Ahead of the postponed general elections, incidences of politically motivated violence are rising across the country. Unfortunately, the youths that are short-changed by desperate politicians are the ones they engage to carry out these nefarious acts in this piece Umar Sa’id Moh’d examines the import of youths in political thuggery and how this trend can be curtailed and eliminated.
Political thuggery or violent acts caused in the society, especially during political campaigns have caused Nigeria a lot of set back as a result of unnecessary killings and destruction of property worth billions of naira. The act is believed to be executed by youths, through the backing or sponsorship of their masters who are behind the scene.
Youths are believed to be the most valuable asset for engendering any societal development. They are the engines and pillars upon which every human society depends. Human history indicated how the youths served to depend and develop their various societies, which always promote and give to the society economic balance, political stability and social justice.
Some experts refer to youths as the young people whose years fall between 10 and 16 while others classified them as those between 6-30 years. This latter classification conforms to the formal education years, tampering with which may endanger the youth’s life and subsequently the society.
The vision 2010 report defined youth as persons aged between 12 and 30 years. On the other hand, a youth is defined as any person in the period between early childhood and old age. These few classifications show the importance of youths to the survival and progress of their respective societies. This is because youths contribute much towards social, economic, and political developments and defence of their societies.
Similarly, most of the world’s development strategies largely depend on the youths. This societal segment is believed to assist in producing sustained economy, social justice and stable democracy of a nation. It is therefore very important if the society could produce a qualitative youth to make these a reality.
It’s a fact that some selfish politicians in Nigeria instead of encouraging our youths to attain better education as well as to contribute towards the nation building, they resorted into luring the youth to partake into negative activities such political thuggery, rigging election, etc. Some have even went to the extent of using illegal drugs before performing such negative business in the society.
Majority of the youth that form the habit of taking illegal drugs that were interviewed were at their tender ages of inducing their peers, involve in political thuggery that calls for rivalry, killings, injuries, opposition clashes, etc. Majority of the youth drug abusers are unemployed, although economic factors such as profit maximisation encourage drug abuse habit among them.
Lack of higher educational qualifications is another factor that pushes the youth into drug abuse and subsequently to politically related crimes. Similarly, political thuggery is also a factor responsible for drug abuse among the youth in the study area.
Politics in Nigeria has been rightly called a ‘do or die affair.’ The political atmosphere in the country has been one of tension and violence as various vices operate. The politicians will use any means to get into power and this is usually made manifest during election periods when various forms of election malpractices is the order of the day.
There is the election rigging, stealing of ballot boxes, intimidation and threats to opponents, assault, assassination, harassment, maiming and killing. This trend is not phenomenon of thuggery; brutality and violent political behaviour have been with us since independence.
Immediately after independence, the politicians in order to retain political seats with their regions went into various acts that were both politically unwise and immature. They adopted a style that was an impediment to democracy and good governance.
They recruited, trained and empowered thugs to harass, intimidate and victimise perceived political opponents that hold opposing views against their political ambition. This culture of thuggery has since then stayed with us, from independence till date.
It is an established fact that the Nigerian politics is characterised by violence and since thuggery is defined as an act of violence or behaviour of ruffians, it is therefore safe to say that thuggery in Nigerian politics is a means to an end.
There is no limit to the number of thugs that a politician can surround himself with. What is however, unfortunate about this trend is that the politicians make use of youths that are supposed to serve as future leaders for their questionable activities?
They use these young ones for political intimidation, harassment and even assassination of political opponents.
For instance, in 2003 and 2007 respectively, the general elections that took place were characterised by the use of political thugs to fight and win the elections nationwide. For example, the hitherto non-violent South-South geopolitical zone of the country witnessed an unprecedented build up of armed youths; recruited and trained by local politicians to win elections using violence and physical intimidation of rival parties.
This phenomenon coupled with already existing decade-long youth agitation for justice and equity, especially in the Niger Delta oil-bearing region metamorphosed into a vibrant youth’s militancy in the region.
Another instance is the last general elections in 2011, many people lost their lives and in some cases, property were wantonly destroyed especially in the northern part of the country, all in the name of politics.
