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Causes and Consequences of Youth

Involvement in Electoral Violence


Abstract

Electoral violence is an extremely sensitive issue, possibly as sensitivity as religion


in Nigeria. Despite its relevance to the survival of democratic nations, its sensitive
nature has made it an unpalatable topic of discussion. Many people would rather
pretend or ignore its many home truths. This could explain, possibly the deliberate
absence of data on electoral violence, particularly in Nigeria. Often, it is the press
that provides such figures with the government always refuting. Indeed electoral
violence in Nigeria is like an octopus. Its spread leaves no one. Those in government
and those out of government, electoral winners and loser, security agents and
helpless citizenry, the employed and unemployed, the young and the old, men and
women, none is spare! There is no exception. Everybody is involved and everybody
is part of the problem. However, we are all part of the solution. Addressing electoral
violence means touching upon intricate human behaviours at official as well as at
personal levels. Thus, the courage of Arewa Youth Vanguard – the organizers of this
public discourse, a youth group, who are by all standard the number one
perpetrators and victims of electoral violence, in collaboration with the official
umpire entrusted with organizing Nigerian election – INEC, the most accused of
fuelling all electoral violence in Nigeria, is indeed COMMENDABLE. By their timely
efforts, they just seized the bull by the horn. Indeed, there is no better time to
challenge the secrecy and taboos tied to electoral sensitivity than now, barely a
couple of months to the next elections. This is the time to encourage debates that
will increase our understanding of how to tackle this mantra – electoral violence
towards complete elimination in our electoral process. It has been done by other
nations! It can be done by Nigeria!! And it must be done!!!

The paper evaluates common electoral violence, its causes and consequence with
the aim of highlighting its danger in our young polity as well as encouraging
capacity building for all electoral stakeholders, particularly the youths in Nigeria.
Introduction

The Nigerian polity over the years had been immersed with endemic electoral
violence. Rather than elections to be embraced as one of the important processes
that strengthen democratic institutions and facilitate peaceful transition of power.
They are seen as a violent means of acquiring the spoils of democracy. Thus, all the
previous general elections conducted after independence in Nigeria, were marked
by widespread violence, intimidation, bribery and corruption just to maintain or
wrench power. This heightens the potential for violence at every level of
government, especially at transition periods. Political elites mobilize the pool of
unemployed youths, often along ethnic, religious and party affiliations, as vital
violent arsenals. They youths are induced to threaten or unleash violence as a
means to achieve electoral and political success. The elites are responsible for
arming the youths, who mostly are political thugs to manipulate electoral outcomes,
kidnap or kill political opponents, threaten and intimidate electorates, destroying
lives and properties, as electoral processes are disrupted.

In 2007, Nigeria Watch, a research group, produced the first Annual Report on
public violence, (2006-2007) in Nigeria. The research was based on data collated
between 1st June 2006 and 31st May 2007. The report stated that 6,556 deaths out
of the 1,721 incidents occurred. The report highlighted accidents, crime, economic
issues, political clashes and ethno-religious fighting as the main causes of the
deaths in Nigeria. The statistics were graphically presented. Some of these would
interest us here today. However, the focus would remain on the topic of the day –
electoral violence. Politics from the first graph is the third (3rd) as one of the major
causes of public violence in Nigeria. However, the incidence of political violence is
much greater as depicted by the subsequent graphs. A sharper analysis shows that
political fighting is the leading cause of public violence.

Can we pretend not to know the implications of such violence or downgrade how it
affects individuals and the nation? No! The consequences of electoral violence glare
at us. They could be ranged from simple to complex, as simple as restricting voters
to form and express their opinions freely and without coercion and as complex as
the ultimate loss of life. Indeed it is glaring that electoral violence directly
influenced political participation through voter turnout as a result of fear and
frustration created by the violence. More importantly, it leaves the victims with the
trauma of years after the violence occurred. In fact, sometimes electoral violence
leaves a permanent trauma to both the individual and the nation.
Background to Violence in Nigeria

Generally, armed violence in many areas of Nigeria has escalated from the take off
of democracy in 1999. But the transition and subsequent democratic setting met a
violent breeding atmosphere. National security of lives and properties was at the
lowest ebb. This gave room for the emergence of ethno-religious militia and
vigilante groups. These supposed to protect the citizens of their local communities.
But almost all of them began to extort from the same people they were meant to
protect. Rival gangs soon sprang all over the country, ultimately engaging in
banditry and armed violence against each other and against the society. This
created brushes against state security forces with civilians caught in the cross fire.
This bred the infiltration and establishment of a gun culture in Nigeria. These groups
abundantly acquire and recklessly use various types of Small Arms and Light
Weapons (SALW) to carryout their horrendous activities. This was the fertile ground
in which electoral violence easily thrives, gradually exacerbated by sophistication as
more deadly weapons are used.

Locally produced guns gave way to more modern weaponry, including semi-
automatic guns. AK47 assault rifles, automatic pump action shotguns, bazookas,
Beretta pistols, browning pistols, carbine rifles, double-barrelled shotguns, G3 rifles,
general purpose machine guns and sub-machine guns. Many of these are licit and
illicitly imported which continue to cause havoc to Nigerians and the Nigerian
nation. Many of these are licit and illicitly imported which continue to cause havoc
to Nigerians and the Nigerian nation. At the same time, traditional weapons such as
machetes, spears, cutlasses and knives are also in use.

