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.

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