Monday, December 29, 2008

Yonder breaks the new and glorious morn

I must admit I have recently been worried about what I can post on this blog. I am discovering more and more people who are following it (either the occasional drop-in or the avid “follower” who I assume gets an email when I make a new post), all of them from very different backgrounds. They say write for your audience, but I’ve got a funny audience. I’ve got Nigerians from the South and Nigerians from the North. I’ve got Americans and a few Europeans. I’ve got academics. I’ve got atheists and agnostics. I’ve got Buddhists. I’ve got Muslims and evangelical Christians, Catholics, Pentecostals. Politically conservative and politically radical. I’ve got people I’ve known since high school, and people I’ve never met except through their comments on my blog. So when I “write what I’m thinking” (the meaning of the title of this blog in Hausa) how careful do I need to be? Can I just write what I want or do I need to issue disclaimers on everything?

I remember the advice of an old poetry professor who said you can’t think about what your family (or others) will think when you write, you just have to write what is true to yourself. But as an academic, I also have a little critic crouched on my shoulder, repeating back to me what my various readers might say to themselves. I worry about the ethics of being “true to myself” when it involves writing about other people or even writing about what I’m thinking. I can’t write as freely as I could if I were writing poetry, which has a certain limited audience, and in the age of internet these posts are far more accessible than my poems ever would have been.

Maybe I should start giving Victorian-type titles or chapter descriptions, and people can choose whether to read it or not.

This one will be:

“A Very Long and Personal Post In which Talatu-Carmen Worries about her Audience and then Muses about the Original Christmas and Christianity in Relation to the Jos Crisis.”

“O Holy Night”

I have been thinking during this Christmas season about refugees and displaced people, poverty and war, about indigenes and settlers and politics. About how many similarities there are between the nativity story and about life here now. Christmas carols leap to life: the darkness of the earth and the sudden burst of joy, the supernatural promise of peace and how “tidings of great joy” were brought to the wretched of the earth—shepherds, peasants, a poor carpenter and his young bride who were moved by imperial decree back to their place of “origin.”

Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, outposts in an imperial province. Arrogant Roman soldiers patrolling the streets. Rebels in the hills. The corrupt incestuous Herod family who assassinated each other and who would order the death of children to secure a political post.

In the village of Nazareth there is a young girl promised in marriage. In a Judean town there is the barren wife of a priest. Suddenly the virgin and the old woman are impossibly filled with life.

The rhythm quickens.

A carpenter is heart broken by what seems to be the girl’s betrayal. The old woman believes her, knows, when her own child leaps within her, the mysterious burden her young cousin is carrying before she says a word. Angels come down in dreams. The carpenter believes.

The rhythm quickens.

There is an imperial degree that “settlers” should go back to their place of origin to be counted. A government census is declared. Villagers mutter about the government exercise being a good excuse for officials to take extra kickbacks. What choice do they have? What control do they have over their lives? The carpenter sets off on foot with his tough pregnant little bride for the hundred mile journey. It has been long since his parents or his grandparents had left Bethlehem. There are no family, no friends that they know well enough to stay with. The town is chock full of lost, short tempered pilgrims back in what Rome calls their homeland, and there is no room for hire in the inn. The carpenter and this pregnant teenager must settle for someone’s charity, a room in a poor man’s house where the animals wander in and out, or a stable near the fields.

This is not how most women give birth for the first time. This is not how it is supposed to happen. Mary had seen her cousins give birth, with family around them, sisters and mothers and neighborhood midwives. In Nazareth there would have been clean, soft newly sewn cloths to wrap the baby in. But here she is like a refugee, in a strange town. The only familiar person is this man her parents arranged for her to marry, this man she has only just begun to know. This place they have settled is dirty. Goats and sheep and chickens wander in and out. She does not know where women go to bathe or ease themselves. She is not sure where to find water to wash her clothes. Joseph is an “indigene” of this place, but he knows no one. She had never been in this small dusty village before, although both of their ancestors were buried here.

They are dark days, brutal soldiers, corrupt tax collectors, armed robbers plaguing travelers on the roads. People are suspicious of each other. Rumours fly faster than imperial messengers bringing declarations of new taxes. The Judeans hate the Samaritans and the Samaritans hate the Judeans. The king is a despised Edomite placed in power by colonial overlords. He builds a palace on a distant rock and neglects security and the repair of roads. Religious leaders proclaim their righteousness in the streets, making great displays of their money, while their own parents starve.

The contractions come closer and closer together.

Yet there is this mystery, this insane promise made by angels that makes the tired dirty young couple glow and wonder.

This is the transcendent mystery of Christmas.

The moment of the birth when the earth exploded and all the laws of nature spun topsy turvy.

We Christians believe that God himself was born that cold dusty night in Bethlehem. That God himself burst into the world in the poorest of conditions, to tired displaced peasants who could not even comfort themselves with the warmth of home or family. It is incomprehensible to us—how such a thing could happen. Incarnation--the depth of humility in which the Creator of the Universe sank to emerge into his own creation—as if the author of a book suddenly entered its flat pages or an embroiderer sewed herself into the fabric of her art. The degree of difference between the Roman emporer and the road-weary paupers suddenly becomes miniscule. All the gold and silks and great marble palaces suddenly seem cheap and gaudy compared to what the poorest of the poor saw that night in the dusty ancestral home of David.

The world began to explode around them. The earth could not contain this limitless Being. The night sky burst with light of Presence, just as 33 years later the day would grow dark with Absence.

Shepherds, with their sheep and cattle huddled around them, staggered backwards as the night sky cracked open and stars poured down and music from outside the universe spilled in through the rupture. And it was they, a teenage girl and the manual labourer who married her, shepherds with handwoven hats and cracked heels who first felt the joy. It rippled out from there, an old man and an old woman in the temple who had waited their whole lives to see the prophecy fulfilled, foreign scholars from the East who came on camels bearing gifts for a king, the peasants of Egypt who watched the child as he grew long and slim and began to walk.

And those he touched as he proceeded towards his death: religious leaders, politicians and prostitutes, tax collectors and thieves, fishermen and soldiers, the blind and the epileptic, beggars and rebels, Jews and their hated relatives the Samaritans, colonial Roman overlords, Egyptians, and visitors from the East, those who worshiped him and those who spat on him.

The light of dawn bursts out and the darkness cannot hide it.

But there is so, so much that is wrong—good ripples out and the evil bunches up into pockets of atrocity. The small dusty town of Bethlehem witnesses the birth of an impossible Child, both an indigene and settler, human and God, Creator stitched into his own creation, and the king orders the death of dozens of other children. (How hard it is for a rich man, a ruler of an earthly province, to see the kingdom of God breaking around him like a tidal wave! It is invisible to him)

He thinks he is safe now, protected, like Pharaoh, from children who would usurp him. The Great One dies only months after he thinks he has secured his throne. His son Herod takes his brother’s wife, sneaks into her teenage daughter’s room when he thinks she’s not looking. He is driven mad by nightmares of the prophet he has beheaded yet approves another to be crucified. Another son Herod is consumed by worms that came from inside of him and eat him alive.

Now two thousand years later, these Herods still scheme, unaware of the worms that are eating them alive. They pick schoolgirls off the streets, vacation in Rome with money extorted from peasants, secure bank accounts run by distant colonial lords, pay mercenaries to kill children in the street. The worms eat them. And poor beleaguered people, who keep having to leave their homes, who grow used to gun-wielding soldiers on the roads, are still dazzled with joy at the memory of the song that drifted into our world that winter’s night.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see the kingdom of God.”

There is such darkness in the world, and yet there is this unexplained spirit, this beauty that keeps blinding us. We keep surviving. I don’t understand it. But there it is.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angel’s voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born

Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

I came into Jos from Kano last week in a taxi full of Hausas from Angowar Rogo. “Kuna Jos lokacin da rigima? Were you in Jos during the crisis?” I ask the two women sitting beside me, as we left Kano. “I, wallahi,” they say beginning to exchange stories of huddling in their houses with their children and other refugees. Coming into Jos, I am stricken by what I see on the road, on the north side of town—what I did not see before because I flew out of the airport in Jos South to Lagos the Wednesday after the crisis. There the blackened outline of the sprawling school for Islamic higher education and another burnt school just before we got to Farin Gada. Rows of burnt and roofless houses and shops. As we pass, I see men bowed in prayer, filling the burnt hull of a mosque. The walls are blackened and broken down on two sides yet they bow, they pray to God.

“There is so much we did not see. There is so much we did not know.” I think. “All we saw were the churches.”

Two days to Christmas, I drive with my parents through Tudan Wada, Katako Market, and Angowar Rogo, taking shortcuts to try to get home before the curfew. Whole streets of shops lie in blackened ruins. They belong to both Christians and Muslims, but the deepest devastation is in Muslim areas.

