- Dr Isiaka Aliagan (Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Kwara State University)
The decision is right. First, I want to believe that for that step to be taken, the NYSC management must have considered certain information available to it, especially with regard to the issue of security. There were reports of people that were killed during the last election in Rivers State.
Some of these people were youths from different parts of the country and their safety and security should be of paramount importance to all.
If you just leave them, the situation may become very volatile and exposing these young ones to the do-or-die attitude of our politicians is not the right thing to do.
So, withdrawing NYSC ad hoc staff from the election is a wise one. It will save us from a lot of issues that may come up. If at the end of the day, there is violence and the security personnel on ground are not enough to contain it, corps members may find themselves in a very difficult situation.
My advice to politicians is that they should know that if they did not win today, they can wait for another day. This idea of wanting to win at all cost is not going to do our country any good.
The kind of legacy they are leaving behind for our young ones is not good for the future of democracy in Nigeria. If anytime there is election there is violence, killings and arson, it means that those who are coming after us may see it as the norm in politics.
The major gladiators in Rivers State are the politicians in the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. There is a struggle for the control of Rivers and that has been a problem. The ruling party in the state is currently PDP and people in APC are also trying their luck. They want to unseat the ruling government. That is why there is crisis here and there.
People in Rivers State should see themselves first and foremost as Rivers people. In every family and community, you find people belonging to different political parties. They should come together to work for the future of the state. It is not good for elections to be marred by violence and killings. The elder statesmen in the state should to call the gladiators to order and ensure that they really work for peace and the progress of the state.
- Jefferson Uwoghiren (Legal practitioner)
The management of the National Youth Service Corps must have considered a lot of security reports on the nature of preparations for the election. The management team must take everything into account before considering putting corps members in harm’s way. In the light of what we have heard about elections in Rivers State, there is no gainsaying the fact that the state is one of the most volatile places in the Niger Delta region.
During the last election, very senior police officers were kidnapped and beheaded. These were persons who were trained in the art of handling arms. Although they were trained and armed to defend themselves, they were still killed in a brutal fashion.
How do you expect corps members, who are just graduates of tertiary institutions with minimal defensive tactics, minimal security training and little or no exposure to the terrain they are likely to find themselves, to defend themselves when faced by desperate thugs?
I think the management of the NYSC considered the security of lives and property of corps members as paramount in taking this decision. We should thank the NYSC management for putting the lives of its personnel above the benefits that may accrue from the election.
More importantly, there are alternatives to the NYSC. We have had occasions where teachers were deployed to participate in the exercise before. So, there are better alternatives to corps members that are being withdrawn.
Do not also forget that a lot of the corps members are not from Rivers State. They do not know the terrain and cannot speak the language. You cannot take someone from Sokoto, Lagos or Edo to Rivers State and expect him or her to sufficiently understand the security challenges and the way of escape in times of emergency.
- Ezenwa Nwagwu (Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reform)
The reason the NYSC took the decision is that what goes on in Rivers State is not an election; it is a gang fight. You don’t put our young men and women in harm’s way because they are in national service.
I have said it repeatedly that the youths of Rivers State must shut down the industry of violence that the government has established.
Until they do that, it is going to be difficult for any serious person to say that he is going to do election work anywhere in that state.
It is more of a gang fight than an election. You can’t be talking about an election where people freely use AK 47s and detonate bombs. That is not an election. It is very rational for the NYSC management to take that decision.
•Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo (Professor of Literature, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, USA)
This is democracy; the government knows why it is withdrawing the services of youth corps members from the rerun elections.
I can tell you that the reasons may not be far from what is happening in some parts of the country.
They may think that members of the NYSC are being used to perpetrate election fraud. Another factor may be the killing of some corps members during the last elections.
This tells you a lot about the kind of country we live in. If you are not safe in other parts of the country because of whom you are and where you come from, you may be at risk when on election duty. This issue needs to be addressed either directly or indirectly so that Nigerians can move on.
- Mr. Chime S. Chime (Port Harcourt-based lawyer)
Since the NYSC management and the police could not guarantee the security of corps members in previous elections in Rivers State, I think it is a right decision to excuse them from participating in the Saturday’s exercise.
You are aware that many of the corps members are not from Rivers State and as such, they do not know most parts of the state.
Remember that a corps member lost his life during one of the elections in Rivers State. I even read that INEC has indicted the police as a result of their conduct during the last election.
Also, the Rivers State governor has maintained that the police were not professional during the last election. INEC should use other ad hoc workers for the coming election.
- Mr. Harrison Osenum (Abuja-based legal practitioner)
The decision of the NYSC not to involve corps members for the Rivers State rerun elections is in order. You will agree with me that the Rivers State coordinator of the NYSC cannot unilaterally make that decision. He or she must have consulted and got the approval of the NYSC management before arriving at that decision.
Rivers State is a very volatile state, especially when there is an election and this has been the case for a while. Some corps members were attacked during a recent poll in the state and I think it will be foolish for the NYSC to risk the lives of these innocent youths, especially when it is obvious that they may be attacked.
Some corps members were killed in the violence that erupted after the 2011 general elections in some northern states. In order to avoid this type of loss of lives, it is better not to get corps members involved in the exercise.
The fact that the corps members are regarded as bridge builders does not mean we should unnecessarily put their lives at risk. We need them to build a virile and united nation, and we have the duty to ensure their protection wherever they are deployed to.
Considering what happened in the past, I think it is good to excuse corps members from the election. Besides, security agencies must step up their arrangements to make sure that human lives and property are safe during the rerun election.
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