Kano Film Village: Clerics, Government’s Ineptitude and Prosperity.
KANO — One of the oldest civilizations in Africa with its written history dating back to 999 A.D founded by Bagauda, a grandson of Bayajidda, a primogenitor to the Hausa people, as one of the Hausa Bakwai (Seven Hausa States), a right to a heritage spanning almost one 1000 years, a proud civilization that has arguably a right to not see itself as a beneficiary of the dividends from Nigerian unity. This is also a city and will do anything to rescue the last piece of its cultural fabric that has been tailored over the centuries amidst cultural changes, though with minimal intrusions from outsiders. Hence the defense of religion from the lenses of objectivity can be seen ‘a final stand’, irrespective of what the religion holds for all alongside it’s malleable components.
There have been an uproar both on social media and on the streets triggered by clerics that led to the cancellation of a Federal government funded Kano film village project on moral Islamic grounds. There had been reports of protests sparked by clerics cursing out the initiators of this project.
This editorial carefully analyses morality on the basis of Sharia and the schools of thought, and also expatiates on the lost economic opportunity and the need for young people to seek to take the wheels on matters that affect their prosperity and that of their communities.
The current administration seems to compare to its predecessors in its manner of tactlessness, consistently. Overtime from one issue to another, we’ve seen it stutter and fumble in the manner of communicating and engaging the people regarding its failed policies or promises; ranging from the fuel price hike, fuel subsidy removal to its cosmetic attempt to shield the nation’s currency from depreciation, as well as the current recession and it’s wobbling tactics. From one backtracking to another, It’s uncoordinated and stuttering approach of engagement with its citizenry seems to be that of a government petrified by the very electorate that installed it into power despite enjoying an extended honeymoon and a reasonably high approval rating.
The case of the Film Village is no different from other colossal failures of recent, right from its upper echelon media team to it’s engaging of the stakeholders on ground. Nonetheless one has to put into perspective the popular misconception of the project marked by the government. Reasonable antagonism to the project was spurred by the common anger of the religious conservatives towards the popular Film industry by the name “Kannywood” and it’s disdain for the sensitivities of the majority. Such perception recognized the slippery slope tendencies towards the embrace of modernity on popular satellite television and a tectonic shift towards western liberal values portrayed on the movie screen which is regarded as an anathema to the so called ‘normative culture’ it has managed to uphold in face of rapid ‘retrogressive’ change. This industry has attributed the rampant deviant practices — from homosexuality to various addictions ravaging the community to these career celebrities on their television screens.
On Religion Talk and a realistic Framework.
Before delving into the potential tangible benefits to the economy, engaging with the morality aspect of the topic and the very idea of the project irrespective of the “low priority” rating resonating amongst pundits is the bone of contention. As with other Abrahamic religions, Islam is understood to prioritize activities of the spiritual realm not just through regular acts of worship (Ibadat) but also through matter requiring public welfare and social interactions (mu’amalat). This, to aptly word it translates to “The Ends never justify a means” of one’s daily bread. Understanding what good from the seventh heaven channeling a whooping 10 billion naira to a Film village will contribute besides further moral decadence and plundering of the society is hence paramount — for a healthy democracy and a concerned citizenry.
Contrary to common popular perception from, without as well as amongst Muslims themselves, expats confirm that ‘Islamic law’ as popularly known has a framework that has potentials to be malleable within the general boundaries of its fundamental canons or scripture which are its agreed upon ‘primary corpuses’. This means that only selected or specified actions have a rigid basis of lawfulness and prohibition respectively that are to be strictly adhered to without conditional compromise. Hence most of the other non-prescribed matters outside the legislated acts of worship can be shaped by different factors such as time, place as well as ones ‘neutral customs’ (adat/urf) before been subject to further scrutiny by jurists. To put this into proper perspective, scholars have all the arms required to raise hell should a brewery for example be proposed for construction, because the matter is clear cut forbidden. Whereas, an injunction on theater or one relating to matters of Film making would be thoroughly debated and expatiated pending a presentation of facts to the jurists, because like many inventions and innovations, this wasn’t a subject to have ever existed in the first 300 years of Islam’s reign. Therein a ruling is extracted and derived which may be temporary but subject to the framework of the individual school of thoughts in existence. A matter of acclaimed “universal consensus” is thus very hard to reach (if at all necessary) since such exercise of ‘hard work’ (called Ijtihad) like science, is shaped by empirical factors and may not be entirely suitable though absolutely valid. Such final legal opinions known as ‘fatwas’ may however be reviewed when weightier evidence is presented to the individual expert or the institution.
