Why I choose the roles I act, by Isa Bello Ja

Isa Bello Ja, actor and politician, was born about 67 years ago in Kano City. He tells ALIYU ASKIRA in this interview that he started acting in Television Drama Series about 44 years ago and that because he does not accept roles that will portray him as a wayward person, his admirers and colleagues call him Isa Bello Ja Dattijon Arziki, which means a respected elder statesman.


When I was young, I was an active member of the defunct Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in the First Republic. In the Second Republic, I was in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that produced Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president. When the IBB/Buhari/Abacha group toppled Shagari’s government in December 1984 and Buhari became head of state, I stopped politics for some time and continued with my acting career in the now famous Kannywood.

In 1999, when new parties were formed to take over from the Abdulsalami–led military government, I joined the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) which was later changed to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Even though the APP or ANPP did not form the government at the national level until it entered into a merger with other political parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), I remained in the opposition until his the APC formed the federal government in 2015.

On politics, I respect four politicians in his life: Former President Shehu Shagari, a gentleman politician who was mature and well-composed; President Muhammadu Buhari, a man of unquestionable integrity; the late former Governor Abubakar Rimi of Kano state, a vibrant and crowd-pulling politician, and the current governor Kano state, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

You are active both in politics and acting, you are one of pioneer members of Kannywood; now, tell us your experiences?

During our days, what we did was drama because we didn’t have good equipment, but whenever the few television houses we had then would show our programmes or drama and you wanted it, you would see people rushing to their neighbours’ homes to watch our drama. I started acting about 44 years ago even before Kannywood was created. I attended my primary and secondary schools in Kano; I also went to an Islamiyya school and that is why people call me Dattijon Arziki. I don’t accept roles that will portray me as a wayward person, a pimp, dandaudu or dankawali because if people see my children in town, they will easily mock them and call them children of a pimp or dandaudu.

Having said that, I also want to tell you that if given the chance there are lots of things I will want to change in Kannywood – like the costume, the way actors and actresses behave in films or even dance. Dancing is not necessarily synonymous with Hausa culture; then the story lines – our producers are always talking about marriages, divorce, gossip and love. These are not the only things that are obtainable in our society; we can produce films that will deal with our culture, religion or tradition and it will still sell in the market.

Tell us more about your political antecedents?

Well, like I told you earlier, I have four politicians whom I respect dearly – former President Shehu Shagari, a man of wisdom and composure; Tafawa Balewa, a simple and God-fearing gentleman; Abubakar Rimi, a vibrant and detribalised politician; the late Malam Aminu Kano, a man of simplicity and peace; Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje who is working hard to repair the damage the previous government did to Kano. Ganduje is now working hard and has completed most of the projects left by the previous administration. So, I started with NPC, later I was in NPN, NPC and ANPP before the emergence of APC.

How about your immediate family?

Well, I have one wife and we have 11 children – eight boys and three girls. And at the age of 67, it is clear that I will not marry again, all I want is to finish this world and return to my creator peacefully.

There is a serious political crisis in Kano between Kwankwaso and Ganduje; how do you intend to reconcile them before 2023?

I like this question because those who don’t know former Governor Kwankwaso say that he transformed Kano into a Centre of Excellence, but that is not true, the truth is that when he was leaving office, he did not leave behind only projects that were abandoned. He left N350 billion debt, he left only N30 million in the account. I want their fight with Ganduje to get worse so that Kwankwaso will not be president in 2023.

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