The post election violence in some parts of the Northern Nigeria is totally condemnable and anyone in his right sense would sure do just that. There is no justifiable reason anywhere in the world to take innocent lives, maim people senselessly and sexually assault helpless girls and women. And in the most regrettable way, some members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC were primarily targeted by these dastardly and genocidal criminals.
According to the NYSC directorate, the lives of 9 corps members (check the list below) were cut short in their prime in the course of serving their fatherland for the only reason that they had different ethnic, tribal, and probably religious background from their assailants.
My heart goes to everyone who has suffered directly or indirectly from this crime against humanity; parents and people who have lost their loved ones (some of whom had struggled and put their lives on the line to see their children go through the tertiary education hoping that someday, they would be able to take care of them in their old age); girls and women who would have to live with the humiliation and trauma of being violated; the wounded who would carry the scars for as long as they live, the maimed who would be handicapped or disabled throughout their lifetimes and a nation that is devastated by the loss of some of her citizens and promising human resources. May the Lord strengthen all and grant the fortitude to bear this heavy loss.
In addition to the proposed State burial for the NYSC members, the government must make sure that the blood of the slain and the pains of the other victims are not in vain. To ensure this, all the culprits must be rounded up and prosecuted in order to serve as deterrents to others; the families of those killed, the wounded and traumatized must be ADEQUATELY compensated; and most importantly, measures must be put in place to prevent, curtail, and arrest future occurrences of such crises.
Since the riots broke out on the evening of Saturday, 16.04.11, emotions have been high, voices raised as people expressed their disappointments about the actions and inactions of some politicians, cries heard asking for the scrapping of the NYSC scheme, calls made for justice and the blame game hyped especially among online commentators with little efforts being made to look at the whole picture and ways to prevent such bloody clashes in the future.
In other to understand the dynamics of the crises, it is advisable to read ‘The Killings In The North, The A-Z Facts And The Slippery Slope by Femi Fani-Kayode’
The grievous result of this riot was far worse than many had thought. According to Shehu Sani, the executive director of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress, at least 600 people were killed in the violence; 516 people in Kaduna state alone.
As painful as it was, it’s unfortunate that the public concerns, anguish and cries have been mostly limited to the death of the nine corps members. While it may not be wrong to make them the symbol of this uprising because they were mandated to be at their posts while most others at their volition, we must not forget the over 500 other Nigerians of whom little or nothing is being said also lost their dear lives. These people included some members of the Nigerian Police Force who were also killed on active duty at their station while trying to shield some corps members from the mob in Bauchi, some local leaders who were viewed as betraying the Northern cause, the Southerner Christians killed by rampaging Hausa/Fulani and the Northerners killed in reprisal attacks in southern Kaduna.
Regardless of their extracts and status, these people were all Nigerians; they were children of somebody; they were parents of some children; they were friends of some people; and most importantly, they were human beings.
According to Martin Luther King Jr, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and this could be rightly paraphrased as ‘injustice to anyone is a threat to justice to everyone.’
In our high emotions, we also isolate the disaster from the bigger picture. If we dwell only on emotions, as soon as dust settles after the burial of the Corps members, these cries will die natural death and we risk of forgetting everything about the riot without preventing future mayhems and ensuring that those culpable are punished.
The riot was part of the systemic failure that we have been living with in the country. We all know that the North is a volatile half of the country that is sitting on a keg of gunpowder and always ready to explode at any given opportunity notwithstanding whether the event has anything to do with Nigeria or not; be it a pastor threatening to burn Quran, or a caricature in Denmark; or a remark about Prophet Muhammad during the hosting of Miss World Beauty Pageant, or the ascension of Yakowa, a Christian as the governor of Kaduna State, or anytime Israel strikes an enemy or someone somewhere makes a derogatory remark about Islam.
The presidential election was just another chance for the hoodlums to explode with perceived impunity. The pattern is always the same; Christians and Churches attacked and there was no deviation from this in the last riot though it went beyond it.
