Habila)

In Helon Habila’s first novel Waiting for an Angel, which was the subject of my MA thesis, he blurs the boundaries between his characters’ fictions and the reality of the world they live in. Originally self-published as a collection of short stories Prison Stories, the novel is fractured into stories told from multiple perspectives about “ordinary” people living out their lives in the “prison state” of Nigeria under the Abacha regime. The artist, Habila implies, provides a challenge to oppressive structures by gathering up the voices of poor ordinary people, so often lost in official propaganda, and putting them into print. The novel is not merely a litany of hopelessness, although the hardship of poverty is illustrated, but also captures the loud irreverent conversations in a Lagos “Mama Put” joint on Morgan street, which has been re-named “Poverty Street” by its inhabitants and the vivid dreams of ordinary people for a better life.

One striking scene shows the main character Lomba, a journalist and aspiring novelist, watch a fictional scene he had written for his paper come to life. Lomba’s characters reflect what his editor James tells him to capture: the “general disillusionment, the lethargy” of being trapped into a story where “One general goes, another one comes, but the people remain stuck in the same vicious groove. Nothing ever changes for them except the particular details of their wretchedness. They’ve lost all faith in the government’s unending transition programmes. Write on that”  (113). The story that Lomba writes is filled with “ubiquitous gun and whip-toting soldiers,”  “potbellied, glaucomatous kids” playing in gutters alongside the carcasses of “mongrel dogs worried by vultures” (118). This story does, indeed, seem to reflect the despair of life in a prison until the end of the story where he writes of “the kerosene-starved house-wives of Morgan Street. I make them rampage the streets, tearing down wooden signboards and billboards and hauling them away to their kitchens to use as firewood” (118). This moment suggests both the extremity of the environment, which has forced the people of Morgan street against the wall, as well as the agency of the women who take their futures into their own hands. And although James removes the celebratory conclusion before publication, telling Lomba he is “laying it on a bit too thick,” on his way home, Lomba sees an angry mob of women who “set to hacking and sawing” at a large billboard advertising condoms. It is Lomba’s knowledge of the script that allows him to tell the man next to him that “‘They are not crazy. They are just gathering firewood’ I explained to him. It was my writing acting itself out. And James thought I had had laid it on too thick. I wish he were here to see reality mocking his words.”

Although Lomba’s first reaction is one of hopelessness that “we are only characters in a story and our horizon is so narrow and so dark[,]” this episode is a revolutionary moment in the text (119). While Lomba, as well as the women outside the window of the Molue, may be characters in a story, this moment marks a remarkable departure from the prophecies of prison and death foretold by a marabout in another “story” in the novel. The porous borders between Lomba’s fiction and his reality that allow his writing to act itself out indicate the possibilities of the imagination—the possibility that while caught in a the literary metaphor of a prison, the “prisoners” might turn around and revolt. Lomba, and subsequently the mob of women, take the text into their own hands and appropriate the property of the state to sustain their own needs

In recently thinking about my research interests on Nigerian films and  “meta-fictions,” I realize that what obsessed me about Waiting for an Angel is also what obsesses me about Nigerian and particularly Hausa films, both in the reflection of the stories of “ordinary people” so often seen in these films and in a projective imagination that often (although certainly not always) challenges injustices by acting as what Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o mentions as a crucial aspect of art, that of a mirror, which “reflects whatever is before it—beauty spots, warts, and all” (1998, 21). People are rarely passive in these films. Beloved comedians like ‘dan Ibro often skewer the rich and powerful in their satirical stories.

I’ve heard people complain that there is too much “shouting” in Nigerian films, yet to me this “shouting” becomes a powerful metaphor for what Nigerian films have done for the “voiceless.” Gayatri Spivak has asked if the “subaltern can speak”? While I want to be over-cautious about over-romanticizing Nigerian films, which often do reproduce Nigerian society’s worst stereotypes of women and offer alarmingly unhealthy “solutions” to problems, I think one of the reasons I love the films so much is because they do seem to allow the “subaltern” to speak, both literally (in that so many of the film participants come from poor backgrounds) and metaphorically.

Attempts to suppress these films, therefore, seem like the attempts of the prison superintendent in Waiting for an Angel to suppress and co-opt the voice of the writer Lomba. The writer is imprisoned, seemingly muzzled, but attempts to suppress his voice ultimately prove to be impossible. Lomba smuggles stories about his “life in prison” through metaphoric language in his “love poems” commissioned by the prison superintendent for the woman he is woo-ing.

Hausa films are often dismissed for being “just love stories.” But stories of love can be powerful. There is often more going on than the reader of surfaces will find.

I was thrilled, therefore, this morning to find that Helon Habila has recently brought together my two research obsessions in a recent article in one of my favourite new publications, NEXT: “Art and Censorship in Kano.”  In the article, he both challenges simplistic critiques of Nigerian films and meditates on the “politics” of censorship. As Habila points out, while Nigerian films are not always polished “cinema” pieces, they have “made movie making a grass roots experience.”

[UPDATE: 19 October 2013. While I was doing a little blog maintenance, I was afraid I had lost access to this article because NEXT went out of business a few years ago and took all their content with them. Fortunately, Sola at Naija Rules had copied the article over on her site. I’ve previously been irked when Nigerianfilms.com and other such sites have copied my blog content without permission, but I am beginning to be grateful for these sites that make articles available long after the original sites have gone down. I am re-copying Helon Habila’s article here for archival purposes.]

Art and censorship in Kano

By Helon Habila

It is so easy to underestimate the achievement of the Nigerian film industry, and this is because we always measure such achievements using false parameters—we compare Nollywood to Bollywood and Hollywood.

Whenever we do that, Nollywood will always come short of our unreasonable expectations. How long has it been in existence? Ten, maybe 20 years? What of Hollywood, over a hundred years? And Bollywood, when was Sholay made, 1960?

