Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gidan Dabino as an Intellectual and International Icon
(Gwagwarmayar Ado Ahmad Tsakanin Manyan Manazartan Duniya)

Prof. Dr. Abdalla Uba Adamu
Department of Mass Communication
Bayero University, Kano

Perhaps we should start with trying to understand the key variables associated with this talk: intellectual, and international.  The latter concept, international, is straight-forward enough, because it connotes a straddling of nations and going beyond a specific national barrier. Let me therefore focus my definition of term therefore on the former concept, ‘intellectual’.

In human societies, the Intellectual is the man or woman dedicated to critical thought (study, introspection, and reflexion) about the reality of society; who communicates the derived ideas towards the resolution of society’s normative problems (social, political, and cultural), and so derives authority in the public sphere. Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the Intellectual participates in the world of politics, either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by producing or by extending an ideology, and by defending one or another system of values.

In our times, the term “Intellectual” acquired positive connotations of social prestige derived from the person being a man or woman possessed of intellect and superior intelligence, especially when his or her activities in the public sphere exerted positive consequences upon the common good, by means of moral responsibility, altruism, solidarity, in effort to elevate the intellectual understanding of the public at large, without manipulation, false populism, paternalism, or condescension.

The intellectual and the scholarly classes are related; the intellectual usually is not a teacher involved in the production of scholarship, but has an academic background, and works in a profession, practices an art, or a science. The intellectual person is a man or woman who applies critical thinking and reason in either a professional or a personal capacity, and so has authority in the public sphere of his or her society. Further, the term "Intellectual" identifies three types of person, one who:

is erudite, and develops abstract ideas and theories
a professional who produces cultural capital, as in philosophy, literary criticism, sociology, philosophy, medicine, science or
an artist who writes, composes, paints, etc.

Using these definitions and typologies, I want to look at the achievements of Mallam Ado Ahmad Gida Dabino as both an intellectual and international icon or figure.

Although Mallam Ado does not have academic higher degrees usually associated with modern intellectuals, nevertheless his achievements have attained the status of intellectual achievements regardless of the measuring instrument used. For one thing, and in common with all other intellectuals, he has a vision to excel. Other intellectuals in a similar situation in our society could include people like Abubakar Imam, Mallam Aminu Kano xxx.

Remarkable amongst his achievements as an intellectual is his grounding in the grassroots philosophy of the community he lives in. This community ethnography is what lends credence to his narrative prose about life and how to live it. Thus Mallam Ado’s business craft is located solidly and squarely with a local community of ‘ordinary’ people  who share his vision about intellectual literariness. His office has become a portal through which ideas move in and out. When I first started my own foray into literary analysis of contemporary Hausa literature, my first starting point was the Gidan Dabino Publishers’ office along Sabon Titi in August 1999 when I encountered him for the first time. Almost all those I asked to point out to me the starting point of mass culture in Hausa prose fiction would point to Mallam Ado—so I traced him in his office, introduced myself, and have remained with his office since then: in fact we have joint lease in the office block we are now.

Ado Ahmad is a writer, and there is nothing more intellectual than bringing down abstraction to a concrete level where people can grasp often the absurdity of the abstract. Being a writer gives Ado Ahmad opportunities to create vistas of literary landscapes that captures the imaginations of thousands of people—often as in the case of many later notable writers, bringing them into the literary fold. The famous writer, Rahama AbdulMajid, is a case in point when she explained that she became motivated to become a writer due to Ado Ahmad’s novels being read over the radio.

Ado Ahmad pioneered the transition from the literary to visual medium when he adapted his famous novel, In Da So Da Kauna, into a video film version, thus providing an intellectual template to the then developing Hausa film industry. Other intellectuals such as Ms. Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Bala Anas Babinlata, Alkhamees Bature Makwarari, Sunusi Shehu Burhan, Ado Mohammed, all became literary adapters when they also converted their individual stories into the film media—experimenting not only in the craft of storytelling in different media, but also exercising their intellect in embellishing their narrative prose for the film medium.

