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Public Service in Focus: Tête-à-Tête with Senator Mitt Romney and Journalist Margaret Talev-MJ Yushau

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Former America's Republican Presidential candidate mitt romney

 

Dr Muhammad Jameel Yushau

Congratulations to the newly admitted students at HKS. Your excitement is palpable, and the next few months will undoubtedly be a time of significant change and growth. You are embarking on a unique journey, one that is both challenging and rewarding. At HKS, the focus is on experiential learning that prepares you for the real world. It’s a professional and graduate school, which means that the teaching and pedagogy are entirely different from the conventional academic and theory-driven approach to learning.

An excellent example of this approach is Governor Deval Patrick’s class on principles and politics. On Wednesday, March 22, 2023, Governor Patrick invited Senator Mitt Romney, 2012 presidential candidate for the Republican Party, and Margaret Talev, a former CNN journalist with years of experience covering campaigns. The three-hour session was entirely dedicated to a question-and-answer format between students and guests, with a short break sandwiched between the two sessions.

From the interaction, there were several lessons to be learned. The first lesson centered around business tycoons and entrepreneurs who decide to join public service. The discussion revolved around whether the experience gained in the private sector can help them be good public servants. From the conversation, it became clear that although people can make a difference in business, public service is unique because it gives the opportunity to enact policies that will support businesses but also protect public interests. Having a business background can also be an advantage if ethically applied in public service.

The second lesson focused on whether business leaders could understand and care for ordinary people. It’s a gray area without a clear-cut answer. There are responsible business tycoons who are passionate about public service and can make a difference when given the opportunity. Similarly, there are professionals and technocrats who have a passion for improving people’s lives. There are also selfish and self-aggrandized individuals on both sides to whom public service is simply a pipeline to enrich themselves.

The third and final lesson revolved around the role of the media in reporting the truth about public officials. It reminded me of my classes in political communication both as a student and as a teacher in some universities a decade ago. Media manipulation has always been a challenge, and to quote Philip Knightley’s classic work “In Times of War, Truth is the First Casualty,” I can paraphrase by saying that in many cases, “truth is the first casualty in politics.”

Overall, it was an enriching discussion that equipped students with underlying nuances of the challenges faced by those who want to remain true to their principles when engaging in public service.

Takeaway: Public service is an essential yet imperfect undertaking.

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Northern Nollywood, Southern Distorted Mirrors: Nollywood and the Rest of Us

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By Abdallah Uba Adamu

Recently, an extremely prestigious academic journal requested me to review a film made by a Nigerian. I was surprised as that is Muhsin Ibrahim’s forte. Further, I really don’t watch Nigerian films, aka Nollywood, personally preferring African Francophone directors. Nevertheless, I agreed to do the review. However, the link they sent for the film was password protected. I informed them, and they requested the filmmaker to send the password. Being a request from a highly prestigious journal, he sent the code and I was able to get in the site and watch the film online. I was surprised at what I saw, and decided to delve further into these issues. Before doing that, I wrote my review and sent it off. The film, however, set me thinking.

Like a creeping malaise, Nollywood directors are rearing their cameras into the northern Nigerian cultural spaces. Again. The film I reviewed for the journal was “A Delivery Boy” (dir. Adekunle Adejuyigbe, 2018). It was in Hausa language. None of the actors, however, was Hausa, although the lead actor seems to be a northerner (at least from his name, since an online search failed to reveal any personal details about him).

Nothing wrong with that. Some of the best films about a particular culture were made by those outside the culture. Being ‘outliers’, it often gave them an opportunity to provide a more or less balanced and objective ‘outsider’s perspective’ of the culture. Alfonso Cuarón, a Mexican successfully directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004) while Taiwanese director Ang Lee did the same with “ Brokeback Mountain” (2005), even earning him an Oscar.

In 2006 Clint Eastwood, an American, directed “Letters From Iwo Jima.” The cast was almost entirely Japanese and almost all of the dialogue was in Japanese. It was very well-received in Japan, and in fact some critics in Japan wondered why a non-Japanese director was able to make one of the best war movies about World War II from the Japanese perspective. Abbas Kiarostami, an Iranian filmmaker, directed his film, “Certified Copy” (2020) in Italy and contained French, Italian, and English dialogue, starring French and British actors.