Political thugs created, trained and sustained by politicians became the potent agents of intimidation and destruction used by the political parties and desperate politicians in the do or die battles to win primary and general elections at all costs.
The billion-naira question is who are these political thugs? The simple answer to this very expensive question is that they come from homes of Nigeria’s underprivileged class, the downtrodden masses that generation after generation of Nigerian elite leadership created since independence from the British colonial rule in 1960.
They are the school drop outs, the unemployed youths (the jobless college and university graduates) who will bend to the will and whims of power-hungry politicians in exchange for some naira notes, the stark illiterates who have never gone to school, miscreants, ruffians, street boys (area boys) and other unpleasant characters are usually the targets of these politicians.
Some of them are placed on regular salaries, with allowances accompanying their remunerations. Some are employed as special advisers, special assistants and personal assistants while those who do not fit in for the aforementioned positions are made contractors to the government.
Still some are paid off immediately after the usual assignment. These political aides in most states of the federation today they gave directives to trained qualified civil servants even those at the ranks of permanent secretaries which they must obeyed for fear of been sacked by the state chief executive.
During campaigns, politicians use them to instil a sense of fear in opponents/electorate and to cause hitches. They can be used to hijack ballot boxes, rig elections, they intimidate voters and create such an unhealthy political environment that most times, voters and officials are unable to come out to exercise their franchise to vote and be voted for.
These thugs are also used to ‘silence’ political opponents and aspirants or members of society that are perceived to be too vocal in their actions and condemnation of some of the activities of these politicians.
The menace of political thuggery in Nigeria has to be checked in order for us to have a more sustainable democracy that will really be a government of the people, for the people and by the people. So that we can live in a nation where leaders are no longer imposed on us because of the activities of political thugs and their nefarious activities.
People can be able to exercise their franchise right without fear of intimidation and harassment. They can feel that their votes really count in choosing their leaders and the political atmosphere can be one of healthy rivalry and competition thereby allowing for the promotion of good governance in the country.
Concrete and implementable programmes and policies should be formulated by putting a stop to nurturing and breeding of political thugs and gangsters by desperate and unscrupulous politicians.
Parents should continue to play their role as expected as well as monitor the movements of their children and the company they keep as well as ensure their proper upbringing. Couples should avoid marital disputes, especially in the presence of the children.
Leaders at all levels should stop using youths in achieving their personal political interests; they should also promote good governance through provision of necessary social amenities to the people as well as gain employment to unemployed youths.
Security agencies should wake up from their slumber and start tackling problems from its first stage, not to serve as spectators until such problems deteriorate and consume the entire society or nation.
About 20 years ago, security agencies used to partake indirectly in all activities of political parties, religious organisations, clubs and organisations in trying to get first hand information among groups that intend to bring chaos in the society or nation in general.
Politicians should desist from using religion, ethnicity or regional sentiment to acquire more sympathy over their opponents in trying to steal mandate from the electorates.
The allowances of political office holders should be reduce to reasonable amount that can be accommodated by any government; this development will reduce the daily rush of unqualified aspirants seeking various positions in different political parties that has left unqualified people representing a larger community.
The educational qualifications right from Local Government Chairman to the President should be reconsidered in our constitution to produce better candidates and do away with benchwarmers.
Religious leaders should be sincere enough to desist from indirectly campaigning to particular candidates, groups, rather should always propagate the teaching of their religion etc.
As a Nigerian, one should understand that the unity of the country is not negotiable, as without unity there would be no Nigeria.
So our leaders should try as much as possible to emulate the quality leadership demonstrated by our previous leaders like Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo etc. Our present politicians commend these past leaders, but none of them is trying to emulate them, instead they keep cross carpeting from one party to another trying to satisfy their personal interest, employing youths illegally to snatch ballot boxes, inducing such youth with incentives to engage in taking drugs that force them into nefarious activities in the society.
Agencies responsible for tackling corruption such as ICPC, EFCC, Code of Conduct Bureau should seriously improve its performance especially by acting as an independent bodies not necessary dancing to the tune of the government on their request, once these agencies are allow to operate without any interference, definitely the high rate of corruption will be reduce drastically.