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Adieu The Lion: A Tribute to late Ghali Na’abba

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Auwalu Anwar PhD

 

On Wednesday, 27th December 2023, the former Speaker, House of Representatives (2000−2003), Rt. Honourable Ghali Umar Na’Abba, died at the National Hospital, Abuja around 3.00 a.m. I had been associated with him since our childhood days, beginning from 1968, when I was admitted into Goron Dutse Primary School, at the age of twelve, and he was at Mayanka Senior Primary School section within the same premises. He was ten years old. Since we knew each other, we maintained a cordial and mutually respectful relationship up to the time he died.

In 1990, when I was getting married, Ghali was one of those who made financial contribution to support me. Interestingly, we differed in the choice of political parties during the Second Republic (1978−1983). Ghali’s father, Alhaji Umar Na’Abba, and some of his brothers were strong supporters of the NEPU in the First Republic (1960−1966). However, Ghali was influenced by his maternal uncle, Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa, to join the NPN instead of the PRP and, much later, the NRC instead of the SDP during General IBB’s transition programme. PRP and SDP were the preferred political platforms in Kano, in those days.

It was, somewhat, surprising that in 1999 Ghali did not follow his uncle, Bashir, to the APP, which later became the ANPP, but decided to contest for the House of Representatives, from Kano Municipal Federal Constituency, on the platform of the PDP. In fact, up to the time of his emergence as Speaker, Ghali’s mother, Hajiya Rabi, was an active and proud member of the APP in solidarity with her brother.

When campaign for the position of Speaker started among members-elect, in 1999, Ghali was leading Ibrahim Salisu Buhari’s Team while I was in charge of Farouk Lawan’s Team. There was a time he requested that I should join hands with them and campaign for Buhari, who, he rightly predicted, had brighter chances of winning the contest.

In response, I informed him that if he were the one contesting, I might make an effort to reconcile the two teams, because I had relationship with him and with Farouk Lawan. Buhari was, at that time, not well known to me. Regardless of my rejection of his request, he promised that if his candidate won, he would make sure I was appointed Special Adviser (Political) to the Speaker. He further indicated that they were after success not politics.

When he subsequently emerged as Speaker, I went to Abuja to congratulate him and also offer some pieces of advice on certain things I considered fundamental for his success as a leader in a political context, but also as an individual, and a friend. When I visited his residence, there was heavy traffic and he was about to go out at the time. He asked of where I was staying and he later came to see me that night. We had a lengthy and fruitful discussion.

As an individual, I reminded him that he was a businessman before he went into politics. As such, he should neither regard politics as an occupation nor close his business, completely. Of course, it would be unethical for him to handle both, simultaneously, but he could delegate his business activities to an individual, a team, or a relevant institution that he considered safe enough to hold the trust without any violation.

He listened to me attentively, and later asked whether I could remember his promise to get me appointed as their adviser on political affairs? Having responded positively, he informed me to await his invitation, now that he had the authority to appoint, directly.

About a month after my visit, three of our mutual friends, namely: Dauda Raula, Ubaliye Lancaster, and Baba Adoke came to my house in Kano to tell me that Speaker Na’Abba wanted to see me, urgently. They also hinted that he wanted to appoint me as an adviser. They were very enthusiastic and wanted me to follow them to Abuja the following day. I explained why I could not go to Abuja, immediately, and requested them to tell the Honourable Speaker that I would meet him after a week. I went at the time I promised.

The work of a political adviser was neither easy nor understood by most people, but especially the partisan elements masquerading as grassroots politicians. This will be explained in detail in my memoirs. The Ghali-Obasanjo uneasy relationship was more complex than most people perceived its ingredients, when it lasted. The two personalities represented distinct objective categories of a single reality: Project Nigeria.

By 1979, OBJ was a retired General of the Nigerian Army, a Civil War Hero, and a former Head of State. He was an exemplary African leader who relinquished power to fulfil a promise made by his predecessor. He was celebrated across the world. Thus, earning him a position in the prestigious Eminent Persons Group of the Commonwealth. OBJ was indeed considered by many as a symbol of military success in politics and governance in Africa.

