Tag Archives: Nigerian politics

On the eve of the election: Podcast with Ade Torrent on blogging from Nigeria

PDP poster shoved through bus windows, 25 March 2014. (c) Carmen McCain

PDP poster shoved through bus windows, 25 March 2014. (c) Carmen McCain

Two days ago, while returning in a university bus from the institution in one of the western states of Nigeria where I teach, we ran into a PDP rally. The people danced and shouted, pounded on the bus and pushed posters of Jonathan and Sambo through the windows.  I smoothed the crumples and put it in my bag–a souvenir of this time. I was relieved when we left the mob behind us.

When I got home, there was no light. There had been no light for five days. I tried to turn on my stove to cook supper, and there was no gas–a leak somewhere.  I ate cornflakes, which I keep on hand for times like this, and went to bed. The next morning, waiting for someone to come fix the gas leak, I washed clothes on the front steps. There was a moment, when black smoke billowed up and then drifted across the sky, that I had that familiar clenched feeling in my stomach–gut memories of Jos, Kano. Black smoke on the horizon and the grumble of distant shouting.

They have started, I thought, (as I had thought when I heard gunshots in Benin after an election.) But the smoke drifted away and dissipated. The sky was blue again.

On the eve of the election. March 27, 2015.

On the eve of the election. March 27, 2015. (c) Carmen McCain

On the eve of the election. 27 March 2015. (c) Carmen McCain

On the eve of the election. 27 March 2015. (c) Carmen McCain

Since yesterday evening, there has been light, on and off. More than I have had in the two weeks I have lived in this compound. I hope it lasts through the election. I finally have enough battery time to go online and read the most recent  articles about Boko Haram and the people who have escaped from them. [Al Jazeera (whose journalists in Maiduguri have most recently been confined to their hotel rooms) has a particularly horrifying series about women who have escaped  forced marriages in Boko Haram camps and the huge number of orphans who have been left behind.]

Boko Haram propaganda video playing on the phone of an IDP I interviewed. (c) Carmen McCain

Boko Haram propaganda video playing on the phone of an IDP I interviewed. (c) Carmen McCain

I finally have enough NEPA to turn on AIT, the only station I get with my jerryrigged wire that works as an antenna, and see all the election adverts. A jovial president and bright-faced young people celebrating all that he has done while in office. The occasional beleaguered advert from the opposition.

Nigeria 2015 campaign, February 2015

Nigeria 2015 campaign, February 2015 (c) Carmen McCain

A friend tells me over the phone that he is watching  a documentary on Buhari’s VP running mate, Osinbajo, on Silverbird Dream network, when suddenly it goes blank with only a station logo on it. It stays that way for about 10 minutes before coming back on again. I think of the night in February when elections were postponed. How immediately after Jega’s announcement, PDP adverts played on the state television network NTA.  The president laughing. The president running on a treadmill, the president and his wife singing with Nigerians of every tribe and people about  “Mama Peace.”  Shiny happy people holding hands and celebrating the anticipated return of The President.

This morning, I also have enough NEPA to finish a blog post I started several days ago.

Last month, while briefly in the U.S. to take care of getting my STR visa, so that I could make a more permanent move to Nigeria, I recorded a podcast with London-based blogger Ade Torrent, for his series of podcasts on his website GidiBusiness.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 11.34.22 AM

Ade had asked me months ago if we could do a podcast, but when we tried it while I was in Nigeria, Skype cut off about every 10 seconds. So, it was not until I visited the U.S.  and had steady enough light and electricity to have a 30-ish minute chat without being interrupted, that we were able to record the podcast about blogging from Nigeria.

I returned to Nigeria at the beginning of March to begin a job at a lecturer in a part of the country I have never lived before. Since my arrival, I have struggled with even more severe problems than I discussed in the podcast. Today is one of the first days we have had more than a few hours of light. Thus, the delay in posting this.

I’ve never done a podcast before, but I had a lot of fun with this one. We talked about lack of light and solar options (I am still working on that), balky internet, blogs and search terms for Hausa porn (the most common search term I have gotten in my 5+ years on this blog has been “hausa films blue films” followed not far after by “kannywood sex”) that draw people to my site (to be oh so amusingly thwarted), my research on the Hausa film industry, and what I am doing these days. And the inspiration I have gained from other Nigerian bloggers like Abidemi Sanusi, Teju Cole, Nkem Ifejika, Chikodili Emelumadu, Ainehi Edoro, Nura Abubakar, and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.