What Nigerians saw in the aftermath of Niger Delta amnesty is a fraction of the
SALW in circulation in Nigeria. Nigeria is said to possess one million of the seven
million SALW estimated to be in circulation in the West African sub region. Another
estimate suggests that over three million illegal SALW were possessed by Nigerians
in 2002. The motivating factor for the widespread possession SALW include, ethno-
religious, political competition, especially electoral violence, domestic agitation for
resource control, hostage taking and banditry. May be the government needs
similar amnesty programmes across the nation in order to recover other weapons in
circulation nationwide before the next general election. The presence of SALW,
easily transform minor social, cultural, ethnic and political disputes into violent
confrontations. Unfortunately, the use of SALW in Nigeria electoral process
increased the scale of lethality, the degree of intensity, casualties, and the extent of
livelihood destruction and wider developmental impacts with hundreds of thousands
of lives and properties worth billions of naira lost.

The role of security operatives constitutionally entrusted to protect civilians against


armed violence, are also causative agents of the insecure and fertile atmosphere for
electoral violence. The security operatives are often active collaborators in
persecuting sections of the population, heightening a violent response mechanism
culture in the country. Similarly, the role of the politicians, electoral officials, civil
servants and other technocrats, all whom the Nigerian constitution entrusted with
carrying out smooth transition and enthroning democracy, respect for human rights
and good governance also triggers electoral violence.

Small Arms and Light Weapons

These officials directly or indirectly help in fertilising the breeding ground for a
“culture of violence” in our electoral process meant to usher in and consolidate
democracy. This means that for electoral violence to thrive in Nigeria, something is
either wrong with all or one of these – democracy, respect for human rights and
good governance, because, in normal circumstances, violence thrives in the
absence of these. Electoral violence often occurs when an electoral process is
perceived as unfair. Although, in some cases, even the electoral process that is fair
and honest can as well attract violence. In either scenario, stakeholders use conflict,
violence, and threat as means to determine, delay, or otherwise influence the
results of the election. However, when conflict or violence occurs, it is not a result of
an electoral process; it is the breakdown of an electoral process.

When conflict or violence occurs, it is not a result of an electoral process; it is the


breakdown of an electoral process.

Elections in Nigeria has been marred by various forms of malpractices ranging from
double or multiple registration, deliberate late arrival of election materials by
electoral officials, stuffing/snatching of ballot boxes, destruction or hijacking of
electoral materials, harassment and intimidation by armed groups, falsification of
results, delay in announcing results with no satisfactory explanation etc. these
practices logically results in violent conflicts and clashes.

It is imperative that we re-examine, first electoral violence, followed by the youths


as the major actors of electoral violence before considering the nature and scope of
youths’ involvement in electoral violence in Nigeria to properly understand the
magnitude of the problem and also to evaluate the causes and finally the
consequences for youths’ involved in electoral violence and the Nigeria nation at
large.

Electoral Violence

The first question that might logically come to mind is that which might lead to a
better understanding of ‘violence’ in general. For the purpose of this discourse, the
World Health Organization’s (WHO), definition of violence would be adopted. WHO
in the 2008 Report, defines violence as: “The intentional use of physical force or
power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or
community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death,
psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”. The definition is all
encompassing; it covers a wide range of acts, going beyond physical acts to include
threats and intimidation. Besides death and injury, the definition also includes the
myriad and often less obvious consequences of violent behaviour, such as
psychological harm, deprivation and maldevelopment that compromise the well-
being of individuals, families and communities.

The definition particularly covers electoral violence, which is part and parcel of
political conflict or political violence, as succinctly capture in the definition of
electoral violence by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). IFES
defines electoral violence as

“any act or threat of physical or psychological harm to a person or damage to


property, directed at anyone directly involved in an electoral process (voter,
candidate, party officer, election worker, election monitor, journalist, etc.), which
may disrupt or attempt to disrupt any aspect of the electoral process (campaign,
registration, voting, counting, etc.)”.

Electoral violence can thus be seen as any random or organized act that seeks to
determine, delay, or otherwise influence an electoral process through threat, verbal
intimidation, hate speech, disinformation, physical assault, blackmail, destruction of
property, or assassination. The victims of electoral violence can be people, places,
things or data. The acts associated with electoral violence include physical harm
(e.g. homicide, sexual violence, torture, assault); threats (e.g. physical, verbal);
intimidation; destruction of property (e.g. arson, damage from stones or sharp
objects); and forced displacement. The objective of electoral violence is to influence
the electoral process and its outcome by gaining an unfair political advantage by
one individual or group of individuals over another. It is geared towards winning
political competition or power through violence or subverting the ends of the
electoral and democratic process through intimidation and disempowerment of
political opponents. Election violence might occur at different stages of the electoral
process, either before, during or after the election in the form of thuggery, use of
force to disrupt political meetings or voting at polling stations, or the use of
dangerous weapons to intimidate voters and other electoral processes, or to cause
bodily harm or injury to any person connected with electoral processes.

Here are the common grounds on which electoral violence occurs:

1. During registration, when both the ruling or opposing parties attempts to hijack
the voter registration to enable falsification or double registration as pre-rigging
mechanism

2. During campaigns, electoral violence can occur as rivals seek to disrupt the
opponents’ campaigns, intimidate and threaten candidates, party officials or/and
supporters. This has been the most common venue of electoral violence.

3. During balloting on Election Day, threats and violence at the polling station might
be use as tactics to influence participation in the voting or to steal ballot boxes.

4. Electoral outcomes, disputes over election results might trigger violence in


protests

5. Winner take all syndrome in Nigeria elections. Loser might resort to violence to
disrupt, delay or influence representation to avoid “zero sum” where “losers” are
completely excluded in governance, despite their ‘huge investments’.

