In 2011, 11 serving NYSC corps members were murdered in Bauchi state as an aftermath of the post-electoral violence that took the life of over 800 persons particularly in the Northern Nigeria. The wounds on the parents of the affected corps members as well as serving corps members have proven to be one that have refused to heal. With the 2015 presidential election less than a month away and the same candidates on whose account the violence broke out in the race, there is fire on the mountain!
First I’ll like to analyze the event that lead to the death of these souls. One of the deceased corps members Aikfavour Ukeoma complained on his Facebook page one day before his demise about the electoral malpractice that he stood against at the polling unit where he served as presiding officer.
In his words: “Na wao! These CPC supporters would have killed me yesterday, no see threat oooo. Even after forcing underage voters on me, they wanted me to give them the remaining ballot papers to thumbprint. Thank God for the police and I’m happy I could stand for God and my nation. To all corps members who stood despite these threats especially in the north bravo! Nigeria! Our change has come.”
He was consequently set ablaze alongside 10 other corps members after the corpers lodge in Giade area of Bauchi State was attacked by a mob and the corps members took refuge in a police station. Media reports have it that the mob overpowered the policemen on duty and killed the corps members.
One would be tempted to ask why people would be so heartless to kill innocent corps members who were mere umpires in the election. It was clear that the NYSC corps members were the direct target of the attack. Why was the case in Bauchi different from the showdown in Kaduna state that was primarily along religious lines? Of all vulnerable people in the course of the election, why should it be corps members that were set ablaze? Why didn’t anyone try to stop the mob except the policemen they overpowered?
The answer is not far fetched, the attacking mob believed that the firm stand of Ukeoma and his colleagues against their rigging was the reason why Jonathan won the election. They would have said “If only those foolish NYSC corpers allowed us to take the remaining ballot papers and thumbprint, Jonathan would not have won! Sia Buhari!” Thus, an attack was lunched and blood was spilled.
The attackers undertook this mindless murder without taking cognizance of the fact that in Bauchi State where they carried out their inhuman action, Jonathan didn’t even win up to 25% of the votes.
In 2014 during the distribution of temporary voters’ card and supplementary registration of voters, corps members in Bauchi state and across the North experienced similar harsh treatments from rural communities. It is to this effect that a huge number of 2014 Batch A corps members have vowed not to take part in any INEC process anymore even if millions were offered.
This is 2015, merely weeks to the presidential election; there has been the progress made with the signing of the Abuja Accord in which 14 presidential aspirants including Buhari and Jonathan have signed a pact for peace and non-violence as the aftermath of the General election. But, it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that Nigerian politicians don’t keep to written and oral agreements. One of the leading candidates promised his party he’ll be contesting for only one term, the other pledged that 2011 would be the last election he would contest; both have not kept their words.
INEC and NYSC have repeatedly assured corps members of their safety, yet media powered assurances are not enough. The sitting president always assured us that Boko Haram was well checked, ‘we are on top of the situation’ his media aides would say; yet the next morning there was a bombing.
INEC and NYSC needs to go beyond addressing media and releasing press statements on assurance of safety of corps members; there should be a concrete agreement. INEC and NYSC should take full responsibility for the lives of corps members and assure compensation in the event that anything goes wrong. Let the general public know about the security of corps members. Say 2 armed soldiers, Civil Defense corps, police and possibly SSS, something like that.
The blood of Ukeoma and 11 other corps members as well as over 800 Nigerians have been used to wet the tree of our current democracy (2011-2015), we don’t have more blood of corps members to spill in 2015.
If INEC expects firm stands against voting of underage persons and non-surrender of remaining ballot papers to party agents, more should be done to assure our security. Else, the most violent will be the winners of the election; free and fair elections will only be attained in the land of our dreams.
The parties to the Abuja Accord Peace Pact should also ensure that the transition from words to action of the pact to non-violence. It should be taken to the ward level, to the presidential rallies and with the N500 to be shared on election days.
Truly, Nigeria is ours and Nigeria we serve; yet, we serve Nigeria because we are living. I do hope that in the course of obeying the clarion call, the less care exhibited of INEC and NYSC does not lead to the loss of our lives. Of a truth, we swore an oath to serve Nigeria and pay with the ultimate price when necessary, but let the payment of the ultimate price be a decision we personally decide to take.
Please take our safety serious; else, the involvement of NYSC corps members in the 2015 elections is just a deliberate attempt to sacrifice Nigerian youth for the progress of our democracy.
Demilade Isaac Osoteku