Timely admonition on election violence

Last Monday, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, raised an alarm that politicians are recruiting youths as thugs and arming them for the forthcoming general elections.

The revered monarch made the revelation at a meeting with chairmen and members of various political parties and the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs. Also in attendance were head of security agencies in the state.

He said, “We understand that politicians are acquiring arms and recruiting youths as political thugs to prosecute election. It is God that gives power and using violence to get power is condemned by the Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs. We condemn such act in its entirety.”

He charged politicians to play by the rules of the game and strongly advised the youths not to allow themselves to be used to foment trouble. The monarch also enjoined them not to sell their votes.

Oba Ewuare’s entreaty is coming a few weeks after the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Lamido Sanusi II, expressed a similar concern about politicians recruiting students of tertiary institutions in the country with the sole aim of winning elections at all costs.

Interestingly, the Kano monarch raised the concern in Benin at the 44th convocation ceremony of the University of Benin. 

Alhaji Sanusi, who is the institution’s chancellor, advised the youths not to allow themselves to be used for anything capable of endangering their lives and those of innocent citizens. He also urged parents and guardians to join hands with the authorities of the institution in their quest to discourage youths from being used to rig the 2019 general elections.

The pleas by the two high-profile monarchs could not have come at a better time given the culture of desperation that has become part of the nation’s political process. The bad blood, hate speech, fake news and the mentality of do-or-die politics that are entrenched in psyche of politicians and their followers make every election year a period to dread because of the anxiety and uncertainty it is fraught with.

This is more so considering the fact that Nigeria is home to over 350m illegal weapons representing 70 per cent of the 500m of such weapons circulating in the West African sub-region. It is also the reason why incidents of insurgency, violent communal conflicts, kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling and allied crimes, have escalated in the country in recent years. 

In our earlier editorials, we had stated that the state of affairs portended danger for the country when viewed against the forthcoming general elections.

Security experts have attributed the frightening quantum of illicit weapons in the country to obsolete firearms law operating in the face of the 21st Century security challenges. In fact, a simple calculation shows that the quantity of illegal weapons in the country could go round our population of 180m twice!

We recall the recent efforts by the Nigeria Police Force to mop up arms all over the country ahead of the 2019 polls. The exercise yielded some positive results. For instance, in Rivers state, the police authorities said they recovered 179 arms and 577 cartridges from members of the public. In Bauchi, no fewer than 251 firearms and 702 rounds of ammunition were confiscated by the state Police Command. And in Delta state, the Police Command recovered a total of 200 weapons and several rounds of ammunition. Weapons surrendered or seized included locally-made guns, double-barreled guns, pump actions, sub-machine guns and the popular AK 47 rifles. 

In April 2017, the Nigeria Customs Service, Tin Can Island Command, intercepted a container laden with 440 arms and ammunition of various sizes and designs. Two months earlier, a similar seizure of a cache of arms comprising 661 pump action rifles among others was made by the Service.

But the successes so far recorded patter into insignificance when viewed against the massive quantum of arms in wrong hands in the country. These seizures and many of such importations escaping the security operatives undoubtedly should raise serious security concerns in government circle and among law-abiding citizens.

While urging our youths to distance themselves from desperate politicians known to keep their own kids safe, we express the need for a massive public enlightenment campaign to further sensitise the vulnerable youths who are willing to put their lives in harm’s way for peanuts.

There is also the urgent need to put in place an instrument to sanction electoral offenders who equate thuggery during elections to hooliganism in sports that usually goes unpunished.  

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