Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Last Christmas: The Strange Case of A Kannywood Actress by Onigegewura

Rabi Ismail was used to being the centre of attention. This is only natural as Rabi was a movie star. It is doubtful if there is anyone who is familiar with the Hausa movie industry, popularly called Kannywood, who does not know Rabi Ismail. She was famed for both her acting prowess and her alluring figure. Her stardom was however not limited to Kano where she was based. She was as popular in Abuja as she was known in Lagos and Enugu.

On this fateful day, as she descended from the Black Maria, she was once again the cynosure of all eyes. Camera flashlights were popping as journalists and cameramen struggled to take the perfect shot. It was everything Rabi was used to. She could as well have been on the red carpet. But this time around the delectable actress was not on a movie set. Instead of a director and a producer, she was being chaperoned towards the courtroom by prison warders and police officers.

Some passers-by who saw the screen goddess being led to the court thought it was a scene from another movie project. Rabi Ismail, also known as Rabi Cecilia, was indeed a screen goddess in her own right. She had earned her stripes by featuring in popular Kannywood movies like Mankisa, Aya, and Tsumagiya, amongst other flicks. There was no doubt that she was destined for the top of the acting profession. Some of her fans were even thinking that she would soon leave Kano for Hollywood. Well, that was until that fateful Christmas day in 2002.

What could have turned the movie star into an accused? Or could it be part of a movie script? Or perhaps it was a publicity stunt for her new movie project? These and more were the questions on people’s lips when they heard the incredible news of her arrest. For answers to these questions, let us follow Onigegewura to the Emirate of Kano for a true story that is stranger than fiction.

Umma Ibrahim woke up very early on Christmas day. She had hardly slept a wink. Her brother whom she stayed with had not returned home the previous night. Following her separation from her husband two years earlier, she had been staying with Auwalu Ibrahim, her half brother. She had made several attempts to get across to Auwalu on his Nokia phone without success. What could have happened to him? She was worried.  Unknown to Umma, Auwalu had spent the night at Farm Centre police station where he was detained overnight for a traffic related offence.

Ado Muhammad was a taxi driver in Kano metropolis. As he drove along Zoo Road on Christmas day looking for a fare, his eyes caught sight of a familiar figure standing by the side of the road. The figure looked very familiar. He was wondering where he knew the woman when he realized that she was flagging his taxi. The woman was no other than Rabi Cecilia, the popular actress. I have told you that Rabi was not an unknown commodity in Kano. Where could she be going this early? Ado wondered as he parked beside her.

Rabi wanted to hire his services for the day. After minutes of bargaining, it was agreed that she would pay him N250 per hour. Their first point of call was Farm Centre Police Station. Rabi went inside the station. Of course, the police officers on duty knew the popular artiste. What they didn’t know was that Auwalu who was detained for traffic related offence was her boyfriend. She filled the relevant forms and Auwalu was released to her.

Perhaps if Auwalu had known what fate had in store for him, he would have preferred to remain in the custody of the police. But you know that me rabon duka bai jin bari [the person who is destined to be beaten will never accept reconciliation in a fight]. From the police station, the lovers went to Auwalu’s friend’s house and from there to Auwalu’s house.

Umma was more than excited to see her brother. She had spent the day waiting anxiously for his return. Auwalu explained to his sister how he had been detained overnight at the police station. She wanted him to eat but Auwalu told her that he was going out and would soon be back to take his bath and eat. He changed his cloth and quickly dashed out. It must be true that fura da zai (za ya) zubar ba shi tara'n guribi [A pot of fura that is destined to fall will not stay in the hole hollowed out for it.]

Rabi was waiting for Auwalu in the taxi cab she had chartered for the day. The lovers decided to have a picnic at the scenic Tiga Dam. The Dam had been constructed between 1971 and 1974. It is a major reservoir on Kano River, the main tributary of River Hadejia. Ado was not very familiar with the route but as he was eager to earn his fare, he told the lovebirds that he would ask for direction. In 2002, N250 was a princely sum. He must have made a mental calculation of how much he was going to make if his service was retained for at least six hours.

They soon arrived at Tiga, but the dam was still some distance away. Rabi got down from the cab and asked for directions to the dam. The people she asked offered to lead them down to the dam. They soon located the Tiga Dam. It was a sight to behold with cascading water forming frothing foam. Ado parked his cab beside a tree and watched as the two lovers dashed off for a swim.