I read the 2006 Human Rights Watch report on the indigin/settler problem in Nigeria. I'm sure they are oversimplifying some things, but how had I not known that a student could not enter any university in Nigeria without an indigin certificate from somewhere—that there are thousands and thousands of Nigerians caught between here and there, between where they’ve “settled” and their supposed “homeland” where they cannot get indigene certificates either? People who can’t get into schools, can’t get government jobs, who are seen as “settlers” wherever they go? When Jos Hausas go to Kano to make movies they are seen as being “Jos people” coming to corrupt Hausa culture. When they stay in Jos, politicians tell them to go back to where they came from.

Friends (Plateau indigenes and Christians at that) explain details of the elections—how egregiously the elections seem to have been rigged in favour of “indigene” politicians preaching a gospel of protectionism.

Onward Christian Soldiers
Marching into war

One friend tells me he was out at a night spot Thursday night of the election and heard reports from people drifting in that the ANPP candidate has won by a landslide. Then somehow PDP was reported to have won. He tells me about how people on the middle class compound, where most of his neighbors have a university degree, “began to turn into animals before my eyes.” Christians who wanted to kill the few Muslim families who lived on the compound, who only days earlier they were visiting and watching videos with. Young men, his friends from childhood, who called him to come with them to kill and old Hausa man who takes care of horses. Teenage boys and girls who beat to death a Hausa boy who fell off a passing lorry.

This is what Christians have done.

In the name of Christ.

The Prince of Peace.

I begin to understand one of my friends, a Plateau indigene, who converted from Christianity to Islam because of what he saw in the church.

Yet the other stories remain. The “Hausa Muslim” boys who burned churches at 6am on Friday morning, who pulled people out of taxis as they passed on the road and cut off old women’s hands. The Christian girl living behind a nightclub who used her phone to video the mob of young men trying to beat down her door. These stories sit there beside the stories about the young Christian men who killed a fellow Christian night guard who tried to keep his Muslim employer’s property from being burned, beside the stories of young “Christian” men who began to call their friend a traitor when he wouldn’t come with them to kill.

And then there are the stories of what the soldiers did. Christian and Muslim soldiers. Mowing down the young.

Christian. Muslim.
Indigene. Settler.
Fake Soldiers.
Real Soldiers.
Guns. Machetes.
Burned church.
Burned mosque.
Markets burned three weeks before Christmas.

This is the world that Christmas comes to.

The woman at Katako Market from whom my mother bought glass and pitcher sets before the crisis. Her neighbor gives her a few plastic buckets to hang outside the blackened remains of her shop to start over again.

The old Christian Igbo woman whose irrigation pumps are burned during the crisis, who keeps her fields green when her Hausa Muslim neighbors loan her their pumps when they have finished watering their fields.

Christmas comes upon us, unexpected, while houses are still buried in rubble, and refugees whose homes were burned still camp in relatives' houses.

Today, Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, the last Sunday before the new year, we go to the small cement block community hall where Emmanuel Baptist church is meeting while they wait to begin rebuilding their church for the third time. There are a few streamers and balloons hanging from the ceiling and letters spelling out “Happy X-mas” hung haphazardly on the walls. Women and children greet us warmly. Little girls call out “Aunty Talatu.” The children sit on the floor at the front, while adults squeeze onto benches propped up on stones.

“I’m not happy that we don’t have enough chairs” said the pastor in Hausa, waving the children to the front. He was smiling.

He and his family had gone to the wildlife park with their three children and two foster daughters a week after the crisis to give the children a vacation. While there, they were robbed at gunpoint by men who lay them on their faces and searched in their pockets and purses, said they would kill the children if they did not cooperate.

These are the people who slept on our floors and who sat outside to eat paltry bowls of badly seasoned rice for four or five days. Who had to take baths in cups of water in our bathroom without a drain.

I should not have been surprised by the joy I saw on their faces today. Two days after the crisis started when their service was held at our house, with girls dressed in jeans and mothers in mismatched wrappers, they still sang and danced. They still woke at 5am each morning to pray and sing.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, o Israel

Now they wore lace. Their shocked anger had given way to thanksgiving. Most families had gone back to their neighborhoods, to rebuild relationships with old neighbors.

The service is in Hausa. A man comes to the front to exhort the church to remember how Jesus said “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.” He prayed that those whose homes had been burned would be given another. The assistant pastor, an elderly man whose house was burned, leads the singing.

After the exhortations, there are two occasions to celebrate: a baby dedication, and a thanksgiving for a couple married two days before.

The baby girl is prayed over. The drummer beats a danceable rhythm on the newly donated drums. People dance and sing and laugh, laugh, laugh.

The groom, an architect, had been married before. His wife lost their first baby in childbirth. On the road from the village where she had gone to recover, she and her sister were killed in a car accident. Now, two years later, he has married again. The bride smiles and dances as we bring up another offering. The young couple pledges to donate N5000 to help the church buy new chairs. After the service, they pass out a crate of minerals.

So many new beginnings.

See these people who keep coming back.

O come to earth
Abide with us
Our Lord, Emmanuel

The church is a bright bird, bursting out of the flames.

Reborn again and again.

Through the fire and the smoke. Through the gunfire and the raging mobs and the hungry roads and angry robbers.

There are those who politic in God’s name.

Those who kill in God’s name.

Those who steal in God’s name.

Those who take revenge in God’s name.

Those who demonize their neighbor in God’s name.

And you can call them Christians and Muslims if you like.

And call it a religious crisis if you like.

A holy war if you like.

If that is what you think God is like.

O Come thou rod of Jesse free
Thy home from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel”

But this is what I saw today: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Self Control.

Angry shock given way to joyful forgiveness.

And this is what I heard, at the end, after we had danced and sung for the bride and the groom and the child.

“May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and forever more.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.

The church is named Emmanuel:

God is with us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O Night Divine... Merry Christmas Eve....

From Jos, where people bend to pray in blackened churches and mosques, and where a few flowers have grown up since the Thursday after the crisis when the rain came to "wash the blood away,"

Merry Christmas.

O Holy Night - Selah

Friday, December 12, 2008

My neighbor, my killer, my neighbor, my savior

I have put off writing this for so long—partially because I have not had a lot of internet access—that it will not have the freshness it would have had a few weeks ago, but let me muddle through. Rather than attempt a chronological journal of what happened during the Jos crisis 2008, I’ll rather give some context about what I was doing in Jos and a meditation on some of my experiences, the images that stay in my mind, and the thoughts I had at the time.

Being two weeks (exactly) removed from the first day of the crisis, my experiences are filtered by the ‘noise’ of what has happened since: both the cosmopolitan glamour and press of humanity in Lagos where I flew last week from Jos for the Lagos International Film Festival, the tortuous trip by van/bus back to Kano, the sermonizing and editorializing about Jos and the government response in all the newspapers I’ve read since, seemingly written by people who were not in Jos at the time. Many of the responses leave me mute and conflicted. I don’t know how to respond. My reaction to the crisis is subjective. All I know is what I saw and felt and heard at the time. Perhaps what I heard were all rumours but they were told to me by people, mostly Christians, who had risen from bed and run, been shot at, hid in Hausa Muslim neighbor’s houses, smoke rising behind them.

I had come to Jos from Kano after the election curfew the day before to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I hadn’t been planning to come because I was busy, and they were planning to join a big party of Americans on the other side of town. And frankly these gatherings of expatriates make me uncomfortable. I don’t feel at home in them. At the last minute, though, I felt guilty about being only a few hours from my parents on a holiday like Thanksgiving and not going to be with them. So after doing a “practice interview” as I had promised with one of my friends, who had an interview with an international NGO on Saturday, I headed to Na’ibawa car park and joined a taxi going to Jos. There were two Christian non-Hausa women in the seat next to me, and several motherly “Hausa” Muslim women headed to Angowar Rogo, which is the predominantly Hausa settlement close to the permanent site of the university. There was also a very independent and cheeky little boy of about ten years, his only luggage being a leda bag. The driver showed one of the women in the front seat a letter from some official person who asked him to help him transport this “child of tender years” who had been found wandering around Kano back to Jos where he could locate his parents. I’m fascinated by these children who wander the streets of Kano, most of them almajirai attached to some wandering malams. The ones who interest me the most are the independent-minded ones who run about doing errands for people or finding work for themselves—like the ones who serve as conductors in buses. They are tough but cheerful little buggers with cheeky grins and an impressive arsenal of insults. This kid in particular was full of opinions and chatter, jumping around the car as people got in and out. The women around me were half amused, half exasperated, offering him fond motherly admonitions.

We arrived at 6pm about two hours after the election curfew ended, and I went ahead and went to the expatriate gathering and stuffed myself with American Thanksgiving food my dad had saved for me. After we went back home, there was no NEPA, no internet, the battery was down, and the generator was at the repairshop, so we slept early. I woke early on Friday morning, November 28, and couldn’t go back to sleep. Around 6:30am, I was up and my dad led me to the window near the staircase and said “Listen. Do you hear that. Gunshots. Thomas [the caretaker of one of the university guest houses] told me there is trouble in the town… I’m afraid this thing has started up again.” We could hear the pop, pop of shot guns and a little later the ta-ta-ta-ta of automatic gunfire.