The extent of what our film makers have achieved in the short time they have been here was pointed out to me by a Nigerian/South African director friend.

When I asked him to compare the two film industries, he said, South Africa has all the right tools and techniques, they make movies on celluloid and with multiple cameras and have the right post-production requirements, but Nigeria doesn’t have all that, yet South Africans can’t get people to watch their movies whereas the Nigerian movies are practically jumping off the shelves.

It is true South Africa makes great movies, like Tsotsi, every once in a long while, but Nigeria has made movie making a grass roots experience. That is the paradox: whereas movie making in Nollywood is nondemocratic and cliquey, yet the consciousness towards it, and the patronage, is widespread.

This mass patronage and consciousness is indispensable if any nation is going to have a viable film industry. And we are achieving all this without government participation, or should I say, in spite of government participation.

And government participation is what brings me to Kano. The industry here is called Kannywood (what else?) Most people outside the Hausa speaking world aren’t really aware of it, but it has been going on for a while. Just as Nollywood’s progenitors are the early Nigerian soap operas like “Behind the Clouds”, “After the Storm”, etc, Kannywood also grew on the back of popular Hausa TV ‘dramas’ like “Samanja”, “Karkuzu”, and of course “Kasimu Yero’s Gagarau”.

Other unmistakable influences are Bollywood movies. The Indian influence on Hausa films can at best be described as odd, at worst weird—here I am not only talking about the excessively romantic nature of Hausa movies, the love theme could easily have come from Hausa literature, but I am talking about the song and dance numbers. It seems each film has about three songs and dances.

I remember the first time I saw a Hausa film, nobody had warned me that there was going to be singing and dancing, and so when it came I was taken totally unawares, and yes, I was disconcerted to watch these Nigerians singing and dancing on the streets of Kano.

That was the first impression. The second impression was: Well, the songs are really not that bad, if you are a song and dance kind of person. All in all one wished the songs would end quickly so the movie would resume.

But this piece is not really about aesthetics, it is about art and politics.

These actors would have gone on singing and dancing in peace, and mostly unnoticed by most Nigerians outside the Hausa speaking world if not for what has come to be dubbed the “Hausa Film Porn Scandal”. It seems in August 2007, a popular Hausa film actress, Maryam Hiyana, was filmed making love to her boyfriend, by the said boyfriend. In their defence they said it wasn’t for commercial purposes, so that technically means it is not porn, but somehow the eight-minute clip was leaked to the public and this began a series of what can only be described as a siege on the film industry by the Kano State government. And to quote a source, “So far, according to Ahmed Alkanawy, director of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies, over 1000 youth involved in the film industry and related entertainment industries ‘have been arrested in the name of shari’ah and sanitization.’ … However, although shari’ah law is invoked, most ‘censorship’-related cases are being tried in a state magistrate court, a mobile court on Airport Road presided over by magistrate Mukhtar Ahmed.

Defendants are often arrested and convicted within an hour, without the benefit of legal representation. Some are given prison sentences while others are given the option of paying a fine.”

A popular actor, Rabilu Musa (Dan Ibro), was arrested for “indecent dancing”!

What I find most chilling is a book-burning ceremony staged in a girls’ school. Book burning, in a school! The government may as well close down the school, for by burning books in front of students, the whole aim of educating them is defeated.

Even individual writers were required to register before writing!

The most recent case is the arrest of a former gubernatorial candidate Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama—a film maker whose film, “Tsintsiya”, is an adaptation of the Hollywood classic, “Westside Story”. He was first arrested in May 2008 for three months and fined 2,500 naira, then in January 2009 he was sentenced to 15 months with a fine of N300,000. It seems in the movie, he acted the role of a governor and carried out an investigation into the causes of sectarian violence.

Here, at last, the government is showing its hand. Whenever an art form begins to go beyond entertainment and to appeal to people’s political consciousness, the people in power become scared. That seems to be the case with Kano.

The question to ask is, are the censors working in the interest of the people, or are they using religion for political ends as we have seen so often in the shari’ah states? Any society that seeks to silence the artist is attacking the people, for often it is only the artist that can articulate the secret hopes and yearnings of the people.

NEXT

 

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

The Kano State Censorship Board opens a website

[UPDATE 19 October 2013. Doing a little blog maintenance here. Unfortunately the KSCB website was taken down shortly after the Shekarau government left power in 2010. I saved the pages to my computer before it was taken down, but it is no longer available online.]

On the 18th of March I attended the Mambayya House premier of the film Yancina made under the auspices of “Promoting Women’s Rights through Shari’ah.” While chatting with Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at the event, he informed me that the Kano State Censorship Board website, which was under construction last time I checked has finally opened.

The site is a really fantastic resource for researchers and filmmakers alike. The homepage includes an essay, which appears to be written by the director general of the board Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (whom I interviewed at the end of January), laying out the purposes and philosophy of the censorship board.

Also on the blog are links to the state censorship board publications including the law of 2001 and subsequent guidelines, press releases, lists of registered stakeholders, a list of registered production companies, a list of registered cinemas,  a list of registered soccer viewing centres, a list of censored books, and a list of films censored in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. (Noticeably absent is 2006). Another link on the website is to “articles on the Censorship board.” So far there is one article with no byline, titled “Kano Censorship and the Burden of Moral Defense.” Here are some exerpts from the article:

But when the charismatic Mal. Rabo Abdulkareem was wisely appointed as the executive secretary (110w Director General) by Mallam as a result of the infamous Hiyana saga, the name of the Kano state censorship Board became a household name.

[…]

Tasked with the burden of control and supervision of the information and ideas that are circulated in the society, the activities of the Kano state Censorship Board have already started impacting favorably and this is appreciated by the public All of a sudden tile public happily realized that the previously otiose board can now really defend their helplessly invaded morality.

The hitherto unprecedented expansion and circulation of immorality via the activities of the so called Kannywood or Hausa filmmakers was perfectly checked and stopped by the Rabo led censorship to the admiration and pleasure of the public.

