Date Published: 11/05/09
SAYING NO TO POLITICAL THUGGERY; A CLARION CALL TO URU YOUTHS By ANAYO ONUKWUGHA
Political thuggery seems to be synonymous with the Nigerian political process. From time immemorial, no election has been conducted in the country without records of political thuggery. In the process, a lot of people, mostly youths lose their precious lives in attempt to protect mandates that are not often genuine.
One can easily remember that in 1999, 2003 and 2007 general elections in Nigeria , a lot of youths, who allowed themselves to be used as thugs by over-zealous politicians were killed in an adventure that they could not easily disclose what their gains would be. The youths who were able to survive the outcome of the political thuggery of the three past general elections are today maimed for life. While some lost their two legs, other lost either one leg or one of their limbs and can never in their lives be regarded as able-bodied men.
Today, another period of electioneering seems to be around the corner. Soon, the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (IMSIEC) would be conducting the state’s local government election. However, this depends on when the Governor, Chiief Ikedi Ohakim gives the electoral body the go-ahead order.
Also, in Anambra State , the governorship election has been slated for February 2010. The battle for Government House, Awka would be between the incumbent Governor, Mr. Peter Obi and about ten other ‘political heavyweights’ in the state.
Apart from the Imo State local government election and the Anambra State governorship election, the political atmosphere in Nigeria would be fully charged as soon as the year 20109 sets in due the forthcoming general election in 2011.
It is worthy to note that as the stage gets set for these elections, politicians, who know fully well that on a level playing ground, they would not be able to win elections, even in their family meetings would resort to hiring of youths who will work as political thugs to rig elections in their favour or snatch away ballot boxes from polling boots, harass their political opponents or even beat up electoral officers who refuse to dance to their tones.
At this juncture, youths of Ur-Ogwa Community as well as those from other communities in Ogwa Clan in Mbaitoli local government area of Imo State come handy due to the little stipends paid them by these never-do-well politicians. I decided to mention specifically youths from my native Uru-Ogwa Community because a lot of them take delight in participating in such ‘deadly adventures’.
I can vividly remember one Friday in April 2003 when I traveled from my base in Port Harcourt to the village. Later that evening a childhood friend of mine came to inquire if I would be interested in joining them to a neighboring community, which is in another local government area to assist a prominent politician in the area to ‘monitor’ that years governorship/ house of assembly election there. He even told me that the politician promised to reward them handsomely if they ‘monitor’ the said election in his favour.
I then asked myself, what will a young man who is neither an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nor an agent of any of the participating political parties be ‘monitoring’ in another local government area that is not his if not to act as a political thug, intimidate voters, harass those opposed to his pay-master and possibly run away with ballot boxes.
I think time has come for the leadership of the umbrella body of youth in Uru-Ogwa Community, the Uru Youth Movement (UYM), the Oganiru Age Grade as well as the Ugo-Dike Age Grade to begin the re-orientation of youths in the community to let them know the dangers inherent in political thuggery.
Though, the leadership of the community’s apex socio-cultural organization, the Uru Improvement Union (UIU) has been doing its best to give the youths in the community the right direction, the leadership of UYM and the age grades in the community should as a matter of urgency discourage its members from accepting the offers of greedy politicians who would use them as thugs during electioneering period only to dump them thereafter.
Let our youths know that accepting money from these selfish politicians to work as political thugs is like accepting money in exchange of their precious lives.
We, the youths of Uru-Ogwa Community and Nigeria in general should remember that former President Olusegun Obasanjo once declared that the 2007 general elections was ‘a do or die’ affair for a particular political party and what happened thereafter is now history.
Therefore, we should know that the local government election in Imo State , the governorship election in Anambra State and the 2011 general elections in the country may not be an exception.
We are warned.
Onukwugha, a journalist, is also the Assistant Secretary, Uru Improvement Union (UIU), Port Harcourt , Nigeria .