Tuesday, January 13, 2009

At the Goron Dutse Prison--Visiting Iyan-Tama

So, in the latest Iyan-Tama news: yesterday, the high court struck out the appeal to bail Iyan-Tama because they were dissatisfied with the way it was prepared... I went to the case, but unfortunately went to the wrong location first and arrived 30 minutes late, just in time for the mass exodus of those there for the Iyan-Tama case from the court.

And before I launch into my meditation on my visit to Iyan-Tama in prison last week, here are some links from yesterday and today's articles. Apparently a film on the recent Jos crisis I had not yet heard about has already been banned by the Censorship Board, and in the meantime more download and viewing centre businessmen have been arrested. Read about it in Leadership and Triumph. There is also an article featuring my good friend Nazir Hausawa and other hip hop artists by AFP at Theage.com.au.

Last Friday, I and a carload of other film industry folk went to visit Iyan-Tama in the Goron Dutse Prison. I am going to necessarily make the description a bit vague, although there are some details that I would LOVE to put in. Maybe 50 years down the road in my memoirs....

After the necessary preliminaries, we go through a heavy iron door that clanks shut behind us. In front of us is a long dusty field/courtyard with long narrow buildings. It looks like a school, only there are only a few people sitting outside. The long dusty courtyards look deserted. We enter a building to the left and the men behind the desks indicate for us to sit.

Almost immediately Iyan Tama comes in. He is a tall regal prescence even in prison, exuding grace and good spirits. The only sign that he is in prison are the rubber slippers he is wearing. He greets me “Ah, is this Talatu?” and then the others, joking with them, seemingly happy to see us. After the jokes and greetings, he talks about the case, telling us: "I had the receipt for 2008, but I go to court and they say 'Do you have a certificate like this one of 2005, like this one, this one?' They demanded yes or no. I tried to explain that I had registration from CACE, that I had a receipt of payment for the certificate, not a certificate exactly like that of 2005 because they had not yet begun issuing the certicates by the time I was arrested in May 2008." They held up Tsintsiya and asked if this was my film. I said, “Yes, but it's not for sell in Kano.” Although they would not allow him to defend himself, he assured us that the reciepts are on http://www.freeiyantama.blogspot.com/ for anyone who cares to see them.

Iyan Tama has always been kind to me when we have met, but I have never interacted very extensively with him. Although I have always thought he had a commanding presence , this time round I was particularly struck by his height, his charm, the aura of power and grace about him--that he greeted us each by name and asked us about details of our work. Although he entered the room as a prisoner, it was as if we were in his waiting room and he came out of his office to greet us. When he plays the governor of Kano in his film Tsintsiya, he is very believable. As he was actually a gubanatorial candidate in Kano state in 2007, I often wonder if that was one of the unspoken reasons that the censorship board reacted so strongly to an otherwise (to me)unoffensive drama that encourages peace and goodwill between city-dwellers of different ethnicities and religious persuasions. Seeing him there in prison, I was struck by his graciousness, his good spirits, his conviction that justice will, in the end, be done.

I hope it is.
This is back when Iyan-Tama was first arrested and released on bail.

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