Unlike OBJ, Na’Abba graduated in Political Science from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) of the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1979. He was a product of the radical ideological tradition established by world-class scholars such as Patrick Wilmot, Yusufu Bala Usman, and Ibrahim Tahir in ABU. Na’Abba was, by his training and orientation, a direct opposite of OBJ on the definition and substance of a successful political system and what constituted the concept of ‘legitimacy’ in governance.

The fundamental differences in perspectives between Na’Abba and OBJ on what should be the content of politics, including the notion of directive principles of state policy were what, largely, accounted for their endless conflict when fate brought them to work together, in complementary positions, for the progress of Nigeria. None of them might have been deliberately mischievous to sabotage the other. Each was convinced in the superiority of his position in the conflict. OBJ saw loyalty as complete submission to superior authority and Na’Abba questioned the propriety of such a militaristic interpretation.

The Na’Abba-OBJ conflict had been disastrous for both Kano and northern Nigeria in the sense that both the Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and the Governor of Kano State, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso were not, in any way, collaborating with the Speaker to ensure a better deal for these two jurisdictions in the administration. This made me to seek for permission from the Speaker to meet and discuss the issue of possible areas for understanding with both Atiku and Kwankwaso.

He permitted me and two of my friends working with the other leaders facilitated the meeting. I was granted permission to see the Vice President through his Special Assistant on Local Government Affairs, Dr. Umar Ardo, and the Special Adviser (Political) to Kwankwaso, Dr. Hafiz Abubakar, secured an appointment for me to meet with the Governor of Kano State. After my meeting with the two leaders and my subsequent discussions with Na’Abba, it appeared to me that communication gap and mutual ego considerations were at the centre of their misunderstanding. This was not to discount the fact that both Atiku and Kwankwaso were playing it safe with President Obasabjo, their leader.

Although many people, both supporters and detractors, did not understand Na’Abba’s motivation in his conflict with the Executive at that time, the reality was, the Speaker, single-handedly, was the only real check on the Executive. He became the only potent opposition that made dictatorial tendencies to collapse and evaporate. At a point, all members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, with a few exceptions, were coming to support and thank him for speaking truth to power. He was named “Lion” by his colleagues in recognition of this fact.

A few months to the end of his tenure as Speaker, a group of northern elders sent a message, they wanted him to contest for the presidency of Nigeria in 2003. He summoned his Special Adviser (Special Duties), Mr. Sebastian Agbinda, and my humble self for a meeting at which he informed us of the development and sought for our opinion. He gave us two days to reflect on the matter and report our findings to him. He seemed truly excited about the offer.

Our understanding was that, the offer was a hoax and a booby-trap. The so-called elders, in our opinion, wanted to simply mess up our Principal and clear the way for their friend, OBJ, to have his way in what he wanted to do with Nigeria. However, we did not know how to convince Na’Abba to reject the offer.

In the end, we informed him that the risk was worth taking especially coming from our ‘elders.’ However, we calculated what was needed for logistics before the project could succeed. We advised him to request the leaders to raise half of the amount for him to put the process in motion. He should also confirm to them that if they raised the amount, he would resign from his position as Speaker and join another party to contest for the presidency. This was how we killed the plot to embarrass Na’Abba!

Na’Abba’s failure to return to the House of Representatives in 2003 was as a result of high-level conspiracy involving internal and external forces, representing domestic, local and national interests. The actual roles played by individuals and groups to sabotage Ghali during the general elections are better left unmentioned. Otherwise, there could be an in-fighting galore even within the extended family of the Na’Abba clan. I am saying this on good authority as his Special Adviser on Political Matters. I am aware of what actually happened, which many others didn’t know.

Na’Abba’s last two decades had been characterized by unfulfilled dreams and health-related challenges. He was among those who left the PDP with Atiku Abubakar and joined the AC in 2007. He attempted to contest for the gubernatorial seat in Kano, but was not supported by other leaders in the party.

He later returned to the PDP. In 2011, his house was among those destroyed by Buhari-inspired arsonists in some major cities in northern Nigeria, when their candidate lost the presidential election.

Surprisingly, Na’Abba joined Buhari’s APC in 2014 and when the party won the election in 2015, he was among the multitude that were thrown away by the unrepentant dictator, Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to the PDP before the 2023 general election but could not work harmoniously with the party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

Since he left office in 2003, Na’Abba had been struggling to survive with multiple shortages. He literally had no house of his own since his Villa in Kano was demolished by Buhari’s thugs. He survived on the goodwill of some of his friends, former colleagues, and his successors in the National Assembly. He was threatened with Court Order and eviction in two of the houses he rented in Abuja, due to continuous deficit in the payment of rent.

