As Politicians Dance On Corp Members’ Graves By Wale Ajetunmobi
If my memory serves me right, the first time National Youth Corps (NYSC) members were engaged in the nation’s electoral process was during the 2011 general elections. That year, no fewer than 10 Corps members were brutally killed in the aftermath of that process by political thugs in Kaduna State and elsewhere.
While the spirits of those innocent youths still hover for justice, the government, which drafted them on a compulsory service to the nation, has since moved on. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – which corralled the victims into a dangerous exercise without protection – and the politicians, who benefitted from the violent process, saw the victims as Guinea pigs for the evolving electoral culture.
Worse, it did not occur to the nation that the unlucky Corps members’ lives were needlessly sacrificed for the political class’ greed and selfish agenda. The death Corps members’ dreams for better life after their Youth Service were aborted by the savagery of the political class.
Sadly, the subsequent polls held after 2011 general elections were no less hazardous for the youths on National Service. The largescale violence visited on unarmed NYSC members used as polling booth officers showed that Corps members have become endangered species and regular victims of politicians’ lust and struggle for lever of political power.
Some of the youths have been brazenly killed and maimed by the agents of politicians, who marshalled them to political battle fields and dangerous corners of the nation in the name of elections.
When Corps members are killed, what usually ends that sad episode is yelling by the Directorate of NYSC and visits to the families of the Corps members with some upsetting compensations that can hardly wipe off the tears and lift the grief-stricken parents out of life-time sorrow.
Afterwards, the nation and NYSC move on, with the assurance that safety of Corps members would be guaranteed whenever they are sent to participate in dangerous exercise of election supervision.
The late Okonta Samuel Dumebi became the latest victim of political savagery. The Corps member was murdered by yet to be identified thugs during the rerun elections held in Rivers State, last Saturday.
The Illah, Delta State-born and Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma graduate was an orphan whose only hope for better living was probably the university certificate he held. His life, dreams, hopes and expectations have been shattered and dashed, because of the political aspirations of two Rivers politicians – Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi.
To start with, the late Dumebi was not from Rivers State, the political battlefield where he was brutally shot dead by political thugs deployed by either of the opposing political gladiators in the state. Apart from the INEC allowance (which he could not get, anyway), the late Corps member could not have benefitted anything tangible from political success of either of Amaechi or Wike’s camps in the violent rerun election, because he is not from the state.
Dumebi lost his life for a cause he neither shared nor believed in. His hopes were dashed because of a political battle that could not be beneficial to him. Sadly, the true identities of Dumebi’s killers may not be unveiled, because his death has a subject of accusation and counter-accusation by the very people, who initiated violence into an exercise that should naturally be peaceful.
While the late Dumebi’s funeral pyre is still being put in place, politicians in Rivers State are already clinking tumblers, popping Champaign and making cheers on the grave of the innocent victims of their self-seeking interest. They are celebrating the results already declared from the rerun elections.
As their glass cups roar with the froths of Champaign, Dumebi’s body is laying cold in the morgue, with his spirit baying for justice. His existential narrative has become a story of no great innovative exploits, but that of gory tale of electoral savagery to which the orphaned Corps members became victim.
To pee on the corpse of the unfortunate Corps member and pooh-pooh his restless spectre, Gov. Wike, one of the key enablers of unbridled savagery that greeted the Rivers’ rerun, visited the NYSC secretariat in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to “commiserate” with the NYSC officials (without any of the deceased’s family members present).
The Wike’s self-serving visit, ostensibly put together for political grandstanding and media hype, turned out to be another jamboree for him to advance his frothy popularity. The visit, it must be said, achieved nothing to console anyone or even assuage the victim’s soul that still haunts the Rivers State.
As seen during Wike’s visit, the Rivers NYSC secretariat and its staff are not in mourning mood. The cheerfulness of its staff and Corps members, who met with the governor, showed that nobody felt any sense of loss. This explains why the Corps members and the NYSC staff relapsed into a paroxysm of applause and laughter as Wike announced increment in the state allowance for Corps members.
If Dumebi was not killed in the rerun polls, there was no possibility that Wike would embark on that self-serving circus for cheap popularity. It should be known that, Wike’s promise of immortalisation of the late Dumebi and increment in state allowance for Corps members cannot (and will not) stop the primitive violence being visited on Corps members during elections.
In the coming days, Amaechi’s camp also will, probably, visit the NYSC secretariat and make offensive promises. But, such undertaking will remain inconsequential to the safety of Corps members in subsequent electoral processes.
This is a wake-up call for the Ministry of Youths and Sports and the Directorate of NYSC to review the policy of engagement of the Corps members in hazardous national assignments, such as elections. Corps members should not always be taken as ready-to-use personnel for tasks that are considered dangerous or life-threatening.
After years of academic stints, graduates are made to go for National Youth Service as condition for employment and public opportunities. When they get killed or maimed in the process, government, which sends them for the compulsory service, only pays compensations. But the life-time sorrow and pain are borne by parents or families that have to live with poignant pain of losing children on whom they have hope of better future. How much compensation can assuage the agony of a family whose breadwinner dies for a cause they know nothing about?
Wale Ajetunmobi is a Lagos-based media practitioner. He can be reached on Twitter: @Riddwane
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