British director Richard Attenborough successfully directed Ben Kingsley in the Indian biopic Gandhi (1982). The film was praised for providing a historically accurate portrayal of the life of Gandhi, the Indian independence movement and the deleterious results of British colonization on India. It took away eight Oscars. American director Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993) on a German, Oskar Schindler, was equally a powerful portrayal of auteur genius by “non-native”. The film won seven Oscars.

In each of these examples, the directors approached their subject matter with clean, fresh and open mind that acknowledges the cultural sensitivities of the subject matter. My point is that a person, outside of a particular cultural context can make sensitive films that portray the culture to his own culture as well as other cultures. That is not, however, how Nollywood plays when it focuses its cameras on northern Nigerian social culture. Specifically, Muslims.

I just can’t understand why they are so fixated with Muslims and the north. If the purpose of the ‘crossover’ films (as they are labeled) they make is to create an understanding of the north for their predominantly southern audiences, they need not bother. Social media alone is awash with all the information one needs about Nigeria—the good, the bad and the ugly. You don’t need a big budget film for that. Or actors trying, and failing, to convey ‘Aboki’ accents in stilted dialogues that lack grammatical context.

Yet, they insist on producing films about Muslim northern Nigeria from a jaundiced bigoted perspective, often couched with pseudo intellectual veneer. To sweeten the bad taste of such distasteful films, they pick up one or two northern actors (who genuinely speak the Hausa language, even if not being mainstream ethnic Hausa) and add them to the mix believing that this will buy them salvation. For southern Nigerians, anyone above the River Niger is ‘Hausa’.

They started in the early 2000s, and people just ignored them. The directors then included Oskar Baker (Ɗan Adamu Butulu, Abdulmalik), Yemi Laniyan (Makiyi, Uwar Gida), Tunji Agesin (Halin Kishiya), Matt Dadzie (Zuwaira), I. Nwankwo (Macijiya) and many others. These came on the heels of the massive success of “Sangaya” (dir. Aminu Muhammad Sabo, 1999) when this particular film opened up the northern Nigerian film market. These Nollywood producers jumped in to cash on the popularity of Hausa films and made their own for northern markets. For the most part, these early ‘crossover’ films that I refer to as ‘Northern Nollywood’ were fairly mild, and evoked no reaction. They were still rejected, as the Hausa can be the most discriminatory people you can come across. If you are outside their cultural universe, you remain there. Forever.

The few Kannywood actors eager to be seen on ‘national stage’ allowed themselves to be used to deconstruct Islam and Muslims on the altar of filmmaking in subsequent Northern Nollywood films. Let’s not even talk about character misrepresentation, which Muhsin Ibrahim has written extensively about. In these scenarios, the usual tropes for northerners in Nollywood films is that of ‘Aboki’ (a term southern Nigerians believe is an insult to northerners, without knowing what it means), ‘maigad’ (security), generally a beggar. If they value an actor, they assign them an instantly forgettable role, rather than a lead. Granted, this might more of astute and realistic marketing than ethnicity because it would be risky to give an unknown Hausa actor a significant role in a film aimed at southern Nigerians. Few of these types of portrayals in Nollywood included Hausa speaking actors in films such as The Senator, The Stubborn Grasshopper, The World is Mine, Osama Bin La, Across the Border and The Police Officer.

When Shari’a was relaunched from 1999 in many northern Nigerian States, it became an instant filmic focus for Nollywood. A film, “Holy Law: Shari’a” (dir. Ejike Asiegbu, 2001) drew such a barrage of criticism among Hausa Muslims due to its portrayal of Shari’a laws then being implemented in northern Nigeria that it caused credibility problems for the few Hausa actors that appeared in it. With neither understanding of Islam or its context, the director ploughed on in his own distorted interpretation of the Shari’a as only a punitive justice system of chopping hands, floggings, and killings through foul-mouthed dialog. As Nasiru Wada Khalil noted in his brilliant essay on the film (“Perception and Reaction: The Representation of the Shari’a in Nollywood and Kanywood Films”, SSRN, 2016) “the whole story of Holy Law is in itself flogged, amputated and killed right from the storyline.”