The shameless and destructive activities of the filmmakers were thriving to the chagrin of’ the society to the extent that some pessimists have given up. All the pleas, calls and sermons by different groups of people to the filmmakers to effect corrections in their activities as well as their films were sternly’ rebuffed by the filmmakers. This is the reason for the euphoria that trailed Rabo’s bold move to tackle the disturbing activities of the filmmakers which was timely successful.

[…]

It is quite surprising the way some of the writers chose to confront the board in a Kannywood like manner. Even the hitherto respected among them inanely wrote many things that put their integrity to question. They sound and behave as worst as any lawless uneducated could. While the board is saying that all forms of obscenity should be stopped and that the books should conform with the culture and religion of the targeted audience in addition to the registration of the writers with the board among other things, these people are busy writing different sorts of bunkum in order to blackmail the board. All their arguments were based on subauditions, or more correctly, assumptions, and nothing more. Some of them were even proposing to take the matter up to their masters i.e. the international community in order to come to their aid, just as the Kannywood cohorts tried, as if the so called international community is that rotten.

I will likely do more analysis of the site later on this blog or in my own academic work, but I note a few interesting things:

1) On the homepage of the Censorship Board are a list of “useful links”. They include A Daidaita Sahu (the government agency for “societal reorientation”), the Sharia Commission, Gamji (a news website that focuses on northern Nigerian news), the National Film and Video Censors Board, and two newspapers, the Kano-state government owned Triumph Newspaper,  which regularly publishes pro-censorship and anti-Hausa film opinion pieces, and the Abuja-based Daily Trust, which has several times re-printed the said opinion pieces from the Triumph [as I have noted elsewhere]. Noticeably absent is the newspaper, Leadership, which most often publishes news about Kannywood and opinion pieces critical of the censorship board.  Of course, this isn’t surprising, but I do find it interesting that Triumph and Trust were the two papers chosen to be included on the list.

2) A related observation: in the “Censorship Board in the News” link, the only two articles posted (as of today) were the Open Letter to the American Embassy in Nigeria, by Asabe Murtala (later published in Trust under the name Asabe Muktar, as I point out in an earlier post), and the director general’s response to a critique of the board published in This Day.

3) I love it that the Censorship Board is making all of this information available to the public. Open access to the 2001 censorship law and related publications is especially encouraging. However, I wonder how frequently the website will be updated and how that might impact arguments the board makes in individual cases with “erring” stakeholders. For example, will the list of registered stakeholder, production companies, and censored books be updated every time a new stakeholder or production company registers and a new book is censored?  Will each company and stakeholder be removed from the list at the beginning of each year and be added back when they have paid their renewal fee for each new year?

On the whole, I find this an extremely positive development. I am encouraged by the open access to information, but also cautious about the “spin” placed on that information by the board. Of course, as I note of my own blog, it is their website, so “spin”  that presents “their” side of the story is certainly their prerogative. It’s certainly a rich resource for my own research.

Updates on the Iyan-Tama case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywood

I’m sorry I have been scarce on this blog lately. I’ve been working at home, where I do not have internet, and then travelling (BOB TV in Abuja) so have had scanty internet access. The best place to find an overview of the latest events in the Iyan-Tama case are on the blog of my friend Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz, where he posts the articles he writes for Leadership.

Leading up to the hearing that took place on Wednesday, March 11, (later than initially planned), one of the houses associated with Iyan-Tama was attacked. According to Abdulaziz, at the state high court hearing, the attorney general of Kano State challenged the  original ruling in the Iyan-Tama case given by magistrate Mukhtar Ahmad, the judge at the mobile court attached to the Censorship Board.

He said the trial was “improper”, “incomplete”, a “mistake” and requires retrial before a more “competent magistrate”.

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

On March 16, the high court will rule on the appeal.

In other news, here is an article on the Kannywood crisis  and featuring my friend Sulaiman Abubakar published by last Sunday’s NEXT, and interviews I carried out with Sulaiman Abubakar and an edited down version of the interview I carried out with the Director General of the Censorship Board, the entire transcript of which can be found on this blog.

And finally here is an interview Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz carried out with chairman of the actor’s guild of Nigeria, Kano chapter (this group being separate from MOPPAN) for Leadership

More arrests along Zoo Road yesterday, and my article on Iyan Tama makes IPS front page

Yesterday evening, I went to Zoo Road to carry out an interview with Hausa producer and actor Nura Husseini and heard that there had been more raids on Zoo Road yesterday afternoon. A couple of editors were arrested. When a singer in one of the music studios asked the police why they came into the studio “ba sallama” (with no greeting), they arrested her too. I’m not sure whether they were held in jail overnight like Sulaiman or whether they were taken straight to the mobile court. Apparently, this time they were looking for individuals who had not individually registered with the censorship board.

In other news, today my article on Iyan-Tama apparently made IPS headlines.

(For a background on the censorship crisis in Kano see this post)

Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama

 

 Dr. Ahmad Mohammed Sarari is the national Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN). He is also an award winning producer of Hausa films and has taken his film Waraqa to film festivals in Cannes and Cairo. Trained in Russia as an epidemiologist, he resigned his position at a Kano-based hospital a few years ago to focus full time on filmmaking. I spoke with him on the 27 January about trial of his younger brother, filmmaker Iyan-Tama, the ongoing MOPPAN lawsuit against the censorship board [as of last week, that seems to have been suspended], and about the impact of the ongoing censorship crisis on the Hausa film industry. [As of today, 16 February, Iyan-Tama was still in prison. On the phone this morning, Dr. Sarari told me that that it has taken at least two months for them to give the record to the upper court. The accountant has been there more than ten times to look for it. He wanted to emphasize the serious delays. Iyan-Tama has already served half of the three month sentence.]

