Early this week, violence erupted at an All Progressives Congress (APC) political rally in Lagos at the end of which some lives were said to have been lost. We recall our earlier editorial with the above caption in which we warned the youths on the dangers of playing into the hands of inordinately ambitious politicians who will only use them for their devious purposes and dump them later. This flash back is to remind the youths of the imperative of heeding that warning.
Barely two months to the February 2019 general elections, politicians, intent on winning by whatever means, have begun the now familiar practice of recruiting young men and women from the army of unemployed as thugs to perpetrate violence and other unwholesome antics as part of a desperate effort to bend the rules in their favour. In some cases, the cult groups on campuses also make themselves available for this reprehensible tactic in the electioneering process.
This act continues just as most of them preach non-violence and even hypocritically deplore thuggery and banditry in the contest for political office and power. Hitherto, the use of this category of people in politics used to be concealed with most of them parading themselves as organising secretaries. In those days, political thugs were recruited from motor parks and the streets from gangs of hemp smokers and other illicit drug consumers. But that has now changed. Today, they hang around their paymasters as Personal Assistants (PAs) without defined roles.
The use of the services of thugs have often resulted in threats, assassinations, violence and the breakdown of law and order sometimes during, before and after elections. The youths so engaged take solace in the temporary rewards and gratifications offered by such desperate politicians.
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, recently revealed that unemployment moved from 1.9 million to 9.9 per cent in the third quarter of this year 2015. In 2017, the estimated youth unemployment rate in Nigeria was at 13.41 percent. Finding themselves caught in this quagmire, the average unemployed youth develop an attitude that seem to point to a loss of confidence in the state and, therefore, think nothing of the invitation to violence. For some, it is a way to get back at the society that appears to have abandoned them.
In the pre and immediate post-Independence era when the country’s democracy was, in real terms, nascent, thuggery was an integral part of the Nigerian politics and in particular, electoral process limited to ballot box snatching. That method seem to have become primitive. Why the phenomenon has become worrisome is that the politicians who deploy their resources in arming these characters who have chosen violence against the society as a way out, often find it difficult to undo what they did as they are unable to retrieve those weapons even if they win and are in power. The emboldened youths that are not only hungry but also angry and confused not knowing what to do with their lives when the hand-outs dry up, use such arms to continue to threaten and, in most cases, use them to commit acts of violence, robbery and killings.
Recent confessions by some arrested armed robbers and assassins indicate that many of them were political thugs armed by politicians, used and abandoned. Such youths are however often denied and left alone to face the consequence of their actions.
It may be convenient to blame the political actors for being so callous, but it is also time parents question the appointment of their sons and daughters as personal assistants. The truth is that while the boys kill and maim for the politicians, the girls function in their bed chambers. It is from this perspective that this newspaper urge parents, schools and religious institutions and even the youths themselves to see and treat it as serious enough to ask questions about the desirability of the appointments when they are made. For the parents, they owe themselves a duty to admonish their children and wards so as to pull them back from the brink.
In the typical nepotistic Nigerian society, how many of those PAs are relations of the politicians. In most cases, those politicians keep their own children in good schools at home and overseas, their nephews, nieces and cousins in decent jobs while they destroy the lives of others.
In our opinion, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should wake up to their responsibilities of educating the youths and their parents on the dangers of indulging in violence during political activities. The police and other law enforcement agencies should also ensure that youth groups did not make themselves willing tools in the hands of unscrupulous politicians. Still, it is our view that a lot depends on the youths themselves who fail to see the damage they are bringing upon their own lives by resorting to thuggery with all its ephemeral attractions and pretensions of proximity to power and influence.