Youth and Political Violence in Nigeria; the Lagos Island Example and the Way Forward

Political violence encompasses political assassinations, killings, political-thuggery, stealing of ballot boxes and papers, intimidations, riggings and fraud. Electoral fraud is also part and parcel of political violence and these has been a bane of our nascent democracy.
Taking Nigeria democracy as a case study, political violence poses a serious threat to the genuineness of electoral processes in federal, state and local government of Nigeria. Political activities/functions are mostly disrupted by violence in all geopolitical zones of the country and this has created a hindrance between democracy and development. A large number of followers and supporters of politicians and political parties respectively believes violencie is a necessity to achieve political objectives. Their leaders see this urge and they produce for them the resources (fire arms and other dangerous weapons) needed to carry out the dreadful acts.
After several years of reclaiming democracy from the military, the violence embedded in Nigerian democracy has often deteriorates the democratic process of the nation. According to Webster, politics is the science and art of government; political activities, beliefs and affairs, factional scheming for power. In another term, Politics can be described as an activity carried out by government to govern, stabilize and increase the wellbeing of the people. In democracy, political parties are created by people to represent their interests and ideas; these parties are designed with manifestos that suit their objectives.
The individuals in these political parties often agree on the same terms to achieve a common goal. In recent years, Nigeria politicians had cultivated the habit of moving from one political party to another in other to achieve personal interests. Followers in this case tend to align with their leaders and move with them wherever they choose to be. With this, people of different political backgrounds are been merged to achieve a common goal but political interests and beliefs mostly bring about collision/clash of interest at the end. Thus, these causes political grieve and ultimately lead to violence among members. Violence in the political realm is also caused by members of different political parties before, during and after elections. A typical example is the clash that occurred between the members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressive Congress, APC, in Rivers state during the electioneering process of 2015.
Severally, Nigerian youth are seen on the frontline of violence that occurs in political functions and a critical question needs to be asked on “Why the youth are used as disruptive instruments in politics”?

The youth cover a large percentage of the population in Nigeria and over thirty percent of these youth are unemployed, majorities are graduates from different institutions in and outside Nigeria. These set of unemployed youth are seen day by day roaming the street to find  a livelihood, failure to find a good means of living leads to frustration, and some of them out of impatience engage themselves in immoral act like gambling, hard drugs, pick pocket, internet fraud, prostitution and many more. These youth got frustrated to the extent of accepting any offer that comes their way, such as been hired as political thugs to cause mayhem in political functions. A real life scenario of the use of youths as political thugs is highlighted below.

"There was a case in 2005, the feud between the supporters of the Peoples democratic party, PDP, and the Action congress of Nigeria, ACN. The youth are the instruments used to perpetuate this evil act, as two known supporters from the mentioned political parties threw the whole of Lagos Island Local Government of Lagos state into turmoil that led to the death of several promising and innocent youth.

It all started when a former senator of the federal republic of Nigeria and minister of works during President Olusegun Obasanjo second term in office, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe appointed Saidi Salawe, a onetime Lagos Island Local Government chairmanship aspirant on the platform of the PDP and Abdul-Azeez Kunle Lawal popularly known as Kunlepoly, a well known supporter and member of the PDP to oversee the functions of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) in Lagos Island. The two appointees, who see this appointment as an opportunity to use federal ruling power, constantly frustrate the efforts of Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA), a traffic control agency in the state. The LASTMA on daily basis reports this case to the appropriate quarters and actions are been deliberated to curb their acts. On a faithful day, Salawe decide to visit the local government secretariat for some issues, on the sight of him by the executives, the head of operations Mrs. Aderinola Disu immediately ordered for his arrest. He was arrested by the Nigeria police force but was later released through the influence of PDP chieftains in the state.

Salawe and Kunlepoly who knew they had the full backing of the federal ruling party; PDP, used the medium to overpower anyone that crosses their line in the state. This sends a strong signal to the ruling party in the state, ACN, and collectively they were thinking on how to put an end to this continuous threat by Kunlepoly and Salawe. While contemplating on possible actions to be taking, a known supporter and member of the ACN in Kunlepoly’s locality, Abu Ismaila popularly called Stainless, decides to confront the intimidators and this confrontation marked the beginning of unrest in major areas of Lagos Island in the year 2005.
In a bid to silence each other, Stainless and KunlePoly gathered in large number miserable youth from different areas to serve as gladiators in support of their cause. Guns and other life ammunitions were provided for these youth to carry out this heartless act. All political functions in this region at this period were always disrupted either by Stainless or Kunlepoly gangs depending on which political party handling the gathering. This went on through the electioneering process of 2007 and a lot of killings took place including the death of Kunlepoly’s close relation.
After two years of unrest in this region, the two gang leaders was persuaded by peace loving elders to put an end to the mayhem, they both yielded, and a date was fixed for reconciliation but an unfortunate incident happened on this day. Stainless was shot in the eyes by a member in Kunlepoly’s gang at the reconciling venue, Stainless boys retaliated immediately and the gathering was scattered. Due to this incident, Stainless was hospitalized, Kunlepoly went on an exile for months, the respective gangs kept their guns and they all remain in silence till this present moment. Unfortunately no one could repatriate these ammunitions from the boys and it is believed that majority of them are still in possession of these dangerous weapons.
Stainless was later discharged from the hospital but loses his sight after several surgeries, Kunlepoly later resurfaced and he secretly reconciles with Stainless, but the youth gathered to perpetuate this unrest loses their sense of responsibilities, some sustained life injuries, while others loses their lives.

