Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 8 April 2015 | 5,193 times
It was late in June last year, at the height of the Edo State House of Assembly crisis, when a young man’s world took a turn for the worse.
At the time, the All Progressives Congress (APC) members of the Assembly who were in the majority prepared to deliberate on the suspension of four members of the House – three of them from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – who were barred from entering the complex following accusations of unduly pressuring other members to decamp to the PDP, with an alleged long term goal to impeach the governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, who was still enjoying a sizable positive approval rating in the state. The PDP legislators vowed to resist their suspension and they, in turn, suspended the Speaker of the Assembly, Uyi Igbe of the APC, on one occasion when the gained entry into the House on a day the APC members were absent. So the stage was set for a showdown the following day.
When men of the Nigerian Police Force stormed the premises of the House to ostensibly forestall violence between warring legislators of APC and PDP on that day, their action was viewed as a biased intrusion into the activities of the House by the former in favour of the latter. They (the police) provided security for the suspended members of the PDP and allowed them entry into the chambers of the Assembly.
The APC legislators, incensed by the perceived bias of the police, beckoned on a crowd of onlookers (most of them youths) at the King’s Square in Benin City, to come into the Assembly complex to resist what they felt was an attempt by the police to facilitate the impeachment of the Speaker Uyi Igbe by the PDP legislators.
Thomas Bright was one of those onlookers, and he heeded the call. He joined other young men in storming the assembly complex where a fight ensued between the crowd of sympathetic supporters of APC on the one hand and members of the police force and some other youths who were supporting the PDP assemblymen, on the other.
The police finally brought calm to the situation after firing rounds of tear-gas and dispersing everyone from the complex, including all the legislators.
As Bright was leaving for home on that day, a young man tapped him on his shoulders from behind just some yards away from the King’s Square. “What I got as I turned was a blow to my face. I tried to gain my balance and I saw that there were three other thugs trying to attack me. I took to my heels and escaped,” Bright told this reporter.
It wasn’t the end of his ordeal. When he got home, an unknown number displayed on his phone as it rang. A voice told him that they were members of a deadly cult group and that they were also supporters of one of the assemblymen of the PDP.
“The stern male voice said I had played a part in foiling the attempt at ‘taking over the house’ earlier in the day and that I was going to be made to pay the price. I didn’t know how he got my number. I feared I had no hope of getting any justice from the police because they had started detaining those who partook in the fracas at the assembly complex and I feared they’d punish me for joining to foil their plans at the House of Assembly,” Bright said.
The dark-skinned young man told this reporter he was fleeing from Benin City after receiving more threatening calls from several others and hearing of the killing of some who partook in the fight at the House of Assembly complex. According to him, “My life is definitely not safe. If they can kill top politicians without any trace of the culprits in this country, then who am I?” Since then this writer has heard nothing from him.
Bright’s ordeal illustrates some of the serious troubles youths face when confronted with political crises of the sort witnessed at the Edo House of Assembly last year. As new members of the House are to be voted in on April 12, it is hoped that the true end of the imbroglio in the house would come.
However, with the never-ending era of politicians calling on youths to be the vanguard of free and fair elections as well as helping to safeguard Nigeria’s nascent democracy, the April 11, 2015 House of Assembly elections would once more put the youths in the spotlight.
There would be those youths who would be counted upon as thugs to help skew things in the favour of some particular politicians. A few days ago in Benin City, this writer overheard a group of teenagers who were discussing how eagerly they were looking forward to accompanying a particular politician outside the city on election day. They looked unkempt and spoke of how eagerly they were looking forward to the money they would be paid by the politician and how ready they were to deal with anyone that stands in their way.
In Nigeria it is no more news that leaders of youth secret cults are regularly courted by politicians to help them influence the patterns of elections and this trend continues till this day despite the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s best efforts to sanitise the voting system by making it scientifically as transparent as possible.
While some youths are tended towards being used to cause trouble on election day, there are others like Bright who are waiting to resist such efforts.
The stage is set in some ways for a clash of the forces of good and evil among the youths as far as Edo politics is concerned.
The negative effects for youths participating in election violence remain multiple. There’s a threat to their safety, a possibility of their consciences and futures being sold out to dubious politicians in the pursuit of immediate lucre and a redirection of their minds towards things that are unrefined and violent in nature instead of constructive, strategic and intelligent thinking for the personal and national good.
In this election period, the youths are once again crucial players and their roles and safety would once more be under the spotlight.
•Photo shows Thomas Bright whose whereabout is unknown following threats he received from suspected political thugs after getting involved in the fracas at the Edo House of Assembly last year.
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