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General Board / March 28th Elections: Fears, Pessimism and Prayers
« on: March 16, 2015, 03:07:44 PM »
March 28th Elections: Fears, Pessimism and Prayers

Without digging deeper into the history lane in the Nigerian politics, many people know that last-hour relinquishment, nay betrayal, by swayers in a political journey often results to the success or failure of a particular candidate. For instance, Kano people saw that in 1999 when a comparatively more popular Engr. Magaji Abdullahi lost governorship election to Engr. Rabiu Kwankwaso. There was a similar scenario in 2011 at the presidential election. General Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) entered into an ill-advised alliance with Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) at the last minute of the eleventh hour. It didn’t work as feared. ACN and its south-western supporters dumped CPC and the party’s candidate, too, Nuhu Ribadu for President Goodluck Jonathan (and his party, PDP).

Yesterday, a well-informed Yoruba friend of mine posted on Facebook that an experienced friend of his feared that opposition might yet again give in to PDP on March 28 presidential election. Needless to mention, by “opposition”, he means ‘their’ people, the south-western political bloc. Some among the respondents expressed more trepidation; others rejected the caution outright as baseless, for, according to them, the opposition of today is far more formed, firmed and formidable. Thus, it couldn’t and wouldn’t be sold out. I sincerely think otherwise, for, after all, Mr. Bola Tinubu and co. are not as honest as some Nigerians seem to think and believe.

Many people have a cotton-candy view of the opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). They ought to wake up to the reality. Looking at the party as an entity and its members as individuals reveals a simple fact that most of them are no better than their counterparts in PDP. They are largely the same, if not even worse. During its embryonic days, I argued that deserted PDP members in APC are like an old wine in a new bottle, except a few. Numerous crooks saw APC as a heaven, or as a remedial niche, where a common membership cleanses them of any sins no matter how grave.

Tribalism aside, and fact be said, many Hausas trust Yorubas very little in politics and fewer can vouch for their pledge of allegiance. Where, for instance, the late Chief MKO Abiola, a Yoruba candidate, defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa woefully in his own state, Kano, of all places; General Buhari has never won any state in the south-west, in all his three consecutive contests, even with an accord in 2011. Therefore, if, God forbid, it happens again on March 28, Nigerians should not be bemused, not even surprised, for it’s simply a history repeating itself.

No denying that the north suffers more in the hands of President Jonathan, but nobody is immune. The dreadful depreciation of Naira, for example, and the hiking inflation in the country affect everyone. Likewise insecurity does not kill only the northerners; many southerners are also plunged as armed robbers, kidnappers and cultists are increasingly having field days. Systemic failure, falling standard of education, corruption, etc are gnawing the fabrics of the country in the whole. Therefore, the continuation of Jonathan is not peculiarly a northern problem. It’s all ours.

I am not being pessimistic; I am rather a realist now and always. The earlier those south-western oligarchs rethink what they are musing, the better. They are not doing any good for their people, not for themselves. For now, it may yes seem that Jonathan’s corruption-ridden government may give them a plump reward, but that cannot sustain them forever. Only a better Nigeria can, and the simple way towards finding that is by kicking this government out and voting in a better (note: not the best, for he too is not) person, a little more committed party, the APC.

I hope and pray that should they refuse to heed the aforementioned, then their people should revolt against them. They are not God-sent nor must-obey; they are humans. It is high time Nigerian youth stood up for their right, for themselves and their future. We are the victims of Immigration Recruitment tragedy, of 2011 post-election violence, of Boko Haram insurgency and so on. What more motivation are we waiting for to be ourselves, to use our God-given conscience, to practice the kind of politics of non-violence we see in the developed world? It’s now or never!

General Board / The Death of Common Sense
« on: March 01, 2015, 05:11:52 PM »
The Death of Common Sense

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim

It’s a familiar saying that common sense is not so common. Many people regard this saying as silly, or worse. However, evidently enough today, lots of happenings around the world are corroborating it. Common sense is indeed getting scarce and scarcer by the tick of a clock. Humans’ faculty is becoming faulty and faultier. Bad is considered good and good as bad. Right as wrong, wrong as right. Demarcation line between almost anything hitherto thought as positive and/or negative is being thinning, blurring and shall soon vanish.

A weirdest law was given a nod in South Korea in the past week. Adultery is now legalized, and soon thereafter, condom maker's shares surge. Fornication has since been permissible in many countries, though, provided the persons involved have reached puberty and there’s no compulsion. Wonder; this new, lewd law was virtually nothing sensational, even on the social media as other, perhaps more pressing, news eclipsed it. It nonetheless remains a sensation is my sense. I couldn’t, and still can’t, put up with the irrationality and animalism of the law. This is doubtlessly a bad omen for the disappearance of Common Sense.

However, some may argue that decriminalization of same sex marriage is as much wrong. Yes, it is no less wrong, but not as much. Think about it. Now you have no case whatsoever with anybody you caught having an affair with your wife. Your wife! It’s now okay for either or both officially married partners to have extra-marital affairs even if either or both couples are aware of that. How obscene!

I am afraid but common sense is more than dying; it is going to extinction. Murder is literally okayed by some so-called jihadi extremist groups. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram has in one of his video messages called on his disciples to simply kill whoever they see. ISIL have been doing the same. To them, murdering anyone that does not share their rogue ideology is lawful and even rewardful.  At a state level, the Israel Defence Force can shoot dead Palestinians and hardly any punishment follow.