The postcast is here, and while you are at it,  check out his latest podcast with voiceover artist, Sanjo Ogunseye. It’s a really great listen. Ade also has many other sites:  GidiBusiness, a YouTube channel, Google+,  Twitter, Pinterest, a personal website and more. My personal favourites are his photoblog, A Torrent of Photos, which record his wanderings with his camera, and his YouTube channel A Torrent of Videos, where he vlogs while wandering around London and beyond, camera rolling.

Ade Torrent (c) Ade Torrent

The light has gone again. And I need to go reload my internet credit, so that I don’t run out over the election weekend.

Let me end with a text message I just got from a pastor in Jos:

The hour has come 4Nigerians 2decide 2morrow.Dworld waits. Let us all join hands n hearts 2PRAY 4PEACE 2Reign as we vote n that God?s will be done. Prayer works n it is not an escape route. God Rules n Reigns. Not D riggers, the merchants of death, the sycophants, the false prophets, the merchants of corruption n those who plot Nigeria?s break-up if they lose, but GOD.It is He who has the final SAY. Let us UNITE 4PEACE nDnation?s survival.Vote Wisely.

Advertisements

#Politicalironies : Campaigning in a time of Boko Haram

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.16.32 PMI’m not sure this photo needs any captioning. A screenshot I took featuring an article and a sidebar ad on 16 January 2015. A lot of  juxtapositions these days.

Here is a link to my blogpost with similar ironic political juxtapositions during the 2011 Nigerian elections.

Governor Ibrahim Shekarau on Hisbah, censorship, and Kannywood in the Presidential Debates

For those who did not see the Nigerian Presidential Debates, between General Muhammadu Buhari, Nuhu Ribadu, and Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, you can watch the debates online, here:

I have transcribed the questions Governor Shekarau was asked regarding the hisbah, censorship, and Kannywood during the debates. Emphasis in red mine:

Timecode: 42:56

Moderator: Now Malam Shekarau, Nigeria is a plural society and yet in the state that you govern, Kano State, the hisbah, which is the morality police, is known to brutally enforce sharia and in the process sometimes trampling on people’s rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. How do you reconcile this intolerance with your desire to be the leader of a country as diverse as Nigeria.

Shekarau: Thank you very much. In the first place, I do not agree that the hisbah was brutalizing and overriding the constitutional right of our citizens. We did not just wake up and create the hisbah without going through the legislation.  We used the same constitutional provision that allowed any state to create any policy, any program, any law that will maintain law and order within the state. The hisbah is no more than what today you call community policing. We have the hisbah in virtually every community. Their duty is to ensure there is peace, there is law abiding, and this is exactly what they do. It is those who violate the rules of the land, and we did challenge anyone, whoever thinks that the hisbah has done anything to him contrary to the rules and regulations that rule the land to take his case to the law courts and challenge the creation of the hisbah. So we didn’t just by the wave of a hand create the hisbah, it went through the legislation. There was law promulgated. In fact, the first item on the law of the hisbah is that the hisbah is to assist the Nigerian police in the maintenance of law and order.  (Clapping)

Moderator: Now, you say that but in practical terms the impact of the hisbah in Kano has included killing a film industry that was providing employment, what is known in Nigeria as Kannywood. So there has been an exodus of filmmakers out of Kano, who get harassed when they are on shoots, who have been asked to submit their scripts for inspection, and a total disregard of the people’s rights to express themselves through art in that particular way.

Shekarau: No, I think that is totally wrong. The hisbah has nothing to do with the censorship. We have a full fledged censorship board, created by law through the legislation. And the censorship board has created rules and regulations that govern the conduct of any film industry. We have a right to decide what is right for the community. The government has the moral responsibility to protect the right, the interest, the instant transformation (?) of the society. (Clapping). So all we did, all we did, we said, if you want to register and run a film industry, you should comply with A,B, C, D, F, and we told anybody who feels any of these rules and regulations contradicts the provision of the  constitution of  the Federal Republic of Nigeria should challenge us in court, and nobody has done that anyhow.

Moderator: You seem to be very strong in terms of protecting the rights of the majority. What about the rights of the minority inside the state that you govern.