He lived to witness the total capitulation of the parliament and its disgraceful submission to an irresponsible, inept, corrupt and treacherous Buhari-led gang of thieves, robbers, and treasury looters. To make matters worse, the presidency of the National Assembly was in the hands of someone, who was in the vibrant House of Representatives presided by Ghali Umar Na’Abba. He always lamented the calamity that had befallen the Nigerian parliament whenever I visited him in his last days.

Religion was, surely, the only area in which Na’Abba got some solace before his death. He became devotedly committed to the activities of the Tijjaniyya Brotherhood. He sometimes organized the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (Maulidi) and, at one time, invited people believed to be descendants of the Prophet (Sharifai) to have a feast. He developed great admiration and respect for the intellectual prowess of the Shi’a School of Thought.

He associated with and obliged to the requests of many clerics: the genuine, the undefined, and the charlatans. May Allah forgive his sins and grant him paradise. Amin.

Anwar, was a Special Adviser Political Affairs to former Speaker Na’abba. 

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Opinion

A tribute to Professor Jibril Isa Diso: A symbol of resilience and wisdom

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Ibraheem Ladi Amosa

 

In the hallowed halls of academia, rare souls leave ineradicable marks on the hearts and minds of those they touch. Today, with full submission to the will of Allah, we mourn the loss of such a luminary, *Professor Jibril Isa Diso, the first blind professor in Nigeria.* A symbol of hope, resilience, and wisdom, Professor Jibril’s journey from Tudun Maliki School for Special Needs to the esteemed Department of Special Education at Bayero University Kano epitomizes the triumph of the human spirit.

Born in Gwale, Kano State, Professor Jibril’s life was a testament to the power of determination and the boundless potential that lies within each of us, regardless of our physical limitations. His early years at Tudun Maliki School for Special Needs were marked by an unwavering pursuit of knowledge, a journey that saw him rise above challenges with an indomitable will and an insatiable thirst for learning.

Joining Bayero University Kano in 1994, Jibril’s academic voyage was nothing short of extraordinary. In 2019, he shattered the glass ceiling to become Nigeria’s first visually impaired professor, a milestone that echoed far beyond the walls of the university. His ascent was not merely a personal triumph but a symbol of hope and inspiration for countless individuals living with special needs. His rich profile served as a roadmap for others, illustrating that disability is not a barrier but a unique facet of one’s identity that can be embraced and celebrated.

Professor Jibril Isa Diso’s legacy is marked by perseverance, intellectual brilliance, and dedication to societal betterment. As a role model to all, he demonstrated that true sight lies in the heart and mind. His journey inspires us to break barriers, seek knowledge, and champion inclusivity. Though he has passed, his enduring light and wisdom continue to guide and inspire countless others in Nigerian academia and beyond.

O Allah, forgive him and have mercy on him and give him strength and pardon him. 

Ibraheem Ladi Amosa
markazihyaahisunnah@gmail.com

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Opinion

Kano Games Of The Throne: A Fight To Finish

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By Sanusi Bature Dawakin Tofa

“If you pursue evil with pleasure, the pleasure passes away and the evil remains; If you pursue good with labor, the labor passes away but the good remains.”— Cicero

At the first instance, the division of the Kano Emirate and elevation of the District Heads of Bichi, Rano, Karaye and Gaya to First Class Emirs was one to spite Emir Sanusi, who after all, did not give a wink.

Unsatisfied that dividing the Kano Emirate did not distract the popular Emir Sanusi from speaking truth to power, Ganduje and his co-travellers concocted allegations of insubordination that led to the unjust dethronement and banishment of Emir Sanusi, an action, which was widely condemned by men of good conscience.

Emir Sanusi fought and secured his freedom and fundamental human rights of freedom of movement through the Court; and moved on with his life, going about doing good and offering valuable advise to administrators and leaders across the world for a better world.