Again, in some countries and cities, smoking cannabis is approved. The recent in this horrible, anti-health campaign is the Washington DC, the capital of the U.S. Other countries like Czech Republic, Columbia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, etc have already legalized it and perhaps some other killing-drugs. Soon others will follow.

Inasmuch as I try to refrain being proselytizing so often, I believe it’s worth doing here. Being Islam a divine religion, it takes human’s physiology into cognizance and thus allows a man to have multiple wives under certain conditions such as an ability to judge fairly among them, wherewithal to cater for them and so on. Likewise, a day or days for each wife is/are stipulated, etc. Allah, our Creator, knows the psyche and the desire of His Creation. Had that been observed, no need to go to that extent as authorizing multiple sex partners; I am sure many people would not agree to this. It will create lots of conflict, for we are naturally jealous.

The earlier we realize the aforesaid, the better for the humanity. I hope and pray that someday murder will not be generally legalized. If it does, then our societies will be like a jungle: only the fittest can survive. Though I don’t think even animals will ever go down to that intellectual and moral bankruptcy of allowing others to have sex with their wives. But for us, humans, it’s really a heart-numbing and a very dire for the future. Rest in peace, Common Sense.

General Board / Africa, a Continent in Limbo
« on: February 15, 2015, 08:01:06 AM »
Africa, a Continent in Limbo

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim

Stories of Africa being taken for a country or Nigeria for a city in an unknown country, perhaps ‘Africa’ do not have anymore newsworthiness. More than many ‘intellectuals’, politicians, organizations, individuals, etc from around the world have had, on several instances, such faux pas or some similar talk that points towards that. Notables and well-known, at least within the circle of my readers, of such include Sarah Palin’s infamous interview, Chimamanda’s chilling speech, The Danger of a Single Story and Farooq Kperogi’s piece, ‘Is Nigeria the name of a City?’, among others. It has, nonetheless, gone far beyond that as I have recently discovered.

I attended the 17th International Theatre Festival of India, called Bharat Rang Mahotsav for a few days. The festival is still ongoing at the renowned [Indian] National School of Drama, Delhi. The school is disputably the best in the whole of Asia. The festival will be rounded off on the 18th of this month. There are theatre repertory groups from the U.S, Europe, Middle East and other Asian countries, but there was/is nobody from Africa, though Africa is the second largest continent on earth with over 50 sovereign nations. Absence of a single participant from Africa has more or less weakened the usage of the word: international.
For a long time prior to this festival, as a student of theatre and film studies, I have since noticed the ‘non-existence’ of Africa in the theatre and the cinema realms and discourses in India. Quote me anywhere, less than a few people know that Africans produce any films and stage any dramas of their own here. Notwithstanding that the university I study boasts calling itself international, there’s absolutely nothing African in their syllabi, nor reference thereof except, probably, in Geography department’s. This is incredible!

Today, the Nigerian film industry called Nollywood surpasses the Hollywood in terms of production and is now the second largest in the world after Bollywood, the Indian glamorous film industry. YET, it is largely in oblivion among the billion plus populace of India. Ditto the theatre of Africa, not only Nigeria’s, with all its richness, epoch and popularity in the UK, US and elsewhere. Professor Wole Soyinka is the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986 and he got it in Literature (Drama!).
Recently, prominent Kannywood (i.e. Kano-based film industry) personnel, including the ace actor, Ali Nuhu came to India for a short course, sponsored by Nigerian government, on film. First, their Industry was/is facing a dire challenge due to the so-called “Hausa-India films” (i.e. Hausa-dubbed and lips-synched Hindi films). Being they were not taken that serious here, they couldn’t do anything about that. Secondly, and on a lighter tone, they obviously couldn’t get any chance to meet with any Bollywood high-flying actor, director or producer, for we might have seen pictures of them together.

Enough of this whining, some might say. Yes, I can’t change the status quo. Africa is largely, erroneously and ridiculously though, known as no more than a forest that houses monkeys, or humans that resemble them. The North Korean government has lately described President Obama as such. Or, for Ebola. Or, in other instances, Indians know South Africa and Kenya as the two countries play cricket, their favourite game. And more, India’s number one statesman, Mahatma Ghandi ji once lived in the former.

But for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and arguably the richest, is often remembered when any Black man committed, or is accused for committing, a crime. The dreaded insurgent group, Boko Haram has also popularized the name of the country. I discussed this ugly truth in one of my articles.

It is high time Africans started what I may call searching for ‘self-worth’. I am not advocating for egotism, high-handedness or anything of the sort. But knowing yourself, your merit and respect is needed now and always. Millions of Africans, particularly Nigerians, take Indians to the highest esteem. We think of our Bollywood fave actors as paragons of beauty, valour and value. Down here, you are not known, and in a few places you are known, you mean little or nothing. However, not all are like that. As I often say, we are individuals, so also they (Indians) are. But let’s know them for what they are, and know yourself for what you are.

Literature / Writing: A Gift or a Hard-Gained Skill?
« on: January 30, 2015, 04:14:10 PM »
Writing: A Gift or a Hard-Gained Skill?
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
@muhsin234 [Twitter]

Writing—not speaking, reading or listening—is the most complex aspect of language learning skills. Writing is a talent which not everyone is endowed with. Writing is best done by the students of language or those in the Arts, and blah-blah-blah. Often one hears statements like these. No doubt writing is not a piece of cake, but it is neither a gift nor, with apologies to Niyi Osundare, an esoteric whisper for any coterie. As you are able to read this article, you also can write and write a well-composed piece. Yes, you.