Shekarau: We are protecting. In fact it may interest you to know that Kano state today is the most peaceful state in Nigeria. If you ask any of the so-called minority or non-indigene, they are quite happy, they are quite peaceful. In fact, today, you will be surprised to find that those you call non-indigenes or even the non-Muslim prefer to go for settlement of disagreement within the community either to the hisbah court or to the censorship board. We don’t have any problem at all. The rules are working. The society has accepted it. The film industry is thriving very well. All we say is abide by the rules and regulations. And there is no community that will live without guiding principles, without rules and regulations and will think that there will be discipline and order in that community.

Although I thought the most impressive performance in the debate came from the moderator, Kadaria Ahmed, who had no qualms with interrupting these “big men” with hardtalk style questions (and would gladly vote her for president if I had a vote), from the feedback I saw on Facebook and Twitter, the majority opinion seemed to be that Governor Shekarau “won” the debate. He did speak eloquently and seemed well-prepared.

However, in terms of his response to the questions above, one might want to keep in mind a few things, and I will focus here only on what I know about the government’s interaction with the film industry, and leave aside the question about the hisbah, whom I’ve heard praised for their intervention in police corruption as well as railed against for alleged “abuses”.

Shekarau claimed :

“we told anybody who feels any of these rules and regulations contradicts the provision of the  constitution of  the Federal Republic of Nigeria should challenge us in court, and nobody has done that anyhow.”

And

“We don’t have any problem at all. The rules are working. The society has accepted it. The film industry is thriving very well.

From my observations of the interaction between the Kano State Censorship Board and the Hausa film industry based in Kano (and, most recently, in Kaduna) for the past three years, these statements, especially the claim that there has been no legal challenge to censorship implementation, are a bit disingenuous. Below find copied a list of blog posts I have written since 2009 on legal challenges that have been made either to the Kano State government, the Kano State Censorship Board, the Kano State police, and or the head of the censor’s board in his personal capacity.

Here are just a few examples.

On 12 February 2009, I posted an interview with Sani Muazu, President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria, about the various lawsuits against the Kano Censor’s Board that MOPPAN was involved in. He told me:

Well, you know, we started this whole process of going to court with our case on Hafsah when it was arrested in the market, and we challenged the authority of the Kano Censors Board to do so. We have since then initiated another suit against the Kano Censors Board, as a national body, that is MOPPAN, challenging the legality of the board as well as bringing out the issues to do with conflict between the National Film and Video Censors Board and the state Censor’s Board as enacted by the state assembly. It is interesting that ever since we did that, we expected the Kano State censors board to allow status quo to remain until when these issues were clearly explained by the legal authorities. But the state censor’s board has gone on to arrest our members indiscriminately without any cogent reasons.

On 16 February 2009, I posted another interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, the then Vice-President of MOPPAN and brother of the filmmaker Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama. Iyan Tama was at that time in Kano’s Goron Dutse Prison after being sentenced in a mobile court for supposedly illegally selling his Zuma-film festival award winning film in Kano. (Iyan Tama has since been cleared of all charges). In addition to my questions about his brother’s case, which you can read by clicking on the link, Dr. Sarari also spoke about the court cases MOPPAN was involved in:

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.

On 27 March 2009, I sat in on a case in which the Federal High Court struck down the objections filed by the Kano State Censorship Board to MOPPAN’s lawsuit.

The last I checked, this lawsuit is still in the courts, two years later.

There have been other lawsuits, such as the one posted by Iyan Tama in a personal capacity over alleged defamation of character by Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, the Head of the Kano Censor’s Board on DITV, Kaduna. The case was settled out of court.

On July 21, 2010, I reported that a lawsuit was filed at a Kaduna State high court:

between the applicants 1. Ashiru Sani Bazanga, 2. Mohammed Rabiu Rikadawa, 3. Aliyu Abdullahi Gora, 4. Sulaiman Sha’ani, 5. Musa Aminu, 6. Jamilu Adamu, 7. Abubakar Sani, 8. Tahir I. Tahir, 9. Tijjani Asase, 10. Yusuf Haruna, 11. Yakubu Lere, and 12. Adam Zango and the respondents 1. Commissioner of Police, Kano State; 2. Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kano State, 3. Chief Magistrate Court 25 Kano, Kano State; 4. Abubakar Rabo. The applicants are seeking damages of Ten Million Naira as compensation for the “violation of the applicants fundamental human rights.”

The Kaduna lawsuit was filed after Kano State Police were sent to arrest the above named filmmakers on an accusation that they had supposedly sent the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, a death threat by text message. Aliyu Gora II, the editor of FIM Magazine, was the only one the police were able to find, and he spent nearly a week without trial in Kano’s Goron Dutse prison, after being transported by police from Kaduna to Kano. The suit was the latest in a series of lawsuits following Rabo’s alleged defamation of the Hausa film industry on DITV Kaduna.

