Why I’m a different Muslim girl —Zainab, daughter of late Ado-Bayero

Begins documentary on life and times of late Emir of Kano


By Agatha Emeadi

Zainab Jumai Ado-Bayero is one of the youngest daughters of the late Emir of Kano, Ado-Bayero. Zainab, who is a writer is set to celebrate her late father who she loves and admires through a documentary. 

In this interview, Zainab, a Muslim, who believes in the five-pillars of Muslim is adding foreign touch to the core northern culture because of her versatility and civilization. 

In this interview, Zainab shared how she captured  the rich cultural experience of the emirate council in her documentary; the knowledge and opportunities with her Emir father, among others. Excerpt?


As a very young lady, guess you have a faint knowledge of your father’s reign, what do you know about his reign and the rich cultural values of the Kano Emirate?

My late father was a very respected and influential Emir. I saw all that while growing up because he reigned for five decades. Now fully grown, I had to dig deep and researched a great deal coupled with my little knowledge of him. Infact, I know I was not even born when he ascended the throne; but I actually knew a lot about him, at the same time, there was a lot I did not know; so, when I decided to embark on this journey to make a documentary about him, I started going into his past and researched as if he was not my father or subject who had such a fascinating life. So, I researched in books, archives and discovered a lot about him, coupled with my knowledge and who his person was to me, to tell the story.

Do you share anything in common with him being his daughter?

Well, there are a couple of stuffs. I love to read voraciously like my late Emir father who also loved to read. We are also joined in the love for soda drinks like 7-Up. I am an introvert, who does not come close to people immediately, he was also the same way.

For an Emir who reigned for over 50 years to be an introvert?

Yes, he would be around people because he came with a title of being an Emir. If he was not an Emir, he definitely would have been a very gentle fellow, create his own world, read and meditate, so in those aspects, we share a lot of similarities.

What got you interested in producing a documentary to remember your father?

I grew up really watching movies and reading lots of books. favourite subjects in secondary school were history and literature, so I love reading so much and watching movies constantly all night; yet, would still wake up in the morning, go to school, read and top my class. I am very passionate about movies and at the same time, I loved academics. I never imagined that one day, I would try to produce or direct a film, but this is an eye-opener because I was curious about movie making. Whenever I finished watching any movie, I would also watch behind the scenes that came to the screen, listen to interviews with directors, editors and the crew. I like to know what goes into it and finally come to the screen. As I watched the behind crew grant interviews, listen to how they bring a story together, the dialogue, the actors talk about their experiences. It was waoooo for me; this is such an amazing field and as time goes on, I became more curious and passionate about movie making, then I said to myself, why not give it a trial.

Apart from this documentary, how do you want to take it further than just your father’s documentary?

Why I started with documentary is because I noticed that documentary is gradually becoming a bit in trend. I am on streaming platforms where I watch a lot of documentaries like true life documentaries, crime stories, that is why I chose to start with documentary. But I would love to do a proper fictional feature movie where I will write the script, direct and produce. I have noticed also that there are no many female directors and producers in the Nigerian entertainment industry, guess it is a male-dominated field which will not be easy to break, but I will try hard to break it. I am impressed with the few female directors who I have watched their works. Having female directors will give the industry a whole new dimension because women have different imaginations and can tell our stories better than men. I have heard Sharon Stone say most of her movie roles were written by men and they didn’t really understand women and that is true. Men might not understand what we go through, we can write a film and give it more attributes because we are women.  

What can you remember about your childhood, growing up in the Emirate council?

What I can say is that the North and the royals are very conservative. They do not really like to open up to the world in some ways. They are very private about their affairs in all what they do; and very conventional in religion and cultural ways. It is very closed up community on its own which do not really open about their affairs. All I can say is that they are highly conservative and that was the feeling growing up then in the Emirate council.

So, what is the tradition the Emirate conserving; is your royalty comparable with that of the Buckingham Place?  

This comes with history and culture and that has always been the norm which has to continue as a tradition and custom of the land. It has to be preserved as a Muslim/Islamic state which is guided by those instruction and if you deviate from those part, it is like not being on the right part. Therefore, one has to do things in a certain way; observe the gender roles; God has the place in the society; elders have their places to judge right and wrong. But personally, I have always been very vocal and sometimes, it gets me into trouble.

What kind of trouble, give example of what you did that got you into trouble?