An award-winning American cognitive scientist, Steven Pinker asserts in his book, The Sense of Style that “Writing is an unnatural act”. He further quotes Charles Darwin who observed that ‘Man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children, whereas no child has instinctive tendency to bake, brew or write’. I can’t agree more. Language is acquired by a chinld and not learned; but no child acquires the ability to write. Writing is learned, often through a tedious drill and practice. There’s no theory I know, even an implausible one, which says writing is innate as in Language Acquisition Device (LAD) supposition on speech in our brains. All those seasoned writers learned it. Thus, you also can.

I had no interest to write, or to become a writer in my childhood. Like many other children – not however of today who probably dream to be governors, senators or some politician – I cherished to become a medical doctor. Unbeknown to me, Allah had a better plan for me; I am now a university teacher. I grew up with a definite desire to read and own books. My father has a mini-library at home. He doesn’t patronage any majalisar hira (in-group), though he maintains good ties with all. His books are his best friends. I picked up writing while at secondary school. I used to read novels of James Hardly Chase, Sydney Sheldon, many African writers, newspapers, magazines and everything that comes my way. I swallowed much and then I began to write poems, short stories and essays. It was like an emission, if you will.

A few days ago, two friends disclosed to me that they crave to write ‘as I do’. In a separate happenstance, I asked another friend to write about his life in Cyprus, where he currently studies. He responded thus: “I also would like to write but honestly, Malam I don’t feel like I have the gift”. Sincerely, I don’t count myself among writers; that I nevertheless yearn to do sometime soon, in sha Allah. I believe that these friends possess the potentials to learn about writing, perhaps better than I. A mental indisposition called “writer’s block” might be responsible for their procrastination. They only need to put their head and heart to it. Nothing is un-learnable.

We should not, on the other hand, forget that as we are individuals, thus our writing skills cannot be the same. Some people are naturally brighter and quicker in learning than others. Thus, you may learn about writing but not perfect it as your friend, brother or mate. Likewise, you may not be able to exactly emulate your particular favourite writer. That doesn’t however mean your writing is a failure. Aspiring writers are pertinently advised to write and rewrite till they write it right. Another scholar suggested that the starting point for becoming a good writer is to be a good reader. You must do extensive reading (ER), Prof. Aliyu Kamal of Bayero University, Kano would always tell us in class, before you write.

I read any good prose within and outside my field of studies in order to acquire their technique through, what Pinker describes as, “spotting, savouring and reverse-engineering examples of [the] prose”. For instance, a ‘senior’ friend of mine from University of Maiduguri, doing PhD in Veterinary Public Health here in India knows the grammar of English and writes far better than numerous graduates of English I know. Therefore, read all genres from religion to politics, science and technology to film and arts, et cetera. The Internet avails us with a great deal of access to the world’s top newspapers, media houses, blogs and so on. I write and rewrite, proofread and then publish on my blog. My writings have appeared in numerous newspapers in Nigeria and elsewhere. I used to fear correction and criticism from my teachers, mates or even students. But I never let that dispirit me. After all, nobody is perfect.

General Board / On Age, Maturity and Filthy Politics
« on: January 30, 2015, 03:58:38 PM »
On Age, Maturity and Filthy Politics
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim

I wrote an article about a year or so ago on the sweeping spate of dirty politics taking the centre stage of my state Kano, Nigeria. It solely focused on the two leading archrivals, the present governor of the state, Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and his predecessor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. Their politicking forays into the daily lives of Kano people. Often, loyalty or otherwise to one of them defines our identity. No matter how hard one tries to reconcile the two, he or she is bound to fail. They are practically seen as totally the opposite of the other like fire and water; loving both is believed to be incompatible. Whatever, I stand to defy this fallacy. It’s my humble belief that both did something for the state; both deserve some respect; both are humans, not demons; and neither performed to a T.

A few days ago, a very good, elder friend of mine awkwardly described my behaviour of what he calls ‘proving people wrong’ as childish. That was a bombshell to me, for, Allah knows, we have had terrific, memorable time together, though not for a long time but in a place far away from home. This blossoms the relationship and makes it very affable and thus, we start thinking and hoping for that to last forever. Apparently enough, now, however, all the thoughts and the hope are withering. No relationship can survive attack on personality. And all relationships require mutual respect.

It all started from a casual chit-chat on Kano politics. Three of us were talking about how incredibly daring was and is Kwankwaso’s political history and life in general. I brought to fore that Shekarau, too, has some indelible record in the history of the state’s politics for, if nothing else, breaking the so-called jinx of not winning governorship election twice. Allah knows: I was NOT in anyway glorifying him, for that wasn’t our topic. But this mention broke all hell loose. My elder interlocutor doggedly refused to accept this fact. I picked up my phone, searched Google and, as you could expect, there were several mentioning of the same. Yet, he maintained his words that there never was any jinx! It was only the late Abubakar Rimi who took it as such. Realizing he was derailing too much, I honourably gave up and concluded that we both were right. After all, meaning is relative. So is the meaning of the word: jinx.

A few days later, Gen. Muhammad Buhari visited Kano in his routine for presidential campaign. Many pictures from the rally scene emerged on the social media and soon became viral. I and the same friend were chatting, sharing news and pictures of the rally on WhatsApp. There then came a picture of a mammoth crowd, which I said it was not Kano. He said if it was [from Shekarau’s anointed, PDP governor candidate, Salihu Sagir] Takai’s rally I wouldn’t dispute its authenticity. I shrugged it, sent him an emoji of laughter and continued with the chat.

