Kano is an old city dating back to over one thousand years. It is known as a famous centre of commerce, cultural diversity and also centre for learning. The olden monument of Gidan Dan Hausa was a one time the first school of Northern Nigeria where our great leaders were taught western education. The earlier linked of Kano with Arabs as far back as 1320s made the state to be the most extensive and well-established in terms of literary movement. At that time, Arabic language and ajami were used by Kanawa to write down their literature, which was largely originated from Hausa oral tradition and folktales.
Because of the strategic important of Kano and the vast population of its literary citizenry, the colonial masters used that to their advantage. In 1929, they established Translation Bureau in Kano with the aim of translating non-Hausa works. The Bureau was later moved to Zaria in 1931, probably because of intermediary position of Zaria which links the then seat of power (Lokoja) and Kano. The period witnessed the translation of Arabic texts like Arbab Hadha al-balad al- Musamma Kano and many others. According to A U Adamu, the work of this bureau was largely translation of non-Hausa language works to Hausa using Hausanized Roman script.
Based on these, there is no doubt why Kano remains the heart of indigenous literature in the whole West Africa, basically because of the refocused by the colonial masters that made emphases on Hausa literature. But as time goes on, the need for Kano to be in the race of English literature arises. The population of Kano (as the most populous state in the country), must to be used to its advantage, the unknown gifted people in the state should be given an equal opportunity to give their own contribution.
The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Kano state branch was founded in 1992 at Kano State History and Culture Bureau with a goal to promote literature and literary activities in the State. It initiated programmes that helped in boosting literary activities more especially the English literature which was not promoted. With the advent of film industry in Kano, many members of ANA Kano moved to the production of films which nearly cripple the literary movement. In order to overcome the problem, the Association initiated Creative Writers Forum in both English and Hausa languages. The English forum at that time was taking place at the British Council, while the Hausa version was taking place at the Murtala Muhammad library. These fora have witnessed great discovery of new young writers, and subsequently helped in building their capacities. Undoubtedly, the fora have given them self-esteems to meet the challenges of the contemporary world.
To give you example of the contribution of these fora, many of its members are now Professors, leading journalist, medical doctors, engineers, and bureaucrats. Readers will agree with my point if I cite example with international and local journalists that are always on air or widely read in our national dailies. These people include Dr. Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u, Isa Muhammad Inuwa, Nasidi A. Kura, Nafisa Ahmad Sulaiman, Muhammad Kabir Muhammad, Ahmad Salisu, Maude Rabiu Gwadabe, Hamisu Musa Sidi, Jamila Sulaiman Gezawa, Bilkisu Ado Zango, Badsha Mukhtar, Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz, Maje Elhajji Hotoro, Sa’adatu Baba Ahmad, Ahmad Danyaro and older hand Bala Muhammad. We are proud to say these journalists are members of the Kano state branch of the Association of Nigerian Authors who are now given their contribution in the development of Kano and the country at large.
Over the years the journey of English literature is progressing when compared to the past. Today in Kano, many young writers have been discovered from secondary schools, and these writers have published their books or featured in various anthologies. Young writers like Nabila Ahmad Rufa’i, Safiyya Ibrahim Abdulhamid, Zahra Tabiu, Hadiza Aminu and Khadija M. Hanga started from secondary schools, and today they mostly published their individual books or featured in various anthologies. Having these, I think it is an indication that ANA should do more in secondary schools, because the above mentioned writers were discovered by accident, I am sure many good talents are left undiscovered.
Recently, when ANA Kano organised a quiz competition for secondary schools, which was held at GGC Dala, we understood that if these schools receive proper attention, literary activities in the state would definitely be improved. This is said because I saw the way these students responded to the questions asked on both English and Hausa literatures, one can vividly see the students’ zeal to lay their hands in literary works. After the event we advised the schools to open literary and reading clubs for the students, and we also promised to give any support that will enhance the programme.
In 2003, when ANA Kano and Science and Technical Schools Board organised literary campaign, we went round the Science and Technical Schools in Kano to have readings session with the students. The programme really paid well, because we learnt from the coordinator of the programme, the successes they recorded in English language at that year. Similarly, the then HOD English of Government Technical College, Ungoggo, Khalid Imam, edited two anthologies of poetry and short stories Citadel of Excellence (poems 2004) and The Birds’s Evidence (short stories 2005) written by students of this particular school.
While ANA Kano is busy preparing workshops and literary seminars for its members, writers must tilt their attention to extend these services to our secondary schools. Although the Association, in the past, had organised literary workshops for some secondary schools, but they should redouble their effort to reach more schools. I know there is a limit to what the Association can do, but in this regard, the state Education Board should intervene by supporting this great movement. We can’t do without literature, because it helps in the growth of our education system. My readers will agree with me that the ‘yan boko of olden days studied literature as a compulsory course in their secondary schools, and this opened their horizons of knowledge. The quality of their education is far better than what is obtainable now, and we cannot deny the fact that their educational achievement was related to their habit of reading widely. The colonial masters that put us through the western education have their own reason for introducing literature as a core course. We have to debunk the saying that: if you want to hide knowledge from black people, you should put it in a book.
The present government in Kano under Engineer Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is quite doing well to improve education in the state. His administration has established both new secondary schools and tertiary institutions; it sponsored five hundred and one indigenes of Kano to study abroad. It also embarks on Mass Literacy Campaign with the aim of seeing everyone in Kano has at least, learnt how to read and write. The giants strides the state is taking in the area of education can successfully be achieved when all the ingredients of learning are provided and put together. Literature cannot be an exception to this development that is taking place in the state, because it is part of the basic ingredients for learning. The densely populated city of Kano must have something to read, I always say no generation would develop when young people of that society lack interest in reading.
For several times ,writers made complaints for being neglected in the past, I think this is the best time to look at them with critical eyes. Of course it is the best time because the government has shown a worthy example of how society should grow through education. The attention of the government in the area of literary development is to the advantage of the state, when people are empowered to read there will be high production of reading materials. This will expand the market of so many businesses in Kano, from the publishers, printers, bookshops and marketers. Boosting of these businesses will generate more revenue to the state, the professional printers and publishers basing in Kaduna and Lagos will definitely find their ways to Kano, because we have everything to make business successful. By this we can have our birds killed with only one stone.
Therefore, I call the attention of Senior Secondary Schools Board to help their students discover their creativity and talent. They should expose them to literary activities through forming literary and reading clubs, and also organising literary quiz and writing competitions. The English teachers should be supported to attend training and workshops on literature and creative writing, if these are done, I am sure it will give them more experience to coach their students well.
The board should partner with relevant bodies and writers association to organise a grand books exhibition for students and pupils. It is also pertinent to at least organise an annual literary programme that will bring the schools together for interaction with writers in the state and beyond.
Finally, I would like to conclude my article with a quotation by Francis Bacon where he said. “Books are ships which pass the vast seas of time.” Of course books are playing the role of passing history from one generation to another and the history our dear state can preserve, promoted and publicised through literary events. The unique history of Kano is yet to be fully explored for the world to see the glamour and the cultural heritage of the state, I am sure the books will open the doors for such wonderful journey.
Zaharaddeen Ibrahim Kallah is the Branch Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Kano State Branch.