The International Intellectual
The first and major international recognition for Ado Ahmad’s craft was in Niger Republic, particularly in the towns of Maraɗi, Damagaram and Niamey. In each of these cities, Ado’s name became a household name through his novels which were read over the radio. Things reached a head when Ado himself was invited to Maraɗi to anchor a series or radio programs and become a judge in literary competitions. No other Hausa writer, from which ever generation has ever attained this cross-border collaboration in literary circles.

Ado thus became a virtual ‘Nigeriene’ –though he still could not speak French!—and a celebrity, through his writings as well as special edition radio host programs. Soon enough, he has established a vast network of contact and collaborators in Niger Republic. This was amply demonstrated when in 2006 he led a whole convoy of writers and academicians on an international collaboration between the Kano Branch of Association for Nigerian Authors (ANA) of which he was the Chairman and Gashingo Publishers of Niamey under Dr. Mallam Garba Maman. Since then he had become a central figure in cross-border collaborations between Nigerians and Nigériens in literary activities—creating ties and networks that diplomatic channels have not been able to forge.

This was just the beginning. For subsequent international activities of Ado Ahmad saw him as an invited guest or publishing collaborator for UNESCO to regional meetings in Mali, Niger, Benin Republic, Ethiopia, France and Italy. In each of these places, Ado Ahmad made strong and persistent presentations about indigenous writers in Africa, thus further promoting the cause of indigenous literary scholarship on a scale never done before by any contemporary writer.

And it did not stop there. I was a witness to Ado Ahmad’s internationalization when he went to Germany in 2010 to present a paper as a guest speaker at the Hamburg University. The place was packed full with mostly female students who listened to Ado’s present with rapt attention. He spoke in Hausa, but his speech was immediately translated into German.

Subsequently, Ado was also invited to the famous School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS, University of London in the UK in 2011 to present another paper, as well as premier his film Sandar Kiwo. Again students and staff jammed the hall to listen to him—this time in English, for along the line in his career, Ado has been able to graduate from the Adult Education classes to a self-taught mode where he can fluently converse in English to anyone, anywhere.

While Ado has never been to Poland or India, his film Sandar Kiwo was also premiered in these countries, at the University of Warsaw, Poland; and in India, the film was shown by Blaft Publishers based in New Delhi, to a select group of Indian writers of pulp fiction.

By now we all know who, or what, the writer is. He or she is a poet, a playwright, an essayist and/or a novelist. But he or she is also the writer of the editorials and columns, the investigative and explanatory reports that are among the many forms journalism has developed in discharging its public task of describing and interpreting the human environments and humanity itself. In the digital age, the writer is also the blogger who makes it his concern to gather and provide information on issues of citizen concern and to comment on them online. Ado Ahmad is this and more. He is truly an international and intellectual icon, on a scale no indigenous Hausa writer in contemporary times has been able to attain. His Member of the Order of the Niger is well-deserved.

Here are testimonies from three of Ado’s friends and collaborators: Prof. Graham Furniss, from London, England, and the first person to study Hausa contemporary novels; Dr. Marius Kraśniewski from, Warsaw, Poland, and Dr. Carmen Mcain from Wisconsin, United States.


Comments from Prof. Graham Furniss, OBE, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, 20th October, 2014.

I see this award as recognition for the central role that Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino has played in a remarkable African renaissance that sprang up from the grassroots. He was a central figure in the explosion of popular fiction and then video film in Hausa from the 1980s onwards. His positive, can-do attitude and his open and engaging personality drew many to him and to his writings. His writing touched young people's aspirations and hopes and reflected many of their experiences of life in difficult times. Articulate and witty, he was not afraid to take up any path that might lead him to greater achievements -- he has been a writer, a publisher, a radio host (including in Niger), a video film producer, and a friend to many.

