Isma’il Na’Abba, also known as Afakallah, is one of the ace filmmakers in Kannywood. Over the years, he has been in the forefront of setting a pace for the industry. He made his first debut with a blockbuster, Fati, which has stood the test of time in the Hausa genre; as the movie became a leading light in the history of Hausa films in Nigeria. Over a period of time, the renowned producer-cum-director dedicated his time to ensuring a synergy between the movie practitioners and the past government. This great achievement earned him more reward and recognition in the industry. In this chat with AL-AMIN CIROMA, Na’Abba laid bare his mind on modern filmmaking and the state of affairs of the stakeholders under the new administration. Excerpt:
In your capacity as a board member of the Kano state censors board, tell us about how the board doing under this new administration, as is well as, the relationship between the government and filmmakers?
Filmmaking is waxing stronger than it used to be; just as you know that Kano is the nucleus of Kannywood. Every filmmaker today is happy because there is an understanding between them and the present administration, compared to what was obtainable in the past. We must commend the effort of His Excellency, Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, for his laudable efforts in harmonising the affairs of the filmmakers.
Kwankwaso through his wisdom redeemed our lost glory. Before now, the filmmakers were being stigmatised, they saw us as drop outs and called us all sort of names. When it became unbearable, some of the filmmakers had to migrate, they left their homes, families and relatives to the neighbouring states for solace, but now, this government is working hard to build a cordial relationship between the artistes, government and the entire people of Kano State. This humble effort has helped immensely in restoring back our image.
Another clear example of this administration’s effort is the appointment of professional stakeholders among the board members of the Kano State Censorship Board (KSCB). That alone is enough to show that the present administration is an example of a true democratic government. The filmmakers are now jubilating, they have found solace in this government and the relationship, is cordial and growing bigger by the day.
Some people are of the opinion that the return of filmmaking to the state and the amnesty programme of the Kwankwaso’s administration is encouraging the return of deviants to the state, which was once marked as a Shari’ah society. How true is that?
I can assure you that from the onset Kano state populace had no problem with the filmmakers; they are still in good terms with us. They buy our films and appreciate the movie stars. However, the feud began when some very few elements, a minority group in the past administration, picked on some of us and even possibly crushed the industry.
They got support from their god-fathers in the government and succeeded in stepping on so many toes. They committed a lot of atrocities under the guise of religion. A couple of our practitioners, stakeholders, including marketers were incarcerated, sanctioned and banned from business.
Today, the governor has made a whole lot of difference in his series of programmes. He introduced so many enhanced principles that would bring about lasting peace and understanding as well as boast socio-economic paradigm in the state.
It would also be recalled that the censorship board was established by Kwankwaso, when he came on board as governor. He did that to empower the youths, most especially in the promising film industry, Kannywood.
The censor’s board was meant to be a medium through which one could sanitise a film and make it worthy of public consumption. The censor’s board was not meant to witch-hunt those who are professional about their job.
Hausa movies are not just for the people of Kano, they are also circulated to other states and abroad. The governor intends for the board to be a collating centre for Hausa films, so as to set the pace for international standard. It was also meant to impart good moral conduct to the society by protecting people’s beliefs, culture and ideologies.
Therefore, this administration is not an agent of insolence; it is rather a government of the people.
Some people are still having the impression that Kwankwaso’s administration is only using the filmmakers for certain political ambitions just like the former administration, but would later ban them. What is your take on that?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let me clarify some issues; you see the Kwankwaso administration is a no nonsense government. I have just mentioned some of the success recorded by his government during his first tenure as governor.
He was the messiah who established this very censors board. He did that out of passion for the industry, out of love for his people. Kwankwaso is a visionary leader, he saw that the industry is capable of creating jobs to the teeming youths in the society, he then went ahead to say, ‘Hey come, let me help you perfect your jobs
But as for the past government, I can assuredly tell you that they only played on us. They used us and dumped us. Not only that, they went ahead to demean and degrade us in the society. They pretended to be agents of Shari’ah, but everybody is aware of their atrocities. What happened to their commander?
You see this world is a small place, the same person who was busy running from pillar to post to show people that he is a man of piety and virtue and that the filmmakers were wayward, was found in a disgraceful manner in the holy month of Ramadan. The scandal was more degrading. What can they tell us again? It is ordained for a man to either be the architect of his fortune or misfortune.
But our messiah is here now, when Kwankwaso came back for the second term; he met with the stakeholders, the professional bodies, who knew the game and had some chat with them. Thereafter, he brought so many good tidings for the industry’s stakeholders.
Few among them were the immediate establishment of film academy as well as the film village in Kano state, among others.
This is to say, the governor is out to make good things happen in the industry. The film academy alone will serve as a place of learning for the industry. They will train to be film professionals.
It is only a visionary leader that can identify with these talents and create a platform for rehabilitation of the professionals. We believe, a man of great ideologies like governor Kwankwaso, must have realised that movie is one of the major ways of passing serious messages to the target audience. So many first world countries embrace film in propaganda and telling their country’s stories to the world.
What are you putting in place to harmonise all the industry’s stakeholders through the newly established film academy?
It would interest you to know that all filmmakers are now united. They have formed various guilds and associations, so we are in direct contact with their officials. We have so many fora we meet. So when the academy is finally commissioned, the Guild or Association would forward the names and certificates of its members to the Academy.
The institute will take-off professionally with professionals who would anchor the affairs of the academy. Already, all hands are on deck in making sure things are done the right way.
Therefore, the Board is in good standing with the industry’s stakeholders. We have the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) as the umbrella body of Kannywood, the Arewa Filmmakers Association, including all other professional and non-professional bodies.
This government came with a well structured pattern of leadership, the filmmakers have been giving an enabling environment to operate with guidelines and that is what everybody is expecting, most especially in a democratic era like this. But the past government could not figure things out appropriately. Instead, they went out of their way and appointed a stooge, who did what they wanted, but at the end of the day, they failed woefully.
Another package we are working on is the current introduction of database. The state government created a well-structured database. We are compiling the information of all stakeholders in the movie sector to be posted on our website. By so doing, we can have a record of all professional and non-professional in the industry. This would go a long way in providing information about the movie makers in the north and Diaspora.
So anybody who wants to explore the industry would get all the information required including the profile of all stakeholders. This alone, would show you how serious this administration is on youth empowerment and true dividend of democracy.
What would you say are laudable achievements of this administration?
The first on the list is the total overhaul of the film business in the state. Governor Kwankwaso embraced the filmmakers, who until now were wondering from one state to another in search of greener pastures. He succeeded like a father, who provided a house for his children.
He gave them a shoulder to cry on. He also succeeded in transforming the state into a new Dubai or should I say London. His first year alone is equivalent to others, who spent eight years doing nothing, but taking advantage of public funds in enriching themselves and their allies.
What is your message to the filmmakers?
I want to call on the Kannywood stakeholders, to see the effort of the governor as the best thing that ever happened to them, they should know that they are ambassadors of peace and progress to the society. This government is giving them bundles of opportunities; they should come together and reap from it.
And above all, they should implore a sense of maturity in all their affairs. They should impact the society by telling good stories that would uplift our dear country. They should also be law abiding and shun all forms of vices.