Generally, the effects of political thuggery basically include creating fear amongst candidates, hindering electorates, killing innocent people, violating human rights, destruction of valuable properties, insecurity during and after elections and poor political culture in Nigerian politics.
Several years back, Nigeria emerged a country that her citizens cannot sleep with their two eyes closed, armed robbery , banditry are the orders of the day. The atrocities committed daily by youth between the age range of 25 and 30 with bright future merely because of not having anything to do.
These Nigerian youth serve as errand boys/political thugs to politicians, during elections they equip them with sophisticated weapons to achieve their political ambition but later become legalized public thugs later. These armed youth cause chaos, commit atrocities and constitute nuisance in the society.
Political thuggery has become a devastating phenomenon in Nigerian politics. It has brought about the loss of lives and valuable properties with socioeconomic and political consequences.
This phenomenon is characterized by crisis, conflict, dispute, rebellion, violence and even war which affect political development especially democratic sustainability. The phenomenon has become detrimental to democratic sustainability in Nigeria.
The so-called thugs move mostly in organized groups victimizing, terrorizing, intimidating, and injuring not only politicians but also innocent individuals. The menace is responsible for poor political culture as it results to death or pose deadly threats by deterring individuals from actively per taking into political processes and routine socioeconomic activities at their homes, shops and on the streets within the country.
Studies have shown that thuggery and violence are basically “carried out by youth whose members are openly recruited, financed, and sometimes armed by public officials, politicians, party officials, and their representatives” (Luqman, 2010). The extremely competitive and ethnically charged nature of Nigerian politics, particularly at the highest levels, makes political stability and sustainable democracy a difficult national asset to secure.
For example, length politicians are prepared to go to obtain political office by all means has evidenced the fact that some politicians have gone as far as seeking to create „fake‟ police and other security forces, by purchasing uniforms for their hired thugs to wear to disrupt electoral activities and manipulate elections results to suit the interest of their sponsors.
Accordingly, Elites and politicians recruit unemployed youths into thuggery for their self-aggrandizement during political processes like campaigns and elections to serve as thugs, to snatch ballot papers and ballot boxes (Hassan, 2011). Elite most especially political class who hold political power used various means in order to remain in power without considering the state of socio-political harmony of their respective societies and the sustainability of democracy.
This class of people recruits and sponsor some youth that pay allegiance to them and consequently they benefit from the services rendered to them by these thugs. It is against this background that this paper attempts examining the effects political thuggery on democratic sustainability.
Additionally, thuggery and violence have contributed remarkably in the initiation of young people who are generally regarded as the future hope of the Nigerian society and custodian of good democratic values into crime. Certain factors prompt this phenomenon including social disorganization resulting from the breakdown of values and norms in the society.
The other challenges are hindered due to negative social changes from the wave of globalisation engendered by the movie industry, satellite, and Internet as well as economic meltdown have all contributed to the degeneration Adisa (1994). For the youth, the consequences are more detrimental.
Illegal roadside markets have become fertile grounds for petty thefts, daylight robbery and other act of blatant criminality that involve the youths. In a way, these youths are also co-opted and exposed to violence by the nature of their engagement in para-security employments. Adisa (1994) further instantiates this with Lagos State where the youths are called Area Boys who are responsible for organized street violence are hired by Lebanese businessmen as bodyguards or intimidators; at the same time, night clubs, restaurants, and brothels in several parts of Lagos employ their services as enforcers.
Not only in Lagos, this trend is perhaps a major cause of concern as the politicians also employ these youths as body guards and errand boys from where they graduate into full blown thugs.
Generally, the effects of political thuggery basically include creating fear amongst candidates, hindering electorates, killing innocent people, violating human rights, destruction of valuable properties, insecurity during and after elections and poor political culture in Nigerian politics. It is observed that thuggery is being politically and socially motivated affecting different people in different areas.
As a result, government and private properties were burnt, valuable properties of different political parties and different individuals were destroyed and burnt. Innocent individuals affected with different degrees of injuries ranging from wounds to loss of lives and valuable properties have all been destroyed on the streets, in their shops, and at homes, attack house, break-ins shoplifting, frightening and threatening innocent individuals by losing their lives and valuable properties that invariably exacerbated violence in Nigerian politics especially during campaigns, rallies, and election-related activities for which electorates and candidates of different party affiliations have been scared and frightened.
The paper recommended the following:
i. The government should ensure physical punishment to the thugs and their sponsors regardless of their political parties‟ affiliations. This will deter them from involving into political thuggery in Nigerian politics and will enhance sustainable democracy.
ii. Politicians should desist from using thugs during election
iii. The government should ensure employment opportunities to the teeming youth and the thugs. Effective programs should be initiated to train thugs with skills and necessary knowledge of productivity to improve national development.
iv. The government should also initiate effective programs including awareness campaigns that will transform and dissuade these thugs psychologically from involving into such violent behaviors in the country.
v. Finally, Nigerians should welcome and adopt any policy that will ensure democratic sustainability.
Cause and solutions to youth violence in Nigeria
The youths are the major part of the Nigerian population as shown by statistics and data on record, which conforms to the globally accepted view that the youths of today are the nation of tomorrow.
Political, religious, ethnic, academic, or economic controversies usually lead to violence by youths in the society; example is the Warri /Ijaw crisis that happened recently in the southern part of the country.
The above stated factors have always been the major sources of youth violence in the Nigerian society ever since the history of violence in Nigeria. This is a reflection of what will become of Nigeria tomorrow if something is not done now.
Despite the fact that the Nigerian government has a major role to play, it is not an issue of the government alone but a responsibility of each and every average Nigerian to make the society a violent free society so that Nigerians may inherit a better legacy for their future.
Youth welfare/development is one of the major important issues that should concern any nation for a better tomorrow. When I say “youth empowerment” I mean total empowerment of youths for a better tomorrow from an average skilled/unskilled youth walking on the street, youths in various institutions of learning to the youths in the “world of work” because each and every youth has an inbuilt potential that is definitely unique.
These skills are supposed to be useful in one way or the other for the growth of the nation as a whole through each, and every individual’s optimistic effort backed up by the collective energy and support of the “society”, when I say “society”, I mean government, non-government, private, and corporate voluntary support which will enhance the youth for a better tomorrow.
The university system which is supposed to be a place of peace and production for turning out peaceful and useful youths for the society now yields a contrary result because the aggregate quality of the university system in a nation directly determines the quality of youth capital development as well as the overall national economic health and growth of the society.
There is quite a large amount of skilled Nigerian youths who are graduates in the society and are supposed to be part of the working force for the growth of the Nigerian economy but they have been subjected to an idle state of “unemployment”. Unemployment is one of the dark clouds threatening the future of the nation and thereby leading many youths to deviate in the mission of joining hands for peace; instead it yields the contrary.
In order to eradicate youth violence in the society, the society needs to invest more in the areas that will benefit and develop Nigerian youths which will automatically give strength to the nation’s political, economic, social, geographic as well as cultural/ethnic issues.
Below are highlighted suggested solutions for youth violence in the society:
– Good home training by parents or guardians
– Smooth and better access to quality education for all
– Good example by the nation’s leaders
– Finding a solution to the nation’s economic problems
– Social welfare package for youths
– Programs of self-employment to educate and encourage youths to start their own business through workshops, research groups, and discussion groups, to reduce the level of unemployment
– Availability of cheap loans and grants for those who wish to become self-employed, i.e. start their own business.