Surprisingly enough, I later saw the same fake picture being shared by more respected friends on Facebook, whom, I was cocksure, would not have shared it had they known it was bogus. I quickly ran a picture validation on Google image. It appeared that it was indeed not from Kano. It was taken from a Mass organized by one German Evangelist called Reinhardt Bonke somewhere in Africa. I notified them and they unhesitatingly retracted the posts, and thanked me. I hesitated alerting that ‘elder’ friend of mine, but I later went ahead. I swear with Allah that my intent was not to simply prove him wrong (i.e. qureshi), but just for the sake of clarification. I was misunderstood.  He called my effort childish!

Needless to say, his motive behind that was the suspicion that I was against Buhari, Kwankwaso’s choice for the president. I am NOT. I could be if I choose to, for I am an independent human being. I have every right to support or oppose any politician. None of them is saint, so none is a must-love! He too knows that I am somehow a known anti-Jonathan campaigner on social media. The President’s media aid, Dr. Abati couldn’t stand my criticism, thus he lately blocked me on Facebook.

That self-identified elder friend’s brutish, snobbish description has left me in a state of confusion and unpredictability or something else that I can’t describe, hence this piece. I know the content sounds somewhat personal, but I can’t help spilling the beans. I hope to get some candid opinions from some of my readers. Perhaps that might assist me to tread more maturely next time while dealing with ‘elders’. Or, better still, figure out or some of you have had a similar experience and how you handled it.

I am not saying I was downright wrong or right. That I sincerely speaking don’t know. However, I wholeheartedly believe that that person should be the last person to call me a child. He knows me when I am fully grown up—less than a couple of years ago. His wife and mine have been like sisters. His son has been like mine, for he used to daily spend hours in my house. In a nutshell, we live as relatives. Yet he went ahead and crossed all these boundaries of decorum and coarsely declared me a child. I think a better word, even an insulting one, perhaps like pedant, nitpicker, etc. might suit my behaviour, but not childishness.

Please feel free to share your opinion, and thanks for reading.

General Board / India as “Qasar Waje”: Reality or Apparition?
« on: November 02, 2014, 02:02:50 PM »
India as “Qasar Waje”: Reality or Apparition?

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
@muhsin234 (Twitter)

“It looks foreign”, my Indian friends so often tell me while describing how scenic and highly-developed a particular place is. It happened first while I and my wife were touring the capital, New Delhi last winter. We were entering the subway system called the 'metro' when my friend guiding us said we would feel as if in a foreign country down there. It didn’t dawn on me then until I heard the same expressions time and again from more friends. They obviously forget that everywhere is foreign to me as I am a foreigner, a Nigerian. My country is thousands of miles away. However each time the incident occurs, it reminds me of a similar preconceived notion of foreign superiority back in Nigeria. In the same vein, Nigerians would quickly brag that their particular possession was made in a foreign country, not in Nigeria!

Pragmatically speaking, the whole concept of “Qasar Waje” as we call foreign country in my local language of Hausa leaves me wondering. It reassures me that truly humans’ knowledge is apparently limited. If not, why the thought that anything, nay, everything foreign is more beautiful, quality-wise better and pictorially much unlike what is ordinarily obtained around us? Is even the idea itself real, imaginary or a downright apparition?

It is worth noting that meaning is, by and large, context-defined. This therefore determines in our psyche what looks more foreign or more local. Almost everyone empirically thinks that out there is prettier. For instance: my coming to India was deliberate and purposed; I came for a postgraduate programme in theatre and television. Although I have yet to be a fan of Bollywood, the close relationship between my study area and the film industry added more to my jubilation. Right from my first day however, lots of things, admittedly speaking, looked the contrary. I have now realized the immense power of the visual industry the more.

The flamboyant Indian film industry has remarkably succeeded in lifting the face of the country, and hiding the situation of the large chunk of its billion plus citizenry. It has manipulated the psychology and vision of many people around the world. Now India and its people are often seen in an entirely different, ‘filtered’ way. Only in a few films like Slumdog Millionaire one comes across a typical portrayal of some, in fact many, Indian environments. I have travelled to a number of cities and towns here, so my disclosure is not unfounded or hearsay-based.

Beyond the PR achievement, so many people falsely believe that Indian women are the arbiter of beauty. This is also untrue: no doubt some are utterly good-looking, but the unattractive ones are also so many. Not all Indian women are Katrina Kaifs, Deepikas, Pryanka Chopras in the same way not all Nigerian women are Omotolas, Ini Edos, Fati Ladans, etc. Relying on what is shown on the media is extremely misleading. India is one of the dirtiest spots on the planet with millions of vagrants and homeless people who largely depend on scavenging for survival.

However, some places are frigging beautiful in terms of their technologically-designed structures, architecture, and nature including many Mughals designed mosques, tombs, ports and palaces; Hindu’s historical temples and so on. But numberless other places are extremely ugly, decomposing, dungy, dingy and disgusting that may force one to throw up. India has the largest number of people without access to toilets who indiscriminately urinate and excrete wherever they can get a little cover over their heads or even in the open spaces. There are swamps, roadside mechanics, array of shops and vendors, street beggars and almost everything befitting a typical, less developed setting. India has a long way to become a utopia.

An elderly man I used to chat with once told me that “India is equally a developing country like Nigeria, only that it is more developed—a little bit—than many countries in this category”. This is right. India is no way a developed world like the U.K, U.S, Canada, etc. The wildest dream of so many Indians is to go to those countries or even others not yet categorized as developed like the U.A.E, Oman, New Zealand, etc for greener pasture. Hence, Indians are everywhere in the world; they make larger population in Diaspora than any country to the extent the diasporic community is officially recognized, specifically named Non-Resident Indians (NRI) and appointed a minister in the government.