Five Common Grounds for Electoral Violence

1. During registration
2. During campaigns

3. On Election Day

4. When results are announced

5. Winner take all syndrome

Defining Youth in Electoral Violence in Nigeria

Usually youths who are largely unemployed, mostly politically ignorant on electoral
processes and many who are illiterates are used to score violent political points
either in a bid to hold tight to or wrestle political power are the unfortunate
segment of the Nigerian population who are always referred to as “Youths involved
in electoral violence. Nothing can be far from the truth than this. It is indeed wrong
thinking. But who actually are the youths involved in electoral processes in Nigeria?
What really constitute a youth? Is it age, status or station?

In this case, youths involved in electoral violence are NOT confined to ‘vagabonds
and gangsters’ both defined by their status of being ‘unemployed and illiterates
youngsters’. Rather, ‘youths involve in electoral violence’ are political godfathers,
aspirants, electoral officials, civil servants, technocrats, ethnic militias, area boys,
students, vigilante groups, criminal gangs and state security agencies, either by age
or as mentors. They are all a political team.

The definition of youth, are varied, as many as the individuals handling the issue.
For the purpose of this discourse, a working definition would be use. However, the
concern here is not just defining ‘a youth’, rather defining “youths involve in
electoral violence”! And the best way to go about that is to give an example of
Nigerian Football Team. The question is who and who constitute Nigeria’s Football
Team? There is no iota of doubt that Nigeria is a football loving nation. This inform
the fact that whenever any of the Nigerian eleven players are doing well in the field
of play, it is common to hear statements like “we thrash so, so and so, or we beat
this and that”. In this case, the Minister of Sports, administrative officials, the
coaching crew and indeed the entire nation is Nigeria’s Football Team, irrespective
of age. Unfortunately, when the eleven players are not doing well, Nigerians blame
the sports administrators, the administrators blame the officials and in some cases
the officials blame the players and Nigerian dissociate themselves from the ‘team’.
The definition of the Nigerian Football Team thus changes according to the success
or failure of the active participants in the game.

This analogy graphically and vividly illustrates who constitutes ‘youths involved in
electoral violence’ in Nigeria. When the going is smooth, the entire polity constitute
the youths involved in electoral process irrespective of age. For instance, upper age
limits can better be illustrated by one of Nigeria’s most outstanding youth in our
present political dispensation – Senator (Prof) Jibril Aminu and the lower limit by the
constitutionally approved age of voting – eighteen years. By status, youths like
Honourable Dimeji Bankole and Alhaji Idi Hong, to mention just a few would be clear
examples. These are the outstanding youth characters that would be remembered
and honoured as “Nigeria’s Youths in Politics”. The point is, in normal
circumstances, a team comprises of the active players usually confined by age
limits and their officials or mentors. But when things go wrong, categorisation of
youths by age, social status and employment, redefine ‘youths involve in electoral
violence’ and NOT ‘electoral processes’. In this case, youths involved in electoral
violence would then be confined to ‘vagabonds and gangsters’ both defined by their
status of being ‘unemployed and illiterate youngsters’.

But ‘youths involve in electoral violence’ is far more than that. The main actors of
electoral violence as youths are the listed bellow in their individual and collective
capacities.

1. Political godfathers

2. Aspirants

3. Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) (electoral officials, civil servants, judiciary


and technocrats used during elections)

4. Ethnic militias
5. Area boys

6. Students

7. Vigilante groups

8. Criminal gangs

9. State security agencies

All these are youths normally involved in electoral process, either by age or as
mentors. The most significant issue here is that they are all directly involved as a
political team. And they can all be penalised by the officiating official if found
wanting, just like the case of issuing a yellow or red card to a coach in sports.

It is true that at the centre of electoral violence are categories of restless youths
who act as party thugs, and who form youth wings used by party henchmen for
political violence and criminal activities for token sums. These youths were deeply
involved in the massive rigging that characterised the Nigerian elections. They
actively participate in electoral acts that marred the elections and jolted people’s
confidence in the democratic processes. Youth involve violence includes a range of
aggressive acts from bullying and physical fighting, to more serious forms of assault
and homicide. But this indeed is the surface. Youths involve in electoral violence
can adequately be categorised into: Instigators, Collaborators, Implementers and
Retaliators.

Youths involve in electoral violence can be categorised into:

1. Instigators

2. Collaborators

3. Implementers
4. Retaliators

The four are also subdivided into indispensable and expendable Youths

Instigators could be godfathers, aspirants as incumbents or the opposition, they


could be youths by age but would not be seen where electoral violence is taking
place or godfathers, whose biological relatives as youths would not participate
directly in acts of electoral violence. Instigators, certainly occupies commanding
positions to directly incite the use of force to achieve their wanton desires or have
financial clout to sponsor electoral violence. Instigators are investors in electoral
violence waiting for their dividends after assuming office. Nigerian politicians see
politics as big business, with high return on investment; as such they consider it a
“do or die affair” and are always in the habit of manipulating and manoeuvring the
process to their advantage, most especially, when they feel the outcome might not
be in their favour. The categories of collaborators are mostly Electoral Management
Bodies (EMBs) – electoral officials, civil servants and law enforcement agents. Their
involvement in electoral violence is their investment contributions for the promised
promotions or other appointments by the instigators.

Electoral umpires often threw professionalism and ethical standards to the dogs and
became brazenly partisan collaborators of electoral violence. They are the master
riggers, manipulators and intimidators. They are the masters of psychological
electoral warfare. The police and other security agents also as collaborators and
perpetrators of electoral violence go out the law to support of one individual or
party against the others. They are often selective in the discharge of their
constitutional duties. The uncivilized manner they handle warring parties and the
general public is a significant cause of violence in politics. In this category also are
the traditional and religious leaders. They cause electoral violence when they
succumb to ethnic or, religious sentiments in determining the politician they lend
support. They use their influence to mobilize and persuade their followers to
support one individual or party against another based on preconceived bias.

