Rallying from a supposed ban that was meant to truncate her career and bring her into disrepute, Kaduna-based actress, Rahama Sadau, has surprisingly been catapulted from regional reckoning to national and even international attention.
A couple of years ago, she was just another face in the crowd. Perhaps, only members of her household gave any studious consideration to her. But even in those days of obscurity, she had started working her way to a pre-determined destination. Her goal was to become an entertainer; so she seized every opportunity that presented itself in secondary school. She joined the acting and dancing; clubs and did anything that had a good dose of entertainment. She was doing just fine, but she wanted more. The major turn-around for her came in the second year of her ND studies in Business Administration at the Kaduna Polytechnic when she met with the popular actor Ali Nuhu.
She wasted no time in telling him her dream of finding her place of honour in the world of make-believe. The older Thespian must have spotted the talent in her for he encouraged her with the opportunity she yearned for. At the time, she did not care how much she was paid. She just wanted to act.
Her choice of career was not received with open arms back home. Although, her father did not mind at all, her mother would have none of it. She wanted her daughter to become a professor. It took some convincing with two years of begging her mother for her blessings before she backed down and allowed her to have her way. Rahama was very happy when she finally caved in. For that change of heart, the grateful daughter made up her mind never to do anything that will tarnish the family name, and as well, one day, become that professor that her mother wants!
Understandably she holds Nuhu in high esteem not only for believing in her and giving her the break she needed so badly, but for continuing to guide and support her career till today.
A few months ago, if anyone had predicted that her life and career which appeared to be on roller coaster would run into unforeseen turbulence, she would have laughed and walked away. She did not see it coming. In a twinkle of an eye, her once flourishing career was threatened on all sides by a supposed ban by the Motion Pictures Association of Nigeria, MOPAN. Rahama had enjoyed a thrilling ride and probably (and rightly too) thought nothing could go wrong. She had lived in Kaduna, her home state for all of her 23 years on earth. Her mother hails from Gombe State and she is grounded in the fine distinctions of the culture and religion in northern Nigeria. How could she have gone overboard in a familiar territory?
As she began to speak in halting tones, it was clear that she was uncomfortable with the direction the interview was heading. Her publicist had indicated that she would prefer that my questions be restricted to the drama, ‘Sons of the Caliphate’ which was the reason she came to Lagos. That was a difficult bargain for a journalist meeting with an actress whose recognition suddenly shot up from her regional environment to national attention (and international). Although she did not say it, apprehension was written all over her, at first. It took some prodding to have her speak up.
She had stayed back in Lagos after the premiere of ‘Sons of the Caliphate’ to discuss with some producers interested in casting for her roles in their upcoming work. To be sure, it was not the first time, Rahama had crossed over from the sectional northern Nigeria movie industry known as Kannywood to the Pan-Nigerian stage popularly called Nollywood. Since she rarely travels out of her Kaduna base, the trip to Lagos was a welcome opportunity to kill several birds with one stone. She had been in movies produced by Tchidi Chikere, the Super Story television series produced by Wale Adenuga and acted with the likes of Majid Michel.
EbonyLife TV premiered ‘Sons of the Caliphate’ a drama series based on the lives of three rich, entitled, passionate and ambitious young men, Kalifah, Nuhu and Diko, all caught up in the hidden corners of power, the darkness of addiction, the heat of love and desire, the obligations of family loyalty, and the craving for revenge.
The 13-part drama series takes the audience on a journey into the rich, cultural and flamboyant aristocratic lifestyle of Northern Nigeria. We see what happens when elections are fast approaching and how the tussle for the governorship seat heats up the polity in the Northern Caliphate State of Kowa.
Created, written and produced by Dimbo and Karachi Atiya, with screenplay by Sifa Asani Gowon, ‘Sons of the Caliphate’ is set to reposition the stereotypes about Northern Nigeria in a way people have not imagined before.