Dear reader, wise up and don’t be deceived anymore. There are slums, homeless and ghettos even in the said developed world. Nowhere is wholly a perfect haven. To my fellow countrymen and women, I wholeheartedly believe that no city in India is bigger, more picturesque and more sanitized than our Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. I also believe that there are many places in, say, Lagos, Port Harcourt and even ‘my city and pride’, Kano state that look that “foreign”. So, wake up from your inferiority-induced slumber and start appreciating what you are blessed with.

As today marks 54th year of Nigeria as a sovereign nation, please let’s pray for peace and prosperity for the country, for my country of residency also (India) and for the world. Happy Independence, Nigeria and God bless!

General Board / Being Nigerian and the Danger of Many Stories
« on: August 29, 2014, 03:11:18 PM »
Being Nigerian and the Danger of Many Stories

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
@muhsin234 (Twitter)

On many occasions, Nigerians stand out among their fellow Africans. “Giant of Africa” is the enviable, debatable title of Nigeria due to its biggest population and economy on the continent, inter alia. It also used to have the mightiest military, for their numerous accomplished peacekeeping missions in other African counties like Liberia, Sudan, and Serra Leon. The Nigeria’s military is no longer, however, regarded as such, as they have yet to combat and contain the insurgence of the Islamists called Boko Haram within the country since 2009 and for the violation of civilian rights in other instances.

Nigeria is arguably roughly divided along religious lines. The North is predominantly Muslim, while the South is largely Christian. There are over 200 distinct languages, but only three (Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo) are considered major. So, Nigeria is a country of plurality and complexities, if you will, shared by its more than 170 million people. This, unfortunately, results to some ethno-religious related conflicts here and there; hence a number of observers have on several instances projected the country’s breakup. The prediction has been proven unattainable; Nigeria remains one and indivisible.

As many Nigerians do these days, my brother’s confidant is hospitalized in Kerala, India. His debit card unfortunately got blocked. Kerala is very far from our state (Punjab), and I was tasked to send him money via one doctor at the hospital. There is a guideline that restricts a third party transaction of above Rs. 25,000 in 24hours. The rule is however circumvented by using different branches (of the bank), and so did I, for the money was urgently needed. I was unexpectedly summoned to the presence of the manager of one branch I frequented for crossing one Lac (i.e. Rs. 100,000) transaction within a few days. He asked of my identity and the source of my income. He visibly became more alarmed the moment I said I was from Nigeria and showed him my staff ID. He distrustfully nodded and added that I might be traced by some security personnel. I said I was ready and left.

While at the University, I narrated the story to my lecturer cum guide. She said that India had to introduce the regulation to curtail the activities of terrorists, and didn’t elaborate. I afterwards met an elderly friend and told him of the terrific experience. He blatantly said to my face that being Nigerian alone made me a suspect of many misdeeds such as terrorism (with reference to Boko Haram), fraud, drug and child trafficking, money laundering and, on a lighter mood, as he seemed to believe, closed the list with mentioning of Ebola!

That encounter reminded me of the days I used to go to the Internet café for an overnight browsing. It was around 2002-2003; Facebook and Twitter were then not popular, thus the most active chatting system was Yahoo! Messenger. Out of 10 ‘friends’ you would meet, only 2 or 3 would agree to continue chatting with you the moment you identify yourself as a Nigerian. Yahoo! Boys, a popular moniker given to the then highly dubious, mostly Lagos-based Internet nerds that numerously duped many foreigners millions of dollars, were very infamous. Therefore, many people were, some still are, awfully skeptical to do anything with any Nigerian online.

It’s nothing newsworthy nowadays to report a Nigerian being sentenced to death or for life in foreign countries, often Malaysia due to drug trafficking. It’s again no longer news to hear about a high-ranking public servant or a particular politician being arrested for money laundering or related crime in the U.S, Europe or Dubai. News from the country on Boko Haram attacks, kidnapping, corruption, etc is commonplace. But, truthfully speaking, Nigerians are not all just like that. In fact the people who subscribe to these transgressions are far less than minority. It’s again in the humans’ psyche to pay more attention to something bad than to good; something negative than to positive. People tend to remember Nigeria when the likes of Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab, Michael Adebolajo, Alamieyeseigha, James Ibori etc are mentioned, but fail to notice that Aliko Dangote, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Jelani Aliyu, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, among others, are also Nigerians. It’s reliably said that in every four Africans one is a Nigerian. Therefore, the significant impact Nigerians have made onto the world can only be a topic on its own. It can’t be constrained here.

Thus, I couldn’t let that elder Indian friend go unchallenged, for it would have seemed agreeing with his belief in many stories. Millions of Nigerians within and outside the country by the same token condemn any wrongdoings perpetrated by their fellow countrymen as unreservedly as does anyone else. I then unhesitatingly, though lightly, retorted that all Indians are, or at least potential, rapists, and many others are prone to behave violently at a slightest religious provocation. He said “NO” with a glaring grimace. If this is not true, then his comment on Nigerians is equally not. He responded that yes he trusted me, but many others are not trustworthy. I called it a day.

With all due respect, it’s a shallow-mindedness and sheer ignorance to stereotype a people, not only Nigerians, as the same. For instance, torrential rain sometimes results to flooding that eventually causes destruction, displacement and even death. The same rain contributes hugely to farming that produces food for humans’ consumption. If we believe in the former story about rain, we will surely conclude that it is a curse. But it is not; rain is a blessing. No matter, therefore, what you heard about a people, don’t generalize them. After all, we are individuals. Don’t simply think we (Nigerians) all do the same things. Don’t just believe in the many stories you have heard, for it’s dangerous.

