This article on electoral violence in Nigeria was written in 2011
The most haunting words I have read on Facebook are the words penned by one of the martyred youth corps members, Ukeoma Aikfavour, who had served in the restive north of Nigeria. Thinking that the worst was over and perhaps a few hours to the mindless termination of his life, he had written these words:
Na wao! This CPC supporters would hv killed me yesterday, no see threat oooo. Even after forcing underaged voters on me they wanted me to give them the remaining ballot paper to thumb print. Thank God for the police and am happy I could stand for God and my nation. To all corps members who stood despite these threats esp. In the north bravo! Nigeria! Our change has come.
The stories that continue to emerge from the post-election violence reveal the depth of depravity of the urchins, the rascals whose passion for human blood was unleashed on innocent youth corps members and on persons of different ethnic extraction and religious persuasion. The nation can, however, take consolation in the heroic stories of Muslims who protected Christians at a great risk to their lives. Such Nigerians should be applauded for showing immense courage in the face of these acts of barbarism.
If the report of the refusal of the authorities of Yusuf Bala Usman College of Legal and General Studies, Daura, Katsina State, to provide a bus to ferry youth corps members to a secured camp is true, that marks another case of insensitivity, an abhorrent behaviour, that could have exposed these young Nigerians to harm had not a Good Samaritan stepped in to pay for commercial buses to convey them to safety. The repeated inability of our security forces as well as emergency agencies to help at this critical moment illustrates a huge capacity deficit.
The low level of care and security provided for these youth who served as ad hoc personnel of INEC in the elections leaves much to be desired. These youth were posted to northern Nigeria to serve the nation and not to be hacked, brutally murdered and burnt on account of the electoral process. It is nauseating to note that in Gombe State, one of the earlier flash-points, the mayhem began on the basis of the fact that the margin of victory of the CPC over the PDP was not as wide as they had wished. A similar trend equally emerged in Kaduna, shortly afterwards.
Apparently, for these folks, victory or loss can provide convenient cover for destruction. It is time for all parties to realise that in this season of bloodshed, tears and sorrow, there will be a tomorrow. This is basic wisdom if any party hopes to stay as a platform for national unity, drawing support from across the nation.
The duty and onus of responsibility for quelling the raging flames lie heavily on the shoulders of our president. While it may be rather far-fetched to call for a state of emergency to be declared in northern Nigeria, we cannot overlook the fact that the dire situation warrants mobilisation of military forces to check these violent outbursts before the nation is engulfed in another senseless and unwarranted orgy of destruction.
Looking at the electoral framework in our country, we must be thankful that for a candidate to win the presidential poll, the person must secure at least a quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, apart from securing a majority of the aggregate votes cast. If victory were to be dependent on just the winning of a majority of the votes cast, then it would have been a different ball game.
The 2011 elections may not be perfect, but they have clearly been seen as a huge improvement over past efforts. Only a person to whom wrong is right and right is wrong will refuse to acknowledge this.
My heart aches each time a new story emerges from the sufferings of the victims of the post election violence. When I recall that I have enjoyed living in and making Edo State my base over the past three decades on account of being posted there for National Youth Service, the essential usefulness of the programme as a unifying force is real to me. Today, I begin to have doubts, and do support the need for the evaluation and redesign of the scheme. I am still pondering what my response would be if any of my children is posted to serve in restive northern Nigeria. I know they would have to decide for themselves, but a parent’s duty is also to ensure that evil hordes and their sponsors do not kill the dreams of our children who wish to serve their motherland.
Goodluck Jonathan’s call for all to step up to the rebuilding of the nation is apt at this time when the smoke of battle can becloud our sense of purpose. We urge the president to go beyond the promise of compensation for the victims of the post election violence and take steps to honour the youth who lost their lives while providing heroic service to the nation in these hostile times.