Envisaging a possible ruling however that cannot be extracted from the scriptures directly or a precedent judgment would require an exercise of special tools that can be defined as “opening or closing a means to harm”. The given problem or question is placed on some sought of ‘cost and effect’ morality balance to gauge how much harm can be averted or goodness can be sought from it for individual or public safety. For the popular school of thought common in Northern Nigeria — ‘Maliki’ — “Opening a means” would imply that one form of doubtful matter that has no clear cut reason to be sanctioned, is allowed for public use in order to prevent the general public from slipping into other agreed upon harmful acts similar to it. Hence while Gambling or a Casino hall is forbidden by clear cut evidences, partaking in Ludo or card games for purely leisure and not monetary reasons cannot be problematic regardless of the temptation of setting a prize money for such. Clearly the boundaries are set which doesn’t include abolishing these games in fear of minimal probability them leading to sin. It applies to the hand creation of animated objects (in order to prevent the greatest sin (shirk) as the people of Noah did) versus the Sharia’s (Islamic Law) allowance of dolls/teddy bear for Kids. Using this trivial example, deductive analogy is used by juristic wisdom to make a case for educational tools for (not just) kids in form of animated toys and what we have is a far departure from the sin the Sharia aimed to forbid.
Through this process, a keen observer if properly educated can begin to place pegs in their rightful positions as to what an ideal functional film industry could contribute in terms of not just material means but also progressive pedagogy (education wise). To oppose otherwise may be to validate the “more Evil than good” argument related to some of the realistic utterances of the ‘dreaded sect’; relating to how the borrowed western model of educational institutions has served little but has further created and expanded the class divide alongside blaming the spiritual decadence and accommodation of pervasive forms of capitalism on western education and it’s postcolonial objectives. Same allusion can be extended to other topics.
From the example of positive Muslim projects are those of the late Iraqi Director Moustapha Akkad responsible for churning out two major movie classics after several antagonistic pressures from the Arab regimes. This project was resonated with a large number of non-Arab Muslims (which constitute the vast majority) outside the Middle East. Arguably every English speaking Muslim has watched “The Message”, which is also familiar for the director showcasing of wisdom in his refusal to depict the Prophet and members of his household, yet making the movie’s theme not just ever relevant but also a first historical reference for many laypeople despite some inaccuracies. The same director was also able to connect us to Libyan Heritage of resistance to Italian intruders after seeing the work done in “the message”. Today Omar Moukhtar — the “Lion of the Desert” — has the face of “Anthony Quinn” on it with a revered history and a sense of belonging in the hearts of many Muslims around the world despite little knowledge of him available in English language.
What potential biopics have been squandered? Did Kano just ruin a chance to produce a “Danfodio Series” just like the Omar version? The potential for “edutainment”, — a far less controversial issue than music in Islamic Jurisprudence — cannot be underestimated in our rapidly modernizing world around the city’s walls. The capacity for Kano to churn succinct stories that can steer goodness as we enter a post-Boko Haram phase cannot be underestimated. From a strategic/harmonizing perspective, total eradication of societal vices such as institutional corruption, drug addiction, prostitution and many more cannot be obliterated from the pulpit as we’ve seen span over a millennium. The need to consolidate efforts is in perfect harmony with the wisdom and the teachings of Islam, as with the modern phenomenon of tertiary education (which ironically also harbors these ills if not engage in its propagation further). So also has the Muslim world managed to reconcile with the necessity of a not-entirely-perfect “Islamic Finance” framework for the interim.