“Osama bin La” (dir. MacCollins Chidebe, 2001) was supposed to be a comedy. No one found it funny in Kano. Despite not featuring any northern actor, it was banned in Kano due to its portrayal of Osama bn Ladan, then considered a folk hero. The film was banned to avoid reaction against Igbo merchants marketing the film. I was actually present in the congregation at a Friday sermon at Kundila Friday mosque in Kano when a ‘fatwa’ was issued on the film. Even a similar comedy, “Ibro Usama” (dir. Auwalu Dare, 2002), a chamama genre Hausa film was banned in Kano, showing sensitivity to the subject matter.

The reactions against crossover films seemed to have discouraged Nollywood producers from forging ahead. They returned in the 2010s. By then northern Nigeria has entered into a new phase of social disruption, and Nollywood took every opportunity to film its understanding of the issues—sometimes couched in simpering distorted narrative masquerading as social commentary—on a society and culture they have absolutely no understanding of.

In “Dry” (dir. Stephanie Linus, 2014), the director developed a sudden concern about ‘child marriage’ and its consequences. Naturally the culprits of such marriage, as depicted in the film are sixty-year old men who marry girls young enough to be their granddaughters. The director’s qualification to talk about the issue (which was already being framed by child marriage controversy in the north) was that she has ‘visited the north’ a couple of times. With the film, if she could get at least “one girl free and open the minds of the people, and also instruct different bodies and individuals to take action, then the movie would have served its purpose.” The ‘north’ was living in darkness, and it requires Stephanie Linus to shed the light of ‘civilization’.

“A Delivery Boy” (dir. Adekunle Adejuyigbe, 2018) that I reviewed was about an ‘almajiri’ in an Islamic school who was kidnapped to the school to begin with, and repeatedly raped by his ‘Alamaramma’ (teacher). The almajiri somehow acquired sticks of dynamite to create a suicide vest and vowed to blow himself up—together with the teacher. The Alaramma in the film lives in an opulent mansion, far away from the ‘almajirai’. In this narrative universe, the ‘almajiri’ do not learn anything and are unwilling rape victims of their teaches who actually kidnapped them and forced them into the schools.

“The Milkmaid” (dir. Desmond Ovbiagele, 2020) evokes the idealistic picture of a Fulani milkmaid, and became a basis for a Nollywood film. Instead of focusing on the political economy of Fulani milk trade, the film focused on the trope of terrorism. “The Black Book” (dir. Editi Effiong, 2023) touted as ‘Nigeria’s John Wick’ shoots a significant portion in ‘the north’ – with ‘Islamist’ hijab-wearing females touting assault rifles hidden underneath their hijab. “Jalil” (dir. Leslie Dapwatda, 2020) visits the recurrent theme of kidnapping for ransom. In the north, of course.

Then came the latest, “Almajiri” (dir. Toka McBaror, 2022). Claimed to be a true-life story (although not clear on whether it happened to specific people or based on what the director believed to be a common event), it featured muscle-bound badass types of thugs with guns and dreadlocks as Almajirai. The film reinforces the southern Nigerian trope of any beggar in the north being an Almajiri. Such ‘almajiris’ are kidnapped and sold into virtual slavery and horribly abused. The idea is to blame parental irresponsibility of northerners.

For southern Nigerians, especially the Nollywood crowd, an ‘Almajiri’ is a beggar, a product of a failed education system, a terrorist, a bandit, and an ‘aboki’. They use concocted figures bandied about by alphabet soup agencies to proclaim ‘over 10 million almajiri are out of school’ and therefore twigs of the terrorism inferno. How can someone who is part of a system of education for over half-a-century be considered out of school? But for Nollywood, if it is not ABCD, then it is not education.

“Northern Nollywood” films are the precise reasons why there will ALWAYS be different film cultures in Nigeria. Kannywood talks to its publics, happily churning out now TV shows that address issues it deems relevant—in its own way. Both the northern and southern parts of the country (covering the three major languages) were actively engaged. However, they were mutually non-legible to each other. This was essentially because they operate on virtually opposing cultural mindsets – making the emergence of a truly “Nigerian cultural film” impossible.

