Tohu TV: A Participatory Video Intervention at Tohu Community

by suleimanharuna

Tohu TV: A Participatory Video Intervention at Tohu Community



Tohu is a cluster of villages located at Sabon Gari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria. It is agrarian and nomadic, and one community that is yet to feel the presence of government in terms of social services and infrastructure. Apart from a primary school with three blocks of classes, the community does not have roads, potable water or even a health center. Citizens of the community however do not complain of unemployment as most of them have farms which they cultivate and animals which they rear. Apart from these, many of them are engaged in quarrying, as the neighborhood has an abundance of granite, which ironically is being used as roadstone to make roads in more favored communities.


The team’s objective in conducting this practical project is to initiate an intervention process at Tohu community with the hope of engendering a community driven approach to cause an improvement in the life of the people.


The team’s plan is to conduct transect in order to feel the community and have an idea of the basic indices of development; thereafter, a community dialogue is expected to spark-off discussion on the important issues. Depending on the nature of the problems prioritized, the community can take action towards sustained development.

 Courtesy call on the chief

The Zaria group of Class 2009/2010 chose Tohu community for their practical intervention project. The team made contact with the community and got permission to visit on Friday 17th June, 2011. Members of the class paid the visit and were received at the house of the local Sarki (chief). While explaining the purpose of their visit to the chief, they said they were students who were on a project visit to learn more about the lifestyles of different communities and hoped to meet with a cross section of the communities that make up Tohu. In his response, the representative of the chief, Alhaji Usman, welcomed the team and apologized for the inability of the chief to be physically present to receive them. He however promised that the team would receive all the support they needed to make their project a success. He promised to send invitations to people from all the villages to attend the meeting, which he proposed to hold at the Tohu Primary School.


After the introductory visit, the team conducted reconnaissance on the villages which numbered about six and which were linearly located along a 7 – kilometer, weather – beaten track wide enough only to carry an ox – driven cart. The residents, for whom this road is second nature, generally travel by motorcycle.

We conducted transect to obtain information on the villager’s health and sanitation status, sources of drinking water, prevalent diseases and availability and type of latrines in the community.

From the transect, the team gathered that the community had a relatively healthy population, other than cases of malaria that are usually home treated. The community had pit latrines in every home and had very little refuse other than degradable material. As for the wells used to source drinking water, some are covered while some are exposed.

On our way out, the undulations and potholes eventually became our nemesis as one of our vehicles broke down and had to be left there overnight.  On Saturday, 18th June 2011, the team was at the primary school by the appointed time of 10.00am for a community dialogue.

The community dialogue

The community dialogue was attended by about 50 citizens, cutting across age but not sex, as all those that attended were males. This is not unexpected as Tohu is a Muslim community, where women hardly attend mixed public functions.

The meeting was opened with words of welcome by Suleiman Haruna on behalf of the team, after which he explained the purpose of the visit, which is to study the community in order to learn from them, join them in identifying their problems and in coming up with solutions. Members of the community responded by welcoming the team and expressed their willingness to support the project.

As provided by the participatory model of development communication, the team went with the objective of carrying out an intervention in the life of the villagers, but without any chosen area in mind. This is to be decided by the villagers themselves. The team therefore invited them to prioritize the problems of their community, which after series of discussions and adjustments were listed as follows:

  • Lack of a clinic
  • Lack of motorable road
  • Lack of electricity
  • Lack of potable water

It was during further discussions that other villagers seem to express their discontent with the four listed problems. No less a person than a mai’ anguwa (ward head) stood up and blurted that all the listed problems are secondary as none of the villagers attending the dialogue is guaranteed of a continuous stay in the community, let alone hope to get clinics or roads. He therefore called on the meeting to be realistic and truthful in identifying the most crucial problem of the community, which as he explained, was the military shooting range that is located at their backyard.

The military shooting range

The villagers seem to agree with the mai’ anguwa and roared in support. He was therefore invited to speak about the problem. He said the military have been using their grounds as shooting range for trainee soldiers for almost a hundred years. Despite this length of time, they met the villagers already domiciled in the area. They have related peacefully over the years, he said, and never had cause, despite the inconveniences of the shooting range to have any kind of misunderstanding with the soldiers.

Some years back, the military came to Tohu community without notice and took an inventory of all the homes in many of the villages. They granted themselves access to the homes without seeking permission from the owners. When they were through, they told the villagers that they were to be relocated in order to expand the shooting range and would be compensated for their homes. They however did not speak about the fate of their farmlands or where they were to be moved. All further questions from the villagers were rebuffed.

The villagers assembled and discussed the issue and agreed to report to the district head and the local government chairman. They also gained access and paid visits to the two officials who calmed them down and promised to follow up the matter on their behalf. They also wrote to the then chief of Army staff, who, while on a phone discussion with the district head, denied knowledge of any plans to move any community for the purposes of shooting range expansion.

Since the incidence, the community had not heard from the military on whether the movement was still on or not. This, they complained had kept them on tenterhooks, as they cannot plan anything without thinking they would be asked to be moved the next day. This, to the community, is the most important problem.

