Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Exclusive: Am Nobody's Stooge - Rabo

Interview published in LEADERSHIP, February, 07, 2009

Mallam Abubakar Rabo is the director-general of the Kano State Censors Board. In this exclusive interview with Al-Amin Ciroma, Rabo opened up to discuss exclusively achievements so far recorded by the board, the challenges he is facing, his political ambition and sundry issues. Excerpts:

Sir, you’ve been in charge at this board for about one and half years. What achievements have you recorded so far?
What we have been able to achieve has to do with social reorientation towards films and related projects. One of the primary goals of this administration as we are all aware of, is the societal reformation. It is targeted and aimed at enjoining people to do the right thing and act the right way.
Before now, there was a problem that generated public outcry of which most of the stakeholders in Kannywood were challenged. Some were even stoned. There was tension and to restore that confidence, the matter had to e taken in a holistic way – that was why government was very wise using this very board where we restored the confidence of the general public by addressing the problem squarely. That is one of our foremost achievements.
I will like to use this opportunity to inform people that one of the fundamental objectives of the government, in addition to infrastructural development, is social security. You can only ensure it if the trust and confidence of the society is very much appreciated by the leadership. This is the biggest achievement we have so far recorded. On the other hand, some of the stakeholders who were on the fore front complaining that things are being done the wrong way and unchecked are now convinced that government is really out to ensure the code of ethics, professionalism and law compliant to forms and related projects. Therefore, I would like to say the positive elements within the stakeholders now agree that film making is a profession where government came to fulfill its own quota and obligation for the development of the industry. So I can now vividly point out the balance of achievement from the societal reorientation point of view.
Another issue is the physical achievement. So far the board has sponsored many of the stakeholders to various skills acquisition and training to acquire true knowledge of film making in a more professional way. In the Kano State Censors Board, we are now happy to announce that we have launched war to eradicate the menace of TV-games. TV-Game is also another problem of the future generation. I see it as very abusive to children, in fact, it is the highest child-abuse you can ever imagine, where children are denied the basic education, which will be a solid foundation for their future. It baffles me. For instance, if Barrack Obama who is US president can vividly and outwardly condemn TV-game, I see it very unbecoming of a third-world entity like ours, particularly the northern part of Nigeria, where we are still far behind in terms of civilisation, yet our children have become patronisers of such games 24 hours. Fortunately, we can now proudly say we have succeeded in eradicating over 95 per cent of TV-Games centres in the state. Another achievement is the ban on the circulation of pornography in both orthodox and local medications. We are not fighting medical business. In as much as they are duly fortified by the appropriate authorities. But if the packaging is not offensive to the general public, we can query such packages in question.
Another point of achievement is the issue of the creative write. Much earlier before now, most of the write-ups were not professional. There was no creativity, but we are now able to harness them and have successfully changed their attitude towards writing.

In view of societal orientation and in your capacity as the boss of this board, how do you evaluate Islam and film making?
Obviously, Islam is being under-portrayed and sometimes mis-portrayed by infidels, proclaiming that they are promoting the religion, but unknown to them and in the actual sense, they are demystifying Islam. And this is where our local stakeholders are being used sub-consciously. What I am trying to point out here is this, if our stakeholders are sound enough educationally, they will be able to check all these problems. A common film maker should at least have a fair knowledge of philosophy, sociology and the basic technicalities to be employed. They should have basic knowledge of the project they want to execute. It should be well-researched. Professional consultants should be contacted in order to come up with an objective project worthy of international competition.
In a nutshell, I am trying to encourage our film makers to know the know-how in the movie business. A typical example occured, few weeks ago. A young man submitted his script to us for vetting; fortunately in his story, he tried to define ‘Nafsul-lauwaama,’ meaning ‘the blaming soul.’ He was trying to translate and interpret a Qur’anic verse. In the actual sense, we have good stories to tell, illusion, politics, sociology, psychology, etc, and that is where things originate.
There are quite a number of sound traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may Allah be pleased with him and his purest progeny) which states that, if a portion of the human body is bad, the entire body is corrupt, and if it is good, then you are saved. We are appealing to the movie stakeholders to appreciate their trade, business and profession, so that their immediate audience, who are mostly Muslims and even Christians, will benefit immensely because we live together as one nation.

Is this a clear message to those who portray movie making as un-Islamic to know that films matter alot to the society?
In fact, he who is very primitive, very dogmatic and adamant to respond to time and advancement of various ramifications is doing more harm to Islam than good. I am sorry to undermine whosoever feels movie making has no room in Islam. I have to be an advocacy-ante to that kind of persons ideology. In fact, you need to propagate this religion with contemporary means.
The way the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) preached Islam in those days is quite different and you can’t do it in this modern society. We have now come to a time when people are very much committed to their economic transactions. How can you go to a market place, where everybody is busy, some with loudspeakers advertising their product and set up Da’awah (preaching) expecting to convey messages and preach to people? What I mean here is that, what was assumed the appropriate ways of preaching in those days can change, so there is need for the stakeholders in the industry to use their avenues to contribute in propagating their religious ideologies and societal regeneration.
We are aware that the goal of creating the Kano State Censors Board was to check all these problems. What do you think led to the sudden change of state of affairs at the board, even with you being the director general?
I doubt much if I can guess the mind of the governor, the chief executive, but I have a very simple way of saying there should be changes. For example, I was somewhere, here I am today, and the person that was here is somewhere else now. This is public service. I would like to use this medium to say that when people are in a particular career, they ought to be given another chance to have a say on certain issues. I don’t know anything about movie making in addition to what I was taught in the university as a mass communication student, but the issue is this: what is the attitude of leadership towards challenging issues? I think that counts; secondly, there is issue of societal reorientation, whereby it has to suit the contemporary challenges. All I am saying are assumptions, I can’t pre-empt what was the motive behind the decision of my being here, but I assume the government feels that I can do it, that is why I am here.

