Filming Violence: Like Gaza, Like Jos North

Watching the Jos Crisis movie, I couldn’t help thinking in the same way as Dershowitz; when was the “Jos North Muslim Umma, Information Desk and Media Interview Committee” the producers of the movie set up to so capture the November 28/29 crises? And when it was set up, did it know that a bloody crisis was imminent in Jos? And did it have a role in “the Russian roulette” of burning churches to stir up the requisite violence for the filming crew for the movie: “A Fact File on the Jos North Nov. 28th-29th Post-Election Genocide”? Or, was that the task of yet another, presently unknown, committee to get the actors of this morbid movie moving on cue? In short, who stirred the trouble so chillingly captured by the lenses of this Committee? It is now no longer in doubt that the Jos crisis, whether over local government elections or not, took the form of religious crises immediately upon the burning of churches in the wee hours of November 28, 2008. Why was it so? Why was the PDP or ANPP State/Local Offices not set ablaze? Why was the PLASEIC office not destroyed? Why was the Jos North local government headquarters not torched? The answer is simply; If you want to make Rabbit soup, you must first get a rabbit. You can’t get a movie script on religious genocide, and go about shooting political scenes of PDP and ANPP thugs flinging it out on the streets, can you? That wouldn’t have made it a religious genocide, would it? Point is; the Jos North crisis film makers know a lot more about the origin of the crisis than their film reveals.

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According to Dershowitz, the CNN strategy works because “decent people all over the world are naturally sickened by images of dead and injured children. When repeatedly flashed across TV screens, they tend to react emotionally.” Permit me to quote Dershowitz at some length here: “Rather than asking why these children are dying and who is to blame for putting them in harm’s way, the average viewer, regardless of their political or ideological perspective, wants to see the killing stopped.

“They blame those whose weapon directly caused the deaths, rather than those who provoked the violence by deliberately targeting civilians.”

This is the situation in Jos North whereby instead of objectively looking at the cause of the religiously-manipulated crisis and apportioning blame accordingly, the media propaganda, according to some pre-determined cue, began a chorus about a so-called genocide. With the release of this gruesome “movie” whose aim is to cause religious disaffection in the country, one begins to understand the orchestrated media campaign against the Government and people of Plateau State. The Daily Trust columnist, Mallam Mohammed Haruma apparently wrapped in a pre-globalism time-capsule was even boorishly penning a column Gaza: Blaming the victim ( January 14, 2009) and critiquing the Western Press for supporting Israel when indeed it was the same Western International Press, succumbing to Hamas’ cheap “CNN strategy” propaganda on their networks, that made for the let up of hostilities and allowed the Hamas a breathing space to negotiate a desperately needed ceasefire. This is the same Haruna that had written about the Jos crisis calling it genocide essentially on the basis of hearsay.

In discussing this phenomenon of the so-called CNN strategy, many people have wondered why the Christians have not produced their version of the tragic events on multi-media. I think such questions are either naïve or mischievous; war, as one world leader once remarked is no tea-party. Hiring a camera will not be the first thing on your mind when you are told that war has broken out. Unless you are the aggressor armed with a knife or a gun, your first instinct will be to flee to safety. It therefore speaks volume that anyone, in recent crisis which took the whole town by surprise, was so steady nerved to have thought of making a “film” in the face of such calamity.

But more than just steady nerves, it certainly takes the stoniest-hearted to film such tragic real-life human calamity for whatever altruistic purpose. Taking such risk or morbid interest, in my opinion, could never have been for any reasonable purposes but evil. We don’t need to speculate about the pecuniary interests involved but we know that the film is now being circulated widely to draw the ire of the Muslim umma nation-wide against the government and people of Jos who these mischief-makers desperately want to brand as xenophobic and also want to frame against them charges of genocide. We also know that this kind of treasonable acts against the nation fetches lots of money from their foreign sponsors who have all along been envious of Nigeria’s progress as united and strong country. As many good people of this nation know, most of the ethno-religious crises we have been witnessing in this country, especially in the Northern parts, have been sponsored by obnoxious terrorist organizations that don’t mean well for this nation.

The widely circulated “movie” is more than just a film on the Jos Crisis. It is a further reinforcement of the biased framing of any sectarian violence in Jos as genocide. While Kano and Bauchi states regularly relapse into the most inexcusable killings of fellow Nigerians, it is Jos that is always singled out for the harshest chastisement by the Presidency and the National Assembly whenever civil disturbances breakout. It is like the Federal authorities have adopted a dual standard; one that it applies to the killing of Christians and another to the killing of Muslims in events of ethno-religious crises in the North. In many parts of northern Nigeria today, Christians and non-Hausa Fulani Nigerians live in mortal fear of what fate could befall them, at the shortest notice, from very extraneous questions such as: will America invade Iran, will Israel attack Iran, will an okada rider crack a joke considered “blasphemous” by his listeners, will an American or European Christian leader make a verbal slip considered offensive to Islam, etc? For such superfluous reasons as these, Christians have been massacred in many northern states in the past. But more worrisome is the fact that in the face of the killings, neither the Presidency nor the National Assembly ever did anything against these aggressors in the same manner that they always try to find scapegoats in the events of any flare up in Jos. This has given the impression that the Federal Government only bares its teeth when the victims of violence are Muslims or Hausa Fulani.

The Jos Crisis film is potentially a lethal poison in the veins of already bellicose communal relations in the North and one expects that the security agencies should have by now arrested and arraigned its producers and distributors for treason and dissemination of falsehood. For, indeed, the spread of falsehood and criminal discontent lie at the heart of the project with its hopelessly puerile film trickery and cheap forensic deception that are just too obvious to the trained eye.