This is the interview I conducted with him on 27 January 2009. For more background on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post. [I also spoke with him immediately after my interview with the director general of the Kano State censorship board and referred to that interview in some of my questions. To read the complete interview with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, see this link.]

 

CM: We were both at the second appeal for Iyan-Tama’s case yesterday, which was postponed from Thursday to yesterday, and then the judge said it wasn’t on the list. What are the most recent developments on the Iyan-Tama case?

 

AS: The judge has just said that we should file a fresh new appeal, which we did yesterday. So the latest development now is the constitution of the station panel, which will review the case, look at the previous judgment of the case and come out with a final verdict.

 

Did he give a reason why he suggested a new appeal?

 

He said that he would not like to quash the judgment already done by the previous judge. There is an element of controversy in the judgment, so he will prepare to sit a special panel of jurists. Not just a single person—but a number of judges—will bring out the actual judgment of the case. Another advantage of that is that if anything positive comes out of that sitting, there will be no case to apply for appeal for Iyan-Tama. He will just be out pending on the termination of the final judgment of the case.

 

I was reading back over the articles from when he was sentenced on the 30th, and it said he would have 30 days to appeal, so as long as the appeal is in before the end of this month, he should be all right on the appeal, right?

 

Well I discussed the issue with the lawyer yesterday. He said that has no impact on the constitution of this special panel. Because that is we were afraid of. Iyan-Tama has already been almost 28 or 27 days in prison, so we have two to three days for the time to lapse.

 

What can you say about the attack on his family?

 

That was the night before the court case, Thursday morning, the 22nd of January. So early morning, as usual, I woke up and said my prayers. I took my children to school. Immediately I came back, I found Iyan-Tama’s family in my house, his wife, his daughter, and kids… without knowing—I  thought they just came for a visit as usual. I was in a hurry to take my shower and be in the court. I didn’t bother to ask them why they were there, and they didn’t tell me. As I was going, they thought I would come back. But I didn’t come back. I just went to court. After the court, I went to the briefing. After the briefing, I was having a meeting when my wife called me and told me they were there waiting for me to tell me what happened yesterday. I said, “What happened?” So, they narrated the case to me.

 

I rushed [home] and sat down with the daughter. She’s a grown up girl. She narrated everything from A to Z what happened, what they saw, how traumatized they were, how they were terrorized. What she was telling me was that it was around 2:15am on Thursday. They were sleeping with the light off in the entire house. They just heard somebody banging the door, getting into the room, and shouting at them. They all woke up, even the children.

 

He was not alone. There were some outside, in what we call tsakar gida, outside the room. […] The mother courageously asked him “what do you want?” He said “Shut up.” […] She said, “If it is money you want,” she brought out the key to Hamisu’s car, and some of their jewelry, and said “take all this.” He said “This is not what we are here for. We were sent to terrorize you.”  [Name] said “Please, please,” she was crying, she told the man, “Kill me if you want. She recited kamalti shahada. Said rasmulillahi…. Just kill me but don’t touch any of my kids.”

 

At the end, he said, “Ok, I really sympathize with you guys. Now you lay down on the floor. I will go out and tell my colleague that I have done what I was sent to do.”  So they did. They lay down. He went out. They climbed through the wall. This is what she told me. [No one was harmed in the incident.]

 

Immediately as she narrated this to me, I asked “Did they take anything out of the house?” She said “no.” “Was the main gate to the house open or closed.” She said it was closed with the key, and they had the key. So they jumped through the wall because adjacent to his house there is an uncompleted building, through which they could climb and have access to the house. So this is what happened.

 

Immediately they told me, we decided to report to the police. We took them to the nearest police station to his house, where they reported, and they have assured us they have taken some measures for patrolling and investigating to find out who is responsible.

 

Regarding Iyan-Tama’s case, I just had an interview with Malam Rabo and I asked him about three issues. I asked him about the issue of Iyan-Tama having a receipt for 2008 for the renewal of his registration with censorship. He said that the receipt was not a certificate and he needed a certificate. I also asked him about the exemption because the film had been sponsored by the U.S. embassy, and he said that you had to apply for the exemption that it wasn’t automatic and that it had to follow certain guidelines. I further asked him about Iyan-Tama publically saying that the film was not for sale in Kano, even before his arrest. He said he should have communicated that directly to the board that his public statements don’t have any bearing on the legality of it. You are not Iyan-Tama, but as a representative of MOPPAN, perhaps you could speak to this?

 

Yes, let me start with the receipt issue. When the board announces the registration of all production companies, there are some steps to be followed, the first step of which was to go and pay and acquire a receipt of 1,500 naira, which Iyan-Tama did, which means he was in the process. He already had a file because all the filmmakers went to register for the last administration in 2005. The association took the responsibility of registering other production companies for a subsidized fee after reaching an agreement with the board, which means, since he had a registration/certificate of 2005, he has a file with all of his documents inside the file for the board. So all the filmmakers, we thought we needed to go and get the receipt. We paid, we got the receipt. It was when we got the receipt—like me it took me about four months to acquire a letter from the municipal local government. It took me some weeks to acquire a letter from my bank. So the same thing with Iyan-Tama. He was in the process of acquiring those documents from local government, from the bank, from the Ministry of Commerce. There were about 7 things you have to get ready. He was in the process. He didn’t say he wouldn’t register. Since he has the receipt it means he was in the process of registering. And unknown to many, there were hundreds of practitioners in that process, when he was caught.

