Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Arming jobless youths to win elections

It is now official; the hen has come home to roost. The long heard rumour has now been confirmed. Nigerian politicians in their desperate attempt to win elections have been adopting the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means” by arming political thugs in order to forcefully win elections. Any wonder election time in Nigeria is a war front; a season of anomie when a civic exercise leaves in its trail, tears, sorrow and blood. Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar was quoted on the British Broadcasting Corporation Hausa Service on Saturday, May 11, 2013 (published in Sunday PUNCH, May 12) as saying that, “When we formed the PDP and candidates emerged, the governors earmarked huge amounts of money to buy arms for youth groups so as to use them in winning the election. I met and told them that if they used them and after winning the election, they fail to provide them with jobs, they will rise against the people in their states. These are the youths who later turned into the Niger Delta militants you’ve heard about. Also, a similar thing happened in the North, I met a governor and told him that these youths you assembled and called ECOMOG will become dangerous later and that was what eventually happened. I spoke to all these governors, I alerted all of them.”
Now, we know the origin and founders of militancy in Nigeria. Atiku said he warned the concerned governors; however, did he report them to the police and other security agents? I bet it was made a family affair. The nation is today paying dearly for the heinous crimes of these desperate politicians. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of this crime against humanity are walking freely with their families while the defenceless members of the public suffer the brunt. Before this confirmation by the former VP, my researches into the root causes of electoral violence have revealed that unscrupulous politicians not only provide weapons to youths to wreak havoc on their political opponents, they also provide them with narcotics and other psychotropic substances to sniff and smoke. They also armed them with charms. Remember, 36 political thugs were reportedly caught with charms in a former senator’s house in Oye-Ekiti during a governorship re-run election in Ekiti State in April 2009. In addition, they provide them with official security cover as police and other security agencies are often compromised to look the other way while these hirelings perpetrate their criminal assignments. Not only that, as soon as they become governors, they instruct their Attorneys-General to file nolle prosequi against some of their political thugs who may have been arrested and are being prosecuted by the police for electoral violence. This is why most perpetrators of political assassination, thuggery and arson often go scot free.
This arming of youths is what has made Nigeria’s election to be catastrophic as political campaigns often turn bloody and election days become tension soaked. Even though Atiku talked about the practice by some PDP governors, it will be tantamount to playing the ostrich if other political parties gloat and mock the party on this. This is because most of the notable political parties and their candidates practise this across board. Many politicians use local militias in their sphere of influence to perpetrate theirs. While some South-East politicians use Bakassi Boys and members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra; the South- South politicians use the Egbesu Boys as well as members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to deal with their political rivals. The political elite in the South-West use different factions of the Oodua Peoples Congress, remnants of the old Agbekoya Movement, members of the Road Transport Workers Union as well as street urchins known as Area Boys to deal with their perceived political opponents. Northern politicians use various groups such as Yan Sara-Suka in Bauchi, Yan Kalare in Gombe, Yan Daba and Yan daukan amarya in Kano and ECOMOG in Borno and Yobe states. In Adamawa State, the political thugs are known as Damagun Boys and Shinko Boys. In Taraba State, they are called Bani Israila. Thus, arming of youths, mainly unemployed, for electoral violence goes beyond a particular geopolitical zone or political party.
How did these politicians source their illegal weapons which they shared out to their thugs? This is as easy as preparing noodles or boiling an egg. Nigeria’s international borders are so porous that smuggling of arms and ammunition has become pastimes of some people in the border communities. The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, in February 2013, said Nigeria had 84 regular borders and over 1,487 irregular routes to the country. Buttressing the minister, Lt. Col Sagir Musa who is the spokesman for Joint Task Force in Maiduguri in a piece published in Sunday Trust of April 21, 2013 said, “From conservative estimate by locals, there are well over 250 footpaths from Damaturu/Maiduguri areas that link or lead directly to Cameroon, Chad or Niger. These paths are mostly unknown by security agencies, are unmanned, unprotected and thus serve as leaky routes for arms and ammunition trafficking into Nigeria.” The smugglers are said to use camels, donkeys and cows to traffic arms, ammunition and drugs, like cocaine into the country.
Now that someone has owned up to knowing some of those who had been responsible for the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, it behoves on the security agents to summon the former VP to formally brief them about the identities of those governors who had been arming youths in their states for the purpose of winning elections. That is assuming the security agencies themselves do not know them and are being handicapped by lack of political will to deal with political leaders in power. Unfortunately, if we do not deal with this culture of impunity, there may be no election in 2015. This is because, the notion that it is easier and cheaper to eliminate your opponent than contesting with them will continue to rear its ugly head as we prepare for the next general elections. Meanwhile, as these “Vagabonds in power” continue to indulge in their nefarious activities, they not only destroy the lives of the youths they armed, they also destroy many other innocent lives who fall victims to these armed groups when elections are over and the largesse from politicians dry up. May God save Nigerians from the hands of their oppressors and tormentors.