Other Posts, in chronological order, that may be of interest in learning about the relationship between the Kano State Censorship Board and the Hausa film industry:

On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, posted13 January 2009

Kano State High Court Chief Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s Appeal posted 22 January 2009

2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s Family posted 23 January 2009

Iyan-Tama’s Case Not Listed posted 26 January 2009

Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences posted 29 January 2009

Interviews with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Assocation of Nigeria posted 30 January 2009

The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again posted 10 February 2009

Interview with Sani Mu’azu, President of Motion Pictures Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) posted 12 February 2009

Interview with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board posted 13 February 2009

A Surprising Move by MOPPAN, and my friend Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) arrested on Tuesday posted 15 February 2009

Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama posted  16 February 2009

More Arrests along Zoo Road yesterday, and my article on Iyan Tama makes IPS front Page posted 17 February 2009

Update on the Iyan-Tama Case: Bail Hearing set for 5 March posted 19 February 2009

Updates on the Iyan-Tama case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywoodposted 14 March 2009

Iyan-Tama granted bail, The Judge calls for a new Trial posted 17 March 2009

Raids on a film set last weekend and other developments in “Kano State Censor’s Board vs. Kannywood” posted 24 March 2009

Federal High Court strikes down Kano State Censorship Board’s objections; MOPPAN’s Lawsuit will go on posted 27 March 2009

Mobile Court bans listening to 11 Hausa songs posted 8 June 2009

Recent news on the activities of the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board posted 24 June 2009

Arrest of singer Aminu Ala and the most recent scuffle of MOPPAN with the Kano State Censorship Board posted 6 July 2009

Breaking News: Singer Ala denied bail posted 7 July 2009

My notes on the court case of Aminu Ala today at the Mobile court attached to the Kano State Censorship Board posted 7 July 2009

Aminu Ala given bail on condition that he does not speak with media posted 10 July 2009

DG of Kano Censor’s Board taken before shari’a court posted 5 August 2009

The latest on the Iyan-Tama case from Nigerian News Service, plus new fees from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board posted 2 October 2009

Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano posted 28 February 2010

Update: 3-day international music festival cancelled by Kano State Censor’s Board posted 1 March 2010

French Ambassador rejects the conditions of KS Censorship board for lifting ban on music festival, Punch reports posted 3 March 2010

Arresting the Music. Arresting Hope. Arrested for playing at a wedding “without permission” posted 11 March 2010

Interview with Hiphop artist Ziriums in this week’s Aminiya posted 18 April 2010

FIM Magazine Editor Arrested on accusation of Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of Kano State Censorshop Board posted 4 July 2010

Kaduna State Filmmakers Association take Kano State Police, Court, and DG of Kano Censor’s Board to Court over breach of “fundamental Human Rights”posted 21 July 2010

Iyan Tama takes Rabo to Court for Defamation, and Other Lawsuits posted 18 August 2010

DG of Kano Censors Board Caught in Alleged Sex Scandal with Minor, Sunday Trust Reports, posted 29 August 2010

Press Release from the Motion Pictures Practitioner Association of Nigerian (MOPPAN) Calling for Investigations into the “allegations of  Sex Scandal against Abubakar Rabo,” posted on 31 August 2010

The Latest on the Iyan Tama Case from Nigerian News Service, plus new fees from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board, posted 2 October 2010

Iyan Tama Reaches Settlement with Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, posted on 17 October 2010.

On the latest Jos crisis

Taken during the Jos Crisis 2008 (c) Carmen McCain

I have been a little too overwhelmed to post recently since the beginning of third  (large-scale) Jos crisis this decade.  I arrived in Nigeria for two years two weeks after the Jos 2001 crisis, I was in Jos during the 2008 crisis, and I had just left Jos last Thursday, before this most recent crisis started on Sunday. My parents, however, have been there for all three.

They are fine, but many loved ones of neighbors and friends have been killed—Christians and Muslims.

In the last two crises, I have found myself in the disorienting position of being in between the two “sides.” After the crisis in 2008, I came from a beleaguered Jos and a community of aggrieved Christians who had been driven from their homes, seen their churches burned, and family members wounded back to Kano, where I heard stories of entire Muslim families being wiped out. On my return to Jos for Christmas in a taxi full of Hausa Muslims, I saw the blackened Islamic school for Higher education, the knocked down mosques, the utter destruction on the North part of Jos.

