BY IBRAHIM UBA YUSUF, FEBRUARY 06, 2024 | 06:06 PM
Trends in the Hausa Film Industry often times divide the industry sharply across socio-political lines. Interactions and production have also not been exclusive away from political dynamics of Northern Nigeria or Kano in particular. However, the recent development requires caution to avoid relapse into conflict and violence. On January 28th, 2024, I saw a short video clip of a popular actor-cum-politician Mustapha Badamasi Nabraska. In the video of about two minutes, the actor announced his intention to release film that would depict the aftermath of the 2023 Kano State Governorship Petition from the Tribunal to Supreme Court. In the video, the actor further announced his intention to portray an ‘old man and a musician’ in a negative light.
To make full his pledge, the actor released a poster of the intended film called Igiyar Zato on his Facebook page and other social media platforms. The poster contains the name of the producer and the photograph of the lead fictional character adorned with artificial grey beards just to reinforce the political figure he intends to mock. Mocking a politician is not my problem. It is purely a political affair.
I am not a card carrying member of any political party rather a researcher and public affairs analyst who has developed interest in teaching and conducting research relating to the Hausa Home Video Industry. In fact, my PhD thesis focused on ‘Hausa Home Videos and Peacebuilding in Northern Parts of Nigeria’. These, I believe, provided me with an opportunity to understand some nitty-gritties and make informed remarks about trends in the industry. It is useful to point out that this write up is not intended to support or discredit any political group. The essence is to draw the attention of regulatory bodies to a danger that needs their urgent attention.
Firstly, my concern is the use of grey beards in the name of mocking an individual. While the announcement and content of the film may sound pleasing to some of his comrades and supporters, it will hoist a red flag if such content could pass the rigorous screening at the Kano State Censorship Board.
The Beard Issue
The beard issue has been a subject of ridicule during the build-up to the 2023 Guber Election in Kano State. A section of the campaigners used the beard impression to ridicule certain contestant during their public campaigns. After the pronouncement by the apex court affirming the victory of Engineer Abba Kabir Yusuf as the duly elected governor, members of his political party, have been engaged in making skit performances in communities using the beard as a subject of emphasis. The skits were done in the name of celebration, to mimic the governorship candidate of the APC. Igiyar Zato
Although the trailer of the film has not been released, if at all it would be produced and distributed, viewers and followers of the Kano politics can easily predict scenes and the likely narrative it contains. From the different posters, viewers can deduce the direction, rationale and target group of the producer Mustapha Nabraska. Of concern is the picture of Nabraska with fictional grey beard. This depiction is a caricature of a recommended tradition of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. Muslims find satire as offensive, act of irresponsibility and tantamount to rupture the peace been enjoyed in Kano State. Making jest at the Prophetic tradition, consciously or unconsciously is forbidden. Sufficient is verse 65 of Suratul Tauba.
While other scenes of the film might be valuable sources of analysis in the field of political communication, certainly this depiction can likely provoke and create preventable chaos.
What the Kano State Censorship Board Law says?
The law establishing Kano State Censorship Board (KSCB) as a statutory regulatory body is not silent on what should be portrayed in films and home videos. The intended production contravenes the religious belief of the people of Kano. The film glaringly incorporated a form of amusement and has altered the creation of Almighty Allah deliberately to mock an individual, which are not approved in Islam. In fact, these are yardsticks that some religious scholars used to engender their position on the illegality of popular culture.
The law as it is, frowns at depictions in films that are not in tandem with the culture and tradition of the Kano People. Even though the law mandates all producers to submit their films to the Board for censoring after the completion of production, there is need to amend that clause and mandate producers to share their ideas at the level of conceptualization with the Board, so as to be guided properly.
It is left for the Board to decide what to do with the film if the producer decides to submit a copy before release. Abba Al-Mustapha should Act!!! In the interest of peace, the KSCB under the leadership of Abba Al-Mustapha should discontinue the promotion and production of the film at all cost. This is in view of the potential damages it could cause on the volatile situation in Kano.
The Muslim community in Kano and beyond are saddened with this irrational depiction and public display, which directly affects a cherished symbol of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him). The same way you thwarted the distribution and sales of Queen Primer in Kano, please act fast now.
The KSCB remains the beacon of hope in preserving the culture and religion of the people of Kano and we hope that it would continue to do so without fear or favour. The Board should stay clear of politicisation and preferential treatment of members loyal to the government and deliberately making Kano a difficult terrain for actors and musicians that align with the opposition.
I urge the Board to assess the film on the scale of cultural and religious values and its attendant consequence to the peace Kano State is enjoying. Already, people are aggrieved and have been registering their displeasure specifically on the fictional beard as a subject of ridicule in the comment section of the post on Facebook and other social media platforms. Some of the comments are inflammatory and may likely throw the State into chaos.
This is the time of political healing and concentration on fulfilling the myriad of campaign promises. Any distraction is uncalled for. As such, there is need for the Board to provide policy direction to actors and musicians that have become stakeholders in political campaigns on how to produce contents devoid of promoting hatred, public ridicule and rupture.
Ibrahim Uba Yusuf PhD lectures at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri and is the Director Communications, Advocacy and Outreach, Centre for Media, Policy and Accountability (CMPA). He can be reached on email@example.com
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20 November 2021