 

Secondly, concerning the issue of censoring the film with the Kano State censorship board. Well actually, yes, it is in the state law, that so and so categories of films, those sponsored by NGOs, by foreign bodies, by these countries belonging to commonwealth nations, should not be censored. That’s one. It’s true it is in the law establishing the board. But with regard to Iyan-Tama’s case, he had no intention—because Kano State had a ban on singing and dancing and there is singing and dancing, though moral singing and moral dancing in his film. So he decided he would not sell, he would not distribute, he would not exhibit his film in Kano. He went on air, on radio stations, and on most of the newspapers circulated in Kano saying his movie is not for sale in Kano, and he did not sell it in Kano. Does that mean somebody living in Anambra or somebody producing a film in Lagos must come to Kano to register because he’s afraid his film may sneak to Kano one day. Of course not. His being a Kano man does not mean that he has no right to go out and produce his film somewhere else. That’s why I’m saying the law infringes on the fundamental human rights of we filmmakers from Kano state. Because if somebody can produce his film in Kaduna and say it is from Kaduna. If somebody from Katsina will go to Lagos and produce his film and sell it in Lagos and not be attacked, we from Kano we have no right to go outside produce our films and sell our films outside Kano? It is not violating any law. They have no proof. I was in the court. I followed all the court cases. It was not proven beyond any reasonable doubt that his film was released in Kano. The board could not prove that his film was released in Kano. They had not any evidence that his film was released in Kano.

 

Rabo just told me that they caught several places in market with the film.

 

No, no, no, no. They got it only in a particular place, that was HRB, close to Government House, CD Palace [the shop attached to HRB productions]. It is there that they got it, and it was not on the counter. They had to break into a particular office. It was in a drawer, some copies. And those copies belonged to a filmmaker called Baballe Hayatu. He was the principle character of Tsintsiya. It was given to him to share with his friends, to give as a gift. It was not for sale. It was for personal consumption. I can go in my house with my wife if I like, we can watch it ourselves, in as much as I don’t bring it to the public. And he didn’t do that. His film was not in the market. There was no single marketer who went to the court and said, “Yes, Iyan Tama sold the film to me.” None. Not a single marketer said, “Yes, I got the film from Iyan Tama.” None. Go to the courts. So the case was not proven that the film was released in Kano. And Iyan Tama aired it out. It was on the Radio Nigeria Kaduna. “My film will be released so, so and so date in Kaduna, it is not for sale in Kano.” That’s the second thing. And the third issue was what?

 

The third issue was about him saying publically that his film was not for sale in Kano, so Rabo said that he should have written to the censorship board—

 

He had no relation. You can only relate with the Censorship Board Kano when you have business to do with Censorship Board, Kano. Somebody who has all his artists outside of Kano, produced his film outside of Kano, refuses to bring his film to Kano, sold his film outside of Kano, what is the relationship—what business does he have to do with the Censor’s Board? Of course, none. Me, I reside in Kano, with my company in Kano, yes if I am producing a film, if I have anything to do in Kano, I have to get the final approval of the censor’s board. But he had nothing to do with the censor’s board, so he wouldn’t have written to them. Why did he have to write them? He had his information, he had his clearance from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board. So, why does he have to come inform the censor’s board that “I want to release my film in Kaduna.” Where is their area of jurisdiction? Their area of jurisdiction is Kano, right? Am I right? They don’t have the power beyond Kano, and he released the film outside of Kano. So, he wouldn’t have had to come inform the board, “I want to do this and that,” since he has no business to do in Kano. So I think the points given are just lacking. We followed it in the court and we understand what is going on.

 

It seems ironic that Iyan-Tama is being given such a harsh sentence—you were just telling me about the family friendly nature of Iyan Tama’s films…

 

Of course, Iyan-Tama was termed, well is still termed, the best producer in the film industry. Because he was the only producer whose films the entire family, regardless of age, could sit and watch happily. And he has received this recommendation for quite a long time. Even the board itself gave him quite of number of awards for the nature, for the kind of films, the cultural and Islamic films he is fond of producing. And everybody, all the people of Kano, when you talk of good films, the first thing they will tell you is Iyan-Tama’s movies. Iyan-Tama’s movies are the best, Iyan-Tama’s movies are the most cultural, Iyan-Tama’s movies are the most Islamic movies. No doubt about it…. If you go and take from Tsintsiya downwards: Wata Rana, Bumi, Halak, quite a number of them. Go and take them with issues life, with issues of religion, with issues of culture, so he has been called the best producer. All the same he is now lingering in the prison, but we believe that justice must prevail.

 

 

 

Ok, I’m going to ask you a few more general questions about the problems the film industry is facing. You are a part of MOPPAN, and I talked briefly to[President] Sani Mu’azu about the case of MOPPAN against Kano State. Could you just tell me a little bit more about that ongoing case?

 

Ok, well that case is about to be over, actually it was due to the strike by the court workers that led to the delay. 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.

 

Could you describe a little bit what effect the actions of the censorship board have had on the industry? If you could compare the state of the industry before the Hiyana scandal and now at it’s current state, what is the difference?

 

Well I think I even have a paper here [Screensplash September 2009] where I talked on this particular issue. The financial loss is one. Kannywood contributes about 35% of Nollywood movies. Nollywood generates, according to the report by the Central Government of Nigeria, about forty billion. Let’s say about 35% of what Nollywood makes is about 7 billion naira. That is the share of Kannywood. That share has been lost for a good one year. People have not been going to locations. Many people have lost their jobs. Secondly, the financial strength of the industry was totally weakened. Third, some professionals in the industry have left the industry. Some sought refuge in another state. They moved out of Kano. As you can see right now, you must have seen how different the industry is in Kaduna, how different the market is in Sokoto. It is as a result of this ban on film locations in Kano State.

 

All the same, we agreed. MOPPAN initiated the ban in the beginning. We stopped location activities for the period of three month initially when the Hiyana case happened. Because when the Hiyana case happened, the market was good, the market was moving. They were averaging 1 to 2 films a day, everyday. But now you can see that for the last few months, the marketers were telling me they spent 43 days without a single new film, and all the marketers have moved out of Kano to other states. As I was telling you, some people moved out of the state to earn their living.

