Jibrin Baba Jibrin, aka Yikangi, is renowned Nupewood actor, comedian and director and is currently the Head Film Unit, Niger State Book Development Agency. In this interview with ABDULLAHI MOHAMMAD, this ace comedian lets loose his musings about the current state of Nupewood film industry, the prospects and the challenges as well as his sojourn into acting and other professions.
What inspired you to acting in Nupewood?
Adventure, me and others, notably Sadisu Mohammed, M.B Yahaya Babs, prince Ahmed Chado and a host of others started out as a group of young men wishing to experiment film, ala other forms of entertainment practiced in other language mediums such as English, Hausa, Yoruba, these we seek to try out in the Nupe language medium, our native language; as we have been engaged for long in the same practice in other languages, especially English and Hausa. For myself, Sadisu Mohammed (yekondunu) M.B Yahaya Babs we have longed being practicing and involved in Nollywood activism in the form of pioneer members of actors guild of Nigeria (AGN) in Niger state; I was the first secretary General of the guild in the state. However, Sadisu Mohammed started it all as he drew the first producer ever, Late Mallam Sagir Mohammed, at first we were laughing and joking about doing a film in Nupe Language, for Kannywood and Nollywood were the trend then, we thought it was fun. No one believed it would work out as it is today, that is exactly a decade next month, 5th March.
What was your first experience like in Nupewood movie?
My first experience was that of elation; how? I was happy that I’m speaking Nupe language instead of what I was used to as in English and Hausa. I got happy that, I can express myself sufficiently, better and intelligibly too in a language I first learned, my mother tongue.
So far, how have you been able to distinguish yourself from other actors?
Personal creativity, love for the hobby, experiences and education. Acting was not what I picked on the street, in my primary school, I loved it, though I wasn’t a participant. During my secondary school days, especially in the senior class I participated personally, as a dancer, a choral group member and a drama actor. During my NCE days, acting was one of the things that made me popular in the college, during my Degree programme I participated. Besides these experiences my extrovert kind of personality made acting obvious in me. As a teacher in charge of literary and dramatic club in a secondary school, so many students were imparted with the knowledge to act both in the classroom and in the theater. As a writer, my specialty is play writing; all these made me different and gave me edge over others.
Nupewood is still backward in relation to what other Woods are doing. What do you think is the challenge militating against it progress?
The challenges are three; the practitioners, the technique and finances. The practitioners includes the actors/singers, marketers and technical crew, they are the major problem as many of them are yet to realize the power and importance of entertainment, the percentage could be 90 to 100. Most of them do not see beyond that horizon of acting and entertaining for fun, they are ignorant of their importance to Nupe cultural propagation and preservation, most of them are under educated. In film, modern techniques and present trend matters, the industry is still operating 10 years behind, in fact, it could be more than in some instances. The cameras and other equipments are still of analogue age.
How do you think this challenge can be dressed?
This can be addressed in two ways, training and finance. It is important to let you know that no Nupe elite or the haves had ever looked our way or offered any financial assistance to enhance our film productions, whether for equipments, training ,in pre-productions, productions and post productions; yet they remain the greatest beneficiaries because their children who hitherto could not speak Nupe can now and had succeeded in giving them cultural identity in a fast moving world .We need trainings, in the form of TV production courses, seminars, workshops and participating in film festivals, to catch up with the present trend and finance to keep pace and standard.
How can you relate the early days of Nupewood in relation to its present state?
The early times were far better than now for obvious reasons, one we were thorough enthusiast, knowledgeable, curious adventurers who were in the practice in other guises as in stage drama actors, TV artists, AGN activist all in the medium of Hausa and English, not like today’s artists who are mostly ignorant, never knowing the why they are there. Our films then were better scripted, had good themes and marvelous plot schemes unlike now when they mostly lack directions. Films lke Zawangi (the first modern Nupe film)Ndako ,Ndako, Nyinzagi, Madu yeshe, Binakun and Egun are classiques to today’s junks .The second reason why films in the past were better is that we were not much, we were close knitted group under the late Mohammed Sagir, quality was under control we were able to do moderate ourselves through in house censorship. Only the most capable were among us, most talented; we were able to practice film making close to the most idyllic situation, we were able to check and call ourselves to order, the leadership was visionary under Mohammed Sagir; today Nupe film practice is a disappointment, so much in house fighting, poor products, uninspiring and clueless leadership, greed by the leadership all these was as a result of the death of Mohammed Sagir, the first Nupe film Producer. Indeed the Present Nupe film is heading for the rocks, it needs urgent revamping, otherwise it is in the advanced stage of decay and imminent collapse.
Any improvement prospect?
Ironically there is improvement in audience ship, more and more people continue to watch, but this I think came about by the successes recorded during the earlier period of better films and music, I personally feel that we are letting the fans and the audiences down as a result of recent bad products, artists’ bad conducts, this is surely resulting into loose of audience ship and fan base. Another improvement, maybe I would term it as achievement, is the recognition of the industry during the annual national Nupe day awards, artists receive awards Under Usman Baba Patigi film industry awards and Fatima Lolo music industry awards; I am personally a recipient of three awards of best actor for three years running, starting from the second edition which I remembered was presented to me By Mr. Sam Nda isaah of leadership newspaper Group.
What roles do you mostly perform?