I first encountered him in Kano when I was researching the rise of Hausa popular fiction and the activities of the Raina Kama writers' club where he was a founder member. Subsequently, I met him again when he visited London and the University here. I have to say that I was often asked by radio and television hosts in Nigeria whether popular fiction and video was of any value and whether it should have been banned. My reply has always been that it is the role of a researcher to document and analyze what is happening on the ground and it is for other authorities to pronounce on the value of differing forms of cultural production. Being aware that both books and films have come under attack in years past, this award comes as a major acknowledgement by the highest Nigerian state authorities of the importance and the value of these forms of artistic endeavor, and I can think of no one better to receive the honour on his own behalf, and on behalf of all the book writers and film makers that he has encouraged and supported, than Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino,  MON.


Dr. Mariusz Kraśniewski, Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, Poland, 20th October, 2014

The first time I’ve heard the name of Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino few years ago when I was a PhD student at the University of Warsaw. We didn’t knew each other back then, his name appeared as a quite enigmatic signature on many of the books I’ve been using in my research. Gidan Dabino Publishers, Kano -  it was always the sign that guaranteed very high publishing and scholarly qualities of the works. Thus I can say that thanks to Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, the works of many prominent or promising Hausa scholars and authors (including Ado himself) were able to cross the borders between continents and provide to us, Polish students and scholars, the insight into academic life of Northern Nigeria. The insight that is so greatly needed as it brings different perspectives of the research while still maintaining high scholarly quality of methodology and research.

Few years later, during my stay in Kano, I’ve finally met Ado in person. I was not surprised to realize that he is not only the shark that sails confidently through the turbulent waters of the publishing industry, but above all, he is also a modest, kind and friendly person. On this occasion we were able to talk about  his work and future plans, but this meeting was important for me also for some other, more personal reasons. When, some weeks after our meeting,  I’ve lost my consciousness because of cerebral malaria, that was Ado who was the first person to confirm my identity as a visiting associate of the Bayero University.  I will be grateful for that ‘till the end of my life as his help was a vital asset that created the possibility for my friends from BUK  to organize the treatment and take care of me during my stay in the hospital.

Mallam Ado, I was very happy to hear from Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu that you’ve been honored with a national recognition of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) by the President of Nigeria. I’d like to be here to personally shake your hand and tell you that the above-mentioned Order is a perfect gift for your 50th anniversary and that it is a well-earned addition to the long list of your achievements as a writer, scholar and social worker. I would like to sincerely congratulate you for this distinction and I am sending you as well my best wishes for your 50th birthday.

Allah ya ba Ka lafiya da alheri!


Dr. Carmen McCain, University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States, 25 October, 2014

I congratulate Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino on receiving the national honour Member of the Order of the Niger. I’m delighted to see the national government recognize his achievements, as not only one of Nigeria’s bestselling Hausa authors but also an award-wining playwright, publisher, filmmaker, and important theorist of Hausa literature and culture.

Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino is directly responsible for my decision to study Hausa literature and film and for my career so far. I had initially planned to study Hausa as a requirement of my PhD program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, but to write my PhD thesis on English-language Nigerian literature. Reading Gidan Dabino’s In da So da Kauna in 2005, when studying advanced Hausa in Sokoto, changed my research and changed my life. I initially had a hard time reading Hausa. I read several of the Hausa “classics” almost half way through without understanding much of what I was reading. It was not until I began reading In da So da Kauna that I began to read quickly and hungrily, as I had read the fantasies and historical romances I had loved in high school, anxious to find out what would happen to the star-crossed lovers. It was out of this experience that I began to love reading Hausa novels and films and the rest is history. Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, as one of the leaders of the contemporary literary movement in Hausa, is important in helping bringing about a reading revolution in northern Nigeria. Northern Nigerians are reading more in Hausa than they are in English, and, in a country where intellectuals commonly complain about reading culture, that is a gigantic accomplishment. What I admire the most about Gidan Dabino’s writing is his brilliant dialogue, which captures the banter of every day life, and his ability to tell a story that holds the reader in suspense.

I am grateful to him for putting me on the path to scholarship, and I thank him for all the time he has spent in personally helping me with my research and introducing me to other writers.

Na gode, Ado. Na taya maka murna.

Carmen McCain (Talatu)

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