 

So why did we suspend location activities for three months? It was mainly for two reasons. One, for the protection—for the security of our members. It was when the Hiyana case happened. Clerics came in. They seized the opportunity to call for our heads, to abuse us, to expose us. We were exposed to very serious danger, and they started harassing and storming houses of some actresses, started attacking some actors in their cars. So we ordered the suspension of location activities for three months.  Secondly, we find out that lack of professional ethics and lack of knowledge on filmmaking is what made Hiyana do what she did. Did she know her value, did she know the ethics regarding the profession she was engaging in? [If so,] she wouldn’t have done what she did. So we decided to use the opportunity to inculcate professional ethics into all the associations. That is what led us to form a document called the “harmonization of the film industry,” that is, every guild and association was given the objective of the association, the ethics of the association, and the goal of that association.

 

It was that harmonization process where we gave a comprehensive detail of how to start from idea to censors board, the steps and how to follow. But unfortunately all this was not very successful, as the Censor’s board came in and increased the ban to 6 more months, that is 9 months. After nine months… now we are already into another year now. You cannot in good faith produce films in the Kano market. None. So if in two years time, the censorship board could not sanitize the industry, if you could not find films produced in Kano in the market, then what have they been doing for this long? Over a hundred practitioners got arrested, got fined. Tens of them imprisoned, those who had no money to pay. What is the improvement? There is no life in the film industry in Kano in particular right now. That is one of the consequences.

 

One of the accusations against the film industry which I keep hearing over and over is that the films are spoiling religion and culture, so how would you respond to that accusation?

 [UPDATE: 14 March 2009: The underlined text below was quoted in my article “Hard times in Kannywood” published by NEXT on 8 March 2009 and is copyrighted to Next]

Well, let me start by giving you a little history of the situation, as a recap. Initially, we know in every association, in every business, in every organization, there are what we call quacks. We also had quacks in the industry. This industry as I keep saying was initiated by the practitioners of films. The industry is nurtured at the present level by the practitioners themselves without the hand of any individual, any government. As a result of the high level of unemployment in the society, youths seek this opportunity to join the industry in mass, most of whom did not even attend school. Some attended only primary school. Most of us were drop outs from secondary school. Some were among those who sell petrol on the street. Some were real hooligans. In fact, some were even armed robbers, in the industry. But can you imagine, they got a job! Everybody got a job to do. Those who were armed robbers, they abandoned that armed robbery, got engaged. Those who did that, they didn’t have the full knowledge of the business, but they were making a living out of it. Some bought houses. Some got married with children, right? But how could you imagine something beautiful, reasonable, sensible from somebody who has never been to school, from somebody who was never guided on how to do it, you understand me? Of course there were films that exposed our children to undesirable culture, I believe. But it was not intentional. It was because these people were not trained, they were not taught. Government did not give a damn about them. There was not any concern. That is why they produced those movies. They did it not to spoil, not to undermine, the Islamic values of our children, but this is what they could do with their lives.

 

So what government could have done was to turn them, take them to school, give them all the support and then bring out the guidelines. But the guidelines come before the training. So our argument was, train them first, take them to the table, teach them. After knowing that, they will know what they are doing.  If they had the prerequisite knowledge for making a film first, then you bring out your guidelines: “from now on we don’t want dancing. From now if you do this or that…” But without teaching them what do you want them to do? What do you want them to produce? They don’t have the technicalities, they don’t have the knowledge to produce what you dream up. And I keep saying if they were their kids they would not have sent them out of Kano. They must have trained them. If your child does something wrong, you counsel him and show him the way to do it right before you start punishing him. This is how it is supposed to be. But this is not what the government did.

 

Secondly as a result of this tussle between the film industry and state government, some clerics got in and seized the opportunity to gain our pity, portraying the filmmakers as people who are fighting against Islamic values, who are against Islamic values, as people who are trained or sponsored to come and spoil the Islamic values of the  youths. This is very wrong. There was never a statement, there was never a write up, there was never a comment by any official of MOPPAN. Quote me anywhere I said that we happen to be against any advice, where we happen to be against any motion that will enhance in inculcating Islamic values to our youths. Never. Never. But we are termed unIslamic. That is the propaganda in the media. In fact we were the first to go before the board and present a document on how to Islamize the movie industry. I was before the committee, before the Kano State Governor, his Excellency Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. The committee asked me what is the way forward, how do we sanitize? I said you could start sanitizing by banning singing and dancing in our movies. They asked why? I said because now quite a large number of girls from Niger, from Adamawa, from all over Northern Nigeria troop to Kano to make movies. Out of 150 girls that come to Kano to make a movie, maximum of two happen to be successful. Do you know what the rest engage themselves in doing? They said, “no.” I said, “They remain in the industry, they don’t go back to their house because there is an avenue of background dancing. So if there was no dancing, they would have no business to do. And that background dancing alone will not earn them much for their living. So they have to be involved in some risky activities to earn their living. Going for gala. Going from town to town doing gala night shows all over. But if you say there is no dancing and singing, these girls will have no where to go. At least you will decrease the number of girls flowing into the industry.” They all agreed with me. And if you need real culture to be portrayed in our films—real Hausa culture, you must stop singing and dancing. Because singing and dancing you can only be attracted in the Indian way. We have our own singing, we have our own dancing, right? But that does not attract the youths, that does not attract the women in the house, that does not attract the rural people who buy, most of those who patronize the films. So this is what we told them. There was never a time when any member of the association uttered a word which was termed unIslamic. Or we happened to fight anything Islamic. Only that the public do not understand the tussle between the censors board and the association. Here we arrived at the same conclusion. We agreed with each other, but they never informed the public about it.

 

Our question is what is the responsibility of the association? What is the responsibility of the board? We believe the board went beyond its line. The Association is the only body responsible for the conduct and registration of its members. Not the Board. They insisted. If the Board said they had the right to register and regulate the conduct of the practitioners, then there is no association. It is only the professional association that has the right to ban the practitioner from featuring in any film, not the board, not the government. It is only the association that has the right to fine you, to license you. It is only the association that has the right to train you. It is only association that has the right to state the prerequisite qualification for being a member. Only the association that can grade you—you are a grade one actor, grade two, grade B, grade C, grade D—not the board, so really, as a result of some activities that happened during the Hiyana case, we agreed. The board can only be supporting the Association. This is what we suggested. They said no, they had to apply everything….