Sometimes, just generally in the society; while growing up, as a girl in school, one might make a remark and the next you hear is ‘that is strange,’ while would you think you could say what you just said. You are a Muslim girl who is not supposed to be that assertive. When you as a girl serve your fashion choices and did not dress up, if you are not dressed in hijab or other pieces, you are not considered a good Muslim or proper Muslim girl. I do not believe in that; I think Muslim girls should have a choice either to wear the hijab or not; and they should be comfortable in their choice. For the fact that one does not wear hijab does not mean that one does not pray or not religious. It is just a choice. A lot of Muslim girls will not choose to wear the hijab all the time, that does not mean we are bad or not properly raised Muslim girls. I know it is a bit scandalous for saying this, but I am just trying to be a bit different. I am a Muslim girl who believes in Islam and the five pillars of Islam, my name Zainab and I also believe in freedom of expression, speech and leaving one’s dreams and path.

So, what do you want to achieve with this project, documentary of your late father, Emir Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano?

Well, it is me telling my father’s story. Knowing that a lot of kids are Generation Z (Gen-Z); they are not really aware of the past leaders and history, and I think that is sad because without history how does one move forward, how do you know how to move on from the past and correct certain mistakes when you know nothing about the history of your country which is very important. Even if Ado Bayero was not my dad, I would still be curious about him because he ruled for 51 years and that afforded him opportunity to experience different aspects of Nigerian history. For the records, my late father was born during the colonial era and became an Emir during the post-colonial era, post-independence and experienced the different phases of political rulings in Nigerian history. This documentary explores all of that. Then, this is me giving the youths and the future generation a history of the North and about the man who represented the Fulani caliphate; which in itself is a very important history which began with Uthman Dan Fodio in the 18th Century. The documentary, therefore, tends to inform and educate as well as entertaining people about history and culture. But then, there are a lot of history in the palace, Kano is full of history with the palace which was built in the 14th Century.

For the fact that childhood does not come a second time, in the caliphate where you grew up, was it like a normal setting for children to play, fight and settle, have interaction with the underprivileged children or was it the American Michael Jackson lifestyle of growing up for you?  

Generally, the North is conservative. Well again, I was raised by my mum who is not a core norther, but a Muslim from Edo State. At a point too, we lived in England and that gave me a little freedom that other people might not have because my mum is such a civilized and modern woman from Edo State, so she raised me with values to be independent and strong as woman. She will take me to trips, we travelled a lot and were quite versatile; we weren’t confined in the North at all times. She made me experience other parts of Nigeria like the South; we were always in Edo and Lagos predominantly. I have been to many parts of the South and saw different lifestyles through my mother’s eyes. Most northern girls do not have the orientation to be confident a lot to do something like this which is a bit out of the box for Muslim northern girls.

How supportive are other family members, Emirate council and Kano State government to achieve this huge project?

Well, since I came out with the idea and began this whole task on my own, my mum has really been my number one cheer person and supporter. When I told her about my plans to do a documentary on my late father; she said, “yes, you can do this, your father was a great man; your doing this for him will be amazing.” So, I decided to take it upon myself and hasn’t gotten any support from anyone. My dad’s family is on my shoulder and I am proud that I could do this on my own for him.

Talk about his reign for 50 years plus; what was his high point for staying and holding unto power for over five decades?

He ruled for half a century and was the second youngest monarch in the history of Kano. He ascended the throne at the age of 33 and died at the age of 83; few months to his 84th birthday, I guess that was the reason he was such a long reigning Emir because he took over from his uncle, Mohammed Inua who had just passed then; who reigned for six months. He had a lot of highlights in his reign. He was always a peace maker, someone who held the light of the people especially during the tough times in the North; during the Kano riots, he preached peace, calm, strength and settled people; I think those times he tried to preach peace were his greatest moments as a king.

How have you been able to carry on with the documentary, have you encountered challenges in producing the film?

Yes, every project comes with challenges and this is my first time producing and directing. When I was going into it, I did not think of the challenges or negativity, I just did it not thinking about the end game, I have been able to pull through. Though it was tough, but it made me strong and when I shot the last film and put all together, it was great. I am happy I created something that people will watch and see my words written and talked about my dad. It is amazing to me.

Have you been into writing scripts, directing and producing?

No, not exactly. I write a lot, but has never published. I have written some stories, this was a great time for me.

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