But there are allegations that Rabo is a stooge of Governor Shekarau, to deal with the film makers, who also played a vital role in the ‘Allah Maimata Mana’ (second tenure campaign). Please can you react to that?
(Laughter) I believe I have some respected elders in my career and life, but in actual sense, when it comes to Rabo as a person, I doubt much if anybody is strong enough to be the person tele-guiding the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of Abubakar Rabo. Not that I am arrogant, the issue is this, the most insignificant person you can imagine, can change me provided he/she has facts, or reasons and logic in addition to Shari’ah. But a person who is empty on Shari’ah, empty on logic, empty on reasons, to think that he is big enough because he is acquainted to a traditional sort of institution, or political sort of institution, I am sorry for that person. Because he is deceiving himself. I remain my humble self because I have principles, I have defined goals, I know where I am, and I know where I am heading to because I have a target called Hadaf. Therefore, if people think I am somebody’s stooge, won’t they persuade the person to talk to me on certain issues, or bend me to suit them? Therefore, if you are unjust or biased, don’t even approach me, whoever you are, because you won’t succeed.

What are your constraints and limitations on this job?
My constraints have to do with misconceptions and fallacies. The delusions have become an issue to us to an extent that people are personalising the entire project we are executing, and I see it as very unbecoming. There are a lot of misconceptions about us, because all we are saying is that people should use their senses, they should balance it, but all they speculate is that Rabo is out to harass film makers, writers and other film related business men. This is one side of the story. If you don’t mind, come to the board, we have an open door policy. Irrespective of your calibre, you can have access to this office because we are public servants. All criticisms are welcome because they make us work hard and conquer challenges.

What are your terms of reference?
There is what we call approach to defaulting stakeholders, God knows better, but I want the Almighty Allah to be our witness this time around. The law of the land says ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law. I am very much aware and well briefed by the jurists to that effect, but I undermined it because my faith in Islam is superior, which says we don’t punish, until somebody who admonish – a Warner comes after. I see that more closely to me being my faith and more practical. What we say is this; people should submit their original projects of which we should have our inputs where necessary, or advices considerate of the law, so that one will not be punished by the law unknown to him. The best way to go about it is to advise people and enlighten them not to default, so that their subjects will not be seen as ex-convicts, as criminals. What we are doing is preventive, we first of all call you; we have never arrested any film maker or marketer without first issuing him a warning or giving him the benefit of doubt. Most of the time, we invite them for about two or three times, and advice them in a simple language, my dear, so and so has happened in your project and look at what the law says, but don’t mind, amend it next time and please don’t do it again.’ How do you imagine that same person repeating the same offence? What do you expect from us? To continue being friendly to law breakers? We have to take the other side of the authority, which is punitive. All we are doing is being done somewhere, like the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). Recently, they apprehended a film from Ghana. They have been raiding the market, but due to the fact that the NFVCB is a national body, the stakeholders don’t complain. Again, if we are to transfer the cases of the Hausa movie stakeholders to NFVCB, the punishment would have been more severe. Imagine a case of somebody who abducts a young girl in the name of movie making without her parent’s consent, they will surely take drastic action against such a person.
These two bodies (NFVCB and NAPTIP) use to question us, saying, ‘Mallam, why are you abusing our jobs? Just transfer the case to us, we will take them to the federal high court,’ that is how they have been charging us. Even when we say N2.5m is a facility bond for a production company to acquire from their banks, they (NFVCB) said it is supposed to be N10m. They said we are undermining the federal legislation.

You mean the NFVCB queries you on all these?
Oh yes! N10m is the provision of the federal legislation for a working capital of a standard production company to operate and recently they set N50m target as a working capital for national marketers to operate. What would you think if the NFVCB directed us to comply with the national standard? Most of our local stakeholders, including the marketers, will be out of business. Nobody has that amount. But all we are saying is that they should have a bond of N2.5m from their respective banks as a security facility and we will give them our certification and endorsement, which is purely in the interest of their business. Much earlier, we were here with over 290 nominal production companies, nowhere to be located, some are even mobile. But now, we have about 47 standard production companies duly registered with us, with their Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) certificates, they can operate anywhere in the country. I believe in the near future. The stakeholders will smile and equally know that we care for the future of their business.

What is your ambition after this seat?
I will go back to my farm in Kura and continue to be a transporter of goods and farm products in addition to my educational career.

Sir, do you have any political...
(Cuts in) No! Never! In fact, I was cautioned by my mum. And she is the most respected person in my life.

Even if you are called upon by the electorate?
In that case, I will refer them to my mum, to go and convince her, fortunately she is alive. (Laughter) After that, I will now ponder on it.

What if she responds in affirmative?
Then I will re-caution her to go back to her former words.

But you said if they convince her, you would give it a thought?
You see, the issue is this I don’t think I will go for politics because I am not the right person for it. I don’t tolerate nonsense. For example, when I close from work, I go straight to my house. On the way, I will stop and buy everything my family needs. I don’t have an after-office joint for somebody to dictate my life. But then, I have my contacts and a lot of bosses and guides.

Finally, may we know your most memorable moment as director-general of the Kano State Censors Board?
My most memorable moment in this board was when people who engaged themselves in deforming my character and person insulted me, but later, come here to apologise, confessing that they did all they did the wrong way, because they were misguided. Such cases happened more than seven times and there is none that is not forgiven. I see it as very memorable; history started vindicating me. Even before they come, some of them even said for fear persecution they will not come, but subsequently, when they came, I opened my arms and received them. And on the other hand, nothing has moved me ever since I assumed this office.

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