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(129): Kannywood and its Unending Scandals (II)

Muhsin Ibrahim


After breakfast on the morning of November 2, 2020, I turned on my phone’s Wi-Fi. I received several notifications from my email and social media accounts, particularly WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to End SARS protest, I have been unusually active on Twitter recently. It’s more engaging and has become the battleground for socio-political, cultural and religious battle among Nigerians. However, the End SARS protest heightened this debate, especially between northerners and southerners who, arguably, differ on the issue. Unlike the previous days, today’s top trending topics are not about SARS at all. They are about a Kannywood star, Rahama Sadau. Although she’s not new to controversies, that of today is, I must say, provocative. It led to the creation of incendiary hashtags such as “Assistant Allah.”


Ms Sadau, this time, shared her photos on Instagram and Twitter the night before. She wears a tight, backless long sleeve, which shows her curves, in the pictures. Expectedly, the so-called Arewa tweeps bash the dress and describe it as a violation of the Hausa-Fulani religio-cultural dress code. A few of her fans from the same ethnic extraction see nothing wrong with that. However, the most significant reactions come from Rahama’s southern fans – or who want to counter that Arewa tweeps’ stand on, criticism and abuse of the actress. Some of these southerners go overboard by lampooning Hausa culture and Islam. The hashtag mentioned above is an example. The war of words goes on.


Ms Sadau’s colleagues are amazed or shocked by her decision to share such controversial if not racy photos. It’s not news that Kannywood, the film industry that makes the actress who she is, struggles with the religious and cultural establishment in northern Nigeria. Additionally, many other individuals do not regard the cinema whatsoever for the same religio-cultural reasons. Therefore, the filmmakers, actors and others related to the embattled industry, avoid trouble with their audiences as much as possible. However, they cannot shun scandals, willingly or accidentally. I wrote about some in the first part of this article. For nearly 48 hours, all Rahama does is responding to such ‘cautionary’ reactions jokingly or joyfully. It’s, indeed, a feat to occupy the entire top trends of a vast country like Nigeria. But, at what cost?

Sadau’s scandals have become recurrent. That and, of course, her remarkable rise in the industry must have fetched her adversaries, fierce critics and admirers. Some people are just worried about her future and prospects, among other possible reasons that generated ferocious replies. Without mentioning names, some of those colleagues disown her, others call for her dismissal. Even the few that somehow defend her dissociate themselves from the disrespect of the Prophet the photos cause. It’s also an unfortunate coincidence that we are in an era of heated debate about the French magazine’s caricature of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). President Macron’s comment angers most of the Muslim world, but that rejuvenates the love of the Prophet in the hearts of many Muslims.


Another unfortunate coincidence is the goings-on in Nigeria. After the End SARS protest, then came arsonist attacks, destruction on private and public property, and looting of COVID-19 palliatives, especially in southern Nigerian states. Several innocent Hausa-Muslim traders were caught up in the conflict. Scores got killed while others lost property such as truckload of vegetables, shops, etc. worth billions. Thus, the relationship between Hausa-Fulani and Igbos and Yorubas, among other southern ethnic groups, is at its lower ebb. Rahama’s southern ‘supporters’ seize the opportunity her dress provides to ridicule the northerners’ culture and religion, including the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The northerners feel profoundly disappointed and pained by not only these abusers but also Rahama all the more for ‘condoning’ it.

 Finally, Rahama released an emotional apology in a video where she sheds tears. She distances herself from any abuse of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and reaffirms that she’s Muslim, her parents and entire family members also are. Additionally, she took down the most controversial photo and vowed never to do it again. However, it’s probably too late. The Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) has already dismissed the actress, for the second time, and urged all filmmakers to boycott her. In October 2016, the association dismissed her from the industry, “for immoral behaviours leading to ‘on-screen hug with a certain hip-hop star, Classic”. She got a pardon from the Kano State Censorship Board (KSCB), under Isma’il Na’Abba Afakkallah in 2018. People are now waiting to see if they would accept her apology and reverse the dismissal.

It is not my place to judge her. I wrote about the controversial actress before. Be it as it may, I believe that it’s high time Rahama Sadau had a rethink about her status in (northern) Nigeria entertainment industry. She’s not an ordinary artist. Her actions and inactions are under constant spotlight and scrutiny. If for nothing else, she should prioritize her safety and that of her family members. Should she be violently attacked by some impulsive, provoked person(s), – God forbid – her southern and even northern hailers cannot protect her. The farthest she could go is exile to a foreign country. I doubt if she’s ready for that potential escalation. Also, she cannot carry her businesses and family along with her. We are all better safe than sorry. A word is enough for the wise.


  1. Allah ya kiyaye. I m speechless. These days I overlook people's moral identity. That's best.


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