Ado however noticed one thing. Auwalu was not particularly excited about the swim. He looked tired and withdrawn. He soon stopped swimming and came out of the water. Rabi would have none of it. She pushed her lover back into the water. Auwalu struggled a bit and managed to crawl to the bank of the river. Again, Rabi pushed him back into the foaming waters of Kano River.

Despite his weakened state, Auwalu found his way back to the bank. Even to Ado who was watching from the safety of his cab, it was apparent that Auwalu was cold. He was trembling all over and Ado clearly heard him telling Rabi that he was feeling cold. Rabi gathered some twigs and made a small fire to warm him. Ado assumed that it must be the lovers’ idea off a movie. It was a bit weird, but he must earn his fare.

He however realized that something sinister was about to happen when Rabi approached him and asked for his help to leave the shivering Auwalu at the riverside. Ado refused. According to him: “I told her how could that be when we went there together.” 

Rabi was undaunted. She asked Ado to help her with battery acid. Having realized that her intentions were less than noble, Ado refused. She then asked for petrol. The taxi driver knew that she had no engine with her that required fuel. He didn’t want to assume that she wanted to burn the hapless and helpless young man who was now shivering uncontrollably. On the other hand, he thought it could be a plan between them to burn him and steal his precious cab. He was not comfortable with either option and he refused her request.

Seeing that Ado was not going to aid her plan, whatever it was, she asked him to take them back to Kano metropolis. On the way to Kano, Ado stopped to buy fuel for his taxi. He was hardly back in the cab when Rabi asked for fuel again. Fuel? Ado had forgotten totally about her request for petrol. It was at that point he became afraid for his dear life and his precious cab. He however managed to refuse the request.

That was when Rabi played the ace she had up her sleeves. She told the taxi driver to take them back to the dam as she had forgotten her bag. Realising that it would amount to a breach of contract not to take her and having not been paid for the charter, Ado had no choice but to turn the car towards Tiga. All these while, Auwalu was almost unconscious and was lying at the back of the car. It was clear that the Eclairs chocolate sweet given to him by Rabi was drugged.

Back at the dam, Ado expected the actress to go and look for her handbag which she claimed she had forgotten. He was surprised when Rabi asked him to assist her to bring down the barely conscious Auwalu.  Immediately Auwalu was safely out of the cab, Ado made a quick U-turn and fled! He didn’t stop to pick any fare on the way. He was thanking his lucky star for his narrow escape. Although he couldn’t place his finger on it, he knew instinctively that Rabi’s intention towards Auwalu or himself was not pure.

For the second straight night, Umma Ibrahim spent a sleepless night waiting for her brother. She could not believe that Auwalu had failed to return home again. Where could he have gone to? His phone had not been going through. She prayed that he had not been arrested for another traffic related offence.

Umma was not the only one who had a sleepless night. Ado, the taxi driver, was also not able to sleep. He wondered whether it was all a dream. The movie star, the young man at the police station, the dam, the fuel station, the forgotten handbag, back at the dam, the shivering young man, and the narrow escape. But it could not have been a dream. It was all too vivid.

After the day’s adventure, he decided to clean his car. That was when he discovered the woman’s handbag!

At the sight of the bag, his heart skipped a beat.

The lady had claimed that she left the bag at the dam. That was why she asked him to return to Tiga. So, if the bag had been in the car all along, why had she lied? What was her purpose for asking him to take them back to the dam?

Then he remembered something more important than the bag.  He had not been paid for the charter. He estimated that he was with them for eight hours. At the rate of N250 per hour, they were owing him N2,000. Although he didn’t know where the Kannywood artiste lived, he could still remember the house where the man went to change his cloth at Gyadi-Gyadi. He made up his mind to go there early on Boxing Day to collect his fare and return the bag.

Ado arrived at Auwalu’s residence early on the morning of December 26. He did not go there alone. Having regard to his experience the previous day, he asked a couple of his friends to accompany him. As he was parking his cab, he was surprised to see Rabi also arriving on a motorcycle. He handed over the bag to her and she quickly examined the contents and certified that everything was intact.