During his electioneering campaigns, part of the promises made to the people of Kano by Governor Yusuf was that his administration will not only restore the battered traditional institution of Kano, but will also reinstate Emir Sanusi who was maliciously removed by ex-Governor Ganduje.

Based on this promise, among others, the good people of Kano state overwhelmingly voted for Abba Gida-Gida. Today, the Governor has no choice, than to implement and execute the wishes of the people.

It is a social contract he signed with the people of Kano, which must be fulfilled, no matter, whose, Ox is gored.

In any case, Governor Yusuf’s populist action is not new to Kano political cum traditional landscape.

Adequate legal steps were taken to repeal the Kano Emirate Council Law (2019).

The enactment of the Emirate Council Law (2024) ensured the death and burial of Kano Emirate Law (2019), maliciously created by Ganduje as a weapon to humiliate and ridicule Emir Sanusi.

Indeed, Emir Sanusi’s return as the 16th Emir of Kano rekindled important aspect of Kano history which played out in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Recall that during the administration of ex-Governor Abubakar Rimi of blessed memory, there was an attempt to create five emirates in Kano State by splitting the Kano Emirate into five.

Some members of the royal family and other traditional rulers, who saw it as an attempt to weaken the Kano Emirate’s influence opposed this move.

However, Rimi went ahead with the plan and created the new emirates of Gaya, Karaye, Dutse, Rano, and Kano in April 1981.

The Kano Emirate was reduced in size and given a more ceremonial role, while the new emirates were granted more administrative and political powers.

The Emir of Kano at the time was not deposed. But was queried for his movements in July 1981 after returning from a journey.

The move led to riots in Kano and Rimi never recovered politically and resigned in 1983 after falling out with Aminu Kano.

When Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo took over in 1983, he reversed the decision and restored the Kano Emirate to its original size and status, with the other emirates abolished.

His decision was seen as an attempt to restore the traditional balance of power and to address the concerns of those who opposed the creation of the new emirates.

Sabo Bakin Zuwo’s action was viewed by many as reflecting the wishes of the people, just the same way the good people of Kano state are hailing the People’s Governor, Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf for restoring the integrity of Kano Emirate.

I can vividly recall that many northern leaders and elite condemned the decision of Ganduje to balkanize the Kano Emirate into five in 2019.

They criticized the decision. They questioned the motive. They foresaw the consequences. They advised Ganduje against it, but all their overtures fell into deaf ears.

A renowned historian at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Nadir Nasidi, is among the experts who opposed the creation of the new emirates in Kano. According to him: “Kano is the only Emirate in the country with one unifying king. The creation of unnecessary kings is not palatable.

Many people, including myself, told the Ganduje administration that what he was doing wasn’t a good one.”

It is also pertinent to note that nobody agitated for the creation of four other Emirates in Kano.

It was entirely the sole decision of Ganduje and his gang to create problem in Kano’s traditional institution simply because they do not like the face and patriotic stance of Emir Sanusi.

The people of Kano never asked to be divided. We are one people. Nobody asked for new emirates.

So, what we are dealing with is a situation where somebody divided us. Kano Emirate is a kingdom that has existed for over 1000 years.

If you go to the king’s list in Kano, the king’s list from Baguada starts in 999 AD. We have a list of kings from Baguada up to the 16th Emir of Kano, Khalifa Muhammad Sanusi II.

Last Thursday, a Federal High Court, sitting in Kano, presided over by Justice A.M. Liman affirmed Aminu Bayero’s deposition as Emir of Kano. The Court also held the validity of Kano Emirate Law (2024).

Indeed, Justice Liman’s ruling, brought to an end, the argument on the deposition of former Emir Aminu Ado Bayero as the court ruled that the new Kano Emirate Repeal Law 2024 remains valid.

According to the ruling, all five Emirates of Gaya, Rano, Karaye, Kano and Bichi remained abolished.

While delivering the ruling, Justice A.M. Liman held that the Kano Emirate Repeal Law 2024 remains the law and its validity is intact but actions taken after assenting the law when an order from the court was issued are voided.

Recall that Governor Yusuf had assented to the new law and reinstated the 14th Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of one united Kano at the same time.

The Liman, however, declared that: “Law is still the law, but actions carried out in the execution of the law are set aside.”

Justice Liman also granted a stay of proceeding and transfered the case to his learned brother of court three, Justice Amobeda.

