Barely one month to the commencement of this year’s general elections, a cross section of Nigerian youths from different parts of the country have vowed to resist any attempt to use them as thugs or engage in political violence.
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), in a bid to stem the tide this election season, has commenced the sensitisation of youths from the northern part of the country to dissuade them from being used by politicians and groups for thuggery.
AYCF President, Yerima Shettima, told The Guardian: “We have informed them not to allow themselves to be used by politicians. We have been campaigning against that for long and we are letting youths understand that it is not worth it dying for politicians.
“We have gone far to educate them that nobody should be used as tools in this election any more. That is why we have been extending hands of fellowship to our counterparts in the southern part of the country, so that we, as youths, can harness the unity and strength to kick against wrongdoings.”
He said AYCF was reminding northern youths that children of politicians hiring them to unleash terror are living abroad at the expense of their efforts.
On its part, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council recently kicked off campaign for violent-free election in the 95 councils in the Southeast.
Its National President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the idea was to educate and sensitise the youths on the need for peaceful elections in the zone.
“The campaign is to douse the tension and ensure that majority of Igbo youths are not lured by desperate politicians to be used as thugs to destabilise the peaceful atmosphere in the Southeast.
“We are aware of the nefarious activities of some politicians, especially those not popular in the Southeast, trying to lure some hungry youths into selling their PVCs in form of vote-buying or using youths as thugs.
“We urge our youths to remain calm and law-abiding in this general election.”
A former president of Ijaw Youth President (IYC) and Commissioner for Youths in Bayelsa State, Udengs Eradiri, Chairmen of the state chapter of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Nengi James, as well as Youth Coordinator of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Famous Daunemigha, all agreed on the need for positive development of the youths in the country through engaging them in profitable ventures that would utilised their energies for development, rather than election violence.
Eradiri decried the level of youth involvement in cultism and violence during elections, stressing the need to provide leadership and mentorship to discourage youths from criminalities.
Daunemigha, who was recently a victim of campaign violence, as his campaign posters were vandalised by suspected thugs, advised Niger Delta youths to think and dignify themselves.
He said: “There has never been a time that the elders had taken leadership from youths; it is youths that have sold their lives to the elders. I always say that there is no time you see two rich men’s children fighting on the streets; it is always poor men’s children that are used for thuggery.
“So, I always want youths to ask themselves what they have gained from killing one another. It the time for them to choose between evil and good.
“The youth should be able to look at individuals and what they have done for them in the past, beyond party affiliations, and act accordingly and shun being used by selfish politicians.
“Youths must realise that they have parents at home, that no amount of money they are paid will compensate their parents if they die or get maimed in the process.
“They should shun all election violence and dignify themselves and asked the politicians to bring their children out first.”
In the same vein, James called on youths to think first before allowing themselves to be used this time around for crumbs, while children of politicians study abroad.
He said CLO and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) would organise seminars and town hall meeting in communities to dissuade youths from been used by politicians as thugs.
Akure-based lawyer in Ondo State, Olasumbo Faseesin charged youths to learn from history and avoid being used to orchestrate political violence.
Faseesin, a former Student Union Government (SUG) president of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, urged youths to tread the path of peace, unity and development above any sectional or parochial interest during campaigns and election proper, saying: “Our youths must resist attempts to involve them in what otherwise may influence and affect them negatively.
“We must abstain, resist any attempt to provoke chaos by desperate politicians. We must ensure safety in our political activities prior and after voting and resist attempts at promoting violence. Let’s say no to violence.”
Executive Director of Kaduna-based Centre for Media Advocacy for Mother and Child (CAMAC), Mr. Alex Unangbaoje, advised the youth to engage politicians on issues that can impact their lives, rather than following them blindly.
He urged youths to see politicians who have rendered them unproductive as their common enemies, rather than fighting themselves over these same politicians, as well as engage in productive ventures that can take them beyond election periods.
“Killing or fighting because of politicians is not worth their lives. They should ask themselves if the peanuts given to them by politicians are worth their lives. Secondly, are the children of those they are fighting for part of the thuggery game?”
“For some of them who have been thugs since 1999, for instance, why are they still in that condition?” Unangbaoje asked rhetorically.
Waheed Taofik, 22, who is into collecting money from commercial vehicles, said: “The election would be hot, my party must win, anything contrary will resort to violence. As a matter of honesty, Lagos will be in disarray if we do not retain power. Why bother talking too much, we will win and anyone who contradicts our stand would be lucky to survive it.”
Interestingly, Taofik does not have PVC, saying there is no need to have one, as he will not be voting, but he would be monitoring the election to ensure the success of his party. “I didn’t even register for PVC, we are in Lagos and will ensure Lagos runs only as we want it to, so I do not need to vote,” he boasted.
Okanlawon Akinkunbi, a 19-year-old commercial tricycle (Keke Napep) driver, has seen a number of young ones die for wealthy politicians in time past and would not for any reason be involved in violence during elections.
“I am the only son of my parents, though life has not been easy, but I wouldn’t jeopardise the hope of a better future for anything, let alone politicians who care less if I live or die. So, I will never involve myself in any form of violence whatever during the election” he said.
He, however, added that if he given money to vote a certain candidate, he would gladly take the money and vote them in if the money is good and would solve his immediate problem, as he said times are tough for him and his family.
This is because “the hoodlums politicians use for violence have a way of monitoring paid voters to ensure they actually vote for the candidate(s) they were given money to vote for,” he said.
Ikechukwu Nnaemeka, 23, a commercial (okada) rider, said he was yet to get over the death of a friend involved in election violence four years ago, “because we were childhood friends, he was looking for extra cash and he got mixed up with people who were paid by politicians to cause havoc if the election didn’t go in their favour.
“He was hit with a bottle on his head and was left to die, as others ran for safety. By the time we were alerted and took him to the hospital, it was too late; he had already bled to death and nobody came to his family, aside his immediate friends. He just died for nothing.
“So, there is no way I would be involved in violence. I am too wise for that, only fools let themselves get used by politicians,” he said.