After this my narrative will become less chronological, because I did not write it down as it was happening, and it has become a jumble in my mind. There was a lot of time I sat around doing nothing. I should have been writing but a strange lethargy was upon me. I’d wander around, watching people, searching for magazines for people to read, filling pitchers of water to serve.

That first morning, my mother said that since we were all up, we might as well have breakfast, because who knew what the day would bring. I ended up walking up the road behind our house with my dad and Katrina, an American who recently completed her PhD and is living with my parents while she teaches at UniJos. From about 7:30am-10:00, I stayed outside halfway up the private university street with lecturers, undergraduates, residents of the “BQ’s,” a couple of post graduate students from across town who had shown up for exams that morning, watching the events taking place on the main road and the surrounding neighborhoods. Black smoke was rising on almost every side of the university in a wide semicircle, interspersed by white smoke that came from burning houses, churches, and at least one mosque close to one of the petrol stations. The gunfire was intermittent. At one point the gunfire sounded so close that we all started running back toward the houses. I finally settled down on a cement divider by the road with Sabena, who lives behind our house and works as a cook at a boarding secondary school not far from our house. The leaders of the community were trying to round up young men to defend the campus from invaders. A student in his early twenties walked past me muttering, “I don’t want to fight. I’m just three weeks from finishing and starting my life.” My dad later told me about five students he had met sitting between the Protestant Chapel and the mosque on campus. They were living together but thugs had burst into their house and started looting mattresses, clothes. They ran away with only the clothes on their backs. They were lamenting their credentials, their books. Everything. Gone. And without their credentials there was no way of proving they had three years of university behind them. That they had scored high on WAEC. Everything. Gone.

Later we heard of three NYSC youth corpers who were killed. Education behind them. On the cusp of “starting their lives” as the student had muttered as he passed by me… Now killed in a part of the country they were only visiting for a year, in a conflict they knew nothing about…

Refugees were beginning to wander in from outside of campus, women and children, clutching Ghana-must-go bags and mats, many of them in mismatched t-shirts and old wrappers, hair in hair nets. Running away in their night clothes before breakfast or their morning bath.

My dad told me about going up to the university clinic where they were bringing in students and other refugees with gunshot wounds. There was one doctor and two nurses who lived on campus. He told me that when he was treating one patient, the doctor started yelling. It was an old woman whose arm had been hacked off below the elbow, through both bones, dangling only from a bit of skin. “What does an old woman have to do with politics? What does she have to do with anything?”

Later in the day, I went up to the clinic when the DVC asked us to use our digital cameras to document it for the vice chancellor who was out of the country. There was blood dripped up and down the corridors, young men sitting outside on benches, with bullet wounds in their legs. A woman showed me that she had been shot in the shoulder. She had a wad of cotton stuck to it. There were so many people there that the one doctor could only treat those who were the worst off. The rest, the nurses gave tetanus shots, painkillers, and bandages to put over the metal lodged in flesh. I felt inappropriate taking pictures of people so I focused on the blood dripped on the floor, the bloody wads of cotton scattered about, the bench someone had tried to hastily swab off leaving a swirl of sudsy blood.

But that morning, I sat on the side of the road, chatting off and on with Sabena or the postgraduate students, who tried to explain the politics of the recent election to me, texting friends and journalists I know. By around 10am, the sun was getting hot and it was getting boring. There was the anxiety of anticipation, of wanting to see what would happen, but also the reality that there was nothing really to be accomplished by sitting there. Things would continue to burn. The gunfire would continue. The sun would get hotter. By this time, we heard several reports. That at least 6 or 7 churches closest to the university had already been burnt, more than had been burnt in our area in the 2001 crisis. One of the most poignant is that of Emmanuel Baptist Church, where Sabena attends. This is the fourth time it has been burnt. The church has a peaceful pastor who has emphasized non-retaliation each time it has been burnt. But as I saw over the next few days, since most of the refugees at our house were his parishioners, many of whom had been at my parents house during the September 2001 crisis as well, non-retaliation is one thing, but it does not mean that there is not deep bitter anger that gets deeper and more bitter every time it happens. We also heard that soldiers had come and this made us hope that things would quiet down. (Later we discovered that soldiers had not come until later in the afternoon, and that what we thought were soldiers were actually “fake soldiers” who had obtained uniforms.)

As I walked back to the house, I heard a distant roar from far off loudspeakers, shouting, and the only thing I could make out was “Allahu Akbar.” This moment, as I walked along the strangely deserted street, laundry flapping neglected on lines, represents one of my deepest conflicts as the weekend proceeded. From the first time I had heard gunfire and my dad told me what was going on, I had thought of the Hausa women I ridden down from Kano with and that chatty little boy. They were headed toward Angowar Rogo, where much of the violence was taking place. I wondered if they were running right now? Being shot or macheted down? Having their houses burnt? Had the little boy been caught up in the fighting, or even worse (terrible suspicion born of rumours!) had he, parentless and connectionless, been transported down to take part in the fighting? I had been planning to go into Almah Video near Kwarafa Cinema, in one of the most deeply Hausa parts of town, that day to pick up some more “cocaine” (new films that hadn’t passed censorship in Kano but which I could find in Jos), but thought ironically to myself that I probably wouldn’t be able to go there for a long time now. I worried about my friends near the cinema. What was happening? Were they being killed? Were the cinemas or shops being burned? I had already exchanged worried texts with my friends in Kano, most Muslims, all appalled at what was happening.

And yet there was this shouting, this blasphemous “Allahu Akbar” drifting across campus to the rhythm of machine guns. And there was the smoke of half a dozen churches rising on the horizon surrounding us. As the weekend progressed, our house filled with Christians from Angowar Rogo and Angowar Rimi, Igbo, Yoruba, or Plateau minorities in a majority Hausa Muslim neighborhood (who are nevertheless minorities in the state at large). Some of them with brothers in the hospital, some of them whose houses had been burnt by both thugs and neighbors, and others who had sought refuge with Muslim neighbors before they could escape to “safety” on this besieged campus.

When I heard people saying things like “These people are animals”; “They have no souls”; “My dog is better than them”; words of protest rose to my lips. I did say to a few “not everyone is like this,” “this is politics, not religion”; “Islam does not condone this sort of violence” (and most agreed on the “politics” track); but mostly I remembered how I hated to be preached at the height of my emotion, how I didn’t want to be one of those smug outsiders who condescends to the bereaved. I remembered how I had ended a friendship after September 11th, when from my Brooklyn apartment with ashes blowing through the windows, I emailed to a friend in the mid-West that I hope they found those who had planned this and killed them. My newly-pacifist friend preached at me—why do you want more death? Unless you could look them in the eyes as you pulled the trigger to kill them, you shouldn’t want to revenge death with death. Looking back seven years later, after the disasterous actions taken by the U.S. government after the attacks, I admit that my friend was probably right, but his timing was off. One does not want to hear such pieties when one has just witnessed hundreds of people die in front of one’s eyes. You need that space to shout and be angry, that space to grieve, that space to meditate.

I remembered that as I heard the angry people in my house, clutching the few belongings they had been able to run with. I hadn’t just seen my house burnt or my neighbors looting my shop. I hadn’t just seen my brother shot.

So, I mostly stayed quiet. I don’t know if that was the right decision.

Because I know that words so easily spill over into actions, retaliation, and that most of the deaths in these conflicts are those of innocent people scapegoated by angry people seeking revenge. I know that the majority of the deaths in this crisis were Muslim.

On the first day, especially, I felt like my heart was cracking in two.

Kano. Jos.
Jos. Kano.
Christian. Muslim.
Hausa. Birom.
Youth who make music.
Youth who kill.
Are they ever the same?
They are animals.
They are murderers.
Young thugs.
Old politicians.
They are coming from Kano to kill us.

My love.
I adore you.
My love.
I hate you.
My love.
My love.
My love.
My love.
My love.
My love.
My love Kano.
My love Jos.
My love.
I hate you.
My love.
I adore you.

Youth who make music
Youth who kill.
Oh God,
They call your name.
Politicians sitting in their houses
While the young die in the streets.

That night a friend from Kano called, begging me to believe that Islam has nothing like this in it. “Islam is peace. Islam is love,” he said. “This is politics. These are criminals.” “I know. I know,” I say. “It’s the same for Christianity.” The next night he told me someone I know from the studio who is from Jos—Muslim—“they” came into their family compound and slaughtered his entire family, everyone but his grandmother. After that, when people said “they” were animals, I’d tell them his story.

We are all animals.
So easily moved by instinct.
Anger rises in us.
But for the grace of God, there go I.