This bars all parties from taking any step to enforce the ruling till after determination of the appeal. By this decision of the Federal High Court, the five former Emirs including that of Kano with eight Local Government Areas remain deposed and the defunct Emirates remained abolished.

It is therefore, ascertained that the 16th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II remains on throne and Aminu Ado Bayero remains deposed while the legal tussle continues.

There is no gainsaying the fact that forces from outside the state are hanging up with the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) to destabilize security in Kano, all in a bid to distract and discredit the administration of Governor Yusuf.

They are intentionally fueling the Kano Emirate crises to achieve their evil ambition.

The National Leader of our great party, the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, saw the handwriting on the wall when during the flag-off of 82-kilometer rural road construction in his Madobi country home declared that the people of Kano will resist any attempt to undermine the constituted authority in the state. The Grand Commander of the Kwankwasiyya Movement reminded them that: “We have mass followership because people believe in us. We are pro-people and the NNPP administration is determined to serve them anywhere they voted for it.

We will not fold our arms and watch enemies of the state destroying the peaceful co-existence of our dear state, as we shall do everything possible to support the governor to succeed.

I am happy that he is not distracted and is focused on achieving his goals.

“There are people from Kano, enemies of the state, who also suffer mental illness and are the ones advising the Federal Government on how to take over Kano through a State of Emergency.

This is madness of the highest order that the good, peace loving and committed people Kano will resist.

In the build up to 2027, some desperate politicians are already on a mission of disruption, but we will rather prefer the two of us to loose than to allow them crush us.

We dare anybody, who thinks he can victimise us politically, to go and be rest assured that we are ready for the fight.

We are not afraid to be out of power because we will remain politicians in or out of government.

We cannot run away from our destiny, we are humans, we know what is good for us and we will pursue it vigorously.

The Federal Government is listening to some unpatriotic politicians from Kano, who will only contribute to its failure because the people of Kano will resist any attempt to undermine the constitutional responsibility of the Governor by any individual or group.

We are open to dialogue, truce and reconciliation, but we will not accept intimidation and political harassment of any sort.

We know how to play politics and we have all it takes to protect ourselves from any evil.”

More so, during the 6th edition of Shagalin Bikin Sallah, organized by the Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation (KDF) in honour of Senator Kwankwaso, held at his Miller Road residence last Tuesday, the former Defence Minister and Presidential candidate of NNPP in the 2023 general elections, reminded the audience that the Kwankwassiya members, where ever they are, remain peaceful people! And we will keep on being peaceful.

Our leader recalled that, “in 2019, we won election in this state (Kano), but the enemies of the State worked against us through INEC, through the Court, and so on, but what happened is now history.

The same thing! This time around, in 2023, we won election, overwhelmingly, and there was a lot of efforts by the enemies of the State, who are the minority here-mm, they worked so hard to take it; but by the grace of God, Allah in his own wisdom, decided to ensure justice is done; and I am sure that has gone a long way in maintaining peace and order in the State.

Now, it looks like the enemies are at it again! You know what is happening on the issue of the Emirate Council. We thank all those who are supporting the position of the government. We are one and we will continue to be one.”

Indeed, it amuses me when some people question the choice of Emir Muhammad Sanusi II! Ours is a government determined not to fail the people of Kano state.

Governor Yusuf craves to getting the best of team capable of giving Kano the best it deserves in terms of leadership and dispensation of democratic dividends.

In Emir Sanusi II we have an invaluable adviser that can help take Kano to greater heights. People from across the globe seek for his advice on economy and other divergent issues.

They tap from his wealth of experience in building community and nations.

Why then should we not make adequate and proper use of the asset God has bestowed on the people of Kano? Emir Sanusi II is an asset that we cannot afford to wish away.

An accomplished administrator, banker, financial risk manager, former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), motivational speaker, and above all, leader with unflinching love, charity to humanity and fear of God.

We cannot wish him away. Kano state cannot wish him away.

Therefore, emir Muhammadu Sanusi is here to stay as the Governor retains the exclusive right to depose or appoint emir in whatever circumstance.

The courageous leader and the Executive Governor of Kano His Excellency Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf is known for his determination to take any decision if he truly believe that decision will change the narrative of the state in a positive way.