Sensitivity of the issue

From this point, the dialogue took a different turn. The villagers seemed to freeze along two unequal groups. Majority of the villagers believed that the shooting range is the most important and should be accorded top priority, while the minority, those behind the community leaders, did not. Eventually the majority had their way after the minority had had their say; discussion then centered on what the community could do to solve the problem.

The suggestions that were proffered were based on the following premises, the first being that the whole Tohu Community should be involved in whatever solution was eventually decided, even though some of the villages were not involved in the relocation order. Another issue raised was that some communities outside Tohu also were also to be moved, they should therefore also be contacted and involved. Besides the relocation issue, the villagers complained that each time the range is in session, they had to make long detours to get to town, which was highly inconvenient.

Participatory Video

The team was moderating discussions with questions, challenging some of the suggestions made. One of the suggestions made was to go the press with the complaints in order to gain public sympathy and the attention of the military leaders. To this, the team had said they were in a position to help, but wanted the villagers to be sure they were ready to handle the consequences, as their leaders, who are against this move could take them up on it.

When they overwhelmingly expressed their support for the move, the team suggested the use of participatory video (PV) to address their problem. PV has been defined as ‘an unscripted video production process directed by communities themselves’ (ICT Update, 2006) with the aim of highlighting the living conditions of the people towards a horizontal, vertical and exchange learning.’ (Haruna, 2010) The villagers were briefed about what PV was and how it could be used to address their problem.

The significance of the PV was hinged on the fact that it would enable the villagers to share the video with their neighbours who have the same problem, in order to secure their buy-in while taking action. The villagers were told that they would have to produce the video themselves. Responding to issues concerning training and equipment, the team promised to allow the villagers to use their camera as well as train them to use it.   Chris Lunch (2006) had explained PV as an accessible, interesting, inclusive methodology that differs fundamentally from traditional filming, in which the focus is on creating a finished product.

The community leadership

The community leaders seemed not to be comfortable with the way things were going. They therefore requested the team to give them a few minutes in order to ‘confer among themselves,’ to which the team obliged. As soon as the team left the classroom, many of the villagers also left, obviously distraught. The meeting eventually took almost an hour, after which the team rejoined the discussions. They had decided to first seek the consent of the district head before reverting back to us. They therefore asked us to give them a week. They felt that since he had made efforts to address the issue, it would be unfair to jump over his head and go to the media. Because of the furore that the meeting attracted, the villagers, speaking to us later, explained that the decision was not unanimous, as the district head had never cared to make contact with the military officials that sent the visiting detachment to take the inventory. Another reason given was that the Sarki of Tohu had given himself choice allocations when the soldiers came. These included the school compound and playgrounds for which, even though were common grounds, he claimed compensation.

The community dialogue had resulted in a classic fight between the leadership and peasants as typically discussed by authoritarian and libertarian theories, with each fighting for prominence. The authoritarian theory had promoted zealous obedience to a hierarchical superior and reliance on threat and punishment to those who did not follow the censorship rules or did not respect authority. This was the belief of the community leaders. The libertarian theory advocates absence of restraint, as the state was seen as a source of interference on the rights of an individual and his property. This was exemplified by the position of the villagers.

‘To be or not to be’

The team was disappointed at the decision of the community. However, we believed that there were layers of positions from the close – door meeting. So we decided to conduct personal interviews across the two sides of the divide. As expected, the three positions that appeared from the interviews were;

  • That it is necessary to obtain appropriate permission before further action on the intervention could continue, these group, obviously pro – establishment, believes that the PV could hold, but covering other problems than the shooting range.
  • That securing necessary permission is alright; provided it would lead to an approval for the conduct of a PV on the shooting range.
  • The last group is made up of the popular side, who are more in number and who believe that the PV should commence right away. They are of the opinion that the problem affects them and the final decision to act rests on themselves and not on someone staying many kilometers away, who they claim has nothing to lose by their ejection.

It became clear to the team that our project is about to be stifled by the decision of the community leadership, who have covertly stamped their ‘no’ against a popular position, due to its threat on their primordial interests. We held a small discussion and came to the realization that we may never be allowed to continue the project as the approval being expected may never come.

We had a choice to make; either to accept the decision of the community leadership, and suspend the project, or come up with an idea as to continue the project through the backdoor. We considered the time, resources and energy expended in the project, as well as the possibility of the same kind of scenario repeating itself wherever we decided to venture to. Most importantly, the intervention was about the people, not the leadership, and since the PV was what the people wanted, we upheld their choice and decided to go ahead with the PV.

Most of those in favour of the PV were the youths (18 – 35) who were restive throughout the debate; they also happened to have fervently requested us to forget the ‘old people’ and go ahead with the PV.

