Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN, at Cannes 2008 (c) Ahmad Sarari
Before I go into more detail about my interviews with the director general of the Kano State Censorship Board and with the Vice President of MOPPAN, Dr. Ahmad Sarari, let me just give a quick update on the Iyan Tama case, which Dr. Sarari told me about. He said that the judge didn’t want to just “quash the judgment already done by the previous judge,” so he suggested that they “should compile a fresh new appeal” (which they did the following day). “So the latest development now is the constitution of the station panel, which will review the case and look at the previous judgment of the case and come out with a final conclusion, a final verdict on the case.” Dr. Sarari said that the advantage of this “special panel of jurists” would be that “if something comes out of that sitting, there will be no case to appeal for Iyan Tama. He will just be out pending on the termination of the final judgment.”
I asked him about about the thirty day deadline Justice Mukhtar Ahmed had given him on December 30 to appeal his sentence, and asked if this continuous delay of the appeal by the court would affect that. Sarari answered that he had discussed this issue with the lawyer. “He said that has no impact on the constitution of this special panel. Because that is we were afraid of, because Iyan-Tama has already been almost 28 or 27 days in prison, so we have two to three days for the time to lapse.”
(For more background information on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)
Now for some of the other details of the interviews:
I interviewed Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim on Tuesday January 27, 2009. I went with a journalist I met last week, and “Malam Rabo,” as he is called here in Kano, kindly welcomed me to his office and allowed me to interview him after he said azahar prayers. I’m a bit embarrassed I wasted so much of his time (over an hour and 8,500+ words), but though he grew a bit impatient towards the end (I really did keep asking too many questions…) , he answered almost all of my exhaustive list of questions. He was quite gracious, but as the interview went on I could see that he is passionate about his calling to protect “Hausa-Fulani culture from illicit and alien influences.” He shed some more light on the Kano State interpretation of Iyan Tama’s “crimes.”
The most unfortunate part of the interview was that my digital recorder cut out at one point without me realizing it had gone off. And, excruciatingly, it cut out on the most important questions I was asking him, namely about the Iyan Tama case. Fortunately, I usually take extensive notes, so I was able to reconstruct the main gist of what he said. I will place here a summary of what he said about the Iyan Tama case, which will hopefully not conflict with the copyright of the two articles I am writing from these interviews.
I asked him about several points that confused me about the case
1)Iyan Tama was charged with not having registered his company with the censorship board, but he has a receipt for registration with the board dated 2008, which anyone interested can view at http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com.
Malam Rabo answered that a receipt for payment was evidence of payment for the registration but is not the registration certificate itself, which requires further paperwork, letters from the bank, local government area etc. He asked me if I had a receipt for application to the university whether it would be proof of my admission, and then said, “of course it wouldn’t be.” He claimed that Iyan Tama had refused to follow up on the initial payment with the rest of the paperwork.
2) I pointed out that Part IV, item 16 of the 2001 Censorship law, which he says is the law under which filmmakers are currently being tried, says that “no films produced or issued by the diplomatic representative of a foreign country will be subject to censorship law.” Iyan Tama’s film Tsintsiya was sponsored by the U.S. embassy, so why is it being tried for not having been censored under this law?
Malam Rabo answered that this was only one part of the law and that elsewhere there are other specifications for how to gain exemption from censorship. He said that to receive this exemption, you must apply to the board. He also said that the law was intended for non-profit educational type projects and that Iyan Tama’s film was a “purely commercial venture” and was not exempt under the law.
3) I asked him about how Iyan Tama had made public statements about how his film was not for sale in Kano. Why was he being held responsible for copies of the film which may have been smuggled into the states and sold by unrelated marketers?
Malam Rabo basically said that if Iyan Tama did not want to be responsible for the films sold in the state, then public announcements were not enough. He had to communicate officially with the board about that.
From Malam Rabo’s office I went immediately to Klassique Productions, the office of Dr. Ahmad Sarari, elder brother (same father) of Iyan Tama and Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria. Dr. Sarari is an extremely kind and gracious man. He was trained as an epidemiologist in Russia and worked for years in a hospital. It was only a few years ago that he quit his job to focus on full time filmmaking—a pursuit the censorship crisis has greatly affected. I waited in his office while he did the La’asar prayers, and was particularly interested in a trophy sitting on his desk from the Kano State Censorship Board. When he came back in from his prayers, I asked him about it and he said that Iyan Tama had also received several awards for the Censorship Board for making good moral socially constructive films.
I asked him to respond to what Malam Rabo had said about Iyan Tama’s case. He said
1) In the issue of the receipt. It was true that there were other materials that Iyan Tama was gathering for the registration, but that he was in the process of acquiring materials that took quite some time to receive from banks and local government areas. He pointed out that almost all of the filmmakers in Kano were going through the same process of gathering files. Iyan Tama had also earlier told us, when I visited him in prison the first time, that the censorship board had not released certificates to anyone by the time he was arrested in May
2) Dr. Sarari said that the law did make the provision for the exemption of films sponsored by foreign development agencies, but stated that in Iyan Tama’s case this law was not even relevant, because Iyan Tama had decided he would not release the film Tsintsiya in Kano State. One of the reasons for this was that Kano State had a ban on singing and dancing in films and there was singing and dancing (“though moral singing and dancing” Sarari hurried to point out) in Tsintsiya (as any good adaptation of West Side Story, not to mention Hausa film would!). So, whether he could have legally released the film in Kano State or not, he chose not to release it at all and made announcements on radio stations and in major newspapers that the film was not for sale in Kano State.
3) When I asked him about Malam Rabo’s insistence that there must be an official communication with the censorship board about the film not being released in the state, he responded passionately, asking what was Iyan Tama’s business with the censor’s board if he had entirely produced, exhibited and released the film outside of Kano state, and had the approval and support of agencies like the National Film and Video Censors Board and the National Film Corporation. Just because Iyan Tama is a “Kano man” does not mean he cannot go elsewhere to make and exhibit his films, he argued. “Why does he have to come inform the censor’s board that “I want to release my film in Kaduna.” Where is their area of jurisdiction? Their area of jurisdiction is Kano, right? am I right? So, they don’t have the power beyond Kano, and he released the film outside of Kano. So he wouldn’t have had to come inform the board, I want to do this and that, since he has no business to do in Kano.”
Finally, when I asked him about Malam Rabo telling me about there being multiple places where the film was found in Kano, Sarari said that he had been at every court case and that the censorship board had not been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any marketer had received the film from Iyan Tama. He clarified that the copies of the film they had used in court were impounded from CD Palace, the shop owned by HRB Productions. But they had not been in the counter or in the main shop area; the police had broken into an office and found a few copies of the film in a desk drawer. These particular copies belonged to the actor Baballe Hayatu, who was the star of Tsintsiya, and he had been given copies of the film for his own personal use.
There was much more to the interviews with both gentlemen, but I will let it rest there for now, and I welcome either of them to leave comments on this blog if they have any corrections or additions.