2019 and youth thuggery
In countries where democracy has firmly taken root, it has become a political force used in redefining human existence in terms of the realization of socio economic development and building of egalitarian society.
Nigeria as a developing democracy is yet to fully imbibe all the tenets that make democracy the leading system of governance in most parts of the world.
Among other things, democratic practice in Nigeria is still battling with political violence which derives its energy and dominance from the army of young men and women in the country.
Of major concern is that “democracy” in the Nigerian context is becoming a germinating ground for youth violence and radicalization to the extent of making thuggery and arms proliferation a regular business among youths.
These situations are as a result of certain factors which have undermined the essence of democracy in the interest of few who cleave to power by any means in the pursuit of unjustifiable objectives.
The youths have become “sacrificial lambs” for the sustenance of the interests of the bloody political demagogues under the umbrella of democracy. In whichever way or whatever justification for youth involvement in political violence especially thuggery, the ultimate truth is that it undermines democratic development and youth participation mainstream politics.
Recent events have shown that political demagogues both at the state and federal level are in the habit of arming thugs in the guise of empowerment. This undemocratic culture has frequently triggered conflict. It has been reported that at least 50 percent of Nigeria elections are associated with serious violent incident that has resulted in loss of lives.
Fierce competition between rival leaders or political parties during elections has resulted in outbreak of civil unrest in such places as Rivers, Kogi, Bauchi, Kwara, Plateau, among others.
Of paramount importance here is that whether violence before, during or after election, the quick and available machinery for the execution of the agenda, are the youths.
By implication, a large chunk of youth involvement in political thuggery is attributable to ignorance as study have revealed that unemployment, corruption and bad governance contribute immensely in explaining youth involvement in political violence.
Sadly, even where the government is relatively doing well, the opposition members resort to twisting the minds of the youths against the party in power so as to champion their interests. All these and more reveal youth vulnerability to interest of some senseless politicians whose interest can only be achieved through arming of thugs.
The elites are responsible for arming the youths, who mostly are political thugs to manipulate electoral outcomes, kidnap or kill political opponents, threaten and intimidate electorate, destroying lives and property, as electoral processes are disrupted.
One of the most recent and glaring case of empowering thugs in Nigeria is the classic case of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who is linked to a gang that sacked five banks in Offa, Kwara state, in a robbery that claimed over 33 people.
Nevertheless, the Saraki's case is just one of the examples in Nigeria political history. In 2017, thugs of former governor of Gombe state and a serving senator, Danjuma Goje, invaded court proceedings in Abuja. There are numerous other such cases.
Thuggery will continue to dominate the political space until our individual vote counts. In other words, one sure way to put an end to political violence is to ensure as a people that every vote counts. Once the politicians and the electorate are satisfied that their vote counts and it is the only means of getting to power, they will not resort to self-help by arming thugs.
It is about time that anyone found to have engaged thugs and hoodlums to win elections be arrested and prosecuted. Also, jobs should be created for the unemployed in order to make it impossible for politicians to recruit youths for political violence.
It is the view of this newspaper that the menace of political thuggery in Nigeria has to be checked in order to have sustainable democracy that would indeed be a government of the people, for the people and by the people.