General Board / Being Muslim and the Danger of a Single Story
« on: August 16, 2014, 11:28:50 AM »
Being Muslim and the Danger of a Single Story

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
muhsin234 (Twitter)

“What is your name?” Muhammad. And all eyes would turn around.

It often starts just like that, for to them, every Muslim is a potential threat, a terrorist. It is extremely awkward, if not annoying, to someone like me who was born and reared in an almost 99% Muslims community. Hitherto I didn’t know that being Muslim means that much and weighs that loads; some feel even reluctant to disclose their belief. Muslims living in multi-religious and non-Muslims majority societies today have a lot of stories to tell. The story is sometimes nasty in conservative, religiously touchy and volatile places like India, where I presently reside.  Although home to about 200 million Muslims, it was discovered in a recent survey that some of them have to masquerade as Hindus to sustain their businesses. This happens due to the schism, and sometimes animosity, between them and other faithful, particularly the majority Hindus.

But why all the fuss and the buzz, you may ask. Generally identity, especially religious one, is highly polemical and extremely abstract. For instance, my ‘Muslimness’ is neither determinable based on my appearance and gait, nor proportional to my humanity and humane. Despite the whopping population of more than 1.5 billions worldwide, hundreds of millions of Muslims live in shambles due to the raging religious stereotype, which results to marginalisation and sometimes worse, as aforesaid. Needless to say, the reports of suicide bombs and other terror acts allegedly perpetuated by some miscreants calling themselves Muslims is a commonplace today. Al Qaeda, IS/ISIS, Boko Haram, etc are household names around the world. But this can’t and shouldn’t, nonetheless, justify the unjust treatment of others who can equally be victims of those murderers.
Wait and ask yourself: how many Muslims are engaged in such dastardly activities? The aforementioned figure is just tentative, for the population of Muslims is, against many odds, rapidly growing. So, obviously, had the larger population of them been involved in “terrorism”, no part of the world might have been in peace, for nearly 1 in 4 people worldwide is Muslim. There is no denying that the threat poses by the ‘bad guys’ among them is alarming, but not as the media would want us to believe. Muslims do not have monopoly on fanaticism. We have Christians in C.A.R, Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Hindus in India, Jews in Israel, etc. but Muslims remain virtually the only culpable faithful. One cannot be a Muslim, a practicing one, until somewhere, someone overtly or covertly degrades him, or calls him an extremist or terrorist. What is wrong with the choice of being? I am Muslim, so let me be. Don’t infringe my individual rights. I will not do yours, either.

Do you know that extremism has no place in true Islam? Ironically however, the few who subscribed to it always make the news headlines, while others who are paragons of moderation and peace loving lots are barely heard of on the mostly western and western-influenced media. This modern world owes much to Muslims as they have a very long history in developing it. Malise Ruthven in his “excellent little book”, Islam: A Very Short Introduction published by Oxford University Press explains that:

“No one need doubt that, at the level of civilization, an unprecedented degree of knowledge, excellence, and sophistication was achieved in Islam several centuries before the Renaissance occurred in Europe, or that, as many scholars have noted, much of the groundwork for the scientific and philosophical thought that would flourish in the West was laid in Muslim lands” (Ruthven 2012:17).

He further notes that Muslims have excelled in virtually all other fields the world today boasts having—medicine, mathematics, astronomy, optics, architecture, poetry and philosophical thoughts, among others. Going by this alone should have made being Muslim something to be so much proud of, but the exact opposite is often obtained. Of course, one is allowed to do certain things to protect oneself under threat, but it’s no more than paranoia many a times. Be it as it may, I, for once, wouldn’t subscribe to what I couldn’t perform or display before others. You are still the Muslim unless you renounce your belief and join them, which equates to preferring the terrestrial over the Celestial, the temporary over the permanent.

A few days ago, somebody called me a Boko Haram (BH) member on Facebook for my being a Nigeria and Muslim in response to my criticism of the Egyptian president, Abdul-Fatah Al-Sisi. Saying a word against Sisi is tantamount to siding with the ousted “Islamist” president, Morsi and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. There’s nothing more wrong than that. Unbeknown to him, there’s a world apart from their ideology and mine. In fact, BH fights everyone, and anybody like me, for I study and teach what they try, with all their force and efforts, to prohibit—Western Education. Yet somebody is here calling me their member. How ignorant of him? How senselessly stereotypical are people nowadays?

I have got two calls: First to my fellow Muslims. Don’t forget who you are. Your undue moderation or apologia cannot purge you away from your identity. Don’t join the bandwagon of hundreds of thousands of ‘cultural’ or ‘nominal’ Muslims, to whom the religion is only an identity to distinguish them from others. These people are practically non-observant of Islamic tenets, which is primarily to submit to the One God alone and what He revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). You can, however, choose to do what you want. Allah says: “There’s no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way…” (Qur’an, 2:256).

The second call is to my non-Muslims readers. Allah says: “Oh humankind! We created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other…” Qur’an (49:13). Therefore, any informed Muslim understands this wisdom of our being created differently; however the difference is not to divide us but that we may know each other. Let us embrace peace, mutual understanding and respect. Let us not forget that we are individuals with dissimilar, sometimes opposing, views, taste, impulse, desire, etc. Psychologists irrefutably say that no two individuals are exactly the same, not even identical twins. Thus, if some ignorant Muslims do something wrong, blame them, not the entire Muslims population, nor their religion.

