“Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King.
In the past few months, I have heard all sorts of stories about the unfortunate massacre of Muslim faithfuls in Jos, Plateau state in central Nigeria on their way to the Eid prayer in September 2011 and how their flesh was roasted and eaten by Berom youths. I thought “roasted and eaten” was a metaphor of sorts so I never paid much attention to it. Even when I heard there was a video on Youtube that captured the “roasting and eating”, I never bothered to make a simple Google search to verify the incident because I just refused to believe it had happened. Then I saw the said video posted on Facebook today, I watched every frame of this unbelievably atrocious video clip with absolute horror and revulsion. I am not only incensed and disgusted by the new low some Nigerians have sunken to and how far they would go in their hatred and fighting in the name of religion, but I am very worried and disturbed by the deafening silence of our leaders, especially our Christian leaders and sections of our media over this inhuman, savage, despicable and barbaric act.
The next video shows the Berom youths dismembering the roasted body of one of the victims. In some scenes, the decapitated and roasted heads of victims are impaled and bandied about. It is very gory and gruesome, viewer discretion is advised:
There are more graphic pictures of this massacre and cannibalism HERE.
In the clip above, you can see Berom youths visibly excited, in jubilation and at times cheering as the smoke billows from the roasting flesh of the “enemy”. Their “joy” is clearly conveyed in an audio interview with a BBC reporter Rob Walker who witnessed this cannibalism. You can find an account of the event HERE. At a point as the flesh is being roasted, someone says in Hausa language “…ni zuciyan na ke so…” meaning: “I want the heart”, while another person goes further to ask “…ka sa gishiri?” meaning: “…did you put some salt”? The large crowd’s visible complicity and excitement as they eagerly anticipate their cannibalistic feast marks a descent in our collective sense of humanity in Nigeria. What I find most ironic is that these butchers and party are communicating in Hausa language, the language of their slain “enemy” or rather, their “meal” and not their own native berom language. The presence of a police vehicle in the area where the “feasting” and cannibalism on slaughtered Muslims is taking place raises questions. The police should be protecting people, maintaining law and order and stopping any criminal activity from taking place, shouldn’t they? Of course as the video shows, this is not the case.
By far, the most worrying aspect is the deafening and resounding silence from the media and religious leaders considering this was an incident that occurred in late August while the video was posted September 2011. Even when this premeditated massacre of Muslims happened, very scant coverage was given by the Nigerian media which have shown more often than not to be very biased when it comes to reportage on sectarian crisis. There have been complaints on the media hurrying to use screaming (and sometimes exaggerated) headlines of Muslims killing Christians but hardly giving adequate or fair coverage when Muslims are the victims such as the virtual lack of coverage of the planned and premeditated massacre of hundreds of Muslims in Zonkwa, Southern Kaduna during the 2011 post elections violence by most media agencies. It appears the Nigerian media have decided there is only one type of victim, the noble Christian who is usually ambushed whilst worshipping in Church or in the dead of the night by a gang of marauding, sword-toting, gun-wielding bearded Muslims in a near murderous trance, chanting “Allahu Akbar”. Anything that goes contrary to or falls outside the purview of this dominant narrative is rejected and would never be entertained, published or broadcast. As a result, such crimes against hundreds of Muslims go underreported or even unreported.
The silence of religious leaders, especially our very vocal President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor on this matter is heart breaking. This is especially because the CAN president is one who is never reluctant to vociferously bare his mind on burning national issues, whether declaring his support for the removal of fuel subsidy, declaring that Nigeria is on the brink of religious war or asking Christian faithful to protect themselves using “whatever means”. As Oritsejafor seems to have lost his voice on this occasion, one wonders whether he hasn’t heard of this barbaric act by people claiming to be acting on behalf of Christianity, or perhaps he hasn’t watched the clip? I would give Oritsejafor and other Christian leaders the benefit of doubt that perhaps they have not heard of this incident. In that case, I hope Christian leaders would not hesitate in coming out to condemn this savage act in its entirety for it certainly does not represent the image or behaviour of majority of Christians. And this is not only restricted to Christian leaders as some of our intellectual elite such as Professor Wole Soyinka or former aviation minister Femi Fani Kayode who haven’t wasted time in writing volumes on Boko Haram — sometimes using it interchangeably with Islam as if Boko Haram represents Muslims — have kept silent over this despicable act.
This incident clearly marks a new low in our collective sense of humanity as Nigerians and Africans. For heaven’s sake, we are in the 21st century, where our peers and counterparts in Brazil, China, India and Malaysia are becoming more productive, reducing poverty, broadening their world view and even competing with developed countries in economic productivity whilst we are too busy killing each other, demonizing each other, narrowing our world view further and eating our “enemies’ ” flesh in the name of religion which we have perverted and twisted. The unfair coverage given to such needless killings by our sectional media and some of our religious leaders because some victims or events do not fit the dominant narrative that has been created for such pose the greatest danger to our peaceful coexistence. We seem to forget that no life is more precious than the other and that every human life wasted is a loss to all. But with the way things are going in Nigeria, I am reminded of the Orwellian case of “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others”. How long can we continue like this and how long will we continue plunging further into this abyss?