Sons of The Caliphate stars some of the most prominent names in the Film and TV industry, including but not limited to: Patrick Doyle, Mofe Duncan, Sani Muazu, Rahama Sadau, Paul Sambo, Yakubu Mohammed, Yvonne Hays and many others.
Rahama Sadau plays the role of Binta Kutigi, an Abuja-based lady in her late 20s, who is self-employed and runs an events management company called Binta’s Bespoke Events. Binta is confident, witty and composed. She’s also a stylish and elegant woman who is yet traditional in her worldviews. As single, successful and pretty, Binta finds herself in the middle of a love triangle with Nuhu and Dikko. Her cool, calm and friendly demeanor however serves to hide her shrewd nature.
Rahama has only been acting professionally for three years, but her understanding of the industry is amazing. From day one, she longed for something bigger than Kannywood. She wants to be an actress that is not only identified with one zone of the country. “I want to be an actress everywhere. An actor is an actor, you can’t change the name.”
A very ambitious lady, in the short time that she has been in the movie industry, Rahama launched her production company this year. She has since produced one feature and one short film. Her eyes are set on becoming a director or a cinematographer. “I love cameras. I love playing with them.”
Putting the social media to excellent use, she has garnered fans beyond Kannywood. Her admirers in Kannywood know she is different. For instance, she creates quiz or debates and invites the winners to her home, sometimes, her mother, who she lives with, frequently cautions her about the inherent risk in bringing strangers into her home. Sometimes, the fans are determined and can’t be kept away. “They just go around and search for your address and get to your home. Before you know it, countless number of persons are at your gate. You may tell them to schedule another day for dinner or lunch or just to hangout. You don’t have a choice. I take the bill, if not they will come every day. I feel it’s a blessing because if not that I’m Rahama Sadau, nobody will even look at me and say I like you or even try to find where I live.
Sometimes I feel it’s not proper, Rahama Sadau is outside. The business is outside. When you see me outside, you can talk to me, don’t follow me home. But if you follow me, I won’t reject you. Sometimes I think, it’s a little bit dangerous. You never know who will come, it can be someone who will try to harm you. The people who follow me home, are young girls, teenagers. Not boys. The boys can come in, but most of them are girls. Everything is done under the watchful eyes of my manager. I’m a very friendly person and I think I’m the youngest actress in Kannywood. I respect everyone. I may have had occasion for brushes or misunderstandings, but I don’t take that as an issue that should disturb me. There must be someone that doesn’t like you and couldn’t say it to your face. I have no regrets or disappointments.”
On the face value, it may look like her friendly disposition got her into ‘trouble’ with MOPAN. According to her, ClassiQ, the artiste who featured her in his music video has been her childhood friend and she could not imagine turning him down when he needed her help. “He’s my very good friend. He invited me for the video shoot and I obliged him. I mean what else could I have done? I made a guest appearance in the first video. In the second one, I was as a model. He chose me not because of my face but because he’s my friend. I have known ClassiQ like forever. We grew up together in the same neighbourhood.”
Unknown to her, this show of friendship would not only be misconstrued, but lead to a season of negative news about her. She had gone for a film festival in India when news of the ban filtered out. Since it was not communicated to her in writing, her lawyer advised that she maintain a studious silence. There were contractual obligations she had to fulfill in Kannywood till March 2017. The curious thing was that the ban was not coming from any of the known organized bodies. Rahama said she was aware of the existence of an Arewa Filmakers Association of Nigeria and the Producers Association of Kannywood. These bodies have nothing to do with her ban. But she refused to say if she had a legal obligation to any member of MOPAN, the body that allegedly issued a ban against her.
“I do not know any other person who had been banned in Kannywood before me. I’m the first person. It is historic. I don’t want to say much because I have a lot to talk about these things. This is not the right time. If they are to judge, why must it be Rahama. There are many people who do worse things than Rahama. The whole controversy wasn’t about the video, it’s just about Rahama. Why? That’s why I said I don’t want to talk. I did not cross any line. Keep Kannywood aside, as a woman, I have lines that I would never ever touch because of my own family values, I can’t cross them. One day, I will get married. I’m a Muslim, a Hausa/Fulani, whether I like it or not.