I think of the spiritual disciplines—how they are preparations for times like this—in a war of spirit against instinct. And after the fact, after the moment, I think of the stories on both sides:

How the Muslim alhaji tried to protect Emmanuel Baptist church until the thugs told him they would shoot him if he didn’t move.

How the Christian man tried to save the house of his alhaji neighbor before the thugs told him they’d kill him if he didn’t move. How the Christian youths DID kill the Christian maigadi because he wouldn’t move….

The many refugees in our house who had been hidden by their Muslim neighbors before they came to our house.

The Muslims hidden by Christian neighbors.

This story that happens over and over during genocide and politicized “ethnic conflict.” Those neighbors who kill and loot and those who protect and hide.

My neighbor. My killer.
My neighbor. My saviour.

There is so much more to tell. I exhaust myself. Perhaps I’ll save the rest for a later post.

At the height of the crisis on Saturday night, we had over 60 people sleeping on the floor in our house, the chairs and couches and tables pushed against the walls to make room for everyone. In our house there were mostly mothers and young children. We sent another 40 or 50 older children and teenagers with Katrina to a guest house my mother helps maintain about a block away, where she searched for towels and sheets to give them a little protection from the cold. On Saturday night, we probably fed 150-200 people. On Friday night and the following nights there were fewer but probably still up to 100 for four or five nights.

We borrowed a big pot, and several women cooked rice over a fire. It was dark by the time they finished. The first couple of nights we used rice my mother had bought to give away for Christmas, and a big bag of grits (ground corn) to make goatee for lunch. The other nights we used rice and beans sent by the CRC mission and 200 pound bag of garri brought by the deputy vice chancellor of the university. We had a lot of people in our house because my parent’s have a large “professorial house” and had sort of been a refugee center in the 2001 crisis as well because of my parent’s friendship with the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church. But the entire university, almost everyone in campus took in refugees. There were probably at least 20 extra people in each house, with some having up to 40-50, as well. Some neighbors broke down the door to an unoccupied house, and we later heard that there were 120 refugees piled into it.

An NGO showed up on Monday to give away blankets and mats.

By that time the majority of the people had gone home or to the houses of relatives except those who were afraid to go back because they were minorities in their neighborhood, but my parents tried to distribute the blankets to people who had lost their homes.

I will round up now, and tell some more of the individual stories later. But in concluding analysis, I will react to much of what I have been hearing about this being a “religious” crisis. Of course, it took on religious dimensions, because almost everyone in Jos, in Nigeria, is “religious”—and the “religious” lines often coincide with ethnic and political divisions. But to call it a “religious” crisis is an overly “easy” point to make about a very complex situation. One has to look at the history: precolonial trade, wars of conquest, and migrations, colonial classification and division under “indirect rule,” and post-colonial politics. I have been calling it a “political” crisis, not because I think it was a simple reaction to the elections, the results of which had not even been announced yet when the crisis started, but because it represents a deeper political atmosphere in which power-hungry “godfathers” pay off thugs to kick-start these crisis. It is the thugs and mercenaries who set fire to churches and houses on the first day, then angry people (the “ethnic”/”religious” dimension) take over from there.

The newspaper analysis I have been reading blames the PDP for supposedly rigging the election (since that is what PDP does…) and Governor Jang for announcing that the PDP candidate had indeed won on the second day of the crisis. (Note, however, that the crisis started BEFORE the results were announced.) And this is probably right. PDP is becoming a “swallowing monster,” in the mythical terms of one of my old professors. However, from my observations of the machinations of the ANPP in Kano (where, for example, last month over a hundred film actresses, en masse, went over to the PDP, not because they particularly like the PDP but in protest of the actions of the ANPP Kano government against filmmakers), I can’t think that the ANPP is blameless in this…..

I was going to say more, but I’ve thought better of it….

More later….

Monday, December 01, 2008

Jos Crisis, November 28, 2008

Yes.... I'm in Jos....

I came to Jos after the curfew for the elections had been lifted at 4pm. I hadn't been planning to come but it was Thanksgiving, and I started feeling guilty about not going home for it, since my parents are in the country. So, I arrived in Jos around 6pm. The next morning at 6:30am, my dad told me to come to the window. "Do you hear the gunfire? This thing has started up again." I took this photo around 9am. The compound was surrounded by smoke on all sides--black smoke, tires, white smoke, churches and houses and at least one mosque.

We have ended up having a refugee camp at our house, many of the same people who were here in September 2001. We fed close to 200 last night and have had over 60 people sleeping in the house each night. Fortunately, my mother had bought a lot of food to give away for Christmas, so we had enough rice for a few days and the DVC brought a bag of garri. There are some people staying with us who have lost everything they own. It is a little bit too much to think about.

Things seem to have calmed down now. I am at an internet cafe, but will post more thoughts and pictures when I have a chance, probably once I'm back in Kano.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fim Magazine's Hit-list and other Kannywood stuff

This is sort of old news by now, but i thought i should post the links anyway.

At the end of October, Kaduna-based human rights organization Civics Rights Congress got involved in the Ibro case.

And the November issue of Fim magazine publishes a hit list of film people most likely to be arrested in the upcoming months.... (Slightly ironic taken in context of other entertainment magazines, like People where "most likely to wear bad fasion" lists are the order of the day. Here, in Kano, we have "most likely to be arrested." This Leadership article by Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz goes into more detail.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CNN interview with Hausa novelist Sa'adatu Baba on Inside Africa

This is a few weeks old, but I was finally able to download it online. Here is a CNN feature on Hausa literature, with a brief statement by my friend Hausa novelist Sa'adatu Baba. It's thrilling to see Hausa writing featured on international news, but I wish the problems with censorship weren't simplified down to sound bites like "conflict with Muslim tradition." (It's also a bit funny to hear things translated--when the translation sounds very different from what the person was saying....) but, anyway it's great exposure for Hausa novelists, and I know a documentary filmmaker in Jos who interviewed Sa'a at the latest ANA conference because he saw her on CNN!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Inevitable Lost Phone: An sace wayata

Coming back from the Association of Nigerian Authors convention, hosted in Gusau, Zamfara State (which I'll try to write more on later), I lost my handset, which was subsequently stolen in the process of me trying to find it....

So, for those of you who read this blog and know I have your number, could you send me an email with your number? Alternatively, you can try texting or phoning me in about two days once I have swapped the line and bought a new phone.

So, now I have joined the legions of others with this problem. It's so painful... arghh... The phone was the cheapest available model. I paid N3500 for it (about $30)--the thief probably won't get more than N500 for it. I would be happy to pay triple that amount to get the hundreds of numbers back.... But, alas, after about ten minutes, the ringing stopped and the network said it was switched off, likely the sim card already abandoned in a ditch.


My one consolation is that I have this slightly obsessive/compulsive habit of typing up important text messages before I delete them (I used to copy numbers from the texts but I stopped doing that about a month ago; I will henceforth start doing it again), and I had copied down every number in my phone two years ago when I left, so the main numbers I need are the ones I've collected in the past five months.... which are substantial.

So, to those who know me in my real life and not just my blog, please send me your numbers....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is how we do it....

So, I'm running off to Zamfara state for an Association of Nigerian Authors convention this weekend and will likely miss all the election hype on blogs and television this weekend, sniff, sniff,

but before I leave,

just wanted to say....

"Lets flip the track, bring the old school back...


(absentee vote, baby)

"all hands are in the a-a-i-r"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Little bit of everything, but mostly on Kannywood

To the tune of "Yahoooozee, Yahoooozee..... "

Have been working all bleeding day long on my funding application, which is getting steadily WORSE..., until my battery gave up the ghost and I had to come to a cafe.

Have also been eating a nonsensical assortment of items while feverishly working against my battery dying, including: Ovaltine, cake, cabin biscuits, sardines, tea, leftover yoghurt, tea, and finally (on my way to the internet cafe) a banana....

So, in a follow up on yesterday's news, I headed over to Zoo Road yesterday evening to find out what happened with the raids and found out that although Baba Karami was taken to mobile court, he had the certificate to prove his registeration with the censor's board and he was released and allowed to re-open his studio. Others were not so lucky. For more news on this see the rather elastic bordered article in Leadership, Emir Bayero Donates N2 Million to Qur'anic School. I find it rather interesting that the news about dozens of filmmakers being arrested and having their studios closed is buried at the end of an article praising the emir for donating money to a Qur'anic school. Hmmm...

Triumph as usual has a piece insisting that the government has no quarrel with the filmmakers, just wants them to "conduct themselves according to Sharia."

And finally, for something slightly more encouraging, a Punch piece that mentions a new Kannywood sattelite station on DaarSat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Raid on Baba Karami yestereday

I just found out that there was a raid on Baba Karami's studio yesterday at around 3:30pm. Apparently the police were raiding all of the studios up and down Zoo Road. I had talked with him only a few hours before, before going to Miller Road for the court case hearing Ibro's appeal. I had been planning to go back by Zoo Road after the court case but because the court case had gotten started late and I needed to get back to the university I didn't.