Quite a few writers seem to suggest that Kannywood is a ‘subset of Nollywood’ and indeed many would prefer for the term Kannywood (created in 1999 by a Hausa writer) to be dispensed with and replaced with Nollywood (created in 2002, created by a Japanese Canadian writer). It is to protect our cultural representation in films that I stand as a lone voice in advocating for a ‘Hausa Cinema’ to reflect the cultural universe of the Hausa.

Abdallah Uba Adamu is a professor of communication and cultural studies Bayero University Kano and former Vice chancellor National open university of Nigeria from 2016 to 2021

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Governor Abba Yusuf Revolutionizes Kano’s Healthcare: Major Hospital Renovations and Free Pediatric Services Mark First Year in Office

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Through the expansion of healthcare infrastructure, an amplification of healthcare accessibility and the liberating provision of essential medicines across all health care facilities in the state, Governor Abba has substantially elevated the overall health and vitality of Kano people across the 44 local governments.

At the same time, the establishment and reconstruction of health care facilities as well  as the revitalization of social programs in the state.

It was within his one year period that his administration took decisive action by confiscating and renovating the Hasiya Bayero Pediatric Hospital. This facility now stands as a strong pillar in providing health care services for children in need of medical care.

Over  200,000 children have received free medical services at the renovated hospital, ensuring that no child is left behind.

Part of his prioritized agenda to ensure the modernization of healthcare infrastructure in the state, Governor Abba has achieved general renovation of Sir Sanusi General Hospital, Nuhu Bamalli Hospital, and BELA General Hospital which have significantly improved patient care. These hospitals now offer state-of-the-art facilities, with better equipment, and enhanced services.
The ‘Abba Care Program,’ launched at the Kano State Ministry of Health, is another giant achievement in one year of his office that focuses on improving healthcare services related to sickle cell anemia.

Through awareness campaigns, early detection, and specialized care, Governor Abba ensured that the program aims to alleviate the burden of this genetic disorder across the state.

He equally ratified the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Murtala Hospital Emergency Department in an attempt to strengthen emergency healthcare services. The hospital now actively operates efficiently, providing critical care to patients during emergencies.
His administration also championed the legislation mandating premarital health screening for all prospective couples. This proactive approach not only ensures healthier families but also reduces the burden of hereditary diseases.

Within his one year in office, the state government facilitated the supply and installation of modern ICU equipment and other essentials. This is an investment that enhances critical care services, saving lives and improving patient outcomes.

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Remembering my late sister: Hajiya Salamatu Ajiun Abdulrauf

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By AbdurRaheem Sa’ad Dembo

It was at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, precisely May 22nd, 2020 and a day to the end of Ramadan fast when death struck and took her away from us. On the 29th day of Ramadan, she was served her food to break fast but she could not, and that marked the end of an era in our family. Her selflessness was beyond
description. A good family woman who did not in any way jettison her family. She could travel from Lagos to Ilorin in order to attend family events as many times as possible within a year. She was not a millionaire but she had a heart of giving. Her investment on us has paid off.

We lost our father at a time some of us could not fend for ourselves but we have elder brothers, sisters and even cousins who were selfless, and they assisted us in actualizing our dreams. A woman would always be woman; they have large heart and there is a way they always do their things with care and spice. As an undergraduate student in Bayero University, Kano; before resuming to school for a new semester, it was willy-nilly to visit Lagos and get cash from her.

My observation of her was that of a woman with a great mind. She was not educated as such but had exposure that could match or compete with some who had privilege to get higher education. How do you know a great mind? Certainly, it is through selfless attitude and her contributions to humanity. There is no any discussion you would embark upon and she would not contribute immensely. At that point you would look and appreciate her for being an enlightened person.

I learnt the culture of giving from observing my father and selflessness of my brothers and sisters; it is a profitable enterprise. If I have had selfish brothers, sisters and cousins I might not have had the opportunity of going to school. I might have ended up somewhere less glamorous in the society. An educated person sometimes may not be rich or enmesh in a perpetual poverty but he would be free from shackles of ignorance and penury. Like the common saying “We are acquiring education to overcome or have a say over poverty” .But being educated and rich at the same time; ultimately the prerogative of Allah

If you are building somebody; you are invariably helping yourself. My sister is no more alive but her good deeds still illuminating and resonating in our minds. Despite her huge investment in us, she would never ask you to go and bring anything even though she deserved everything from us.

