Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sons of the Caliphate || TV Review

Last year, my favourite Nigerian Channel, Ebony Life TV aired a thirteen part drama series called Sons of the Caliphate which according to them;

'Sons of the Caliphate' is a drama series based on the lives of three rich, entitled, passionate and ambitious young men, Kalifah, Nuhu and Diko, all caught up in the hidden corners of power, the darkness of addiction, the heat of love and desire, the obligations of family loyalty, and the craving for revenge.

The show looked into the lives and relationships of Kalifah, Nuhu and Dikko who are "Abuja Big Boys" originally from a fictional state of Kowa. It covers many challenges faced by privileged Nigerian youth; family pressure, drug addiction, keeping up appearance, political greed and so much more. The show features strong men and even stronger women working their way through various states of emotional instability.

First Impressions

Right from the trailer I knew regardless of the storyline, I was going to be following this show. It gave the impression of a well thought out modern look into the lives of Northern Nigerians, who I feel are greatly misrepresented in mainstream Nigerian media.

The Cast

Rahma Sadau, who plays the female lead (Binta Kutigi) is a superstar in the Hausa Movie industry with an insanely HUGE international fanbase! Casting her as a lead is a great way to draw in the young arewa audience for sure. She also had a little 'scandal' going on right before the launch of the show, so there was a lot of press about her and many tuned in to watch her new product as a form of solidarity.

Yakubu Muhammad, another Hausa movie star did a great job playing Dikko Loko! I must confess, whenever I click on a Hausa channel and see Yakubu Muhammad I change the channel sharply! I'm a fan of his singing (romantic songs of the 90s and 2000s) but not his acting! So I wasn't expecting much from him. Surprisingly, he portrayed the part of a cunning, conniving, scheming snake quite well. He should switch to acting in English and not Hausa.

A post shared by Yakubu Mohammed (@yakubu_mohd) on

Rabi'u Rikadawa is another Hausa movie veteran. Me and Mr.H's favourite Hausa actor! He is so versatile and his timing when it comes to comedy and sarcasm is impeccable! He plays a small role of a party chairman in SOTC.

Mofe Duncan also did a good job playing Nuhu.

If I were to be nitpicky, I'd say the one thing that bothered me were the accents! Some of the cast members tried a little too hard to fake Hausa accents *cough Patrick Doyle cough* and it felt quite forced and times, difficult to understand.

Given the profile of the characters, its unnecessary to force Hausa accents. Abuja big boys that have spent a large chunk of their lives in England do not have strong Hausa accents #fact. They're more likely to have English accents or a normal Nigerian accent.

The casting was quite well done, I must say! Apart from the little thing with the accents, everyone interpreted their roles wonderfully. My other favourites were Lottie (Yvonne Hays), Ziha (Nita Byack George), The Galadima (Ziha's Dad) and Suleiman (Khalifa's annoying brother quite well).

The Fashion!

The styling was on point. I liked Dikko, Nuhu and Binta's style the most.

Here are a few of my favourite looks.

Quick question: is Binta allergic to sleeves? Hehe. Most of her looks are either sleeveless or sheer. I don't blame her though, I'd never wear sleeves too if my arms were that toned.

Loved this two toned blue and black maxi dress!

And this burgundy satin and black chiffon dress.

Nuhu's caps are great, I wish he'll bend them in a little bit. In fact, they used some really beautifully women zanna caps on this show! Its these kind of details that makes the fashion authentic.

 Dikko's  short sleeved casual kaftans are so nice, I took screenshots to make some for the husband.

I did find some costumes to be a little "type casted" (Ziha and her turbans, evil queen and her dreary clothes, Khalifa and his tazarces) but it all adds to the background of the person. i.e. Ziha is the daughter of a Galadima, therefore royalty so that explains her bejeweled kaftans and turbans.

To make Khalifa even more like a prince, perhaps they should dress him up in some zabuni (hand embroidered clothes worn by royalty) They are widely available in Zaria, Kano Katsina etc.

Ziha's look: Bejeweled Kaftans and two layered turbans

Here are a few of my favourite looks.

The Location

Okay, someone did their home work!

How on earth are there so many beautiful locations in Abuja? Lottie's first apartment was to die for. I liked the classic look of Khalifa and Ziha's house too.

The location scout did an awesome job portraying modern Abuja living spaces.

The Production

Now I'm no filmmaker, so I may not be the best person to comment on this, but from a viewers perspective, SOTC was very well made! This is an area where Ebony Life beats all other Nigerian Networks. They don't play with the quality of their productions. SOTC was well in line with other productions from Ebony Life TV. It captures the visual richness of Arewa culture splendidly. It's quite pleasant to watch.

The Story Line

Despite ending on a cliff hanger that really irked a lot of fans (me, included), the plot and storyline is actually quite rich. The story has several layers and each character is multidimensional making them human and relatable. Besides, the writer went on twitter to reassure us that there'll be a second season, which cooled us down a little bit. Judging by the photos the actors have been posting on instagram, it seems filming has already began, so yay!

I found the story a little slow in the beginning, especially with all those political meetings. They took up a lot of time! But I understand that the creators may have been targeting both male and female audiences, so they had to man it up a bit. No qualms.

Then towards the end the story stared moving so fast, and before you know it, two of our favourite characters had bitten the dust.