According to one source I talked to, they were raiding studios that supposedly had not registered with the censorship board, but that Baba Karami HAD registered. The police locked up his shop and took him away. I will post more when I find out more about what is going on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ibro's appeal

In other news, I attended Ibro's appeal to the High Court today. In the end, the court had to reconvene because of a technicality whereby the defence signed the name of the law firm rather than the name of an individual lawyer.

I will post more on this if I can get internet tomorrow.

But can I just add the perhaps irreverent observation that of all the carryover's of colonialism, the WIG in the Nigerian justice system has got to be one of the worst aesthetically. (There are, of course, far far more serious carryovers--but visually, ughh, those wigs.... those wigs....)

Follow-up on "The Most Gorgeous Nigerian Women"--my response published in Leadership

So this past Sunday, October 19, I bought a Sunday Leadership, and was having a jolly time catching up on the news when I was given a bit of a jolt. There on page 53 was my response to "The Most Gorgeous Nigerian Women" that I posted on this blog on October 5.

Now I am pleased and flattered that my blog is being followed, and I'm happy to see my words in "print," but this is the second time in the past few months that I'm finding something I've written published elsewhere without having any idea it was reprinted. At least this time, "Talatu-Carmen" was actually given credit rather than being ripped off. Let me repeat what I have written in my blogger profile: "Please feel free to comment, but please do not use, quote, or re-post anything from these blogs without first requesting my permission."

So, don Allah, don Annabi, if there are any editors or journalists reading this who want to use something from my blog, that's fine. Just LET ME KNOW BEFORE you print it. This gives me a chance to edit it further and give you my real name, rather than my blog-name Talatu-Carmen. It also lets me keep track of my "publications," which is kind of important...

Thank you....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Prison Controller assures readers that any time Dan Ibro is certified okay, he will be taken back to prison.

The latest on Ibro from state-owned Triumph:

Phew....I feel reassured that this dangerous criminal will not be on the streets after he is released from the hospital!!!!

(and if this is not obvious to anyone who might want to use this, as another ironic piece I have seen recently, for pro-govt propaganda, the above sentence is called IRONY or more strongly SARCASM....)
Thursday, October 16Prison controller refutes Ibro's release rumour By NASIRU MUHD.CONTRARY to rumours circulating that a popular Hausa film artiste in Kano, Rabilu Musa Dan Ibro who was recently jailed has been ordered to be released by Governor Ibrahim Shekarau and the Emir of Kano, Alhaji (Dr) Ado Bayero, the state Controller of Prisons, Alhaji Lawal Abubakar has confirmed that the actor is still in prison and described the rumour as baseless.The controller who spoke with the newsmen over the issue yesterday in his office, said the rumour may have arisen because the comedian was seen in hospital and some thought he was released.According to him, the prison authorities are responsible for ensuring that any inmate is in their custody and receiving adequate care, adding that Dan Ibro has been admitted at Muhammad Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital which is owned by the state government, after it was confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer of the prison that the prisoner needed medical attention.He further stated that based on information he received from his officers, the medical doctor on call at the hospital had then ordered that the actor needed urgent medial attention.``We are not medical personnel, and by the action we took of admitting him at the hospital, we were following the ethics of our profession.``That is what is applicable to every inmate, regardless of his status. We will not allow him to die while in our custody, eventhough we know everyone can die at any moment,'' he said.Alhaji Abubakar assured that any time Dan Ibro is certified okay, he will be taken back to prison.He, however, lauded Kano state government for its assistance to the prison authorities and prayed to God to continue to guide it.Efforts to confirm the story by our correspondent, from the medical doctor of the hospital, Dr. Dahiru Shehu failed because he refused to open up on the issue.It could be recalled that the artiste was recently sentenced to four months in prison, by the state mobile court on film activities, headed by Senior Magistrate Mukhtar Ahmad.The sentence was in two categories, with the first category, making him to remain behind bars for two months without an option of fine for operating a film industry without a license.On the other sentence, he was sentenced to two months or pay a fine of N20,000 and N10,000 each to the state government and the State Film Censorship Board for partaking in an indecent Hausa song called Mamar, in a CD called ``Aloko''.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Making A Scapegoat of...

An excerpt from an editorial which talks about the arrest of 'dan Ibro in today's Leadership:

Making A Scapegoat Of...

Sa’idu Mohammed Sanusi

One doubts whether political abracadabra, bureaucratic gibberish, blabber of amateurish politicians, political mercenaries and hirelings could exonerate apparently brazen partisan actions from their basic nature, mere political brigandage or grandstanding. One also wonders why most politicians spotting whichever toga increasingly and desperately attempt to cloak/ conceal unjustified political decisions, actions/inactions through indiscretion. Is it a virtue glorifying or celebrating cowardice? One should not be under illusion that dominant public disposition in Nigeria and its constituent parts, Kano State inclusive, are political. Is it not foolhardy to attempt drawing a demarcation line between politics and recent official actions of the state government?
Of recent, several political events have happened in Kano state, most of which bordered on presumed unpopularity of the state government's decisions that culminated in reported pelting of governor Shekarau in the Emir's palace on the last day of the just-concluded Ramadan fast Tafsir. The unfortunate event elicited comments from government and the opposition, and engendered placement of concentric security measures around the personality of the governor to enhance his personal security and that of his household. This is, indeed, commendable for security of life and property is so sacred in a civilized society. This is more pertinent considering that life of the state chief executive is involved. Nonetheless, security should be pursued without putting lives and properties of the ordinary citizens in jeopardy. The security arrangement is legally instructive, morally imperative and politically pre-emptive.
Moreover, the state government and its agents should not be seen to, in the process, engage in trampling on fundamental freedom and liberty of ordinary citizens, even of those considered as underdogs. There is no democracy without guaranteeing basic human liberty. This is a fundamental preachment of liberal democracy that Nigeria purports to operate. Could democracy be sustained when citizens' freedom is grossly endangered under whatever pretext? Hardly!
The popular Hausa Film comedian, Rabilu Musa Danlasan, alias Dan Ibro and co-artist Lawan Kunawa were, reportedly arrested by the Kano State Censorship Board, allegedly on a trumped up charge of contravening aspects of Censorship laws operating in the state. They were expeditiously arraigned and convicted by the Censorship Mobile Court presided over by the Senior Magistrate, Mukhtari Ahmed. It was not the arrest and arraignment of the victims that mattered but the circumstance and the speed with which the case was heard and disposed of. Even the penalty meted out to the offenders calls to question the process. Another question is why were the two artists the main target? Were they the only indecent dancers in the film?
The actual offense of the accused had to do with a role he allegedly played in comedy films entitled Ibro Aloko and Ibro Kauranmata which the Censorship Board took exception to. According to the report Dan Ibro and Lawan Kunawa were said to have indecently danced in the film, contrary to the provisions of Kano state Censorship Law. In addition the films were allegedly released without proper screening and authorization by the Censorship Board, another offense. The presiding Magistrate Judge found the accused guilty as charged and sentenced them to two months imprisonment without option of fine. The producer of the film was equally found guilty of the same offense and fined N40, 000, which he instantly paid. When Dan Ibro was asked for his comment after conviction, he was reported to have alleged he was only a target of political persecution, which could be an apt assessment of the situation.
Concerned Kano-based Hausa filmmakers have indicated interest in appealing the judgment and pursuing it to logical conclusion. Generally, observers feel that Ibro and Kunawa's arrest, arraignment, trial, conviction and imprisonment were politically motivated and maliciously pursued. This seems to be the broad-based belief of Kano citizens, especially those sympathetic to the victims. According to some respondents interviewed by this writer, Ibro Aloko was released about two years ago, and Ibro Kauranmata was released before the advent of Censorship law in the state. Legal luminaries were called upon to explain whether a law could have retrospective effect. Some wondered why the Censorship Board suddenly developed interest in the film, Ibro Aloko after some negative political happenings in the state. The political insinuations sound plausible if only to explain reason for the technicality and lacuna in the arrest and subsequent trial of the accused. Unconfirmed reports also have it that it was in the said film that Dan Ibro and his group sang "Mamar" Song, the song alleged to have been sung by hooligans that pelted Shekarau in the Emir's Palace. Mamar is popularly sung to make a jest of people that wear a peculiarly striped textile material in Kano during the last Eid- el-Fitr Sallah. The term, Mamar is also alleged to have originated from some Borno dialects, meaning of which could no be ascertained at the time of this piece. Governor Shekarau was allegedly fond of the material, which he was wearing when he was pelted in the Emir's Palace. Political observers believe that Dan Ibro and Lawan Kunawa were targeted as scapegoats to face punishment for governor Shekarau's pelting and embarrassment.
In addition, some Kano-based textile material merchants were alleged to have stock-piled the material in question, and have reportedly made representation to the state government and security agencies in the state over the issue. The traders allegedly in possession of unsold striped material were very angry. What made them jittery was possibility of incurring losses, because prospective buyers have shunned the material in the market. The merchants have attributed this to Dan Ibro's Mamar song in Ibro Aloko film that has been used to make a jest of anybody wearing the material in Kano State. Some of the traders were allegedly boastful that somebody somewhere must pay for their impending loss.
Contacted for his reaction over alleged political undertone in Ibro and Kunawa's trial, Mallam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, Director-General, Kano State Censorship Board, out rightly refuted the allegation. He claimed he was away In Saudi-Arabia when governor Shekarau was pelted. He however, agreed that the film, Ibro Aloko could have been shot about two years ago, but it was not released till recently. He added, "We can only take an action when it is released to the public." Mallam Rabo has vehemently denied that their action on the film was dictated by political considerations, stating, "Kano Censorship Board is a statutory body set by the state government law aimed at sanitizing filmmaking and marketing industry in Kano state." But he conceded that the Board acted under mounting pressure from stakeholders, though he denied that was dictated by political motive/ consideration.
On the other hand, watchers of political events and Kano state Censorship Board activities have posited that Dan Ibro/ Kunawa's arrest and conviction was in tandem with seemingly systematic harassment of artists, especially filmmakers. They also asserted that it could be recalled that Alhaji Hamisu Iyan Tama, Hausa film producer/ artist was also targeted and humiliated, though his trial was not as speedy and controversial. It is not unlikely that high profile arrests, arraignments and convictions of particularly Hausa filmmakers and book writers would be witnessed in the state more often than not.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Breaking News: Hausa Comedian dan Ibro arrested and imprisoned for 2 months without bail by Kano State Censors Board