Apart from questioning the motive and modus operandi of the producers of the film, the film lacks all ingredients of credibility. But they are cashing in on our people’s gullibility, more especially in the North where the darkness of illiteracy overwhelms our people and make them too susceptible to maninpulation. The film exhibit several shortcomings.

The carefully laid out corpse in an enclosure is intended to give the visual impression of a massacre, a la Rwanda or Srebrenica. But the truth is that the positions of corpses were tempered with; indeed they had been carefully re-assembled by the film producers and their extras in the mosque where they were filmed. As far as the picture genre is concerned such piling of corpses created the crowded sight which in turn creates the notion of bloodbath which the film crew intended to create. But as any greenhorn investigator will say, the evidence has been tempered with; a euphemism for saying it is no longer reliable evidence. comcluded…

• Mr. Simji contributed this piece from Abuja and be reached at kwsimji@yahoo.com

However, while allowing that the ferrying of corpses to the mosque to be filmed was, to an extent, visually effective in the sinister objective to create a “massacre”, this incredulous action has however raised serious doubt about the authenticity of the claim that the victims were Hausa Fulani Muslims. There is absolutely no way of identifying a corpse by religion; absolutely impossible even going by common stereotypes of dressing or facial features. Was it not the same Hausa Fulani writers that have been boasting in recent newspaper articles that the Plateau indigenes imitate their dressing or language? Besides, it is a well known fact that in time of crisis people could improvise (or is it disguise?) in order to flee to safety.

In any case, the Igbo community and others have kicked against the mass burial given to the victims of the violence, and filmed in the said grisly movie, asking for exhumation of the corpses for proper identification. They argue that many of their relations were among the corpses taken into the mosque. Indeed, it was reported that a visitor from Abuja who came to commiserate with the Muslim victims at the mosque was taken aback by a corpse wearing a crucifix. Some other people have alleged that the corpses were taken away from where they were killed because these were areas occupied by their murders and they were taken to the mosques to “get rid of evidence.” It is a serious indictment that people were given mass burial, portrayed in the film, exclusively on the say-so of a religious group without the coroners’ identification or approval. How were these Muslim clerics able to know that the corpses burned beyond recognition were Muslims and went ahead to bury them?

Another forensic flaw in the film was its inability to show how the carnage took place in the mosque or the places shown in the film. The mosques bear neither visible bullet marks nor even bloodstains. Roasted corpses lie next to bullet-wounded corpses without any clear reason why the cause of death would be so different among corpses found in the same place.

However, more fundamental questions are raised on why the corpses were not filmed in their places of death. This leads to a lot of disturbing questions which the film-makers will not find comfortable in addressing. Such questions will expose their post-violence preparation, logistics during the crisis, sponsors, etc. By the time the police get to question them we shall indeed be better informed on the nature of the whole crisis. But will the police ever arrest them? Or will it be another chasing of the wind as the case of the 26 arrested armed mercenaries who some police are claiming are members of a vigilante group but they (the police) are not explaining, to anyone, how the vigilantes were armed and bearing fake military and police uniforms as well as forged identity cards and were caught, lest we forget, in the heart of security-challenged Jos, during curfew hours!

Finally, it needs stating that while the “CNN strategy” by the Jos North film-makers is aimed at whipping Islamic sentiments against Plateau indigenes, it has nothing to do with advancing the interest of Islam. Islam we all know is a religion of peace but these mischief -makers instead of praising Allah for restoration of peace in Plateau State are baying for blood by circulating such provocative material.

Some of our youths are always readily mobilised to demonstrate for causes which have no relevance to their lives or improves their welfare. No long ago the respected Emir of Zaria was assaulted by some unruly youths in Zaria; but the self-appointed leader of the sect passed it off as a protest against the “Zionist” attack on Gaza as if the Emir, the leader of the Umma, had anything to do with it.

But you ask yourself, why is it that these self-styled Islamic leaders have never organised demonstration against what is considered as the world’s worse humanitarian crisis? Their fellow Africans and Muslims in the Dafur region of the Sudan are facing genocide in the hands of President Omar Bashir, an Arab Muslim, who has an international arrest warrant dangling before him for crimes against humanity at the war crime tribunal at The Hague? The answer is simple: they are not defenders of Islam or Muslims; they are just simply brain-washed Arabists. The Arab and Muslim government in Sudan has killed more Muslims and Africans than Israel has done going by the casualty figures in Dafur released by the United Nations, yet the Arabist megaphones and admirers in Nigeria will sooner kill their Nigerian neighbour in protest against the Israeli war in Gaza than send a word of solidarity to the millions of Dafuri Muslims being ethnically cleansed by President Bashir.

We ought to applaud the role of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar for the very fatherly role he has played in fostering inter-religious and inter-communal peace since he assumed the throne. Since the Jos crisis, he has spoken forthrightly in mature and measured tones. We have confidence that with people like him the nation will overcome this present challenge to its survival. There should be no rooms for charlatans and imposers bearing all manners of false titles pretending to speak for the Muslim umma or the Christian majalisa but only advancing their quest for societal relevance.

Nigerian youths, Christians and Muslims, ought to wake up to their responsibly and resist being used by mischief-makers for selfish ends. They should demand for jobs and economic opportunities instead of allowing themselves to be used to perpetrate violence against fellow citizens.

Mr. Simji can be reached at kwsimji@yahoo.com