A boy named Ganiu who was popularly called  “Mental”  is one of the frontier for Stainless boys, he was captured and shot while trying to escape by the special anti robbery squad during a robbery incident in Lagos state, years after the feud has been settled. Who knew may be the guns with him gingered him to partake in the robbery.
The unfortunate part of this scenario is that the political parties and politicians later denied their involvement in the clash; rather they said the dispute between the two leaders was based on territorial disagreement.”
In the illustration above, It is seen clearly that none of the politicians children get involved in this act, so it should serve as a lesson to the youth that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be used as political machinery against one another by politicians or any political party because “when the youth fight for nothing, there are nothing to be gained.” It was also deduced from this scenario that most violence in politics are engineered by some top politicians who don’t care to destroy the life of Nigeria youth to achieve their political will.
These politicians in most cases deliberately weaken the educational system, refuse to pay staffs salaries, and fail to create employment opportunity for the nation teaming youth, deprive the populace of basic amenities, infrastructure and so on. They went further to frustrates the private firms to pay higher tariff charges, all in the aim to get Nigerians used to poverty and frustration, and in this case, it becomes easier to secretly handpick the youth to perpetuate violence at their command.
Nigerian youth should know that poverty is a threat to peace, national security and the reality of a nation, therefore it is most kind for the youths to ask important questions from those that pose to represent them at all levels. Typical questions based on positive empowerment, peace and development.
The youth in Nigeria should open up their mind to know who among these politicians are worthy to follow. They should learn not to accept all promises made by Nigeria politicians; rather the youth should vote in people with good conscience and be a frontier for peace and development. The youth should not be involved in supporting political parties or voting during elections alone, they should also participate in democracy by vying for legislative and executive positions at all cadres of Nigeria government, especially, this period when the “Not too young to run” bill has been signed into law.
The youth should also strive to seek for knowledge either formal or informal. They should acquire knowledge on how to develop themselves positively in other to have great impact in economic building. The Nigerian graduates and youth in general should seek to learn in particular vocational alongside entrepreneurial skills because the chances of getting white collar jobs are minute. There are numerous entrepreneur platforms which are created to aid in impacting skills, sponsor start-ups financially and otherwise. Such platforms are; the recent N-Power build initiatives inaugurated by the present Nigeria administration, Africa Young Entrepreneur Empowerment Nigeria, (AYEEN), The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ceos’hub (a multinational organization for start-ups and entrepreneurs), and many others.
Politicians should note that instigating one youth against another in a bid to achieve political ambitions is barbaric and totally unacceptable. These set of politicians should understand that the youths are the bedrock for sustainable development of any nation if they are positively invests in.
The act of political god-father in politics should be properly checked because these cause the major reasons why violence is greatly embedded in Nigeria democracy. Every politician should be given a free hand to relate and answer to the calling of his/her people as stated in the 1999 Nigeria constitution.
Politicians at all level should seize the opportunity given to them by the masses through vote as a means to provide lasting peace, basic amenities and foster development within their respective regions. Empowering the youth to be self sufficient will greatly boost their own chances to achieve political ambitions alongside good record. Thus, it will also enhance national peace, security and development.
The supporters and followers of political parties and politicians respectively should seek for dialogue on serious political issues that can cause rift and violence. They should also learn to abolish the mentality of blame game.
The state governments should establish independent peace and conflict resolution agency to curb continuous conflict as well as promoting peace in all communities during and after electioneering processes. This will put an end to youth participation in violence that are either politically driven or not.
Finally, the national intelligence agency alongside the nation security forces should intensity efforts to detect areas that are prone to violence and be proactive enough to stop all intending feud in this region. The traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders in various communities across the country should also work handily in dispute resolutions.
If proper consideration is put into the recommendations above,

·         Nigeria democratic processes will be applauded by international communities.

·       Politicians will achieve their political ambitions without instigating the youth against one another.

·         The “Not too young to run” bill that was signed into law recently will attain its full potential.

·         The youth will have large number of representatives among those in the helm of affairs.

·     The youth will be the first point of call for economic building through the knowledge acquired (in particular, vocational and entrepreneurial skills).

·         There will be lasting peace in all geopolitical zones of the country.
And the participation of youth in political violence across Nigeria states will not only be grounded but there will be drastic reduction of violence in political gatherings, electoral processes and the nation at large.



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ANKAURSPEAKS: Youth and Political Violence in Nigeria; the Lagos Island Example and the Way Forward
Youth and Political Violence in Nigeria; the Lagos Island Example and the Way Forward
youth and political violence in Nigeria. Political violence encompasses political assassinations, killings, political-thuggery, stealing of ballot boxes and papers, intimidations, riggings and fraud. political violence poses a serious threat to the genuineness of electoral processes in federal, state and local government of Nigeria.
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