They could be youths by age but would not be seen where electoral violence is
taking place or godfathers, whose biological relatives as youths would not
participate directly in acts of electoral violence.

While implementers are the category of youths earlier qualified as ‘vagabonds and
gangsters’. They carry out the actual electoral violence. In few cases, the law
enforcement agents also act as implementers, using their official capacity to
unleash hell to the poor masses. They are often state agents of destruction –
sponsored by the incumbent, using state machinery and paraphernalia of office
towards achieving this. These youths are simply ‘tools’ in the hand of instigators of
electoral violence. Retaliators on the other hand might initially not even be at the
scene of electoral violence, but responds in vengeance with more violence because
one of their own – a mother, wife, son, daughter, religious or community leader or
even political aspirant was a victim of electoral violence. The motive of retaliators
makes their involvement more dangerous and deadly. For instance, they can go to
any extent if a religious leader is harmed by perpetrators of electoral violence.

The instrument the implementers use is political thuggery, they and collaborators
use violence, intimidation and harassments, manipulation. Incitement is solely the
political instruments godfathers and other political elite’ uses to instigate electoral
violence.

Graphically, these four categories are easily classified into two main subs –
“expendables and indispensable (too valuable)” youths involved in electoral
violence. Instigators fall in the category of the indispensable youths, who are too
valuable to directly get involved in electoral violence. This is to protect themselves
from direct line of fire of the electoral violence as well as the publicity that might
jeopardise their ambition and the legal tussle that might accompany such
involvement, if indicted. They in all accounts protect themselves from any harm and
bad publicity, not to be seen as ‘violators’ of the rule of law. They and their
biological relatives never partake directly in electoral violence. However, they could
be entangled in electoral violence, if they are named by leaking perpetrators as
financier. To a certain extent, collaborators also enjoy this ‘privileged immunity’.
But because they are often on the electoral ‘battle ground’, they could be victims of
electoral violence, though at very minimal ratio. Because the authorities that
invested in them, places a veil of protection on the collaborators unlike the
expendables.

It is true that at the centre of electoral violence are categories of restless youths
who act as party thugs, and who form youth wings used by party henchmen for
political violence and criminal activities for token sums. These youths are deeply
involved in the massive rigging that characterised the Nigerian elections. They
actively participate in electoral acts that marred the elections and jolted people’s
confidence in the democratic processes.

Indispensable Youths

Are instigators – godfathers and aspirants who are too valuable to directly get
involved in electoral violence. They are protected from direct line of fire of the
electoral violence as well as the publicity that might jeopardise their ambition and
the legal tussle that might accompany such information. They in all accounts
protect themselves from any harm, bad publicity and not ‘violated the rule of law.
This accounts to the fact that they and their biological relatives can never be seen
actively participating in electoral violence.

Expendables Youths

These are the youths whose lives are not worthy of preservation, they are
disposables at any given time. They are the tools the Instigators often incited, gave
arms to kill themselves for peanuts. They are often fed with drugs and other
intoxicants for them to be ruthless agents of destruction.

The expendables on the other hand are not worthy of preservation, they are
disposables at any given time. These are the youths that are often incited, given
arms to kill themselves for peanuts. It is so pathetic that a times, a budget is
maintained for feeding these youths with drugs and other intoxicants for them to be
ruthless agents of destruction, whoever is in their line of fire in that state, they
would not give a damn. This explains the reasons behind escalations of intra family
electoral violence. The retaliators may also fall in this category.

THE CAUSES OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE

While frequent political violence in Nigeria does not generally occur spontaneously
and is not an intractable problem. Electoral violence in Nigeria is one of the few
issues that do not follow the normal historic ethno-religious or sectional divide-lines.
In Nigeria, electoral violence can be both intra and inter party and cuts across
religion and sections, though they might transform into ethno-religion without
initially aiming at that. There are many reasons behind the constant recurrence of
electoral violence. All the four actors mentioned earlier have different compelling
force inducing them to involve themselves in electoral violence. The following are to
mention just a few.

1. Financial Inducement

More often than not political violence is paid for, used as a tool by prominent
Nigerians to bolster their own political and financial positions. Virtually, the bulk of
the causes of electoral violence in Nigeria are financial. Every active participant of
electoral violence, aim to gain one thing or the other, here are five (5) causes under
financial inducement.

a. The Plum of Office

Political offices in Nigeria are too attractive. The ostentation lifestyle of political
officeholders is a great stimulus for those outside to go to any length to win election
including using electoral violence. While those in power also try to maintain their
seats by hock or crock. This excessive display of authority and the paraphernalia of
office made those in government seem to be untouchable tin gods. Their impunity
from the harsh realities those outside government face is one the greatest
attraction of going to every length including electoral violence to maintain or
wrench away power.

b. Attraction of Official Lucre

Greed cut across all the four actors of electoral violence – instigators, collaborators,
implementers and retaliators. Selfish desire and lack of accountability and
transparency as a short cut to becoming wealthy once elected into government is a
major catalyst of indulging into electoral violence. Thus politicians see government
as big business where they invest little and reap huge profit after winning elections.