Significantly, it is not until one is rich before he or she can help. If one is waiting for that time, it may never come. Like the popular saying on the social media, “it is not the rich people that help, but the good people”.

My sister was blunt; if you had offended her she would tell you. She had no heart for malice. Another beautiful thing about her was the way she united the family. She did not belong to that class of women that would say “let us scatter everything”. Of course, if you scatter everything, everything would go worse.

If we’re alive and seeing each other; it is a rare opportunity to be kind and fair to one another. The reason is simple, because there would be a time death will overtake us one after the other and we would account for our deeds. We should always be patient with one another. A united family is far greater and stronger than the scattered ones.

On 12th December, 2023 I was in Lagos on official assignment, but I was not elated. I told my nephew that any time I was in Lagos it was usually a boring experience after my sister’s demise.

Eulogising our own Ajiun Omo Ade in a singular tone of mine won’t be sufficient and that’s why I had to reach out to some members of the family to tell their own perspective of her.

A foremost politician, Alhaji Ahmad Alfa Dembo describes her this way, “Ajiun united the family and would never want to see anyone in difficulty. She always rejoiced with whoever that was doing well among family members.She would ensure that she prevents anything that might pave way for misunderstanding among family members. She was a great lover of the family”

A retired Warrant Officer II , Nigerian Army, Mallam Usman Dembo captured her personality thus “She was very liberal , accommodating, and has no hate in her mind. She was honest and straight-forward .Above all ,she was always on the side of the truth.May Allah increase His mercy on her.

Alhaji Shuaib Lanre Dembo, a retired Training Manager, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja said,” Ajiun was a team player who felt at home with everyone in the family irrespective of the lineage. She was so much loved by my wife because she accorded my wife the respect she gave me. She helped resolved some disputes I can’t mention here. She is really missed.”

The Imam of Masalasi Alfa n’ta ,Sheikh Salihu Sa’ad Dembo said Alhaja Ajiun was a good elder sister , who had done her best in uniting the family of her father and that of her husband. She was generous, prayerful, kind, and one who hardly gets angry. She was a guardian to him as her advice had worked for him on several occasions. He asserted that to the best of his knowledge, she was submissive and kind to her husband.He prayed Allah to overlook her inadequacies and that of her husband by granting them aljannah firdaus

Hajiya Maryam Imam Bashir, who is the second wife of Chief Imam of Ilorin describes her aptly: “She was kind and generous,and a family unifier.May Allah grant her aljannah firdaus”

Sheikh Hassan Sa’ad Dembo,who is also the Khalifatul Quadriyya in Portharcourt ,River State opines “Alhaja Salamatu Ajiun was a good sister, she united the family and was not selfish. She always stand with family members either in good or bad time. During my wedding she bought
clothes for me and my wife. If you visit her in Lagos she would treat you with comprehensive hospitality”

In the words of Ajanasi Makana,Mallam Yusuf Sa’ad Dembo, “She was so compassionate, kind, prayerful, and she loved saying the truth”

Mrs Shakira Abdulrauf is her eldest child. Here is what she has to say about her late mother,” My mother was not temperamental. She was kind, caring, and a family unifier.

She was so generous that she could spend her last kobo and began to look for another money the following day.

She had no hate and did not underrate anyone either among friends or family. May Allah continue to grant her mercy by granting her aljannah firdaus”

Yusuf Issa Aloba, a staff of Kwara Inland Revenue Service also has this to say about her
“She was generous to a fault, she was a pillar for me during my undergraduate days, She upheld the family ties.

I know I owe her a lot. I’m happy that at least I was able to visit her during an official training in Lagos, at the same house we used to stay whenever we went for holidays . She was very happy when she saw me, she said ” Amuda, eku ojo meta”

When I heard the news of her death I was shocked and I said to myself, I’m I dreaming? I wished she could live longer for me to reciprocate her generosity. May jannatul Firdaus be her final abode.”

Alhaja Ajiun was not only a sister but also Godsent. She understood me so much that by mere looking at me she knew what I wanted.May Allah forgive her shortcomings.

Finally, May Allah reward her with aljannah firdaus and bless her children she left behind.Ya Allah equally bless those who have touched our lives positively: family members, friends, and outsiders.

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