I can’t practise other people’s culture. I’m an actor. I’m extremely careful. I remember this role that I declined. I couldn’t do it because it might affect Kannywood or my people. They wanted me to go nude, to seduce someone in a Nollywood movie. They offered a huge amount of money but I said no. I’m a woman and my society doesn’t believe in that. This so called ban issue is not about the people or the society. It’s just a couple of people pitched in one place that have issues with that. These people have an issue with Rahama. It is a personal vendetta against Rahama. I cannot say what I did to attract it.”
The musical fare is one area that Kannywood may be compared to Bollywood, the Indian film industry. The similarities in this area are so striking. For the likes of Rahama who grew up watching Indian movies, playing the part of a singer in Kannywood was not difficult when she started acting, since she not only loves singing but has a natural trait for singing. She can see herself recording an album in the future, if God permits. For her, any vocation that thrives on entertainment is her natural forte.
Hesitating at first when we asked if she ever raised concern over any issue in Kannywood, she gulped down the glass of water in swig, drank a few more glasses and called for another bottle of water: When she started to talk, the words rolled out in that deliberate fashion of a speech that had been rehearsed, waiting for an opportunity to make it public.
“Yes women are restricted in Kannywood. That is all I have to say. I can’t explain it”. After much coaxing, she opened up on why she might have been singled out for a ‘ban’. “I can say as much as I want to say but they might judge me. Trust me, they will. This restriction affects the kind of script, the roles you take and the way you act those roles. You definitely have lines that you can’t even think of crossing. I can’t act nude or wear bikinis. The highest I can do is leave my hair open. I can’t wear a tank top. There are so many rules. They don’t have to write these rules for you. You just know that those things are not allowed in the north. There are other restrictions about touching an actor of the opposite sex. Even if it is in the script, even if we are playing father and daughter, it’s not allowed.
I pray may be in future, they can allow all those stuff. The real issue is that our stories won’t even come with it. It won’t come with the touching…you know how the northern parts are, the way they dress and their personal life, so it won’t even be in the script. If I have to write scripts, I will see how to bring it about. These things are natural. Human beings are male and female. I am not encouraging anything immoral. I am talking about an acceptable relationship between a married couple. For instance, if the wife falls down and her husband has to pick her up. Let us say she was sick. Even the audience will expect body contact. The husband should help her up. There must be contact. That is the natural thing to do. You do not tell somebody who is critically ill to get up or sing to her. You lift her up. But that’s the north. It’s not something that is bad. It’s just the norms and traditions and nobody wants to go against that. It’s better we respect it.”
At the time of this interview, Rahama had not issued the statement of apology. However, she was emphatic that nobody had written to communicate the supposed ban to her. However, she agreed that the ban was a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, she has attracted global attention with the world renowned musician, Akon, requesting a working relationship with her and many heavyweights in Nollywood now taking more than a passing interest in her. It is a brand new day for Rahama. A new chapter of glory has been opened in her life. What was meant to bring shame and disgrace to her has become her stepping stone for greater honour.
With this chip on her shoulder, a fight that lay dormant inside Rahama has been stirred. That momentary spark of revolutionary zeal was evident in the way she tapped the table lightly with her finger to emphasize her point. “At this point in my life, I would love to be in the forefront of a campaign for women in Kannywood. I will love to be a voice. I love to fight for their rights. The limitations are very strict against women. For example, you pay a man N100 in Kannywood but a woman gets 20 per cent of that. Why? You have an association that almost 70 per cent are men, why? We have like 800 and something actresses in the north. Where are they? That’s the right I want to fight for.
It is obvious that they are not including women in things like leadership. The elections in the different guilds and associations in Kannywood are for men. Maybe we are not organised. Naturally, there is this bad feeling between a woman and a woman. I think the fault is ours. But I will still fight if I have the strength. You have to have confidence to fight with men. I’m a feminist.”