Rising electoral violence: Nigerian youth focused on casting ballot at polls

 

Quadri Yahya 

Two days before Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary polls, Abdulrosheed Fadipe was just departing from a political meeting in Boluwaduro, a local area in Osun State when his campaign team received a distress call that some political thugs attacked the party’s members in another area called Ajagunla. 

It was 12.42 AM. But Fadipe and his team head towards the location (about 40 minutes drive) in an attempt to save a bigwig who has been beaten and harassed, just for the team to be threatened by hoodlums, armed with rifles, machetes, knives and charms.

“The criminals also tried to frame our people by forcing them to do a video claiming they masterminded the recent political attacks in the community”, Fadipe told me a day after the incident.

Africa’s largest democracy has faced bouts of threat, including electoral violence, rigging and voter apathy.

In three years, the Independent National Electoral Commission has recorded 50 election-related violence on its facilities across 15 states. Only in 2021 was the commission’s facility spared in Osun.

The electoral body also reveals that 1,149 Nigerians have been killed. 

“All six geopolitical zones of the country are confronted by insecurity, which has led to the deployment of the Nigerian military across the federation,” a group, Centre for Democracy and Development disclosed in its security report ahead of the elections.

“Excessive force in response to protests, looting, explosions, battles, mob violence and attacks against civilians have all been recorded across Nigeria in the last year”, it adds.

On February 11th, police in Kano State say they have arrested 93 suspects for alleged thuggery during electioneering in the state.

But two days before the election, tragedy struck in the ancient city of Kano when four supporters of a presidential candidate were hacked to death by yet-to-be-identified thugs on the ever-busy Kano-Zaria road.

That same day, Inter-Party Advisory Council stated that no room was given for losers in political contests, and usually results in desperation to clinch powers at all costs by candidates and their supporters.

‘Unless it’s very hot’

The youth have shown their resolve to massively vote for the candidate of their choice in the forthcoming elections. But ahead of the 2023 ballot, a series of elections-inspired attacks have led to the death of many local politicians. 

In the February and March elections, youth comprises 37 million out of the entire 93.5 million eligible voters.

And like Fadipe, a secretary to a parliamentary candidate, they will not be deterred by electoral violence,  maybe. 

“Unless it’s a very hot one that involves heavy weapons, nothing can stop me from casting my vote,” Wale Adekola, a first-time voter told me. 

Adekola, who is a student at the University of Ibadan has suffered from an 8-month-long union strike.   

“The country has shown me a lot of shege (trouble), broken my heart many times. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly about this time in the history of Nigeria, and after observing critically, I have ordained a candidate who is known as Peter Obi.”

“They have sent a message to the masses: that we(the masses) might live in fear for the next four years if the party emerges tomorrow”, Fadipe told me.

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