Cultural Representation

While SOTC does a good job portraying Arewa culture to a Nigerian and international audience, there are a few minor details that will make an Arewa insider like me cringe a teeny little bit. Of course I understand from a production point of view, some details need to be overlooked. However, just for nerdy fun, let me point some cultural discrepancies out.

1. The word caliphate is catchy for a show title, but what we were shown on TV was more of an emirate. Let me explain: In Northern Nigeria, there are several emirates sprawled across the region. Initially, these emirates were run by the Ruling Hausa family, descendants of Bayajidda. But after the Fulani Jihad of the 1800s, many of these Hausa rulers were replaced by Fulani rulers, with a central Emir being the head of this council of emirs (The sultan of Sokoto). So in Nigeria, a caliphate refers to a collection of emirates with a sultan at the head. Because of the size of Maiyaki's caliphate on SOTC, Kowa Caliphate looked more like an Emirate. Nitpicky, I know but hey! Only ITKs like me will know the difference.

2. The line of succession in does not automatically go to the first son of an emir. In fact, the reason why we have kingmakers on the emirate council is to choose the most suitable heir out of all the eligible men of royal lineage. For example, I'm from Daura which is the origin of all the Hausa Kingdoms and the criteria for selection is to be a son or grandson of a past emir. Meaning when its time to choose a successor, every living son and grandson of an emir both past and present are eligible to be chosen. A list is made and one by one, candidates are eliminated based on an extensive criteria (e.g. level of education, exposure etc). The past emir of Daura (Sarki Bashar) took over from his Granddad and the current one took over from his brother.

3. You cannot choose a successor while the emir is alive. This is actually an abomination. If an emir were to give up the throne to someone else, he has to be exiled from the emirate (self imposed or forced, he just cannot live there). If the emir is sick and wants a break, the throne can only be held temporarily and the holder has to be the Magajin gari, who sits on the emirate council or someone specially chosen by the kingmakers and if the emir dies while the temp is on the throne, a new selection has to take place from scratch using the criteria I mentioned above.

4. THE QUEEN!!! Omigosh, she was my least favourite character not just because of the story but her portrayal is so far off from how a queen of an emirate or caliphate is in real life.

  • Her Fashion! They did not try for the queen at all o! Please come to our fada and see how matar sarki dresses. They tried to give her an alkyabba towards the end, but alkyabbas are usually kept for outdoor ceremonial activities.
  • There is no way the queen and Waziri can meet secretly outdoors. The way our palaces are planned, it's not possible for a queen to have this kind of privacy without her servants and handmaidens and dogarai around. More realistically, she would summon him to her court and send everyone out. 
  • She also won't lift heavy items, bring water to the emir with her own hands in public and she definitely won't be there while the palace is being swept, telling the servants to clean properly. Queens are quite regal and over pampered, this one felt a little too Jaguda, which kind of fits her evil role.

5. There is no way a female servant will clean a prince's bedroom! Especially while he is still in it. A prince will have a host of male cleaners and attendants. Unless he is married, there is a line where females will not cross.

There really is no secrecy in the Royal court. Even if you bypass the palace guards and attendants, nothing will stay hidden from the servants unless they are specifically asked to give privacy.

Please don't get me wrong, this cultural analysis doesn't remove anything from the show at all! Just a few observations I've made and how in MY CULTURE, we do it a little differently.

That's it!

Final Thoughts

Personally I would say SOTC is the best regional drama I have seen come out of Nigeria in a really long time! Well done to the Creators, Writers and Producers. It is so obvious that a lot of work went into this show and I am so thankful for that. 

I have the complete season recorded on my DVR and I don't think I'll be deleting it anytime soon! Whenever I have guests looking for something to watch I find my self scrolling down to SOTC even though it ended months ago!

All in All, I'll give them a resounding 


Can't wait for season 2!

So did you watch the original run of SOTC?

Who is your favourite? 

Are you looking forward to the next season?

Let me know in the comments below!

xo xo 


Disclaimer: The photos used in this blog post are not mine. They are either screen shots from Ebony Life TV's Youtube page or Promo photos from Ebony Life Tv's website.

Yes, I actually paused and took screenshots from the trailers... I'm that nerdy!


  1. Love ur narrative of the TV Drama series,u've definitely got me interested in watching it. The pics are lovely too. I think they need to hire you as a consultant for more insider info on the cultural aspects. You are right about the misrepresentation of Northern Nigeria even by Kannywood, its refreshing to see these kind of culturally diverse shows that everyone can enjoy and hopefully there'll be more.

  2. Hello Ummi, my name Is Dimbo Atiya the Creator/ Writer/ Producer/Director of SONS OF THE CALIPHATE. Someone drew my attention to this review and I must say it was a very fantastic review and very insightful. Thank you for all the positive vibes and criticism, we take all in good strides. I have learnt a lot from your write up and we will work with your suggestions. I wish we had met before season 2 writing, would have been nice to have u in the writers room as a consultant. That being said, I will like to invite you to be a consultant in the writers room should a season 3 be commissioned. We will keep you posted. We hope you will get to see season two and write your honest opinion like you did this one. Thank you very much for taking out time to review.

  3. How can I watch this, Please? Are they having reruns of season 1?

  4. Ummi this is such a wonderful review. I've been giving this show my side eye on ebonylive for a while.

  5. I really want to watch the show!.nice review though.By the way please upload a new chapter for your book on wattpad,who is Anisa haque ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