In an attempt to win elective offices, politicians and their agents often induce
electoral officials, law enforcement agents and other influential stakeholders in the
system with financial and material gifts, all in the bid to subvert the

More often than not political violence is paid for, used as a tool by prominent
Nigerians to bolster their own political and financial positions. Virtually, the bulk of
the causes of electoral violence in Nigeria are financial. Every active participant of
electoral violence, aim to gain one thing or the other, here are five (5) causes under
financial inducement.

process for their personal advantage. These are the instigators. It is also greed that
lull collaborators into selling their honour and public trust to do the bidding of the
instigators. Mostly, financial promises, promotions in places of work and fresh juicy
appointment are the baits. For perpetrators, it is normally just a token that lead to
the mayhem they unleashed on fellow being. With just a small amount for drugs,
meeting unrealistic demands to satisfy the feeling of belonging and to settle some
personal scores, these youth sell their soles to perpetrate electoral violence.
Unfortunately, the outcome of greed always ends into electoral violence.

c. Illiteracy, Ignorance and Poverty

The lack of adequate knowledge or information on politics, particularly electoral


processes, coupled with low level of education, the high level of deprivation and
impoverishments of the Nigerian youths, force many to take the readily available
‘job opportunity’ – implementers of electoral violence. These conditions easily play
the gullible youths into the hands of unscrupulous politicians, who manipulate them
by dangling irresistible baits for the youths to undertake electoral violence, despite
the attendant aftermath of violence. The aftermath could be denial of education and
other capacity development training for the youths, a vicious circle that also causes
another round of electoral violence. The worst is that over 99% of promises made to
the youths by the instigators are never fulfilled. Yet, these youth go back to the
same instigators again and again over paltry sum and electoral violence continue.
d. Monetization of Elective Offices and Godfatherism

Elective offices in Nigeria have become mere commodities to be purchased by the


highest bidder. Thus, those who ‘invest’ in them, use all the means at his disposal
to secure winning the election as an avenue to recoup and make profits. Potential
aspirants therefore, monetise whichever office they intend to contest. The
godfather then steps in and finances the candidate. The sole aim for both the
aspirant and the godfather is to win by all mean that is where electoral violence
comes into play. In this case, no amount is too much to use in instigating electoral
violence, even expending the lives of opponents and valueless youths.

e. Sit-tight Syndrome

Having enjoyed the plum and paraphernalia of office, as well as the impunity
attached to their positions, incumbents use state resources and machinery at their
disposal to maintain power. Everybody is either seen as a resource or an enemy. All
the EMBs are influenced and manoeuvred to rig election in favour of the
government of the day. Security operatives as the most effective instrument of
coercion in accomplishing this selfish ambition is brazenly implored or bribed. They
are deployed to harass, intimidate, arrest and physically terrorize opponents. For
other reasons too, the opposition do not take this laying down. Thus, clashes results
into electoral violence.

2. Election Management Bodies (EMBs) Breach of Trust

Election Management Bodies (EMBs) are the electoral umpires. In the case of
Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security forces,
political parties, the media, civil society organizations and judicial officials are all
EMBs. The EMBs are responsible for providing election security. Election security is
the process of protecting electoral stakeholders such as voters, candidates, poll
workers, media and observers; electoral information such as vote results,
registration data and campaign material; electoral facilities such as polling stations
and counting centres; and electoral events such as campaign rallies against death,
damage or disruption. In all ramifications – the rule of law, respect for human rights,
democracy, good governance and morality, the EMBs should discharge their duties
and responsibilities honestly, transparently, fairly and impartially to all electoral
stakeholders without fear or favour. Unfortunately, this is not always the case,
almost all the EMBs are found short in the discharge of the constitutional and civic
responsibilities. Their brazen approach to electoral matters is a significant cause of
electoral violence.
a. Electoral Body

When electoral officials, as collaborators allow themselves to be influenced or


manipulated by politicians, definitely the opposing camps react spontaneously.
Sadly the common language known as a reaction is electoral violence. Impartial
electoral body could be a source of electoral conflict in any nation. No matter the
financial independence enjoyed by the electoral body, when it is seen not to be
neutral or impartial in the way it conducts it activities in Nigeria, it is bound to
create a lot of dissatisfaction that may subsequently lead to crisis.

b. Law Enforcement Agencies

Past elections in Nigeria had clearly shown the bias position of some security
agencies, who are supposed to be absolutely neutral and impartial in supervising
the system to ensure fair play and security of life and properties. But they are
obviously found to be active collaborators in subverting the process. In most cases,
they succumb to government influence, collect bribe to harass and intimidate
voters. More so, they provide cover for electoral officials and politicians to destroy
electoral materials, intimidate voters, or fully engage in electoral violence just to rig
elections. These actions give rise to protests and subsequent violence by aggrieved
individuals and parties.

c. Judiciary and Election Tribunals

Civilisation provides an avenue to seek redress in the event of electoral disputes.


This implies that even in normal circumstances, genuine electoral disputes might
occur. The law provides that if people feel dissatisfied with the electoral process, as
law abiding citizens, they are expected to follow legitimate means of seeking
redress through election tribunals. In Nigeria the judiciary through election tribunals
are the main organs saddled with the responsibilities of resolving election disputes.
The judiciary is therefore the last hope for resolving any electoral disputes. For this
reason, the way and manner electoral tribunals handle electoral disputes contribute
in stemming or aggravating electoral violence. So when the judiciary fails to deliver
judgement in accordance to the law and the electorate feels that the ruling was not
fair, unbiased and impartial, the aftermath could be electoral violence.

d. The Media

The role of the media also as an unbiased and impartial umpire goes a long way in
preventing or triggering electoral violence. So the media might become a source of
conflict generation when they succumb to influence of selfish politicians who would
want to use their outfits as propaganda launch pad. The media is a causative
instrument for electoral violence if they indulge in campaign of calumny,
mudslinging, defamation or slanderous attack on other political actors. This is a sure
cause of electoral violence.
Election Management Bodies (EMBs)

Election Management Bodies (EMBs) are the electoral umpires – Independent


National Electoral Commission (INEC), security forces, political parties, the media,
civil society organizations and judicial officials are all EMBs entrusted to provide
election security. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, almost all the EMBs are
found short in the discharge of the constitutional and civic responsibilities. Their
brazen approach to electoral matters is a significant cause of electoral violence.