Breaking News.

Dazu, I recieved the following text:

"Kano state censorship board arrest rabilu musa dan ibro and 3 other members of his group."

Ibro is a Hausa comedian, and one of the biggest stars in the industry. People I know in Jos who don't watch Hausa films DO watch Ibro.

So, I called the friend who sent me the text and this is the story I heard. Again, this is breaking news, so I might have some of the details wrong. Supposedly, the group was arrested today over the film Aloko which was shot (and censored?) before the ban on Hausa films last year. The producer is being required to pay a N40,000 fine and Ibro a N20,000 fine. Furthermore, Ibro will be imprisoned for 2 months without bail.

Supposedly, the censorship board has accused Ibro of not registering his company with the censorship board. Ibro had registered individually, as an actor, with the censorship board and had the receipt and the certificate to prove it. But apparently the censorship board is saying that he has a company he hadn't registered. Ibro says he does not have a company--that if he has a company, what is the name of the company they are accusing him of not registering. Apparently, they said they didn't know the name of the company but that they knew he had one and that is why they were arresting him.

So, I suppose it is his claim against theirs.

I will post more news as I hear it.
UPDATE: 9:06am, 7 October 2008
I just pulled this off of Nigeria News (Ngex):

Hausa Actor Sentenced To Two Months Imprisonment
x October 07, 2008A popular Hausa comedian, Mr. Rabiu Musa (Ibro) and his associate, Mr. Lawan Kunawa, were sentenced to two-months imprisonement without any option of fine for operating a film industry without approval by the State Censorship Registration Board and acting in a film entitled, "Ibro A-LOCO."He was arrested by officials of the Kano State Censorhip Board and arraigned before a Censorship Mobile Court in Kano presided over by Senior Magistrate Mukhtar Ahmed.The comedian denied owning the film company or producing any film and said he only acted in the film. The magistrate refused his defence and sentenced him to two months without an option of fine.
UPDATE, 10:33pm, 7 October 2008
Nudity - Kannywood Star Ibro Sentenced
Daily Trust (Abuja)NEWS7 October 2008 Posted to the web 7 October 2008
By Hassan a Karofi Kano
Kannywood star and popular comedian Rabilu Musa alias Dan Ibro has been sentenced to four months imprisonment for allegedly operating an illegal film production company and shooting a film that exposes nudity and immoral acts in contravention of the Kano State censorship laws.
Dan Ibro was sentenced along with his friend and co-actor Lawal Kaura by Chief Magistrate Muktar Ahmed. According to the Police First Information report read at the chief magistrate's court 14, the duo were accused and arraigned on a two count charge before the court for operating an unregistered film production company known as Ibro Film Production without registration and exposing nudity and immoral scenes in a film called Ibro Aluko. The film, according to the censorship lawyers, has contravened section 97 of the state censorship laws. The censorship board argued that the film released without authorisation depicts corrupt acts especially during a singing scene in which a song called Mar-Mar was organised with half naked women dancing in mesmerising steps and movements that attack the sensibilities of the people of Kano State. Additionally, Lawal Kaura, who appeared in the said dancing with some women was also accused for the same offences. Reading his judgement, the Chief Magistrate, therefore, said the two actors were sentenced to two months imprisonment on the first charge of producing a film with immoral scene without option, and another two months imprisonment for operating a film production firm without registration, the second carries an option of N10000.

Dan Ibro is the second Hausa film star that was sentenced to imprisonment since the introduction of stiff regulations governing film production in Kano State after the Maryam Hiyana's nudity video. [TC COMMENT: Make that THIRD Hausa film star. 1) Adam Zango, 2) Iyan Tama, 3) Ibro]

Copyright © 2008 Daily Trust. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (
Hausa Actor, Ibro Sentenced to Two Month Imprisonment
Leadership (Abuja)
NEWS7 October 2008 Posted to the web 7 October 2008
By Mansur Sani Malam
A popular and controversial lead comedian, Mr. Rabiu Musa (Ibro) and his associate, Mr. Lawan Kunawa, were yesterday sentenced to two-months imprisonement without any option of fine. Ibro was arrested by officials of the Kano State Censorhip Board and arraigned before a Censorship Mobile Court in Kano presided over by Senior Magistrate Mukhtar Ahmed.
He was charged with operating a film industry without approval by the State Censorship Registration Board and acting in a film entitled, "Ibro A-LOCO." But, in his defence, Ibro denied ownership of any film company or producing any film, saying that he only acted in the film like many others in which he appeared in the past. However, the magistrate refused his defence and consequently sentenced him to two months without an option of fine. Ibro who was arraigned with his producer, Malam Hassan was also charged with releasing a film without the approval of the censhorship board. But in his defence, the producer tendered a certificate issued him by the board. However, his defence did not convince the magistrate who convicted him. Hassan was lucky and paid his N40,000 fine.

Copyright © 2008 Leadership. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (
(Note the tone in the following article from the Daily Triumph, a government owned paper)
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
state tribunal on films activities has sentence a renown Housa film artist in Kano, Rabilu Musa alias Dan Ibro, to two monthsi in prison for partaking in an indecent play in a Hausa video CD name Aloko.Delivering judgment on the second count charges the tribunal chairman, Senior Magistrate Muktari Ahmad, ordered the artist to cool his feet behind bars for two months or pay a fine of N10, 000 each to both the state government and the state Film Censorship Board, for operating a film company by the name Ibro Film Production Company.Also sentenced alongside Ibro was another Hausa film artist, Lawan Kaura, who was adminstered the same sentence in the second count charge.On the first count charge, he was ordered to pay a fine of N10, 000 to both the state government and the state Film Censorship Board for releasing the video.Before the sentences were announced to the convicts, the state prosecutor, Barr. Sunusi Ado Ma’aji applied that the court gives them summary trial since they have admitted committing the offences.Barr. Ma’aji, also applied for the banning of the said CD which include its sales and its viewing.The CD contained a lied song called “Mamar,” a slogan now being used to tease anyone who wears clothes that were carrying lines in Kano and other neighbouring states.Speaking to newsmen after the verdict, the Director General, Kano state Film Censorship Board, Alhaji Rabo Abdul-Karim, assured that his board will not relent in its effort to see that the state is rid of all illicit films and other vices.“We will continue to see that all those who break our laws are charged to court,” he said.The convicts have one month to appeal the sentenced passed on them.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Most Gorgeous Nigerian Women (apparently live abroad...)

