* Begin a 3-week ‘warning strike’
From Mansur Sani Malam, Kano
Due to apprehension about the intentions of the Kano State Censorship Board in its decision to censor individual authors and literary works, creative writers in the state have embarked on a three-week warning strike with effect from yesterday, in which they have suspended all production of literary works and decided to use their pens to protect their liberty and freedom of expression.
This was disclosed in a communique signed by the leaders of the Coalition of Authors' Associations in the state shortly after an emergency meeting held yesterday in Kano.
This followed an extensive discussion and review of the state of arts and literature in Kano in the context of the crisis between the authors and the censorship board.
The board recently unveiled plans to begin the registration of all authors and the vetting of literary works.
Those who signed the statement yesterday were the chairman of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Kano chapter, Malam Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino; chairman of Hausa Authors Forum (HAF), Malam Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (a.k.a. Ala), and chairman of Brigade Authors Forum (BAF), Malam Abdullahi Muktar Yaron Malam.
Others are chairperson of the main women writers' group, Kallabi Writers Association, Hajiya Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, and chairman of Hausa Writers Association of Nigeria (HAWAN), Malam Ibrahim Ahmed Daurawa.
As a way of confronting the challenges that seem to lie ahead of them, the various writers groups have also resolved to work under the umbrella of the state chapter of ANA. All engagements, commitments and correspondence of the associations, which had hitherto promoted divergent views, are now to be handled by ANA, said the communique.
This was done apparently because ANA has a national spread and an international network.
A source within ANA Kano told LEADRSHIP yesterday that the authors are considering legal action against the censorship board.
The writers enjoined the Kano State Government to call the Director-General of the censorship board to order, saying his actions would have damaging consequences on the good image of the state and its leadership, as well as undermine the literary prowess enjoyed by the state.
The censorship board had early this month ordered the authors to register with it from August 1 or expect sanctions.
The warning was issued to the writers by the Director-General of the board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, during and after a meeting he had with the writers at his office.
At the time, he explained that his board could have begun the registration exercise immediately, but relented by giving a month's deadline.
"We see it as very merciful, we see it very lenient of us to at least relent any enforcement effort until the next one month given to them, in addition to the first six months that have already lapsed that they did not formalize, which now we are expecting them to do so in the next one month", he had declared.
The director-general also revealed that the essence of the registration was to check the influx of obscene materials into the state.
"We have designed this in near future and we see it very viable. We see it very good of us if we establish what we call pro-activeness, so that the stakeholders in the literary works can be enlightened and be guided in order for them to be perfect and to make necessary corrections in form of preventive measures," he added.
Rabo revealed that the board had received complaints from the general public, and that some people were using the mass media against some aspects of the creative works, especially the Hausa romance books or novellas in circulation, adding the board intends to help guide the authors through their potentialities of using their creativity for the benefit of society.
Contrary to what he told the authors at the stakeholders' meeting, he explained that the registration exercise would not be on an individual basis, but through writers' associations, emphasising that there is no any process of registration that can be undertaken individually unless if an individual author is operating outside any professional association.
He requested the respective associations to forward members of their associations for the board's processing and registration.
He pointed out that the registration processes would be carried out because the law mandated the board to do so, adding that registration of authors is normal everywhere in the world.
"The National Film and Video Censors does register its stakeholders, so also guilds," he said.
Malam Rabo said whoever does not accept what the board is doing should challenge it in court.
He said: "We are determined to enforce the law because we are law agents. We are established by the law and we must abide by the law because it is the primary yardstick, the primary tool binding the board and the stakeholders together. Anything contrary to the law is not condonable and it is very unbecoming of a law or agency like us to outrage or to operate or to breach the law."
The censors board had waged a long-drawn battle against filmmakers in the state after the sudden appearance of the Hiyana sex clip last year, banning the movie industry for six months and sending leading artistes and producers to jail.
Its current decision to register authors has opened a new theatre of war against the creative arts in the state, a decision the authors seem to be committed to fight in any way they can.
Published in LEADERSHIP on Monday, July 28, 2008