3. Religious and Ethnic Sentiment

Religion and ethnicity are two very sensitive issues that unpatriotic elements
effectively use to their selfish purposes. Either one or both religious or ethnic cards
are used, depending on the one that favours the instigator. The bait for the
simpleton youths is that the worst candidate of your like is better the best
candidate outside your religion or tribe. Sometimes places of worships are turned
into campaign grounds for candidates. The support of religious and community
leaders are sought, once that is achieved, their followers fall in place like a pack of
cards. These practices greatly threaten the very fabric of our national unity and
integration. Qualities of merit like competency, honesty, integrity, trust and
credibility would not be put into cognizance. Such a candidate on merit would not
win as such he has to resort to acts of electoral violence. No sooner would they
ascend the throne would they turn against the same youths that supported them
through electoral violence, yet during another election they go back to the same
people with the same story.

THE ROOT CAUSES OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE

The aforementioned are some of the major causes of electoral violence in Nigeria,
but in indeed not the actual ROOT CAUSES. The root causes of electoral violence
are:

1.

The root causes of electoral violence are:

1. Sense of shame

2. Sense of Worth

3. Pride and ambition


4. Productivity

5. Lack of mentoring

Sense of shame

2.Sense of Worth

3.Pride and ambition

4.Productivity

5.Lack of mentoring

One of the major root causes of electoral violence is actually lack of the sense of
shame. Collectively as a nation, Nigeria seems to have lost her sense of shame.
Various acts committed in this country that brought disgrace and dishonour to our
dear country were treated with laxity, without any feeling of remorse. National
instrument meant to deal with such issues are never brought to bear, when they
are, selective justice is made rendering the efforts ineffective. As individuals, one
wonders if something is wrong with us – Nigerian youths, all the youths involve in
electoral violence whether as instigators, collaborator, implementers and
retaliators. Where has that shame of doing a wrong gone? What is it that is so
worthy that would make one to sell his birth price? The truth is that instigators
lacked the shame of accepting that they are not worthy of the offices they occupied,
appointments the got through their investment in electoral violence. Godfathers
should be ashamed that despite various legal enterprises, it is only public resources
that they would invest to amass. How about the implementers, the do-gooders, who
sell their sole for peanuts to unleash terror on their fellow being? The question is,
have we as individuals and as a nation “lost our sense of shame?” This lack of
feelings of dishonour, unworthiness, and embarrassment of our actions and
inactions is the root cause of our involvement in electoral violence, just like many
other bad things we do.

Know what you WORTH to yourself, to your family and to your country before
plunging into electoral violence

Lack of confidence to face electorates without the support of godfathers and


electoral violence is as a result of lacking a sense of worthiness by the candidate.
Similarly, collaborators in whatever form or class feels without indulging in
shameless acts of electoral violence, he or she may not attain certain position in
life. Youth’s involvement in electoral violence is as a result of lack moral and social
value, which is their sense of value – their goodness, usefulness or importance in
the societal scheme should not be tied to monetary price. Human life to these
youths has been rendered worthless. It is nothing but a commodity.
Pride here means the ability to properly assess one’s sense of value, self respect to
the value of ones personal character, life efforts or achievement that would lead to
one being satisfied with oneself. One can never be satisfied with self if one feels
that he/she is worthless that is where ambition comes in. Youths must cultivate a
strong feeling of wanting to be successful in life by doing something legal and
positive. To be worthy means there is something at your level that you can do and
be proud of. It means striving to achieve something special that other people might
admire. No matter how small a worthy thing a youth is doing, really worthy, the
youth would not succumb to insults of collecting peanuts to partake in electoral
violence. The absence of this dissipates youth’s enthusiasm, energy and/or interest
in anything worthwhile. This apathy and caprice makes the youth gullible stooges to
the instigators of electoral violence or godfathers. However, this is not the same
with the feeling of superiority. This is what the godfathers and other instigators
haughtily display to the collaborators and implementers to incite electoral violence.

The question is, have we as individuals and as a nation “lost our sense of shame?”
This lack of feelings of dishonour, unworthiness, and embarrassment of our actions
and inactions is the root cause of our involvement in electoral violence, just like
many other bad things we do.

One of the major root causes of electoral violence is actually lack of the sense of
shame. Collectively as a nation, Nigeria seems to have lost her sense of shame.
Various acts committed in this country that brought disgrace and dishonour to our
dear country were treated with laxity, without any feeling of remorse. National
instrument meant to deal with such issues are never brought to bear, when they
are, selective justice is made rendering the efforts ineffective

Another calamity that is causing havoc to the Nigerian nation is lack of


productivity. The mono economy has affected other productive sectors – like
agriculture and manufacturing. At the individual level, it is the major cause of
corruption in Nigeria. Public officer amass more than they can use for a life time in
one bit because of the fear of what would become of them if eventually they leave
government. Retirement is a scary lion that most civil servants are afraid of. Many
of the Nigerian civil servant no matter what they legally and illegality amass while
in government at all level sooner that you can think fissile away taking them back
to an abysmal position far deeper than they started. The next option is to patronise
godfathers, incumbents or strong opposition pay allegiance do whatever to ensure
the winning an election, no matter whose ox is gored. It is this same line of action
that even serving officer take to secure juicy patronage to augment their salaries,
their next promotion, foreign trips, chief executives of parastatals, board members
of organisation, ministerial and ambassadorial appointment and party nomination to
stand for elections.