I will bracket the concern whether there should be these lists of people classified by their physical attractiveness at all (I admit I'm a sucker for People Magazine's the 50 Most Beautiful People), but let me speak to another concern. As I read through the "artville" section in today's Leadership "Most Gorgeous Nigerian Women" by Zully Abdul, I was struck by the fact that with the exception of Nollywood actresses Dakore Egbuson and Genevieve Nnaji and possibly model Agbani Darego, the women (12 out of 15) featured here live and have careers outside of Nigeria. Now of course I am in favour of celebrating the achievements (beauty, career, or otherwise) of Nigerians wherever they may reside and I am uncomfortable with "more authentic than thou" arguments; however, what does this list say about the standards used in judgment and what does this mean to the target audience, which I assuming would be women living in Nigeria where print copies of Leadership are distributed? Is it that there is a paucity of "gorgeous" women who actually live and work in this country???? I've seen women just as gorgeous if not more so among my students at Bayero, singing in church, designing clothing in tailor shops, or sitting behind the counter at an MTN shop. (Granted these sorts of lists generally deal with glamourous public figures, but are there not at least 7 or 8 gorgeous and glamourous Nigerian women living in Nigeria?) What does this list say to Nigerian women in Nigeria who would like to be seen as "gorgeous"? That they must get visas and go appear in American music videos, Hollywood films, and Italian runways? And looking at these women, what does it say about what beauty is? All of these women appear to have straightened hair (with the exception of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ), they all appear to be wearing Western-style clothing, most of them seem to be fairly light skinned, and they are all rail thin....

It's not that I don't think these women are "gorgeous." I think they are. I also think there is a place for celebrating the accomplishments of expatriate Nigerians. But when there is so much beauty and creativity all around us here in Nigeria, why can't at least half of the "most gorgeous Nigerian women" highlighted here be ones living at home?

A related kvetch. Style. Nigerians have absolutely amazing styles. When I come to Nigeria from the U.S. I tend to leave most of my Western clothes there and just have clothing tailored here. When I go back to the U.S., one of the things I miss the most is getting to dress in beautifully designed, floor-sweeping skirts/wrappers whenever I like. But, and I noticed this while grading 113 gender analyses of Nigerian newspaper articles, it seems that often when 'style' is discussed in Nigerian newspapers it is more often about how to wear "skinny jeans," V-neck blouses, spagetti strap tank tops, etc. The photographs featured and advice given are (to pick a random number that seems about right) usually about 70% on 'Western' style. (I'm talking specifically of newspapers and not magazines like Ovation, which features a good deal of glamourous "traddie"). Now I think people should wear whatever they want and there is a case to be made that if it is worn by a Nigerian it becomes Nigerian style, but at the same time, it strikes me that there is something not quite right here...

Friday, October 03, 2008

"An Intellectual Christianity" by my friend Voz Nocturna

A fantastic post by my friend Voz Nocturna expressing a manifesto for an "intellectual" Christianity.

Mutum Duka Mod’a Ne: HIV as Transformative agent in Hausa Novels and films

I have just posted on my other "academic"/"literary" blog a paper and the handout (with pictures) that I presented at the African Studies Association in 2006, looking at representations of HIV/AIDS in Hausa novels and films. The film Hafsah directed and produced by Sani Mu'azu had not yet been released at that time, but I hope to add a section to the paper dealing with Hafsah.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ali Nuhu Official Website

Grateful to Ibrahim Sheme's blog for pointing out that Hausa film superstar Ali Nuhu has a new official website. Very impressive.
Here's a good interview the Daily Trust did with Nuhu back in March, in which he talks about the censorship crisis.
Photo Credit: (Much better pics on Ali Nuhu's site, but I couldn't link to them)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Recent articles on the Censorship crisis and an interview with Sa'adatu Baba

My friend, the Hausa novelist Sa'adatu Baba was recently interviewed on IPS news about the censorship crisis in Kano. See the interview here. A related article gives an overview of the crisis here. Here is a link to an article by Maryam Ali about the writing side of the censorship crisis, and a priceless piece by Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim himself.... There are more that I will try to add soon...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A week of (mostly) blessings

Some encounters I’ve had this week:

I meet a woman on the bus who tells me she was inspired to study special education from an Indian film she watched. She tells me the story—about a blind girl who was able to achieve great things from learning to read, and then she tells me about a blind professor she has at BUK, who asked how many of the students in the class would marry someone who is blind. Only 13 stood up, and he said only 3 of those were probably telling the truth. But his wife married him. “Some people don’t pick education as their first choice,” she tells me, “but I did.” Her passion is obvious in the way her face shines when she talks about how “everyone has a disability. It’s just that some are more obvious than others.” She continues on about Helen Keller--how much she contributed to the world.

I sit with the sister of one of my friends whose husband divorced her two weeks ago and would not let her take any of the children, two boys and a girl, 6, 1, and 5. Come back with me, and say you are a lawyer from abroad, she half jokes, half pleads, as she shows me their pictures—healthy beautiful children, laughing into the camera lens. Her co-wife refuses to take care of them, so they were given to the grandmother to take care of. “But she’s blind. She can’t even see to wipe their noses…. I asked him, even just give me the baby to take care of until he is three, and I’ll give him back. But he refused.” She sits in a corner, hugging herself. She wants to take her husband to court to gain custody of the children. Her sister advises her against it. “He has money, and you don’t. You know the courts will side with the one who pays them…” Whenever I visit my friend, she is there, smiling sadly. I ask her about the children, “To, suna can.”

Last night I sha ruwa (lit. "drink water"; break fast) with a friend, while watching Antz from a DVD. She tells me how much she likes cartoons, and how they teach you to live in peace with nature. Now the children whenever they see ants make sure they don’t step on them because they remember the film. “Even now, I don’t like to eat eggs because I think what if I were the hen and my child were taken away…” She tells me she has thought of becoming a vegetarian…

On Tuesday, I sha ruwa with a studio full of musicians, actors, directors, and film editors. They bring bags and bags of food, oranges, kosai, roasted chicken, koko, pure water, and put it in the middle of the office. We descend upon the food. I am delicately finishing off my first orange slice, when I realize that if I don’t hurry up, I will miss out on the food altogether. In about 5 minutes, there is nothing left but bags of peels and bones. I finish off the night with the Bollywood film Chalte Chalte on a borrowed laptop. A singer watches over my shoulder, tells me he did a version of one of the songs in Hausa. He sings along with Shah Rukh Khan in Hindi.

Last week, I sha ruwa with a friend in the old city. We go to greet his elderly grandmother. He thinks she’s around 118. She cannot see or hear, but recognizes him when she touches his face, and holds on to his hand, shaking it with every blessing she gives him. When she takes my hand, she can tell I am a visitor. She blesses me too.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Review/Gender Analysis of Hausa Film Inda Ranka

This is a summary/analysis I wrote up as a sample for a class I'm teaching. I'm a little uncomfortable with the 'judgmental' end, as I tend to like to just analyze and not 'review,' but I figured a practical componant might be good for the students, since many of them are hoping to become practitioners.

Inda Ranka
Produced by Nura Hussani; Directed by Sulaiman Alubankudi
(no date, purchased in 2008 from Almah Video, Jos)

Summary: The film Inda Ranka engages with recent criticisms of the Hausa film industry by following the rise and fall of a poor girl Safiya (Kubura Dackho), who enters the Hausa film industry and is able to transform her economic situation for the better while transforming the lives of those around her for the worse. While initially discouraged in her dreams of becoming an actress by director (Ishaq Sidi Ishaq) and the producer Mahmoud (Nura Hussein), Mahmoud’s wife Samira (Jamila Nagudu) urges him to give the girl a chance. Upon being accepted as an actress under Mahmoud’s protection, Safiya goes to a boka who gives her “control” over Mahmoud’s mind. The rest of the film shows how Safiya destroys lives around her: Mahmoud leaves his patient and kind wife Samira at home while chasing Safiya and quarrelling with her over her supposed affairs. Safiya is shown with a series of lovers: the producer Mahmoud, her elder sister Binta’s (Maryam Usman) fiancé, a wealthy alhaji (Mustapha Musty) who provides her with a house, a car, and trips abroad, another wealthy man (Baballe Hayatu) who wishes to marry her, and an elderly ‘Commissioner’ (Aminu Hudu) who promises to help her take revenge on Mahmoud for shouting at her. Safiya kicks her sister out of the house, ignores the advice of her mother who wants her to leave her profession and get married, and calls Mahmoud’s father a “useless old fool.” When her duplicitous nature becomes obvious to her various suitors, Baballe, on the advice of Alhaji Mustapha who says she is “not marriage material,” rescinds his marriage proposal and instead marries her virtuous elder sister Binta. The bewitched Mahmoud is reconciled with his long-suffering wife Samira, whose sad song has stitched together the episodes of the film. The final (and only) song and dance number comes at the end of the film, in which Safiya and Binta are shown dancing with their various suitors.
Analysis: Inda Ranka reproduces many stereotypes of women in its reflection of the controversies currently surrounding the Hausa film industry. While the film industry is shown as a professional public realm operating according to established procedures (particularly one in which young girls who want to enter the industry are advised to return to school and get the permission of their parents, while no similar injunction appears for young men), Safiya (and by implication, other ‘greedy’ and ‘ungrateful’ young actresses) introduces chaos into these smooth operations. It is arguably not the film industry that spoils her but she who spoils the film industry. Mahmoud is shown as being a respected and professional film producer in a loving relationship with his wife, but Safiya destroys his life by “controlling him” through the powers of a ‘pagan’ boka. Safiya also disrespects her chosen profession by coming late to the location and using it as a way to attract wealthy lovers. In addition Safiya is shown as being contemptuous of her elders and Hausa traditions in the way she responds to criticism from her mother, sister, and Mahmoud’s father. She refuses to marry, preferring to have the independence of a profession and the attentions of many suitors. Cinematography, editing, and mis-en-scene emphasize Samira’s shrewish nature—she is shown in close-up shaking her finger at those who offend her. She is often portrayed as sitting in shadows. For example, when Mahmoud’s father confronts her, his virtuous nature is highlighted by the light yellow background, which casts light on his face. On the other hand, the shadowy corner in which Safiya sits casts a sinister green pallor over her face, a colour motif that is repeated when she tells Alhaji Mustapha she would rather lose him than her career.