 

Let me ask a final question. There is a lot of talk about how the film industry has been bad for youth or has spoiled youth, what redemptive or positive aspect is there in the industry for young people?

 

Of course there are quite many. Now film practitioners in Kano are really blackpainted. People have been blocked through media propaganda from seeing the good side, the positive side of the film industry. All the announcements, all the adverts on the radio, the television, the billboards, this is on the negative side of the film industry. So I would like to use this opportunity to portray some the positive aspects of the film industry. There are quite many. First of all, there is employment. This is needed all over the world. This is the largest employer in Kano state. Nigeria, in fact, it has been proven through research, that apart from agriculture, the film industry is the largest employer in Nigeria. The same thing in Kano. For you to make a single movie, about 500 people must benefit from it, directly or indirectly. According to research, it was 400, but I say it is about 500. From the idea, the script, the production, preproduction steps, those involved, postproduction, marketing, cinema shows, video, censors, printers. A lot of people are engaged. Production designers, carpenters, shops that rent clothing. There are a lot of them: restaurants, those who cook food, that is the welfare people, the transportation, drivers conveying artistes from here to there. A lot of people get involved. It is very healthy, and this should not be allowed to die. Always train the people, get the right people. Don’t bring the enemy of the industry to regulate the industry. The industry should be regulated, but we have educated, reasonable and respected people in the industry. Why can’t the government pick any of them to run the regulatory hand—that is the censor’s board.

 

As I was telling you before, there were some people engaged in other employment, maybe those who used to sell petrol on the street. I know many of them. I know those who were engaged in quite a number of bad habits, in those professions or those jobs that are not needed by the government, that are not welcome in the society. But with the advent of the film industry, they left those professions and moved to the industry. Then, it is the avenue by which a lot of our actresses projected themselves on the screen and have got suitors, quite a number of them who got married. Some of them got married with the practioners within the industry. Some of them got married out of the industry.

 

Secondly, I’m a living witness that the film industry, in recent history, is the biggest medium through which Hausa people, their culture and their religion is sold to the outside world. Nothing is near competition with the film industry. I was in Cannes May 2008 last year. I said I was from Nigeria. People did not seem to know I was from Nigeria. What is my language? I said “Hausa.” What is my religion? I said, “I’m a Muslim.”  People could not believe there were Muslims in Nigeria because all the Nigerian films they watch are done by the Christians. I said, “I’m Hausa, I’m from the Northern part Nigeria, that’s the largest part of Nigeria.” They said, “no.” All they knew were that there were Igbos and Yorubas in Nigeria. So you can find Hausa films all over the world now, in the internet, in the market, in the shops. So I was proud to represent society, to represent my culture, to represent my people, to represent my religion. Nothing has ever done that apart from this. This is another good side to the film industry.

 

And when you say culture, there are those movies that are really good. There are people—like when you talk of Iyan Tama’s movies, the Iyan Tama who is in custody now, when you see his movies, all his movies are great and they teach you moral, Islamic lessons, and he has been receiving commendation from elite, from quite a number of respected people in the society. In fact even censor’s board, not only once, awarded him an award for producing reasonable and very sound cultural movies. So there are quite a number of good things through the industry….

 

Of course I know the majority of the films produced during and after the Hiyana case were technically not very good. This is not unconnected with the financial situation we’ve found ourselves in, the economic position of Northern Nigeria. The lack of training also contributed. The average budget for a film in Lagos right now is about five million, the average budget for our film is 500,000 and you will see they have 10 times as money.  

 

I would not like to be biased with regard to the activities of the board. Really there are some positive steps taken by the board on which I would like to comment. Yeah. In the last one year, the Board has succeeded in getting almost all of the practitioners to register. That is what we are trying to do, but people were not willing to go and register. All those who registered were not willing to go out and do the registration annually with the association. Secondly you can see now. We have been trying to get rid of the problem of crowds of artists around the town, moving everywhere, displaying themselves around. That was what was happening. People are now afraid to come out and do these things.  And I believe it has a sort of impact on the moral activities of the practitioners in the state. I can see that.

 

But when you talk professionally, nothing has improved. In fact, in some instances, as far as morality is concerned, things are worsening. What is happening outside Kano now, what is happening in Kaduna and Jos, as far as moral activities, is far, far worse than what was going on in Kano.

 

There are quite a number of positives to the industry, but people look only at the negative aspects of it. And the film being the most powerful medium through which messages can be sent cannot be neglected. Kano State claims to be a shari’a government, right? And I tell you this, there is not any medium through which they can propagate shari’a to the people better than film. This is what I think the Government should do, to train the people, to use the medium, to sell itself, to sell its ideology. I talk with people who came when I was in Egypt last year [at the Cairo film festival] and saw how they do it. Government financed. Government trained. Government regulated. But not by imprisoning people. Not by arresting. Not by attacking. Not by exposing people to the stigma of being killed. Not by that. They have their own system.

 

I asked them to go borrow a model from some Islamic Republics, like Iran, like Pakistan. See what they do, what they have on the ground, come argue with us and take what does not suit you out.…. Because the world has changed now. We are in the 21st century, and film is a very powerful tool. The civilized and developing nations use the film medium to send their messages, to send their ideologies, to enlighten people in whatever program they are doing. If you kill the film industry that means we don’t have any way to sell ourselves, to sell our culture, to sell our people what we are doing. So, I believe the approach and the attitude of the government towards industry needs to be checked. It needs urgent attention.

