Some Preliminary Thoughts
I have restrained myself from commenting on the new regime of censorship in Kano (the latest I mean, which affects writers) because I had wanted to study the trend of opinion among the writers themselves. Being an author, my first reaction was one of anger, anger against those that work to emasculate intellectualism in Hausa land.
Kano is too important to ignore when it comes to intellectualism and creativity. It is the hub of intellectualism in Hausa land - an enviable position it seized from my native Katsina State. It is as the saying goes - when Kano sneezes, other Hausa cities catch cold immediately. Little surprise, then, that when movie making was banned for six months last year, the ripples were felt all over Northern Nigeria.
I have found myself caught between the extremes of the two stages of censorship unfurled by the Kano State Censorship Board. As a filmmaker myself, and publisher of the leading Hausa movie magazine, I was directly affected by the ban on moviemaking and the subsequent measures that were announced with the clear (though hidden) motive of emasculating the young, albeit vibrant film industry. Many of my close friends were affected; they were thrown out of work. I knew that most of them depended on the movie market to fend for themselves and even feed their kith and kin. They thus added to the army of the unemployed in Kano State. The government of Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (pictured above) has done little to reduce poverty through job-creation for the youths. I was told it employed many driving the A Daidaita Sahu motor-scooters and others in serving the quasi-police agency Hisba. But by banning filmmaking, it created a big market of unemployed youths, this time with young girls as half of the number of victims.
The level of discontent among the populace is unquantifiable.
Now that the censors are preparing to punish unregistered authors, I am caught in the centre again. Being a Hausa author myself (NB: I won the biggest Hausa writers' award with my novel "'Yartsana'), I felt doubly certain that part of the new legislation was directed at me! Of course, I am not the sole target. Everyone else is a target. In fact, I could even be considered a distant target, having not depend on book writing for a living. But the truth is that any writer worth his salt on the globe is a victim of the attack on creativity by a regime anywhere on earth.
The censors have no moral standing to prescribe a moral yardstick for authors because if they were to be judged using the same yardstick, many of them would be sent to jail first. The kind of stories one gets to hear about government officials in Kano, many of them verifiable, you would be at your wit's end trying to decipher the purpose of the current onslaught. Here are people who have failed to provide basic amenities for the common people, but they are using religion to attack others.
Can't those victimised use religion to fight back? This question is important in settling scores in the matter. No government official should consider himself holier than the next person just because he has money to employ hungry malams as radio propagandists. For, religious sentiments were used copiously to overcome filmmakers. The same sentiments have begun to be used by Malam Abubakar Rabo, the Director-General of the Censorship Board, against the authors. In the coming weeks and months, be sure to hear him on radio and TV using moral dogma to belittle and tar the authors.
The Hausa writers should not fear to fight this war. They should assemble their own Qur'anic surahs and the Prophetic hadiths against the unjust rulers and pretenders in order to defend themselves. They should visit radio and TV stations to speak out. They may be gagged there because government happens to be the biggest advertiser, but then they should use the independent media all over the world to expose the hypocrisy embedded in the ongoing war against intellectualism. Their war should be waged against the avalanche of intolerance and insensitivity which seems to be increasingly cultivated by some minority elements within the Kano State government.
They may not be rich enough in material resources to fight, but their ideas and their tenacity of purpose will be of great benefit to them. They are going to be supported by all persons of conscience. They should watch out against fifth columnists among themselves who shall be easily bought with cheap porridge by the censors.
Above all, they should be consoled by the knowledge that power is transient. Shekarau and all those book burners will not be in power forever. By 2011 there shall be a general election and Shekarau will not only go away but also fade away like an old tale. Even if he manages to plant a lackey/stooge as the next state governor, he would not have the guarantee that his interests would be safeguarded perpetually. It happened in Zamfara and many other states of the federation. And even if his stooge remains loyal to him, that stooge would one day leave. Remember that Dr Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso, whom he defeated in 2003, was the most powerful governor Kano ever had, but where is he now? Is he not in the Siberia of political power even though he had been rewarded with a ministerial post by Obasanjo?
How I wish I could join this war. But I will not. I have only expressed my mind - for the records. My weapons shall remain in their armoury because I have friends in the Kano government. My heart will, however, remain with my friends the authors and the filmmakers. If the war degenerates, I shall fight. But on a different pitch from where both the dog the monkey shall be bloodied.
I have spoken. Ma'assalam.