As long as perpetrators of these heinous attacks are not punished, there will be no disincentive for other attacks in the future. These miscreants are almost certain impunity.
After 50 years as an independent nation, we still find it difficult to organise peaceful polls. Post electoral riot is not a new thing in Nigeria. We do have a history of such violence which began with ‘operation wet e’ in the Western region of Nigeria in 1965, then 1983 widespread riot in Ondo state (which included the present day Ekiti state) after the gubernatorial election and then the June 12 saga which is still fresh in the memories of many Nigerians.
Though we had wished for a more peaceful election as our democracy is maturing because we have never had 12 straight years of democracy like now but considering the turbulent history and the tension that had built up in the North since the controversial Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning system, the government should have been more proactive in putting security measures in place to prevent, curtail and quickly quench such ‘spontaneous’ unrests. The systemic failure is still playing here.
Trying to shift the whole blame on General Buhari, Bakare and the CPC may just be a half truth. There was tension everywhere already though some utterances could have aided the already tense atmosphere. The calls by politicians asking the electorates to ‘protect their votes and resist every attempt to steal them’ wouldn’t have been necessary if not for the inglorious history of election rigging that has characterized our elections.
While General Buhari and CPC condemned the riots and rioters and also completely dissociated themselves from their claims of fighting under their auspices, I agree that it was morally necessary for them to do so more swiftly and even with stronger words but they couldn’t be held responsible. The government didn’t have to wait for their actions before acting.
The bigger picture is the systemic failure. It’s the same failure that could not address the unending religious, intra and inter-communal clashes in Plateau, Bauchi and Borno states. These shameless acts have gone on for too long unchecked with successive governments paying only lip service or at best setting up fruitless commissions of enquiry. Apart from the extra-judicial assaults by the security forces, none of the Boko Haram gang members or culprits in Jos has been prosecuted.
If it true that he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day, the end of this barbaric act is not in sight unless the government clamp down on the perpetrators.
It’s the same system failure that is causing uncountable losses of lives from preventable diseases and road accidents. Many more people die daily from the roads the governments (federal, state and Local) fail to maintain and hospitals they fail to equip than this post election violence.
Now that relative calm has returned, let us consistently ask the government to:
- Round up everyone involved in the massacre and let them face the law without any exemption so as to serve as deterrents to others.
- Compensate the victims and their families adequately
- Overhaul the NYSC scheme especially as it affects the security of the corps members. The local authority must be mandated to guarantee security before corps members are deployed and they must be held responsible if they fail.
- Embark on a massive campaign in the North educating the masses on the essence of life. The local traditional, religious and political leaders must be engaged in this
- Make life more worth living for these Northern masses who believe that as they have nothing to live for, they have everything to die for.
- Put measures in place to end the recurring crises in Bauchi, Plateau and Borno states
- Enhance security across the country
- Be more proactive in combating crises
- Improve the state of our infrastructures
- Initiate the roadmap to Sovereign National Conference (SNC) where the future of our union will be decided
Until we address the problems holistically, the government will continue to feed on our emotions. Let’s keep the government on its toes to do its primary duty of protecting lives and properties.
The list of the slain corps members (May their souls rest in peace)
The names of the deceased are: Teidi Tosin Olawale (from Osun State, BSc Computer Science); Nkwazema Anslem Chukwunonyerem (Imo State, HND Electrical Electronic Engineering), Okpokiri Obinna Michael (Abia State, BSc Environmental Management), Adowei Elliot (Bayelsa State, BSc Computer Science) and Adewunmi Seun Paul (Ekiti State, BSc, Social Sciences), Adeniji Kehinde Jehleel (Osun State, BSc Banking & Finance), Gbenjo Ebenezer Ayotunde (Osun State, BSc, Education Economics), Ukeoma Ikechukwu Chibuzor (Imo State, BSc Medical Microbiology) and Akonyi Ibrahim Sule (Kogi State, HND Business Administration).