I attended secondary school in Jos living in an almost completely Christian community.  Most of my neighbors and friends in Jos are Christians, and when my family had a refugee camp at our house in 2008, almost all of the refugees were members of a Baptist church, Catholic Church, or COCIN church close to the university community where my family lives. The Baptist church had been burnt for the third time. For this reason, I have experienced the “Christian” side of the crisis—and have heard many bitter complaints about how the “Muslims want to take over everything”—perceptions that the Plateau is being besieged by large “sinister” forces that wish to “take over Nigeria.” At the same time my life right now is centred around my community of friends in Kano, most of whom are Hausa and Muslim—many of whom are also “Jasawa,” Hausas/Muslims from Jos. Their families have been in Jos for several generations, if not much longer, and until recently had fine relationships with their Christian “indigene” neighbors.  They believe that churches are preaching violence and that the ‘yan kasa—Jos “indigenes” have political agendas in attempting to reclaim land lived on for generations by Hausa “settlers.” They feel like the “indigenes” refuse to live in peace with them and many fear returning to their childhood homes.

This Sunday, I was staying with a Christian family in Kaduna when the first rumours of the crisis came in—again, there were the murmurings, this time from Christians, about how “Muslims refuse to live in peace.” I came back to Kano, where Muslim friends told me about family homes burned down and brothers slashed and wounded. On Facebook, one girl  weeps onto another friend’s post that she has lost many family members, including her grandmother to the violence.

My parents tell me about a long-term neighbor who recently moved to a new home. He had a gun and had saved some university students from a mob. Going back home with his gun, he was accosted by soldiers, shot, and killed. Other Christian friends have lost family members to mobs or soldiers. My mother tells me the gut-wrenching story of the brutal murder of four youth corpers. Sunday Dare, the former head of the Hausa VOA service, in a piece that reflects the perspective of a Christian indigene, tells a heart breaking story about how his elder brother, not long after returning home from church,  “was hacked down with knives and machete and left to burn with the house. Even as I write, his charred body lies on the ground around the house because it is impossible to recover his body due to a breakdown of security”. [UPDATE 25 January 2010, today I receive an email which describes great devastation in “Christian” areas of Bukuru, stories of old men killed by mobs, and family homes burned. The Bukuru market has apparently been completely razed.]

The losses have been great on both sides. However, at least according to the numbers being reported to the media, the losses have been the greatest among the Jasawa/Muslims. Although, the New York Times quotes the Plateau State police commissioner as saying only twenty-three people have been killed, BBC  reports:

Religious officials said at least 265 people had died since Sunday.

Among the dead were said to be 65 Christians and 200 Muslims.

Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials, gave a much higher death toll – telling Reuters news agency more than 350 Muslims had died.

According to one report, as posted on Naijablog, the Muslim community in the village of Kura Jenta on the airport road in Jos was almost wiped out, with almost all of the homes of Muslims being burned and many Muslims rounded up and killed.

[UPDATE: 23 January 2009: Al-Jazeera has now picked up this horrifying story, reporting that around 150 people, mostly Hausa Muslims, were killed in the village.

Reports on Saturday said that about 150 bodies had been recovered from wells in Kuru Jantar, near the city of Jos, where clashes began last week before spreading to nearby villages.

Locals in Kuru Jantar, also known as Kuru Karama, told Andrew Simmons, Al Jazeera’s Africa editor, that a massacre had taken place in the village.

They said armed men had surrounded and attacked the village on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera saw the bodies recovered from wells, as well as the burnt bodies of children recovered from ransacked houses.

Up to 18,000 people in the area are thought to have been left homeless by the clashes in Nigeria’s Plateau State.]

Reports of how the crisis started will also vary on who is spoken to, as is noted in this Reuter’s article. Most Christian sources refer to an unprovoked attack by Muslim youth on a Catholic church as worshippers were leaving the building, while my Kano sources talk about a Muslim trying to rebuild his house burnt in the last crisis, who was attacked by Christian youths saying a Muslim could not stay in their community. Perhaps there is a meeting point in the two stories. My parents tell me a pastor friend of theirs told them that the church was right beside the house that was being rebuilt. According to him, the construction workers were disturbing the service and church members went out to ask them to halt their work until after the service. Apparently, the workers continued with the construction and then people were attacked as they were coming out of the service and the church was burnt. On the other hand as told to the Daily Trust (a Northern regional paper), according to the man who was trying to rebuild his house, he was confronted by a gang of Christian youth who said he could not rebuild in the area and told to stop construction. After some intervention by soldiers, he attempted to stop the workers, who refused to stop because they had already mixed the cement. Supposedly they were then confronted by a Christian mob. I imagine something close to the truth lies somewhere between these two accounts, with opposing gangs getting out of control on both sides.

