Film village: Between Kannywood and film-haram advocates

By Ali Abubakar Sadiq

The Hausa film industry, popularly known as , is one of the major youths employer in northern Nigeria. From the moment a writer puts pen on a paper, that power of the pen creates a cascading chain of jobs for artists, technicians, translators, editors, cinematographers, transporters, hoteliers, tailors and even married women that rent out costumes and cook food for shooting locations. Hardly an industry is as rich as the film industry.

The importance of this industry in creating jobs and generating wealth informed the decision of the present administration to create the first film village in the North, and indeed the second in the whole continent after the one in South Africa.
It’s a gigantic project that would span an 8-kilometre stretch and gulp N5 billion. It would create thousands of jobs, transform the locality, enhance film production and other several short and long term benefits. Is this what the detractors are fighting against? In reality, what are they fighting about? Before we answer this question let’s take a short trip down memory lane.

For those of us in my generation and those before us, we can all remember in the 70s when we come out in the morning on our way to school in our immaculate white uniforms or going back home later in the afternoon, our peers, those who naturally weren’t going to school, not Yan Boko, would gang up in twos or threes or more and begin the daily ritual of teasing us in a scolding manner with the song: “Yan Boko…Bokoko a wuta”! It loosely meant that those who went to school would burn in hellfire. Yes, we were all condemned simply because we were attending the western education schools. Those little kids were really expressing the prevalent opinion of the populace then.

What informed this so called moral outrage from our peers? Our clerics, when the colonialists conquered Nigeria and introduced western education, deemed everything that came with it as coming “from the infidels”, un-Islamic, kafirci, and must be avoided at all cost. Our wise parents who saw the merits in it were unfortunately looked upon as pariahs.

Do I need to indulge you further of the futility of that arrested thinking today?
This trend has been a recurring feature, not only in the history of northern Nigeria but the whole world. When Al-Mamun, the son of the celebrated Abbasid Khalif, Harun Al-Rashid (two giants that were responsible for the golden age of Islamic civilization) began the practical process of measuring the degrees upon the circle of the earth, naturally having been convinced of the globular form of the earth (incidentally the Christian world then believed the earth was flat), Takyuddin, the most celebrated Islamic scholar in the kingdom, denounced “the wicked Khalif”, declaring God would assuredly punish him in hell for promoting atheistical philosophy among the Muslims.

The project, undertaken by two parties in Kufa, measuring from the north and south, accurately measured the circumference of the earth as 24,000 miles, which was later confirmed by modern science.
When Galileo, the father of modern science, declared in his monumental book, Dialogueon the great world systems, upholding the Copernican system that did away with the geocentric model of the solar system, the opposition came from none other than the Church and he was condemned to house arrest for the rest of his life after recanting his theory (a lenient sentence, considering the pope was his friend).

In 2006, when I was a programme presenter on Freedom Radio, the late Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam, during an eclipse, did a live programme debunking the western world for predicting and explaining the eclipse and citing as his defence the verse in Qur’an 36:40 “The sun is not to overtake the moon, nor is the night to outpace the day, each floats on its own course”.
That led me do a rejoinder the next day in my programme, pointing how ignorant of science he was by pointing out the verse. Using a simple analogy with a wall clock, I showed him and all the laymen that the eclipse phenomenon according to science in no way contradicts the Qur’an. Where the clock itself represents space and the hands of hour, minute and second representing the sun, moon and earth. Despite floating on their own orbits one doesn’t outpace the other but whenever they align at the same angle, say at noon, definitely the shadow of the middle one will fall on the one in the rear. And that is how the solar and lunar eclipses occur.

Fortunately, I was informed by one of his disciples that he humbly accepted the non-conflict view, and since then, neither him nor any cleric, to my knowledge, ever publicly debunked it in public.
Going back to the debate at hand concerning the film village, in fact it isn’t a debate but one party expressing extreme outrage with the minority expressing meek support and justification. A clip by a renowned scholar, ironically currently in America, is circulating propaganda denouncing the move, and another scholar too in a Shekau-like tone even threatened the President for assenting to the project.

For how long are we going to remain reactive instead of being proactive? When will the Muslim world wake up from its slumber? We have become nothing more than producers, at world stage, of extreme ideologies like Al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Should we remain backward and lackadaisical and let extremism represent us, or are we all ? For how long shall we accept being the last to see? (Western education and banking system are two examples). I can confidently say any instruments, ancient or modern, are neither good nor bad in themselves but appear to be, depending on who uses them and how. TV, radio, print, internet and our mobile devices can be used for the good or for the bad. In fact, Allah declares that He created man “And showed him the two ways” (Q90:10). Everything in life can be used for good or evil, it is left for you to choose wisely.

A kind of film village already exists on Zoo Road, in the heart of Kano city, the centre of , where films are produced, consumed and exported elsewhere. Shouldn’t this be an opportunity for the moralists to seize? The film village in Kofa would give them an easier way to offer meaningful contributions in sanitizing the industry! Or are they deluded enough to think that the Hausa film industry could be wiped away by mere wishful thinking and limited moral rhetorics? has come to stay and experts even predicted that in the next few years it will become the biggest investment in Kano city. No amount of criticism will make it go away. Therefore, we need constructive criticism to move it forward.

Most of the antagonists of the film village don’t even know what a film village is all about. It is simply a concentrated area of buildings comprising prototypes, say, Gidan Makama, Emir’s Palace, police stations, courtrooms, stadiums, restaurants, etc., that could be assembled and dissembled on demand, besides other permanent structures for administration, studios and other multinational companies that could invest in the place. It will be a tourism centre too, generating the much needed foreign cash flow.
Now instead of condemning the film village outright, wouldn’t it be better to start thinking of how to maximize its positive benefits and mitigate against its potential harm? Wouldn’t it be better to collectively be a part of it and have a say in defending our collective values as a group within pragmatic and realistic terms? Isn’t it high time to examine our emotions, purify our intentions and separate what we do for God and for society? Is our morality only tuned towards anything that has connotations of gender interaction to excite it?
There is also an element of hypocrisy among some that oppose this project, including political connotations and religious myopia.

Not long ago, the last administration created the film academy in Bagauda (we don’t know yet where the 500 million U.S. dollars budgeted for the project has gone yet) but there wasn’t much hullabaloo and uproar like this. Why? I think it is out of fear, because they know the last administration would crush anyone that opposed its policies. Others, considering the downturn of the economy and the way people are suffering, try to exploit the masses’ sentiments and agitate them against the Federal Government. Some even suggested that there are the hands of powerful politicians in the state that are no longer relevant.
Many of our clerics are also -prone. They condemn anything outside their worldview and narrow thinking. They never rise against injustices with the same vigor as they would anything that has connotation with gender interaction, which in reality has not been informed by Qur’anic teachings but cultural Arabism that highjacked the religion.

The life of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina was full of interaction between the sexes in academic, political, religious and all forms of activities following the rules of “lowering the gaze” for men and “covering the bodies” for women. Lest we forget, the same extreme views offered by the antagonists of this project are the same that bred the Boko Haram ideology and no one in the North can easily forget that. Are we going to fold our arms, after the successful crushing of Boko Haram by this administration, to let it rear its ugly head covertly under another guise? Muslims around the world should rally against all forms of extremism, which undermines the basic teachings of our religion, if only we want to rise again as a people to be reckoned with.

Sadiq wrote in from Kano

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