I perform mostly a queer old man character, a funny man who knows less but believes in himself to know more than anyone else, this character symbolizes the pity of ignorance that is the lot of a typical Nupe villager. Its needful to let you know that laughter is therapeutic and very expensive, making it needs craft and rich sense of humour.
What role do you think you can perform?
I can perform and adapt to any character given to me by a director, providing he visualizes me in that character.
What do you do when you are not in location?
I write. I do say that I am first a writer before I became an actor, meaning; my acting started from writing, for that was where the hunger to impart positively and be heard developed, members of the writing family of Association of Nigerian Authors(ANA) Niger state then gave us (Myself,Sadisu Mohammed-Yekondunu and Husseini Kodo) moral support and direction. I can remember Baba Akote, kamar Hamza,Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmed, Alkasim Abdul Kadir, BM Dzukogi, Ayuba Pmabi, Bala Shagabo and host of very many others. In writing I have two published work, ‘Cascades on the Savannah’ and ‘Life Is Like A Flower’. I have premiered two plays on stage, Tsoede ,at 2007 Annual Schools carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs (ASCAFS),the other play being Visit Of A Ghost(Adapted from Wole Soyinka’s the Man Died) premiered at Muazu Babangida Aliyu Colloquim of 2013. Beside these I have adapted prose works of literary giants into plays which include Cyprian Ekwensi’s African Night Entertainment into ‘The Dry Ebb Tide’ ,Chinua Achebe’s Arrow Of God into ‘The Lepers’ Embrace (which won 3rd position in Things Fall Apart at Fifty play adapting competition in 2008) Wole Soyinka’s Ake-Years of Childhood into ‘The Year of Aro’oso Uprising ‘ Ibadan-The penkelemes year into ‘The three musketeers’. I also have written many qualitative unpublished works which includes The Snuff Snubb Of Sonmaji,The Soloist and the Chief Drummer of Chechefu, I want My Tears Back and Kiakia. In writing I am first a poet before being a playwright, my adventure into play writing started back in 2006 when I attended a play writing workshop organised by Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and Center for Black Arts And Culture ( CBAAC) at the workshop we took tutelage under Professor Femi Osofisan, Professor Ahmed Yerima, Mr Tunji Sotimirin, Ebika Anthony, Dr Duro Oni and others. I went into play after that workshop which also had in attendance people like Isaac Atta Ogezi, Aminu Sheikh, Denja Abdullahi, BM Dzukogi (then ANA treasurer) Ofonome Inyang and many others too.
What role do you think you can’t perform?
The role I can’t perform is just what the Director of a film thinks I can’t.
I learn that most of the actors of Nupewood are turning to politicians. What is the truth?
Is theirs truly apolitical being? That’s not possible. Numerous Nupe artistes are now into politics, some for the sake of money, and some for the fun of it while some are genuinely moved for the sake of seeking to change the fortunes of their communities and may be eventually their profession. Everyone has a right to free association, actors inclusive, provided they have reached that politicking age. In my opinion nothing is wrong with that providing they can conduct themselves in civil manners and not allowing their professions to suffer; an artist constituting himself into a miscreant, charlatan, playing of loud music in branded campaign vehicles , making appearances on top of political campaign vehicles like thugs, fighting for attention of politicians at the front gate of their houses, physically fighting for sharing of money at party campaign offices bore a very bad omen to our profession; it waters down our very essence and importance to entertainment and propagation of culture world over.
As artistes we can help in political arena by making appearances in sensibly crafted jingles, play and musical skits, civilized musical videos, making appearances on manifesto pamphlets and making appearance on stage with strict adherence to artistic contents devoid of any political statement, do what takes you there and leave the stage. On the other hand too, an artiste can turn into a full time politician, but his conduct should reflect everything good about an artistes, honesty, resourcefulness, moderate, self esteem and visionary; it shouldn’t be the other way round. A politicking artiste must not use his constituency of artistes to beg for money dishonestly, he must respect other non-politicking artistes, while his conduct in the eyes of other non-artistes politician must be starling. He must prosper in the field of politics in an exemplary manner. He shouldn’t constitute himself into a nuisance which can infer on the personalities and block the chances of other willing artistes.
Do you have any official responsibility beside acting and writing?
Yes, I am the head film unit under Niger State Book Development Agency and Other related intellectual activities. I was deployed from Government Day Secondary Minna, where I was Head of Department (HOD) of Languages, after accumulating experience of close to a decade in film industry and writing. The Head of the Agency, BM Dzukogi deemed me able to head his film unit, am I fulfilled? That’s another sphere of dwell age altogether.
Books and film, how under one agency?
I would like to clear people’s doubts about that confusion, the film unit under book development agency offers film related services, not development of films, the key word is “services” but now that the Agency has incorporated other intellectual activities may be the film frontier will be repositioned. True, Book and films are two serious activities that are independent of one another, but today have symbiotic relationship, all successful books have turned into films today and the most successful films today are products of best sellers books; hence the grouping under one umbrella; but the question now is has the film unit being utilized? Has the film unit being allowed to thrive?
Wouldn’t there be a deliberate scuttling? Wouldn’t films suffer for sake of other competing priority? These are fears other film practitioners express to me every day and true to that, I need to agree with them, that film is equally a serious creative sphere, if not more tasking than other Creative tasks; it need more attention from conceptualizing to story to scripting; pre-production, production and post production. But my hope is that under the Agency, Films will be liberated and given a priority, like a fellow film enthusiast once said “film is too serious a business to be another things’ subordinate.No tags for this post.