Those thinking that Gov. Yusuf will have a rethink on his decision about reinstatement of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II would certainly be disappointed, as a prince, a blood of the royal family and a political leader, the Governor is ready for the fight to finish on the ongoing emirate tussle.

“As it is today, the Governor retains the exclusive right to appoint or depose an emir in the state and to the layman’s understanding, matter of chieftancy is completely in the hands of state High Courts, there have been so many authority to it through various Supreme Court judgments.”

Former Emir of the Kano metro, Aminu Ado Bayero as simple as he used to be should have known that the Governor’s decision stands, it was the same executive power aided by the amendment of Emirate’s law by the State Assembly used by the former Ganduje to dethrone Emir Sanusi II and apointed him.

For the records, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero was never an emir of Kano, he was appointed an emir of eight metropolitant local government areas and from the look of things, he lacks all the qualities of an emir who is supposed to be patient and loyal to constituted authority.

By the new law which was accepted as valid by the latest judgement, Alhaji Aminu should resume to his former title of Wanban Kano and district head of Dala if he so wish.

My candid advise to him is and of course it’s coming from my sincire heart, staying in graveyard of late emirs at Nasarawa cemetery will not in anyway make the Governor revert his decision, the earlier Alhaji Aminu realise this the better for him to take a suit into the style of the 16th emir Sanusi II when he was dethroned, he should resigned to fate and accept his destiny by moving forward as a free man to once again enjoy his life as a private citizen.

No amount of pressure, harassments and intimidation from within and outside Kano will stop Kano state government from insisting on Khalifa Muhammad Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of one and indivisible Kano Emirate.

I conclude with the quotes of our leader, Senator Kwankwaso that: “The average Kano person does not want injustice; and that is the position of the Kwankwasiyya Movement. Our fathers and great grand-fathers fought injustice; and we will continue to do it as their sons and daughters here in Kano.”

Sanusi Bature Dawakin Tofa is the spokesperson to Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf/Director-General, Media and Publicity , Government House, Kano

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Opinion

What, Exactly, is Kannywood? – Kannywood and Hausa Visual Counterculture

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Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu

 

I will begin with the end, and in the end, I will end with the beginning.

What is Kannywood?

A Wikipedian provided this perspective: “Kannywood is the sobriquet for Hausa-language cinema. It is a part of the larger Nigerian cinema, known as Nollywood, which includes other production centres producing films in many other Nigerian languages.”

The emphasis, according to this Wikipedian, is on language, and they provided this perspective to distinguish Kannywood from its ‘larger cousin’, Nollywood. This means, whether we like it or not, Kannywood will continuously be seen as part of Nollywood, until we change the narrative ourselves and stopped being awed by an industry that is definitely junior to our own. Let me share a personal experience.

I was privileged to be a Zuma Film Festival Jury in its 2010 edition, as well as the paper presenter. I was the only northerner in the Jury, but not the only Hausa. The team was led by Rahmatou Keïta a Nigeriène Hausa journalist and filmmaker based in Paris. Films were submitted from all over the world, including many from Kannywood, and of course, Nollywood. We sat down over croissants and coffee to decide the approach we should adopt in awarding categories to the films.

Right there and then it was decided that there was no way any Kannywood film will win the ‘Best’ of the categories – Picture, Actor, Actress, Script, Cinematography, etc. I argued that if we went by this reasoning—for which there was no rational basis—that would exclude indigenous language films from getting recognition, including those from Nollywood not in English language. A lot of arguments ensured about production values, storylines, meeting the Zuma Festival submission requirements, etc.

In the end, after two hours of back and forth, I was asked to suggest a category in which all local language films would fit in, even if from Nollywood. I suggested Indigenous Film category. This was accepted. If it was any consolation, foreign film entries were also lumped into “Best Foreign Film”. Meaning that ONLY Nollywood films will get all the glory of being the Best of the best in everything. Thus, for the Nigerian Film Corporation, Kannywood is just a subset of Nollywood. Begging the question, What is Kannywood?

The least NFC can do is to reimagine the festival according to film cultures. Let us say, for the sake of the argument, NFC recognizes Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo film cultures. A separate festival can be held for each of these cultures celebrating their ‘Best’ actors, actresses, cinematography, script, etc. As it is now, no matter how excellent, for instance, a Hausa actor is (or think he is), he will never be ‘Best Actor’ in the NFC festival. And good luck to him attempting to be the Best Actor in a ‘mainstream’ Nollywood film in which he merely appears as a token Aboki to attract audiences to a Nollywood film.