Kano has already a self-entrusted burden of being a ‘pacesetter’, stretching over seven centuries as a commercial hub of the North-West African region and the Black Islamic world. To hence abort a project based on the predicament of a few sisteren countries is accepting tacit failure even before the start of the race which has had a backlash on the Muslim world as with similar antecedents of the “Ottoman empire and the Printing press”. However a successful running of a hectic Kano cannot be attained without the notable roles of its scholars who are obliged to keep scrutiny of new matters and address the in and out problems of the rapid commercial center. This presents an opportunity for Kano’s Islamic scholarship to take a more center stage by presenting their version or templates for ‘Jurisprudence (popular called FIQH) of Edutainment/Filmmaking’ that may be not only unprecedented but can also be emulated by the modern Muslim World after reviewing by its scholars. Such templates or declarations can be subject to timely review over a span of a decade in other to reflect the changes in the rapidly evolving movie industry as well as the ills accompanying it.
It also presents an opportunity to also present bargaining chips as pointers for negotiation. Since the Film Village isn’t for the services of Kano alone, the council of scholars can negotiate absolute vetting rights to what can be aired or sold within Kano metropolitan and it’s immediate bordering states. This is especially for those who won’t be heeding to its ‘non-binding’ deliberations and templates as well as market policy. Therein, Curtailing the potential effects of licentiousness under its nose and enabling it to make a decisive crackdown on the black market or preferably maligning its potential harm. There are rumors indicating that the Village will be a gated community resembling foreign institutes in the Middle East i.e. Saudi for which most of Saudi’s laws regulating social norms aren’t applicable. That would imply that the state can foist dress codes and leisure norms anywhere outside its premises, including regulating what goes in and out, as well as a system in place to take responsibility for the individuals utilizing the place and their contacts. For the most part, this is a win-win situation with respect to satisfying their duties to God as custodians of society.
They are however aware they cannot claim absolute mandate for what isn’t within their control, e.g. the proliferation of bootlegged productions on the Internet; all in an effort to safeguard the cultural and religious fabric for which Kano is revered. Their presence hence is an active countermeasure (using the Maliki tool aforementioned) to combatting the degenerating morals without having to weed out the people’s love for their beloved movies. What has to be clear in the minds of the learned however is that efforts to unnecessarily curtail one form of neutral medium or platform without ‘juristic scrupulousness’ is the catalysis to further chaos and a gradual slide towards the acceptance of Liberalism. Such show of callousness towards certain worldly matters unappealing to the clerical heads, led to the marginalization of schools of thoughts across regions in history as well as today’s indifference to indigenous preachers. Wayward utterances, personal opinions and hasty declarations out of spite only serve to dishonor Islam’s robust intellectual legacy and contribute to further confusion in the minds of its haters and adherents, as these are no befitting substitutes for it.
Despite the government’s seeming vapidity in understanding regional priorities for it’s diverse subjects, it ideally should be a no brainer regarding the potential economic value to be reaped by the state. Even going by the labour required alone to erect such facilities into existence, demanding the services of a bare minimum thousand youths for a state with above 50% unemployment rating cannot be underestimated. What is clear to us is that this would be a glaring project for the sub-Saharan African region, consisting of state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for film making to rival those of China and India respectively. In addition to that would be added social amenities consisting of hostels, clinics, and stadiums amongst others. Open also to the public may be quality recording and editing offices that can provide up to standard recordings for propagation of Islamic preaching. For whatever the limited foresight of one is, it’s not sufficient to decry a project without consulting potential experts in the industry. There is no doubting the fact that departments of household universities within its range (namely BUK and ABU) will find this as an opportunity of a lifetime. The already existing Kano Film Academy rejuvenated by the previous administration can be used as a litmus test.