No doubt Islam is nowadays a subject of mockery, misinterpretations, and the like. Three things caused that: 1) misconduct of a few of its followers, 2) sheer ignorance of its content and the earlier context and background, and 3) the exaggerating effect of media, especially those owned by anti (not “non-“) Muslims. BUT don’t let yourself be carried away by any of these. Don’t just believe in a single story, for that is dangerous.

Literature / Kannywood Movie Review: ADUNIYA
« on: May 31, 2014, 08:12:23 PM »
Kannywood Movie Review: ADUNIYA

Director:       Geoffrey Galadima
Producer:      Rabiu Haruna
Story:           Yakubu M. Kumo
Language:     Hausa
Year:            2014
Company:      Al-Rahuz Film Production, Kano

Hausa film spectators are introduced to a new genre of Science-Fiction by the filmmakers of Aduniya. The same is said in its earliest preview on The Premium Times online newspaper in its September, 4th, 2013 edition. The same had also been mentioned like a litany in the film’s often-repeated adverts on the radio stations and in numerous other films. The boisterous voiceover boasts that viewers will, for the first time, see cars getting exploded like never before, the actors in unprecedented and more captivating roles and, above all, the director of the film was “brought” from abroad. This reviewer sees the production and the formation of the film as avant-garde, for, although no denying the fact that sci-fi is a novel thing in Kannywood, the filmmakers are just experimenting the idea, which, if succeeds, will pave way for more of its kind. However, that may or may not be so.

The film begins from a television interview with Prof. A.A. Hussain (Tijjani Faraga), who is described as one of best scientists in the country whom even the Western superpowers have enticed, but he turned them down. Later in the night some assassins visit his residence and asked for his computer password. He resolutely refuses, thus they kill his wife and threaten to kill their son. He eventually capitulates and tells them, but they murder him, too. Upon delivering the password to their hirer, he detonates a bomb implanted in their car to kill them all. The bereaved kid, Kamal (Ibrahim Maishinku), is taken by General Hadi (Tahir Fagge), a science-savvy close friend of the deceased Professor. He vows to avenge his death, and to look after the child as if he were his.

Kamal is, since childhood, trained to shoot and kill by the General. Years after he’s grown up, he gave him an album carrying pictures of those, according to him, responsible for his father’s death. He unhesitatingly hunts them down, killing them one after another. Some henchmen capture him...

General Board / Indian Election: The Lessons Nigerians Should Learn
« on: May 25, 2014, 07:02:04 AM »
As Nigerians, we don’t have to go to a far place like India to learn anything in politics, for two reasons. First, we get a model to learn from right below our noses. I am talking about Niger Republic, yes, our poor, neighbour Niger. In their last general election of 2011, not a single soul was lost as a result of violence, and everything went on efficiently until the end. Second, India is, independence-wise, older, and, democracy-wise, much older than Nigeria. While our democratic government had been interrupted by several military coups after our independence on 1st October, 1960, theirs is never halted since 1947, when the country got independence from the same British colonial brutes that ruled us. But being here, I can’t help but to appreciate and commend their comportment and confederacy during and after the just concluded general elections.

India is famously the world’s biggest democracy with nearly a billion eligible voters, though the turnout was 60-70% as in the Western democracies. Due to its staggering number of voters, the election was conducted in seven phases, in six weeks. The voting public of each state go to the poll during these weeks. It’s finally over now, and the result was announced on Friday, 16th of May, 2014. The leading opposition, pan-Hindu party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won with a landslide margin. The party’s highly controversial leader and a staunch Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi became the country’s prime minister (designated, to be sworn-in on May, 26). His election has broken the decades rule by the secular, dynasty-run Indian National Congress party.

Below are a few of the numerous lessons worth learning for my country (as well as other countries) and its people.

The Candidates
They are three, just three. The first and the foremost is Narendra Modi under BJP. The 63-year-old Modi was the Chief Minister (more or less like a Governor of a state in Nigeria) of Gujarat state for twelve years. The state witnessed an unprecedented anti-Muslim riot in 2002, a few weeks after Modi’s election that ended with not less than 2000 casualties, mostly the Muslims minority. He’s since been criticised for not doing anything to protect their lives and marginalising them afterwards. Beside this,

Literature / Kannywood Movie Review: SABUWAR SANGAYA
« on: April 08, 2014, 07:20:10 AM »
Kannywood Movie Review: SABUWAR SANGAYA

Director:       Aminu Saira
Producer:      Mukhtar Young Boy
Language:     Hausa
Year:            2014
Company:      Kabugawa Production, Kano

Only a few of the Kannywood productions, especially in these days, attract the attention of the audience and a fewer are awaited before their release. Sabuwar Sangaya scored both credits. This is however apparently connected to its title affinity with the famous film with a similar title: Sangaya, and whose song of the same name became a landmark success for both the Hausa filmmakers and the film-making industry. The ‘old’ Sangaya was produced by the recently revived studio, Sarauniya Production and directed by Aminu Muhammad Sabo, an erstwhile leading figure in Kannywood. But does this ‘new’ Sangaya satiate the thirst of the audience? Does it meet their expectation? Will it follow on the path of its ‘elder brother’? Here is what I think.