Now, let me address the other variable in this post. “Counterculture” refers to a cultural group whose values, norms, and practices are significantly different from and often in opposition to those of the mainstream society. These groups often challenge established societal norms and advocate for alternative lifestyles or beliefs. Counterculture is expressed in various forms, including popular culture.

Counterculture became critical in contemporary Hausa media anthropology because of the rapid rise and adoption of visual technologies through social media by Hausa youth of all shades—male, female and often transitioning or LGBT+. The visibility in social media provides Hausa youth with a paradoxical cloak of invisibility, in what I refer to as ‘invisible visibilities.’ They visually, boldly and unapologetically appear brash, aggressive, suggestive, sexual, assertive and insouciant. For the most part, we don’t know who they are, despite seeing them and applauding, hailing, hating or cursing them.

The rise and popularity of social media provided Hausa youth with a perfect visual counterculture template. Crude at the beginning, but getting sophisticated as time flies. Initially restricting themselves to the ‘big’ social media – YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat—the arrival of more flexible platforms, mainly TikTok, Reels, gave the freedom to let loose creative energies.

YouTube provided the first explicit platform. It led to the emergence of what I call ‘Hausa Adult Influencers’ They included Muneerat Abdulsalam, Yasmin Harka, Laure Jibiya, Ummi Zandar, Tani Harka 24, etc. They dispense raw explicit advice on heterosexual adult relationships; Laure Jibiya, possibly a pseudonym, was the only one who dispenses her advice from an Arabian face veil, making it difficult to identify her. Ummi Zinder uses a name that has possible connotation to nudity: Hausa zindir; but could also be a referent to Zinder, the Nigeriène city, locally called Damagaram. Falmati Chadi, again like others, without any other traceable history, would appear to come from Chad Republic.

Obviously, each approaches her broadcast—all in the Hausa language—with a script, a production schedule, and a series of technical and editing equipment, all put together by a person who acts as a director. The large numbers of views generated by these channels are completed by internet bots that rip the audios from the videos and make it easy for users to download the voices without having to log on to the video channel – which saves data, and at the same time, enable clandestine engagement with the contents of the channels without the videos.

Of course, they are countless other Hausa-centric YouTube uploads—ranging from music, to short films and comedy skits. Some audaciously affix ‘Kannywood’ to their channels—which is okay since no one owns ‘Kannywood’ as a label for anything. Are these YouTube uploads ‘films?’ Can they be referred to as Kannywood, even if they are NOT necessarily based in Kano or aimed specifically at the markets in Kano?

Enter TikTok and Reels. Millions of videos. Short attention-grabbing dialogues. Some with structured scripts and actors, shooting schedule, clear effective direction and editing, And messages; for it is not all pearls of fun and laughter.

Take Dan Bello. A professional cinematographer and scriptwriter. With world class video and editing equipment, storyline, excellent editing. With script no Hausa filmmaker dare to write or visualize: a critique of society and governance. A 30-second script unraveling over 30 years of spiral corruption and misgovernance. Are we still in Kannywood?

What of Yagamen? Or Murja Ibrahim Kunya. Love her. Hate her. You can’t ignore her. That’s for sure. Capable of evoking almost all emotional ranges: amusement, annoyance, irritation, exasperation, pity, adoration in virtual stand-up monologues. She expresses her thoughts explicitly and does not care whose ox is gored. She has made several allusions to being ‘Kannywood’. Cultural Kannywood will dispute this membership of their hallowed cult. So where do you put Eddie Murphy, Richard Prior, Tracy Morgan, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg and other comedians who became some of the biggest names in Hollywood?

And G-Fresh Al-Amin. An excellent rapper whom I mentored once (listen to his ‘Kano to California Remix’). Can he lay claim to Kannywood? Or Hassan Makeup, Sadiqa (previously known as Sadiq) and other influencers with alternative sexualities. Daring to boldly go where no Kannywood producer will dare to go. I know. Purist will claim these are not Kannywood. These social media Hausa alterities lay claim to Kannywood – only that they provide a countercultural narrative. Each skit, monologue provides a story, completing with a marketing structure; for the money is made in the AdSense clicks some have activated. Bringing in few dollars. And no censorship.