It is in the course of this that those in government are fighting to remain in


government and those out of government are fighting to push those inside away
from government. The worst hit is the youths. Already without employment, without
capital, without sound knowledge and information, how productive can he/she be?
Lack of productivity is truly a devils workshop. The energies of youths are dissipated
on daily bases, doing nothing. So they gladly welcome the first opportunity to get
themselves ‘useful’ and often it is the job of electoral violence that comes knocking
with enticing promises. It is simple analogy that a woman, who knows that she can
transform N200 to the N500, would not take a more risky job of electoral violence
for a N1000. This goes up for every youth at the scale of credit worthiness at every
strata of his/her development.

Lack of productivity is truly a devils workshop. The energies of youths are dissipated
on daily bases, doing nothing. So they gladly welcome the first opportunity to get
themselves ‘useful’ and often it is the job of electoral violence that comes knocking
with enticing promises.

If one is required to summarise the entire causes of electoral violence into just
ONE, it would not be wrong to pick on LACK OF MENTORING. Unlike the good olden
days, the society has left the training of the youths entirely on their immediate
parents who are too busy scrape a living for survival. In those days, young men are
supported by all more experienced member of the society, who train, guide and
advice them to follow the path of honour. Where youths enjoy adequate mentoring,
the society would be rid of many vices, including electoral violence. Unfortunately,
the absence of mentoring created godfatherism. The difference is that while
mentors groom their wards, godfathers only depend on the ready made status of
the candidate for his success. In a few instance, the godfather just dusts the
candidate by providing financial and material support to braze the task ahead. The
absence of mentoring simply means that youths are no longer groom to adequately
meet the challenges of the society. Favouritism and nepotism and godfatherism
only clone youths, who virtually disintegrate when adversity confronts then. Youths
without mentoring cannot stand the challenges of legal contest because they
cannot match up in terms of merit and lacking in the wherewithal to seek legal
redress, plunges the youths into electoral violence.

Godfathers invest on aspirant for their sole selfish benefits, while mentors invest in
youths for the benefit, NOT of the mentor but solely for the entire society. After
assuming office, the incumbents might become threats to their godfathers. They
might refuse to do some really dangerous bidding of their erstwhile godfathers.
Again they may become threats when they too have accumulated ill gotten wealth
and aspired also to become a godfather to some other up coming youngsters. This
is never the case with the relationship between a mentor and his protégé. It is the
pride of every mentor, just like every parent to see his ward accomplishing greater
achievement, even if greater than that of his master. So mentoring is indeed
without any strings attached, but godfather service is a loan with accruable interest.

Lack of mentoring has left the youths at mercy of fate and instigators like
godfathers exploit the lapse to achieve their selfish goals, one of which is to incite
the youths to participate in unleashing terror through electoral violence. Lack of this
important aspect of our youth development – mentoring, is indeed another root
cause of many of Nigeria’s woes, including cankerworm of electoral violence.

The absence of mentoring simply means that youths are no longer groom to
adequately meet the challenges of the society. Favouritism and nepotism and
godfatherism only clone youths, who virtually disintegrate when adversity confronts
then. Youths without mentoring cannot stand the challenges of legal contest
because they cannot match up in terms of merit and lacking in the wherewithal to
seek legal redress, plunges the youths into electoral violence.

The Consequences of Electoral Violence

Electoral violence has serious wholesome consequences for democracy, respect for
human rights and good governance as already highlighted in the opening pages.
Electoral violence affects the entire credibility of the democratic system, human
security and wanton destruction of properties. Electoral violence also erodes the
credibility of the rule of law and impact negatively in democratic activities. One of
the consequences of Youths involvement in electoral violence is legitimising and
perpetuating the vicious circle of the existing culture of corruption of public office
holders. They must secure the financial means by which they would finance another
round of electoral violence to either maintain power or to force power shift.
Therefore as a result of electoral violence the capacity of government to deliver
social services like maintaining roads, providing electricity, water, schools and
health systems, has drastically reduced or are even completely non existent or
ineffective.

Apart from these, the youths themselves are being destroyed in three main ways.
One, many are wounded and even killed in some of these violent acts. For every
young person killed by electoral violence, an estimated 20– 40 receive injuries that
require hospital treatment. In some cases, the ratio is even greater. Two, their
future is negatively affected. Instead of being engaged in productive ventures that
would prepare them for future leadership and productive adult lives they are rather
engaged in violent activities that destroys them. Third, by engaging in electoral
violence, Nigerian youths are helping to erode confidence in democratic system,
which is suppose to help in grooming the youths to take over the mantle of
leadership. By destroying themselves and the system, the youths are costing
Nigeria both present and future credible leadership. There is a widening gap
between ‘rebellious’ youths and adults, which is a bigger threat to the future
leadership of the Nigerian state. This leads to the emergence of mediocre leaders in
politics and government because honest, God fearing and credible leaders who can
provide the required leadership are either destroyed or scared away from
participation. Basically, the government would not be accountable to the people,
rather corruption, dictatorship, nepotism and related features of mal-administration
take the order of the day. In essence, the main objective of democracy and good
governance is defeated.

While death, injury, displacement, and property damage are the most obvious
effects of electoral violence, the most widespread impact arguably relates to
increased fear and heightened perceptions of insecurity among civilians. Massive
internal displacement has also occurred due to electoral violence in some cases like
Jos, plateau state, Ihima local government area of Kogi State, Ukwale local
government area of Delta State, and Asakio local government area of Nasarawa
State. Electoral violence is also responsible for massive disruption of socio-economic
activities across the country. Most victims of electoral violence lose their businesses
to looting and their homes are often destroyed and many sink into poverty.