Sabuwar Sangaya is basically a romantic-horror film. Set in remote Fulani clusters, it begins with the much hyped Rahama Sadau as Jimmala and the soft-spoken Sadiq Sani Sadiq as Jimrau being chased by some lightly armed men. The duos are on a mission to elope, for their marriage proposal is denied by the father of Jimmala. He is of the belief that his aspiring son-in-law was not a legitimate son of his father as Jimrau’s mother was abducted and allegedly raped on their wedding day. Eventually destiny takes the lovebirds to a nearby plague-ridden village, which...

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As students of Theatre and Film Studies here in India, we watch drama and films from across the globe, and of all genres. We encounter no hurdle or trouble in getting the films as the internet has today simplified much access to them, broken many boundaries to any nation, any community, and any film industry except in a few cases. I must however admit that only very little is known about Africa or the films produced therein. In spite of this, I often ‘boast’ saying my country, Nigeria, is the populous African country, and its film industry is the third biggest in the world. But a snag comes up when asked to bring forward the films; I couldn’t, for I shouldn’t just give them any films, for Nigeria’s being a unique country due to its sharp cultural and ethno-religious divide between the North and the South. This becomes necessary because, the perceived national films do have little or no bearing at all to do with my culture and religion of Hausa and Islam. In short, I wanted to give ‘our’ film but I couldn’t so readily get anyone which was well-subtitled in English. This put me to shame. Therefore, the aim of this short write-up is to make a clarion call to the filmmakers to, among other things, save my (our) face (s).

Nigerian Films: Kannywood and Nollywood

Nigeria is divided along religious lines: the South has the Christian majority, while the North is predominantly Muslim. Like its people, the film-makers in the country are divided largely along regional, religious, and marginally ethnic, lines. Thus, there are distinct film industries – each seeking to portray the concern of the particular section and ethnicity it represents.

Kannywood is the catch-all-title given to the film industries in the northern region of Nigeria with Kano state as its epicenter, hence named so—after Kano. Needless to mention, the name followed the styles of the American Hollywood, Indian Bollywood and similar other “woods” across the world. This was created beside the ‘national’ film industry called Nollywood, where the films produced are in English, the actors mostly Christians from the South with exception of a very few from the North like the ace actor, Ali Nuhu, who is also a household name in the North, Sani Danja and Bello Muhammad Bello aka General BMB, other stars from there. Unlike the Nollywood, the medium used in Kannywood is Hausa, which is the major language in the North, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Nigeria, and second only to Swahili in the whole of Africa. Nevertheless, some years ago, a few of the films, initially rendered in Hausa, like Wasila directed by Yakubu Lere, were re-filmed with mostly new cast and English was used as the medium. That apparently proved unviable, maybe due to the limited number of viewers these films had, and thus soon stopped....

General Board / NOTHING (II)
« on: March 17, 2014, 12:39:26 PM »

I have already mentioned how multi-religious a country India is. Religious identity is very crucial here, though it is a damning drawback to some in many cases. For instance, the majority Hindus have more than 300 million gods and goddesses in their creed. Thus, it’s very easy for them to pick one from those in form of a big or small statue, portrait or any visual rendering to put or paste in the room, office or on the vehicle. The Muslims wear cap; the Sikhs put turban, Christians wear cross chain, etc. However, some show solidarity to other religions where you will see the statue or picture of one of the Hindu deities side-by-side with that of the Sikh’s guru, or rarely the Muslim’s Mecca or crescent and stars.


General Board / NOTHING (I)
« on: March 07, 2014, 07:31:02 PM »
Something. Yes, something; for, you have already read some words. The piece is purposely entitled so, for one title may not capture the subject matters it contains. It’s a compendium of discursive thoughts of an amateur Nigerian living beyond the borders of his country, and in a far South Asian country of India, the country that defies any all-encompassing classification and codification. One cannot mention a single religion, culture, race/colour of Indians as there are numerous in place. The country is the second largest in the world by population after China. Therefore, a foreigner will never stop learning here. Everyday or time will present new challenges, new things, new human dynamics, and, sometimes even, new problems to solve. There can and should be many failures along the way—clash of culture, misperception of a particular gesture, language barrier, name it. This is however part of the human endeavours. The foreigner shouldn't hesitate to make as many mistakes as possible—just don't make the same mistake twice. And be more diplomatic and decorous than you have ever thought of becoming. As it’s said, it’s always better safe than saved.

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« on: February 01, 2014, 02:10:53 PM »
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim

The political atmosphere of Nigeria, or particularly of my state, Kano, is by each tick of a second getting more tensed and intense. Although I presently reside outside the shore of the state, one cannot help but see and hear this and that on air and online. I am not a politician, nor into the politics; I had though been a very passive partisan, but even that was a long time ago. I am thankful to Allah that I have successfully quit, and wish to reserve any serious public commentary. Nonetheless, for being things as they are, I couldn’t resist the temptation to break my earlier ‘promise’ not to comment. I believe my motive was well-generated. For, we need a relative sanity in the polity, peace in our state and mutual respect among the populace, which are all what the current state of affairs sets out to disperse and replace with impurity, impudicity and perfidy.

The incumbent governor of Kano state, Engr. Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso and his predecessor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau have been at the fore of Kano politics for almost a decade and a half, which is since the return to democracy in Nigeria in 1999. No politician has had greater impact and effect onto the life of any citizen or resident of Kano below and between the ages of 30 to 35 than these two gentlemen. However, the sway varies widely and wieldy. While for some, it’s positive, it’s negative for many others. Loyalty or otherwise to these pilots of Kano politics has turned multitude foes to friends, friends to foes; brothers to enemies, enemies to brothers; etc. Why? Where is the wisdom, the education, the maturity and all that Kano people are known for?

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