The Nigerian army is in talks with Nollywood filmmakers to take the war against Boko Haram onto the big screen. It’s believed the initiative could help counter negative perceptions of the military in the eyes of civilians, following abuse allegations by rights groups like Amnesty International. Critics are nonetheless skeptical that this may be a publicity stunt.
Officially, Nollywood filmmakers approached the army first and not the other way round.
Major General Rogers Ibe Nicholas has been quick to dispel rumours that the army is behind plans to take the war against Boko Haram onto the big screen.
“Nollywood filmmakers have approached us about having necessary access, information and equipment,” he said.
The idea was inspired by the upcoming film 76 by Tonye Princewill, which also focusses on the military.
Asked whether or not a movie about the Nigerian army would help improve its image, Nicholas did not disagree.
“What the film would bring out are the sacrifices by the Nigerian army, and it would illustrate everything it is doing to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and civilians as enshrined in the constitution,” he said.
However critics feel that such a venture may be too early: “Picturing something on Boko Haram I think is a bit premature, I don’t know how this is going to lend support or improve our chances of defeating the insurgency and the war on terror,” Chinedu Anarado of the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, said.
Boko Haram militants have waged a bloody insurgency in the north-east of the country for nearly seven years, and killed at least 17,000 people.
On Wednesday, suspected militants killed a further six people in Kuda village in Adamawa state, according to locals on the ground.
Yet the military has also come under attack – not just for failing to end the insurgency – but for also carrying out atrocities against villagers, Amnesty International revealed.
Film makers have to strike a delicate balancing act, so as not to fall into the trap of spreading military propaganda.
For Uduak Oguamanam, famous for her movie Falling, the best way to do that is to give a human perspective.
She said that she would be tempted to capture the plight of nearly 2,000 school girls kidnapped in Chibok by Boko Haram in 2014, which sparked international outcry.
“If I personally were to tell a story about the Chibok girls, I would take it from the angle of the mothers and the parents, showing their pain. At Nollywood, we try to give viewers something they can relate to,” she said.
The plight of the Chibok girls and other women kidnapped by Boko Haram has been the focus this week of a new report by International Alert entitled Bad Blood.
It looks at the challenges facing survivors upon returning to their communities.
Many of them have been sexually abused and given birth to children, but they face a double trauma when returning home: rejection by their families, who think they may be trying to recruit for Boko Haram.
Authors of the report say the only way to improve their reintegration is to change people’s perceptions.
Image-building in many ways is also what the army is trying to do with its movie on Boko Haram.