Electoral violence also erodes positive social capital across Nigeria’s political
landscape. Long years of peaceful co-existence and flourishing socio-economic ties
between different ethnic, religious and communal groups has given way to bitter
armed confrontation within and between political, religions and ethnic communities.
Politics is supposed to enhance positive relationship marked by inter-group
networks, co-operation and trust. But electoral violence instead destroys this and
supplants bitter mistrust, suspicion and confrontation. Again after those who are
employed to perpetrate electoral violence lost their “jobs” when the election crises
are over, they readily engage in other criminal activities as a means of survival.
Thus electoral violence aided in emboldening criminals, bandit activities and secret
cults, to continue terrorising the nation. This also results in another vicious circle of
considerable deaths and injuries.

Apart from these, the youths themselves are being destroyed in three main ways.

1. Many are wounded and even killed

2. Their future development is negatively affected.

3. Their leadership inheritance is destroyed


By destroying themselves and the system, the youths are costing Nigeria both
present and future credible leadership. In essence, the main objective of democracy
and good governance is defeated.
Conclusion

The nature, extent and magnitude of violence associated with elections in this
country are posing a serious threat to the national quest for stable democratic
transition, as well as the attainment of the long term goal of consolidating
democracy. Electoral violence has grown and assumed monstrous cyclical
proportions, indeed a vicious circle. Nelson Mandela in the 2008, WHO’s report on
violence, re-echoed this when he stated that

“youths who are bullied by other youths, – is a legacy that reproduces itself, as new
generations learn from the violence of generations past, as victims learn from
victimizers, and as the social conditions that nurture violence are allowed to
continue. No country, no city, no community is immune. But neither are we
powerless against it. Violence pervades the lives of many people around the world,
and touches all of us in some way. To many people, staying out of harm’s way is a
matter of locking doors and windows and avoiding dangerous places. To others,
escape is not possible. This is indeed true – as a South African who has lived
through apartheid and is living through its aftermath, I have seen and experienced
it. It is also true that patterns of violence are more pervasive and widespread in
societies where the authorities endorse the use of violence through their own
actions. In many societies, violence is so dominant that it thwarts hopes of
economic and social development. We cannot let that continue. Many who live with
violence day in and day out assume that it is an intrinsic part of the human
condition. But this is not so. Violence can be prevented. Violent cultures can be
turned around”.

Quite clearly, electoral violence are phenomena whose causes and nature cut
across the nation, but one is most affected by those directly targeted at him, his
family, friends, particularly his youths and his nation. Electoral violence is
connected to historical and social factors such as the arms culture in Nigeria. The
consequence of this is often reproduced and intensified structural violence
throughout the country. The crisis reflected deep-seated grievances, including
underlying political tensions between specific leaders and parties and weak state
institutions, particularly the security and judicial sectors. Key actors rapidly
mobilized around ethno-religious and political identities, which intensified latent
divisions within and between communities.

The indispensability of the youths in nation building in general and particularly in


the electoral processes was clearly highlighted. Certainly, our nascent democracy
would be consolidated if the youths are firmly committed to the propagation and
promotion of the principles of peaceful, free and fair elections in Nigeria. Everyone
agrees that the youth has significant role to play towards ensuring that the electoral
process is played according to the rules. These youths however, need to be
adequately mentor before the leadership baton could be handed to them. The
youths can do this in their official active capacity as the referees, the organizers,
media reporters, security operatives, crowd controllers and the spectators. Electoral
violence would be the thing of the past if all these youths discharge their
responsibilities accordingly to the rule of law.

In other words, it is important for the youths in INEC to ensure an even playing
ground, with all sense of neutrality. The youths saddled with the responsibility of
law enforcement need to be impartial in policing the process, the media youth must
be objective in reporting the happenings. In addition, religious/traditional leaders
must not succumb to the appeals for ethnic or religious sentiments. All the youths in
government, civil society, and the international community should discharge their
duties and responsibilities credibly. Above all, youthful politicians who are the main
instigators and perpetrators of electoral violence must realize the need to salvage,
protect and safeguard our democracy which has become a cynosure in the eyes of
the world. The clarion call to the youth is that any effort whatsoever to lull them into
electoral violence in order to subvert or undermine the electoral process must be
met with staunch resistance from all quarters within the ambience of the law. The
youths must place national interest above any individual or party of individuals.

It is hoped that accurate data on electoral violence, in the future, would be of great
assistance in broader violence tracking, with explicit violence monitoring violence
levels, geography and methods of violence, gender and age by observers
throughout the election process. It is useful to examine trends in electoral violence
for a number of reasons. Information on patterns of electoral violence may clarify
the link between forms of general violence and those during election processes.
More immediately, however, predicting violence can facilitate planning for violence
prevention and mitigation activities. For example, preparing and responding to an
escalation in violence during the campaign and results phases may be more
effective than the frequent emphasis on security measures around Election Day
alone. It may also be possible to establish more systematic community violence
monitoring mechanisms and to develop local security plans to prevent and reduce
the risk of rigging. This would go along way in improving our understanding of
election violence patterns and would as well serve to inform and enhanced violence
prevention and mitigation measures.

Again, I would rest my case with another quotation from Mandela

We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from
violence and fear….. We must address the roots of violence. Nelson Mandela

Youths who are bullied by other youths, – is a legacy that reproduces itself, as new
generations learn from the violence of generations past, as victims learn from
victimizers, and as the social conditions that nurture violence are allowed to
continue.
The indispensability of the youths in nation building in general and particularly in
the electoral processes was clearly highlighted. Certainly, our nascent democracy
would be consolidated if the youths are firmly committed to the propagation and
promotion of the principles of peaceful, free and fair elections in Nigeria.

Thank you and God bless.


References

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