• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
businessday logo


Rahama Sadau: Defying all odds to Nollywood stardom, career success


Not many women in the northern part of the country can defy all the odds to emerge as the face of the North before they hit 30, and only a handful would do so while battling systemic discrimination, gender bias, and constant scrutiny.

Yet, Rahama Sadau has done so in less-than-ideal conditions and continues to find new ways to shatter glass ceilings.

Until 2012, the world had never heard of Rahama Sadau. A few knew her from dance competitions and had no idea she would become a famous actress from Kannywood (Northern Nigeria’s section of Nollywood) before she hit 26.

Read also: The Human Angle: An enthralling play to watch this May

Born in Kaduna, Nigeria in 1993, Rahama grew up in middle-class neighbourhoods, getting a good education and attending dance contests. She had always loved performing and worked towards it, culminating into a fantastic acting resume, beginning at 20 when she burst into the acting scene in Gani Ga Wane alongside Ali Nuhu, a Kannywood star.

Armed with a Human Resource Management degree from the Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus, she returned to Nigeria to take on Nollywood. Rahama’s successful first outing quickly blossomed into a prolific career in 2013. By 2014, she had already won a City People Entertainment ‘Best Kannywood Actress’ Award, a feat she repeated the next year. She also won ‘Best African Actress’ at African Voice’s 2015 and 2017 African Film Awards. In 2016, Akon invited her to star in the Hollywood film America King. She also used her Hindi fluency well by appearing in the Bollywood film Khuda Haafiz: Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha in 2022.

She has one of the most diverse movie lineups when compared with other Kannywood stars, appearing in films like WAR, Two Aishas, Zero Hour, If I Am President, Rumana, The Other Side, Alkalin Kauye, Hujja, Garbati, Kisan Gilla, Farin Dare, and Mai Farin Jini. She also produced and featured in Showmax’s original reality TV series, Sadau Sisters.

EbonyLife’s 2016 Sons of The Caliphate series was critical in making Rahama a true Nollywood star. She took on the role of Binta Kutigi, a confident, intelligent, witty, and composed Northern chic who is stylish, elegant, yet traditional. Afterward, she starred in one of the most pivotal films for telling non-disaster-based Northern stories, Up North and socially conscious MTV Shuga, further boosting her image to the nation and continent.

However, all the fame and glory came with some consequences rooted deeply in systemic discrimination and gender bias. In March 2015, Sadau received a 6-month ban for reporting sexual harassment. In a now-deleted Instagram post, Sadau took to the platform to accuse director Adam Zango of firing her from his film, Duniya Makaranta, after she rejected his sexual advances. Zango was operating from a position of power when this happened. Still, the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) suspended Rahama. They accused the actress of sabotaging producers by threatening to stop recording in the middle of a production, and she posted an apology the following day on her social media page, calling her behaviour “childish”.

In October 2016, Sadau also faced backlash from her community after featuring as the love interest in a music video by pop star, Classiq. Muhammadu Kabiru Maikaba, the chairman of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), which governs Kannywood, branded her behaviour as “wayward”. In an interview with BBC Hausa Service, Maikaba confirmed that Sadau had received an industry-wide ban because of her actions. He said, “This is not the first time that she has been doing these wayward things. We have been warning her, but she still went ahead to dent our image”.

In January 2018, Abdullahi Ganduje, the then governor of Kano State, reversed her expulsion after Sadau formally apologised.

In the early days of November 2020, she once again faced controversy for posting a picture in a backless dress on her social media page. The Arewa community seriously criticised her, with many claiming she was the “devil’s tool”. It devolved into some calling for her to be arrested for “blasphemy” because her actions caused others to make “blasphemous statements” against Prophet Mohammed (SAW). The crime is punishable by death under the Sharia Law, a fate too many other Northerners have faced. In light of the backlash, Rahama deleted the pictures and released an apology video where she pleaded in remorse, make-up-less and in a solemn demeanour.

Despite all the criticism and backlash she has received, the 30-year-old continues to thrive and grow. She formed her production company, Sadau Pictures, and produced her first movie, Rariya, starring Ali Nuhu, Sani Musa Danja, Sadiq Sani Sadiq and Fati Washa in 2017. She has also produced A Lot Like Love, The Plan, Nadeeya, and Mati a Zazzau. Earlier this year, Showmax announced that the production house would be behind their latest reality series, Sadau Sisters.

The show launched on Showmax on February 12, 2024. It follows Rahama’s life, and her sisters – Zainab, a baker, restaurateur and rising star; Aisha, a make-up artist and the peace-maker of the family; and Fatima, a fashion model and the baby of the house as they navigate the intricacies of sisterhood. Not only do they discover gripping facts about each other, they also deal with family traumas and controversies, in the hopes of finding healing.

Speaking about the show, Rahama, who holds the executive Producer title, said, “I am thrilled to be doing this show with my sisters, who are simply my favourite people in the world. It presents a unique opportunity for me to share a more personal side of my life with viewers and my fans. I am grateful to Showmax for providing a platform to tell our stories, and I can’t wait for everyone to join us on this incredible adventure.”

Beyond her life in film, Rahama has also built a few other successful enterprises. She owns Sadau Beauty, a beauty line; Sadauz Home, a restaurant and lounge, and an ice cream shop in Kaduna state called Yogohamy. She is a Maltina ambassador and the Association of Northern Nigerian Students named her a Peace Ambassador. She also launched a charitable foundation called, Ray of Hope.

Rahama has faced many challenges in her journey as an actress, and will most likely face a little more before she retires, but she’s determined to keep growing. Each scandal and controversy earns her more popularity. But beyond that, it is clear that the actress is determined to be the one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen by carefully selecting her roles and the projects she signs on to. Her intentionality and dedication to the craft; against all odds, are the driving force that will keep her breaking new records for many years to come.