Several ‘virtuous’ women appear as foils to Safiya. Samira is portrayed as the opposite of Safiya. She is a kind, loving, and faithful wife, and her mournful song provides the bridge to many scene transitions. While Safiya responds with a shrill and angry voice to ‘just’ criticism, Samira is never shown as raising her voice even when her husband abandons and abuses her. Instead, she is shown as constantly weeping. Closeups on her tearful face reinforce portrayals of the ‘good wife’ as helpless victim. Similarly, Safiya’s kind sister Binta, who cared for their ailing mother while Binta chased career ambitions, is shown several times weeping—the ‘good’ to Safiya’s ‘bad.’ (The choice of actress for this role becomes ironic in light of later ‘sex scandal’ involving Maryam Usman. The marketing possibilities of Maryam ‘Hiyana’ Usman’s participation of the film are highlighted in the choice to have her face prominantely displayed on the cover of the video, rather than that of the main character Kubura Dackho. The cover becomes more of a commentary on 'real life' than on the 'fiction' of the film--illustrating the name of the film "Inda Ranka" the beginning of a proverb "Inda ranka kasha kallo" meaning "In life you will see many things...." In this case, life is stranger than fiction...)

While the film challenges current interpretations of the inherent immorality of the film industry (since the problem is seen with the character of the actress rather than her work), the treatment of Safiya as ‘devil’ woman and Samira and Binta as ‘angel’ women perpetuates the social ideology of the status quo. Professional behavior in filmmaking is shown as the realm of men. Actresses, who use their fame as a platform for personal enrichment, become scapegoats for the misfortunes of the industry. Safiya lifts her sickly mother and unemployed sister out of poverty, but her ambitions to maintain an independent professional life and not immediately marry are shown in the context of a rebellious and ‘immoral’ lifestyle.’ Her ‘success’ is shown not in terms of her ability to perform well as an actress but in her ability to sexually attract wealthy men. On the other hand, the women praised as being virtuous are those who have no identifiable profession and who are defined by their relationships with their husbands or fiancés. Samira faithfully grieves her bewitched husband. Binta, whose first fiancé is stolen by Safiya, is rewarded with Safiya’s humiliation when the rich alhaji who had first proposed marriage to Safiya decides to take Binta as the ‘mother of his children.’ This seems to be the best reward a good woman can be offered.

However, even these virtuous women are portrayed as ‘weak’ in judgment. The film subtly places the entire debacle at the feet of Mahmoud’s wife Samira, who encourages him to employ Safiya as an actress, despite his better judgment. Men are seen as the victims of women. At the beginning of the film, the male production assistant tells Safiya that when they have helped other actresses enter the industry, young men have ended up as the errand boys to these ‘ingrates.’ The fall of the virtuous Mahmoud is seen as result of Safiya’s scheming. Her other suitors are shown mostly as innocent dupes, who eventually discover her with other lovers. Mahmoud’s father suffers humiliation at the hands of Safiya when he advises her to leave his son alone (initially at the request of his wife). This humiliation is shown visually in an extreme close up of his profile, which obscures his eyes, while he begs the woman who is sitting spider-like in the shadows behind him.

In a film that engages the current controversies surrounding the Hausa film industry, the producers of the film missed a chance to creatively respond to criticisms in a gender-balanced way. Portraying the achievements, as well as the challenges, women face in the film industry could have provided an enlightening defense of the role of the film industry in contemporary Hausa society. Instead, Inda Ranka risks perpetuating dangerous stereotypes that damage the reputation of the film industry and hurt the chances of women to choose the film industry as ‘respectable’ profession. .

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Meditations on Azumi: Thoughts during the Ramadan Fast

written 1 September 2008
2 Ramadan

Ever since I knew I was going to be in Kano for a year, I thought that I would try to fast during Ramadan. First, I thought it would not be appropriate to eat in front of other people who are fasting, even if it’s just sneaking a meatpie and sachet of water from the canteen to my office (although it may eventually come to that); second, I thought it would be good to experience what millions of people, and specifically those around me, experience every year. As I told one of my friends on the first day of Ramadan. “Idan kuna jin yunwa, zan ji yunwa. Idan kuna jin kishin ruwa, ni ma zan ji kishin ruwa.” If you are hungry, I will be hungry. If you are thirsty, I too will be thirsty.” The day before the fast began, I bought a book from an Islamic book seller, 70 Key Points on Fasting by Shaikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid (translated by Luqman Abdur Ahman Alamu), to better understand fasting from an Islamic perspective—what my friends believe. But ultimately, what I hope to gain out of this is spiritual discipline practiced from the perspective of my own faith. Fasting is a spiritual discipline in Christianity as well (Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert in preparation for his three years of ministry), although not compulsory. I thought that, though I am Christian, I live among Muslims, so I will fast when they fast and pray when they pray. And I will hopefully grow in my own spiritual life.

Today, on the second day of Ramadan, walking wearily across campus to wait for the bus at around 5pm, I thought, maybe I should stop this. It’s not a requirement for me, and I’m finding myself dull, forgetful, distracted, irritable, impatient, on edge. It’s not easy to manifest the “fruits of the spirit,” (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self control), when I have not eaten or drunk all day. On further thought, as I was walking from the bus stop to my house clutching two packets of dates and a sliver of watermelon I had bought to break my fast with, I realized that perhaps that is the point of fasting, at least for me. It forces me to realize, humbly, how much of my good spirits, my mostly cheerful demeanor are chemically-based, physical attributes. I have been blessed with good health, with chemical balance, with a fairly even and laid back temper (though my good friends and roommates all know the exceptions). Peeling back those layers of the physical, one comes closer to the core of one’s being, what is underneath the surface pleasantness—what comes out when there is no protective politeness—and it’s not always very attractive. I have thought often over the past few years of what C.S. Lewis says in Chapter 4 "Morality and Psychoanalysis" of Mere Christianity. About the verse that humans look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

“Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge.

"We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man's psychological make-up is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first tune, see every one as he
really was. There will be surprises.” (culled from

I meditate on this in relation to fasting. When fasting, those base-human characteristics, the instincts, the first reactions, come out more dramatically, and you have to deal with them. You are impatient but you force yourself to speak patiently. You don’t feel gracious but you make yourself be gracious anyway. It becomes a discipline, training and subduing those initial reactions that surface more clearly when you are hungry and tired, and it encourages humility. You don’t have that easy excuse—oh sorry, I haven’t eaten yet today, and I can’t think clearly—because no one else has either. You become weaker and more vulnerable to your community while stronger in your individual will. This is spiritual growth—going beyond one’s personality to something deeper.

At the same time, you also become more aware of the joys of the physical. The pleasure that comes at the end of the day, especially when you are breaking the fast with other people. (“A sha ruwa lafiya” is the greeting towards the end of the day: “enjoy quenching your thirst”)—the sweetness of the crystallized sugar in a dry date when it is the first thing that has touched your tongue all day; the fresh wetness of a tangy orange or sweet watermelon or solid banana; the way the spicy flavours of Hausa tea detach themselves and come one by one: cardamom, ginger, other flavours that I cannot yet identify; the nourishing thickness of chocolate Milo with Peak milk. The first burst of energy after the sugar enters your blood stream and the pleasant stuffed feeling when your stomach is extended with tuwon shinkafa and miyan alewa or fried yam and potatoes, peppered tofu and kosai. Denied for 13 or 14 hours a day, the senses are heightened. Listening to the Ramadan service on the radio, the chanted Arabic, the call and response, it reminds me of listening to a mass—Gregorian chants in Latin—or a BBC broadcast of the Nine Lessons in Carols on Christmas eve.

I am not sure if I will complete the fasting for the month of Ramadan or not. The training is good for me, but as an embodied spirit. I crave the blessings of the even-temper that comes so much easier when I have properly fed myself. Since it is not compulsory for me, I may only fast for a few more days, or, in my desire to be in solidarity with those around me and in my curiousity to see if I can make it, or maybe out of sheer cussed stubbornness, I may fast the whole month. We shall see…