POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE AND YOUTH CORPERS
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) finally conducted the 2011 general elections after the initial wobble. On April 9, 2011 we voted for the candidates who would represent us at the National Assembly - Senate and House of Representatives. Expectedly political parties won at the places, political pundits predicted their successes.
Take for example, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) dominated the South West, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did win the majority positions in the East and South-South though with flashes of winning by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and ACN. Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) a nascent political party performed creditably in the North West, while PDP took over the remaining positions.
It is important to note that in all these, there was no post- election violence. Most people applauded the election as credible, free and fair.
A week later came the presidential election and surprisingly, PDP did well even in the South-West where it hitherto performed woefully. Its creditable performance in the South -East and South-South was anticipated. PDP also gathered one quarter of the votes cast in about thirty- two States of the federation. The success was indeed overwhelming.
Violence erupted especially in the North- western part of Nigeria where CPC dominated when it was obvious that the its presidential candidate, Gen. Buhari would lose the election to PDP. Miscreants, or misguided elements or CPC sympatizers took to arms, burning houses of perceived PDP members, palaces of their Emirs, maiming innocent citizens especially the Igbo traders including youth corpers. This is no doubt regrettable and condemnable and it portrays us as people who have not learnt anything, who find it difficult to accept defeat.
I want however, to single out the killing of the youth corp members, not because I consider other victims less important, I am indeed angrier because violence against these young men and women have become the order of the day and the Federal Government has not done much to check the brutal murder of our leaders of tomorrow. If our law insists that our graduates should serve the nation upon graduation, survive on the stipend we pay them then, we have both moral and legal obligation to protect them. This does not detract from the general duty of the Federal Government to protect lives and property. No parent bargained to receive the remains of his son or daughter while on a National service.
It would be recalled that National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in 1973 by the then Head of State, General Gowon, primarily as a means of reintegrating the Nation after the fratricidal civil war of 1967-1970. The programme then was compulsory for all the graduates of tertiary institutions. As time went on, lack of fund forced the federal government to obliterate the graduates of colleges of education from the programme. The same lack of fund also later forced the government to place restriction on the programme by limiting it to only students of not more than thirty years upon graduation.
Recently, the NYSC programme has become worrisome to parents especially those whose children and wards serve in the Northern part of Nigeria . I still remember vividly that on November 28, 2008, two Youth Corpers from Osun state were brutally murdered at Jos during the botched local government election. The deceased Youth Corpers were not members of any political party much less being contestants nor among the electorate.
The blood of Grace Ushanga, a serving corps member at Borno State who was allegedly gang raped to death by the members of Boko Haram sect is stil crying for justice. Few weeks ago, a serving corps member in the western part of Nigeria was allegedly raped by a traditional ruler and custodian of culture of his community who should have served as a guardian to this corps member. According to media report, the traditional ruler invited the corps member to his house to discuss the computer training she intended to organize for the youth of the community.
This randy traditional ruler lured her into his house and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her. A case of the dog eating the bone hanged on its neck. I commend the Director -General of NYSC, Col Tsiga for ensuring that such condemnable act was not swept under the carpet. I also insist that the case should be pursued to logical conclusion because soon we shall hear that the corps member had been pressured to drop the case against the randy traditional ruler. Justice according to jurists is a three way traffic -Justice for the victim, the State and the society.
Our serving corps members have been exposed to violence as we also witnessed recently wherein many of them were killed as a result of the post election violence. The surviving corps members have one gory story or the other to tell. Today, virtually, all the States in the Southern part of Nigeria perform the ritual of receiving and burying the remains of slain corps members from the State but serving in the North. Serving in the Northern- part of Nigeria has become a suicidal adventure and soon only those with suicidal instinct will opt to serve there.
The Federal Government has an inescapable option and sacred duty, either to take proactive action to protect these corps members or suspend posting corps members from the South to those volatile Northern States where lives of these trustees have become short, cheap and brutish.