A surprising move by MOPPAN, and my friend Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) arrested on Tuesday

I opened the middle page of the Sunday Trust today and was surprised to learn some information that I would have, assumedly, known since Monday had I arrived at the opening ceremony of the Alliance Francaise DOP workshop on time. According to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Daily Trust from Tuesday 10 February 2009,

Speaking at the workshop, President of the MOPPAN Alhaji Sanni Mu’azu officially announced that the association had withdrawn all its pending court cases against the state censors’ board.  Mu’azu, who spoke through secretary general of the association Dr. Umar Faruk Jibril, said the decision to reconcile was taken by the association in order to ensure continuity and progress in the areas of their operations which could only be achieved through harmonious relationship with board. He also said MOPPAN was a law abiding association and was therefore ever ready to accept constructive criticisms and corrections put forward by the board.   Also speaking, director general of the state film censors board Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim said it had become necessary for the board to reciprocate the decision of the association as there was a need for conducive atmosphere for their workings.

Apparently MOPPAN has suspended their suit against the Kano State Censorship Board. According to This Day:

The Motion Pictures Practi-tioners Associationof Nigeria (MOPPAN) has announced that it has withdrawn all court cases it instituted against the Kano State Censorship Board.This was contained in a statement issued by MOPPAN President, Alhaji Sani Mu’azu,  yesterday in Kano and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
It explained that the move was to give room to the two bodies to start working in harmony for the benefit of all.
The statement said collaboration between the two agencies could be the beginning of new vistas in a common bid to use film production to make the society better.

 

[UPDATE: 16 February 2009: The full text of the speech “Redefining Moments in Kannywood” read at the DOP Workshop can be read at Sani Mu’azu’s blog.]

 

However, the day after this statement was supposedly read at the opening of the workshop on Monday, a friend of mine Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) an editor with H2 Concepts was arrested and detained overnight before being released in an out of court settlement, indicating that whether all is well between MOPPAN and the censorship board or not, all is still not well between the film industry and the censorship board.

I had just spent a day helping proofread the subtitles for a film Jagora (Guidance) made with DFID funding and also supported by A Daidaita Sahu, which premiered last night, 14 February 2009 at Mambayya House. Dr. Sarari, VP of MOPPAN and owner of Klassique Productions where I had been working, was driving me home, when he received a phone call about Sulaiman’s arrest. Sulaiman spent the night in jail, and was released the next day in an “out of court” settlement at the mobile court at the Airport. I didn’t write about this earlier because I didn’t want to publicize the arrest if he didn’t want it to be publicized. However, in an interview that I carried out with him last night, he said that I should publish it and I should use his real name, because he had done nothing wrong, he was not charged with any crime, and the incident had caused him a lot of trouble.

According to Sulaiman, he had returned from his lecturers at Bayero University, where he is a first year student, and was working with his friend Umar Gombe in his office on Zoo Road. He said that around 7:30pm,  two uniformed policemen came in with guns and asked for their certificate of registration with the censorship board. They were being directed by a hisbah police. Habib Yaro, Sulaiman’s boss at H2 Concepts, said that the papers were at the office they had just moved from the month before. Habib said he would go get the papers, while Sulaiman went with them to the police station. However, Sulaiman said that once he entered the police vehicle, they stopped on the side of the road, and the hisbah made a call to someone. He said after the call, the hisbah said that whether they brought the papers or they didn’t bring the papers, he would sleep in the prison tonight. And that is what happened. Although Habib Yaro brought the certificate of registration from 2008 and the 2009 receipt of payment for renewal, they told him they would settle the case the next day and that Sulaiman would stay overnight at the police station.

Sulaiman told me that once they arrived at the police station, they put him in a dirty mosquito-filled cell with thugs and prostitutes.  He said that from 7:30pm until 11am when he was taken to the mobile court at the airport, he was not given anything to eat. His friends brought him supplies and food (and gave the police to give him), but the policemen took most of the supplies. He said they brought him a package of mosquito coils and they gave him 2 out of the package; They brought him a package of candles, he only brought him 2 candles. They brought him biscuits but they didn’t give him any of them. The next morning, apparently friends brought him a flask of  tea, and he was settling down to drink it when a policeman came and told him to give him the flask. That was the last he saw of it.

I went out to the mobile court a little past 11am when we received news that Sulaiman had been transported to court. We saw him in a holding cell with three other men. Sulaiman said one of them had been caught selling a Sadiq Zazzabi’s music video “Gari ya yi tsaf” made for an Abuja politician. The second one had been caught selling cassettes, and the third selling traditional medicine with supposedly pornographic pictures.

After about 20 minutes after I arrived at the court, they released Sulaiman from the cell and he came out grinning. His boss settled with the court and received a receipt for the settlement. However, he said they were not charged with any crime. They had done nothing wrong. Their papers were in order. They had the certificate of registration with the censorship board from 2008, and they had paid and had a receipt for registration for 2009 (although they had not yet recieved their certificate from the board). The only problem they had was that they had relocated from their office in Fagge to Zoo Road, apparently without informing the censorship board. They were charged with a N10,000 court charge and another N5,000 fine paid to the censorship board [ladan gabe]. They were given receipts for both. NOTE: This contradicts what Rabo told me in his earlier interview about the censorship board not recieving any of the money from the censorship court. They had refused to plead guilty, as they had done nothing wrong, but apparently the judge told them they would have to pay the charges anyway. (I’ll put the details up when I transcribe the interview.)  MOPPAN sent their lawyer, but they were afraid that if the lawyer got involved Sulaiman would be held “like Iyan Tama.” 

Sulaiman said he had several lectures at the university that morning, which he missed because he was being held in jail.

I plan to transcribe and translate the interview with Sulaiman, and when I do, I will try to post it here.

[UPDATE: 14 March 2009: For the interview with Sulaiman and an article featuring Sulaiman’s experiences see the links to the following articles published by NEXT on 8 March 2009: Hard Times in Kannywood. and We didn’t do anything Wrong.]

(For a background on the censorship crisis in Kano see this post)