In order to avoid getting into trouble with the establishment, the team decided it was best not to implicate the youths by making them aware of the team’s intentions to go ahead with the PV. We therefore told the youths they were just going to learn how to use the camera to save us the time of teaching them when we return the next week as agreed. We invited them to return to the class room to learn the Camera’s basic operations. They did, very enthusiastically. Their return however, drew the curiosity of some pro-establishment spectators, who returned to ask whether the programme was still on. We told them it had ended, but that the youths also wanted to be interviewed like their elders. Another question they eventually came to ask was what the youths were doing with our camera, and we told them they were interested in studying it, and we were allowing them to feel it.

The youth’s were all individually given an opportunity to use the camera. The team then informed them that they were going to interview themselves just as the community leaders were interviewed. They agreed it was a good idea as they wanted their own voices to be heard. They then selected the one who handled the camera the best amongst them to be the Camera Man and a small audition was organized for the person who would do the interviews. They unanimously selected the one who spoke more fluently, confidently and asked important questions. It was an exciting process for both the youths and the team as everyone enjoyed the drama. A series of discussions then followed amongst the youth under the guidance of Jamila Mohammed and it was agreed that the PV team would interview not just their youth colleagues but also the community leaders to get their views on the issues bordering the community.

Tohu TV

Two interviews were conducted in the classroom to make the Camera Man and Interviewer have a feel of the process before they ventured into the village. When we got to a place they referred to as the mini-village square, the interviewer decided to stop and interview some elders who were holding a discussion about the meeting held earlier. He asked them basic questions about the village and their problems without giving them a hint of what he wanted them to discuss. They, on their own, ended up naming the shooting range issue as one of their major problems. He interviewed a few more people in the vicinity before he suggested going into the houses to interview the women who were always left out of such important discussions. Our team was apprehensive about taking a camera into the houses in the fear of overstepping boundaries but he assured us that it was okay to do so.

At this point it was decided to have the interviewer talk directly into the camera to explain to the viewers what he was doing and this was where the idea to make the Video a Documentary Report of the Tohu Village for a TV station was borne. The camera man and interviewer excitedly named the TV station ‘Tohu TV’ and we ventured into the houses.

The women were surprised to see the team going into their homes with a camera, but they quickly relaxed when they saw their own children doing the recording and asking the questions. Surprisingly, for the women their more pressing problems were lack of roads and access to a hospital facility as they were the ones who suffer when their children fell ill or when they needed to go for ante-natal care. They also complained of lack of electricity but would only mention the shooting range issue when prompted by the interviewer. A couple of women were interviewed in their homes and the team had to tell the interviewer that time was up; for, if he was given the opportunity he would have excitedly interviewed all the villagers.

The team went back to the school where a group of youths had gathered waiting for our return. The interviewer signed out by summarizing what he learnt from the interviews and the Camera Man handed us back the camera for a playback. It was an exciting experience and the youths could not wait to view what had been recorded.

Everything seemed to be going well until the team experienced firsthand one of the issues bothering the village: lack of electricity. Due to some technical issues, the battery of the lap-top computer that the team went with ran down and needed to be recharged for the video to be played back. Thankfully, one of the youths offered the use of his small generator to power the computer.

It then became the moment of truth as the youths all sat eagerly waiting to watch themselves on the screen and the moment the first picture appeared they all shouted in excitement. As they watched the video they praised themselves and we could see the pride in their faces to have been able to come up with such a piece. At an interview with the Camera Man, he said it was the best moment in his entire life as he felt as if he had just been told he was going for Hajj (Mecca).

It was a wonderful moment and we were also proud to have initiated the process.

The benefits of the project

Despite the fact that we were unable to accomplish exactly what we had hoped, a PV on the problem on shooting range in the villages of Tohu community, one thing is certain; we have activated the community and initiated a process that is doable, sustainable and practical.

  • The community has for the first time initiated a discussion on the problem of the shooting range from the two sides of the divide, the villagers seem to have dissipated a fear of authority and opened up. The most critical points of this reality are the way some of the villagers left the hall in indignation to express themselves and their position. The second being the decision, which reverberated, on the need to hold an expanded meeting one week from now to regurgitate the issues for further action. This would lead to sustained community dialogue, which would in-turn lead to sharpening of skills for debate, negotiation and resistance.
  • The villagers have opened their eyes to the possibilities of using enlightenment, putting pressure and soliciting buy-in to solve their problems.
  • The PV format has provided for them a platform to express themselves and to seek change for their community. Being able to handle a camera, record a shot, and screen such a shot is not just a lifelong experience, but it will exert some kind of pressure on those who tried it, to secure another camera with the hope of doing it on their own.


The team received word from the community leadership after six days that the district head had turned down the request to allow us conduct the PV; what is more, we were told that we cannot return to the community to continue the project in any way. The reason being that the community has ‘unnecessarily’ attached importance to the issue of shooting range and are not likely to discuss other matters.

The team has therefore decided to stop the project, having achieved the successes listed above and having substantially achieved our stated objective.

Team members

Suleiman Haruna

Jamila Mohammed

Samuel Lawal

Maryam Mbacha

Aager Taver

Elaigwu Ameh

Omore Orifa

Jamila Umar Afilaka

Alkasim Yahaya Kajuru




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