Democracy has been defined as government of the people, by the people, and for the people. While studying government both in secondary school and tertiary institution, we were never thought that electoral violence is an inherent element or feature of democracy. But today the reverse is the case.
Within a decade of demonstration of democracy in the Nigerian polity, the issue of free and fair election devoid of electoral violence and other maladies have continued to take the centre stage. The justice Uwais’ led electoral reform panel was set up to find lasting solution to the teething problem of how to reform the present electoral system to the satisfaction of Nigerians, the ruling party – the Peoples Democratic Party and opposition political parties, without giving the ruling party an undue advantage over other parties .
However, this piece does not wholly centre on justice Uwais’s electoral reform report or committee but on who is responsible for youths participation in electoral violence, why they engage in such condemnable act and how to curb it. It has been argued in many spheres, write-ups and discourse that the devil whoever he or she is, whether abstract, immaterial or concrete provides easy work for indolent minds which often than not lead to their destruction. No doubt the saying: an idle mind is the devil’s workshop or tool.
The contemporary teeming unemployed, frustrated, hungry, angry and poverty stricken youths, some with criminal dispositions, occasioned by ill leadership become ready machines in the hands of unscrupulous politicians whose bid is to ascend elective pinnacle by hook or crook. Capitalizing on their obvious shortcomings (joblessness), a few of our present day crop of politicians with ignoble motives enlist jobless youths to execute the hatchet men job – thuggery and its attendant features. No right thinking youth with well seated conscience can impose himself on a politician to aid and abet electoral violence. It is in rare situations that one can see or find a youth who takes it upon himself to engage in electoral violence just to help a politician to ascend an elective position.
In the bid of many a politician to clinch elective post, they recruit youths as their thugs, provide them with security outfits as well as arms and ammunition in order to achieve their pre-conceived plans. Little wonder elections in this part of the world have been described as a “do-or-die” affair, courtesy of power-drunk, greedy, inordinate, overambitious and violent-oriented politicians who want to be in power by all means. According to Chief Hon. Omenazu Jackson, the National Publicity secretary of African Renaissance party, ‘it is in only Nigeria that you kill and maim in election days and go about the streets unchallenged”, National Mirror, April 27, 2009 pg 9. No doubt people have been maimed for live, injured and killed as result of this ugly trend that has found its way in our body politics.
Though, a negligible number of youths may have come into temporary affluence as a result of participation in election violence, some propelled by this, (temporary affluence) have bemoaned their sad faith as they are most times used and abandoned by their so called paymasters, especially when the long arm of the law catches up with them. Some are arrested and kept to rot in the prison without the employers caring a hoot. On the part of electoral officers, some lost their lives and their family made untimely sorrowful due to the activities of thugs during elections. Some thing expedient need to be done urgently to tackle this ugly trend if this nation is determined to expunge this hydra-headed malaise in its political milieu.
It is important to note that the just concluded governorship election in Anambra state did witness sporadic violence, efforts should be geared towards prosecuting those arrested. In addition, an in-depth investigation should be carried out with a view to unveiling the identities of politicians who recruited thugs. If eventually arrested, prosecuted and found guilty of sponsoring violence during the election, adequate punishment should be extended to them to serve as a deterrent to like mind politicians who might nurse such ambition. It is only when this is done that violence experienced during elections could be drastically reduced.
Nwaorgu Faustinus Chilee, Socio-political commentator, writes from Igboetche, Port Harcourt, Rivers State
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