Ado then asked for his fare. To this, Rabi responded that Auwalu would pay him. Ado was not going to have any of that. It was Rabi who engaged his services and it was Rabi that must pay him. He insisted on being taken to wherever Auwalu was so that he could get his money. At this point, Umma, who knew Rabi as her brother’s girlfriend, told them that Auwalu had not come home to sleep.

Again, Ado insisted that Rabi must take him to Auwalu. Instead of taking him to where Auwalu was, Rabi took him to a house along Dan Kura Road, off Zoo Road where she gave him the sum of N2,000. Ado collected his money and sped off. He must have been thanking God for his second escape. He hoped that would be the last he would be seeing of the actress. Alas! He hoped in vain.

Umma was about to settle down to her morning chores when Rabi returned, this time alone. Umma was eager to find out whether she had brought news about her brother. Rabi told her that her brother was hale and hearty but that he was busy at a film location. He had sent her to bring his Video CD and Television set. To confirm that she had truly been sent by Auwalu, she showed Umma his I. D. card, vehicle particulars and the key to his room. Umma was convinced and she allowed her to take away the items.

Some hours later, Umma was shocked to see Rabi again, the third time that day. Rabi told her that Auwalu had asked her to bring him his CD recorder. This time, Umma refused. She insisted on being taken to wherever her brother was. Rabi pacified the distraught and obviously suspicious woman by telling her that she would “see the film director to allow Auwalu to come back home as his family were worried.” She left without being allowed to take the CD recorder.

Umma waited in vain for her brother to come back home as promised by Rabi. If she saw anyone that evening, it was certainly not her brother. To her everything was like a dream. If Auwalu was indeed at a location as claimed by Rabi, he would have at least called to inform her. She wondered why a film director would detain an adult without allowing him to call his family members.

When Ado left Rabi on December 26, he had hoped that he had heard the last of the strange couple. Do you recall that when Rabi and Auwalu left the police station on December 25, Onigegewura told you that they first went to Auwalu’s friend’s house. What Onigegewura did not tell you was the friend’s name.  And you didn’t even bother ask. No wahala, I will tell you. Aminu Ahmed was the friend’s name.

Two days later, Ado was driving his cab along Dankura Road when he saw Aminu Ahmed. His curiosity got the better part of him. He had been wondering what fate befell Auwalu after he left them at the dam. He therefore waved at Aminu who recognized him immediately. Aminu was pleased to see him and pleaded with him to follow him to Auwalu’s relatives who had not seen him since the day he was released on bail by the police. That was how the family got to know the role Rabi played in their son’s disappearance.

They all trooped to the Sabon Gari Division where a case of abduction was lodged against Rabi Ismail. The police swung into action and promptly Rabi was arrested. She was asked to assist them to find the missing actor. At the police station, she claimed that on getting back to Kano on Christmas day, she told one Ibrahim Shuru that she had left Auwalu in the bush and that the two of them went back and met Auwalu. According to her, Ibrahim carried Auwalu to an abandoned building and left him sleeping in the inner room of the house.

Following this information, Supol Adekoya, the DCP, went with some police officers and searched every room in the house. 

Auwalu was nowhere to be found.

So, where was Auwalu?...

Let's stop here for today. 

The story continues tomorrow... 

-Olanrewaju Onigegewura©
History Does Not Forget

The right of Olanrewaju Onigegewura© to be identified as the author of stories published on this blog has 
been asserted by him in accordance with the copyright laws.


  1. Kudos sir!
    This is story telling at its peak

  2. Very very intresting. Can't wait for the concluding part...

  3. More grace Sir. Always a joy to read your articles/stories.

  4. Why stop at this point? Haba! I don't like this type of suspense o!!!

  5. God bless you sir. I cant wait to read the rest.

  6. God bless you sir. I cant wait to read the rest.

  7. Which kind stoppage be this now?! Why adding to my malaria?
    Abi u dey carry goods for there to be stoppage in transitu?!
    Kudos to you brother

  8. But please the picture used is not that of kano emirate. Kano emirate picture is mostly brown green and red. With those colours you will know them. Thanks

  9. Epic.... Can't wait for the continuation.

  10. Hmmmm, tomorrow seems like a week. Please make it as early as possible. God bless you bro!
    - Odunoro.

  11. Hmmm. Reality indeed, is sometimes stranger than fiction. Well done sir.

  12. Well this is another movie but this time around it is a true life story.