“Jega! Jega! Ka gama dani! [You have finished me]. Ka kasheni! [You have killed me]. Kayi mini tsirara! [You stripped me naked].” -Kasagi
By Mahmud Jega
One day in 1991, I was sitting in Citizen magazine’s Board Room at Unguwar Kanawa, Kaduna, busy writing the week’s cover story. My colleague Tawey Zakka sat nearby, also doing his assignments. Suddenly the door opened and a man in flowing white gown and a tall native cap peeped in and asked, “Who is Jega?” Tawey pointed at me, which I thought was imprudent since we did not know the man or his mission.
Although I knew Umaru Danjuma Katsina, popularly known as Kasagi na Halima, very well from his book Kulba Na Barna and from numerous television dramas that I watched over many years, I did not at first recognise him that day. I soon did because he immediately launched into a most dramatic display. Walking sartorially from one end of the room to another, twisting his gown left and right and throwing his cap into the air, he shouted, “Jega! Jega! Ka gama dani! [You have finished me]. Ka kasheni! [You have killed me]. Kayi mini tsirara! [You stripped me naked].”
Fearing that a major confrontation was on the way, Tawey gathered his papers and left the room. I was unfazed, however. Since it was Kasagi, known throughout Hausaland for his great acting skills, I knew that it was all a bluff.
The issue was a story I did for Citizen magazine a week earlier. Covering Katsina State was one of my unstated duties in the magazine, and I travelled there frequently to report on its governance, politics and other issues. Now, a small scandal erupted that year during the submission of drama entries for the National Drama Competition. Most states submitted entries but when the judges sat down to review them, the tape recording submitted by Katsina State turned out to be blank.
The state’s tempestuous military governor, Colonel John Yahaya Madaki, blew his top when he heard the news. The Director of Arts and Culture, Sani Yusuf Sada said it was Kasagi who took the tape to Kaduna after they finished shooting the film in Katsina. Kasagi also played the leading role in the drama entry and had offered to take the tape to Kaduna because the deadline for submission of entries was only hours away. The director suspected sabotage because Kasagi was the Deputy Director of the Council and there was apparently no love lost between the two of them.
After his dramatic display in our office, Kasagi calmed down and told me his own side of the story. He had no reason to submit a blank entry, he said, because he worked for many hours on it and he was confident it could win the prize. He also said that two different tapes were brought to Kaduna from Katsina; that he brought one and the Director himself brought one. “So, which one of them is blank?” he thundered. “At least they should investigate!” I agreed with him that they should.
Other things that he said on that occasion indicated to me the source of the conflict between the director and his deputy. Kasagi was a veteran actor who had starting working in the Arts and Culture circle right from Kaduna, many years before the creation of Katsina State. On the hand, the director was a university lecturer [at the then University of Sokoto, where he was my senior] before his appointment to direct the council. Kasagi said, “He is just a lecturer! He does not know anything about culture!”
I knew that attitude right from Sokoto when I lived there, the tension between intellectuals and artistes at the Culture Bureau, each group looking down at the other. I don’t think the matter of the blank tape was conclusively resolved. Col. Madaki sacked both the director and his deputy, saying they caused serious embarrassment to Katsina State. Kasagi then moved to Ahmadu Bello University [ABU], Zaria’s rich cultural centre.
Tawey Zakka was surprised when he saw me escorting Kasagi downstairs, hand in hand. He thought we were having a brawl. He said, “I thought he was very angry!” And I said, “No, he was only acting, being a very famous actor.”
I never saw Kasagi again until I heard about his death on Friday morning. He was a great man who entertained millions over many decades with his rib-cracking roles in television plays. May Allah grant him peaceful rest in Aljannah.
—Culled from 21st Century Chronicle, Friday, October 29, 2021.