If we debunk Hausa counterculture alterities as not being serious, not being ‘films’ in the accepted sense (whose accepted sense?) then how do we explain cinéma vérité? If you have a strong stance on a political or social issue, cinéma vérité is a vehicle to express and defend your opinions. All the Hausa counterculture videographers can be lumped as cinéma vérité—a perfectly valid form of cinematic expression. It combines improvisation with use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind reality.

This, of course, excluded religious or journalistic social media as these are focused on a particular topic often in a didactic and linear fashion. Counterculture social media is about rebellion to the established public culture, or teasing out things public culture would rather hide or gloss over in a ‘conventional’ cinematic expression.

TikTokers Khadijah Ibraheem and Anti Hussaina use this technique to criticize—as well as appreciate—boys (“kai, guy ɗin nan ya sha wanka”). And in case you label them something else for expression their frank views, they do so in full Muslim hijab, and all clean dialogue. Not a single swear or foul word. Contrast their dialogue with Murja Ibrahim Kunya – all about female sexuality, but in different delivery modes. Aminu J and Abis Fulani provide critical commentaries on news events. Bilal Villa is transnational in using local resident Lebanese in his dialogues, giving a unique dimension to commentary on Kano society. Still not Kannywood? How about this, then.

One of the craziest aspects of Kano is that even people with clearly mental health issues become celebrities in a process the literature refers to Celebrification. The last three years saw the emergence of Ale (a Kano specific corruption of the word, Alhaji) Rufa’i Bulgates (another corruption, of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft), the man who created new virtual currencies, ‘Gangalion’ and ‘Americallion’. He uses this currency to buy whole countries. His relatives reported his skit makers to the police and an order was issued banning making any videos of him taking advantage of his gullibility. They started regretting it later, because….

…no sooner had he disappeared from the scene, than another one emerged. Ale Umar Bush. A load-carrier in the Kwanar Singer segment of the Kano Sabon Gari Market. In a short period of time, he became stupendously rich because the way he amuses people with incredibly horrible foul language. I guarantee you, no language provides the most disgusting foul abuses like the Hausa language. This guy knew them all and utters them with relish and stern face. Like a circus performer, he gets invited to meet important people and foreigners, including Arabs and Indians, to be feted for their amusement, with videos taken and sent to their countries: “hey, look, a crazy African.” I once flew in the same plane with him to Abuja where he was invited to provide amusement to people who are presumably mentally healthy, but enjoy teasing a mental patient. Like kids holding a hapless insect in their hands and getting amused at ripping off each of its wings.

Now, he is a film star. Yes, he has just starred in his first 12-minute film, “Sallah Ram Deal in Kano”. It was produced by Abdulgafar Ahmad Oluwatoyin, aka Cuteabiola, a Nollywood comedian, who starred in it. Someone has found a way of weaving a script around a foul-mouthed mental patient and creating amusement for non-mental health people. Cute Abiola himself posted the story on his Facebook timeline. It generated 471 comments, hugely appreciative of this new dimension of Northern Nollywood, and 272 shares. Are we still in Kannywood?

Over the last five years, social media has enabled the creation of Hausa countercultural microcinema—short films, often created with low budgets and minimal equipment, which is a good fit for the brief, often amateur or semi-professional nature of social media videos—and cinéma verité that provide a countercultural narrative to life in both urban and rural Hausa societies. Cinema is multifaceted medium that combines art, technology, and industry to create and share moving images, offering a powerful means of storytelling and cultural expression. Nothing says how long it has to be. Or how expert the cinema maker has to be.

The whole point of my argument is that Hausa social media counterculture skitters, shorties, documentaries, comedies, the whole ball of wax, are increasingly claiming they are also Kannywood. The non-counterculture Kannywood leadership on the other hand struggle hard to create a dividing line. They faced this with the Hiyana incidence in 2007 where virtually every actress is seen as a Hiyana, derailing the image of Kannywood.

 

I will end with the beginning.

What, exactly, is Kannywood?

 

Adamu is a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Bayero University, Kano. This was first published on his Facebook account. 

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