While the crises have certainly taken on religious dimensions—especially when symbols like churches and mosques are the most obvious markers of identity—I have seen many discussions on the internet, whether in the comments sections of articles or on Facebook, which oversimplify the conflict as a mostly religious one. I think this is a mistake and a serious one, as it is exactly this over-easy identification of the religious symbols as representative of a group which makes churches and mosques the most popular targets in a conflict that is primarily over politics, land, identity, belonging, ethnicity, and retaliation. (An Islamonline.net post makes a useful contribution to this perspective.)

I have gone into much detail on other forums in the last few days to try to explain the identity politics and complexities of the Plateau–at least what I understand of them. I’m so tired by this time that I will just recommend that anyone interested, read these documents: a recently published article by shari’a-in-Nigeria scholar Philip Ostien on the events leading up the the 2008 crisis “Jonah Jang and the Jasawa”; a Human Rights Watch report on the politics of “Settler/indigene” in Nigeria, with a section on Plateau State, and the Human Rights Watch report on the Military abuses during the 2008 crisis, which have no doubt been continued during this crisis.

The situation is particularly complex because the minority groups in the Plateau do have legitimate fears about being dominated by political and cultural forces further north. From what I have seen in Kano, there is much ongoing rhetoric about what sorts of behaviours should be allowed in a shari’a state–which often leads to discrimination against those who do not fit the conservative ideal. I have heard stories from my minority Christian friends here in Kano on how they have been actively discriminated against–one girl not being allowed to take an exam at a College of Education because she was not wearing a hijab. Another on how she heard a preacher on campus attacking Christians (an experience that could be easily reversed further south). A whole group of friends whose church was looted and torn down by neighbors. Muslims, as well, whose lifestyles do not fit conservative notions of those in power, have suffered, as can be seen in the ongoing conflict between the Kano State Censorship Board and writers, filmmakers, and singers.  These are things that have happened, and they are the sorts of things that worry Christians further south. But unfortunately, legitimate desires by Plateau “indigenes” to maintain their culture and heritage have turned into a particularly toxic ethnic/”religious” chauvinism accompanied by violent rhetoric and a disregard/lack of human sympathy for Hausa neighbors with whom they have lived in peace for generations. Ironically, Hausas from Jos who are engaged in the film industry in Kano are often accused of bringing foreign and corrupting influences into Hausa culture; when they go back to Jos, they are told they do not belong there either.  (Of course, although the harshest voices tend to be the loudest, there is also an intense creative engagement with these events by Northern and middlebelt artists. Interestingly, in the past two years, I have read novel drafts by three writer friends of mine from the middlebelt. All three of their novels deal with issues of political/ethnic/religious crisis in the middle belt and the north, engaging and challenging the rhetoric used on both sides. The actors, writers, and singers I know in Kano are full of lamenting songs and calls for mutual cooperation across ethnic and religious lines.)

Monday when I returned to Kano, I signed onto Facebook and realized that it was Martin Luther King day when I read part of this quote posted by one of my friends

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

The excerpt comes from Martin Luther King Jr.s 1957 sermon “Loving Your Enemies.” [Update 20 February 2010, I later discovered that the original link I had posted to the sermon seems to have been abridged. Here is the link to the sermon on mlkonline.net. ]It seems to me that it is exactly this sort of insight we need right now. While the 2008 crisis was kickstarted by politics, it seems, at the moment, as if this latest crisis is the results of simmering resentments and a desire for revenge. If neighborhoods continue to split apart and separate into more and more homogenous groupings so that Christians no longer know and interact and visit Muslims and Hausas no longer know and interact and visit Burims, I fear for Jos. I fear for Nigeria.

But where I see hope, I see it in these young artists I speak with. Nigeria is teeming with youth, and perhaps the majority are guided by the mistakes of their elders. But if the artists can somehow inspire a passion for change, for cooperation, for alternative kinds of employment, for a love of country based on new values, love and forgiveness among youth of various faiths who have grown up together… there must be hope somewhere here.  Surely…

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

 

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)