The domino effect from this project, leading to diversification of businesses is unfathomable. Questions as posed by dissenters as to why such funding can’t be channeled to so called “more important” projects that they deem necessary — such as “technology institute” — shouldn’t lead to the snubbing of important elements of a society as we’ve done to social sciences. Besides the fact of questioning the very logic of putting all eggs in one basket, one has to ask another regarding the fate of the various technical schools, polytechnics and schools of technology around the north. Is Kano in comparison to other states in a stone age and in desperate need for rapid technological advancements? What happened to the other students sent by the previous administration to institutions for special programmes around the world? With the indoctrination of children towards luring all brilliant kids into the sciences, how has it made the country in terms of its application? Why is there still a blanket stereotyping on the social sciences and other non physical science related careers? The common answer to be found is that there is a general drive towards perceived instant moneymaking courses than those of the liberal arts and humanities. Hence “benefitting humanity” hasn’t been the goal of a good number of science-trained experts, which is partly responsible for the dearth of quality experts in the physical sciences while also, causing repercussions on the other aforementioned. This sort of faux moral righteousness has to be eliminated for good.
The Project initiation went into shambles fore mostly due to the federal government’s tactlessness and subsequently through it’s show of timidity by its abrupt withdrawal. Furthermore the government has opened up more and more fissures of misunderstanding it’s people and the system behind the religion they practice.
YAND-editorial makes certain Key demands and calls for the following:
The Government should take responsibility for the misunderstanding and lack of proper sensitization of the public. It must also bear responsibility for the potential fall back of it’s people refusing to heed the calls of it’s true leaders and unsolicited scholars as experienced with the morphing of Boko-Haram into a confrontational sect.
Should the plan be feasible, the government should constitute a reputable regulatory body or committee made up of scholars and stakeholders in the academia that will instantly begin to review the existing state laws and ways to better it as well as begin to devise means to handle potential problems posed by career filmmakers before the Film Village’s flagging. This should also include… scholar stories
Let this be a reminder that while government is obliged to follow every order, it must listen and protect potential interests, especially those that would clearly hurt the moral fabrics of a people’s indigenous culture for which it hasn’t bothered to prescribe or provide services that can match as tangible replacements since independence. We see this exemplified in the manner that Kebbi state engaged it’s farmers in relation to a Dangote sugarcane plant deal of preserving thorough democratic ideals by protecting their indigenous interest. However, the government has a right to seize opportunity of a non-existing consensus amongst the recognized body of clerics and act in the interest of its citizens first as it was mandated to do, provided the repercussions of such can be well calculated and minimized.
YAND understands that the moral argument has been a stray talk away from the realities of Nigeria’s economic situation and it’s interim policy. It’s unfortunate that the government’s tactlessness has resulted in the degeneration of a topic into that of religious skepticism and unnecessary vitriol emanating from the city’s podiums.
Kano serves as a quintessential base for a litmus test of such magnitude but without proper acquaintance and an attempt to coherently flesh out the problems of Kannywood, the state can be a no go area for any potential large scale socio-economic development from the Federal Government. Hence education remains a constant in facilitating any progress.
YAND lastly makes a call to today’s youths, to muster an ambition of becoming tomorrow’s intellectuals in the region. This is possible by attempting to first pick and subsequently polish interests and diversify themselves into different fields especially related to religious scholastic literacy. They can act as intermediaries in understanding policies that require thorough explanations and scrupulousness from the scholars and also point out no go areas for the government. This would help in bridging the chasms of misunderstanding and avoidable ignorance from the ‘handicapped scholars’, and the overzealous government of the day causing hindrances to progress and making the masses bear the brunt.
A last call also for the government of the day to investigate and call to order clerics that have clearly overstepped their boundaries with baseless insinuations and inflammatory statements that are capable of threatening the republic’s sanctified peace.