By Desmond Ovbiagele
We all know the story. Following King David’s act of adultery, the prophet visited him and narrated the account of the rich man who chose to forcibly abduct and sacrifice the only lamb of his poor neighbour to entertain his guests, rather than touch any of the several thousands that he personally possessed.
Even in his hardened state of unrepentance, David was sufficiently outraged at the injustice to demand the death of the unnamed perpetrator (only to find out, of course, that the coded narrative was directed at him).
Although perhaps an extreme example, there are definitely elements from this account that came to mind upon reading about the intention of INEC to again employ the services of youth corpers at the upcoming general elections next year.
After all, who has forgotten the pathetic stories in 2011 of defenceless youths being slaughtered at their duty posts by senseless and bloodthirsty mobs seeking vengeance for perceived voting irregularities?
And after the tepid round of commiserations and condolences expressed by the powers-that-be from the comparative safety of State Houses and ministerial quarters, what justice has been achieved for the innocent lives that were slain? Where are the culprits (since clearly it was not spirits physically responsible for the atrocities) and where is their punishment?
Like similar incidences throughout the land – nowhere to be found, of course.
Yet, come the approach of election 2015, and it is insightfully concluded that the most appropriate solution to an apparent manpower shortage in electoral administration is to again draw water from the unresisting pool of recently-minted graduates to place at the front-lines of historically proven arenas of violent conflict.
Despite the gory tales of woe in 2011 mentioned above, and the inability to make any significant criminal convictions that at least could have served as a deterrent.
Despite the even more politically charged environment that exists today.
Despite the considerable upsurge in armed insurgency that has transpired since 2011.
But it appears that Nigerians are either a docile and forgiving people, or far too occupied with the important issues of their livelihood; therefore, there is confidence to present the same dastardly option to the populace (who, except for the victims’ voiceless relatives, are apparently assumed to suffer from convenient bouts of collective amnesia).
For the record, INEC asserts that it has put in place security measures to protect NYSC members and other ad-hoc staff to be deployed to these implicitly-acknowledged hotspots. Exactly what these measures are was not articulated, and any deeper inquiry into their exact nature may well yield a response centred around the possible compromise of the arrangements if disclosed.
But considering the frequency with which similar assurances have been fed to the public in the face of harsher realities, it is understandable if this assertion is greeted with withering cynicism. Especially since it was issued in the wake of the very recent barbaric slaughter of dozens of innocent school children in Yobe State for no apparent cause.
The bottom line is this: just like the poor man in Nathan’s parable, there is no sane parent who would willingly consent to son or daughter being sent to serve at polling stations, particularly in regions historically susceptible to senseless violence. And particularly when the children of those responsible for making such decisions are never selected and placed in positions of similar risk (like the flock of the rich man). Even if they were, it would still be morally and tactically reprehensible.
Because, quite simply, the current state-of-play from a security perspective in the land cannot justify the deployment of unarmed and untrained youths at the front-line of the battle against opponents of the democratic process; ruthless desperadoes ready to sacrifice anyone and anything to maintain or acquire a coveted political footing that would open the door to the unending treasures they believe are theirs for relentless looting.
Our professional security resources already have their hands full in endeavouring to contain a curiously well-equipped insurgent group whose targets appear random, diverse, and (in the North) geographically indiscriminate. Requiring that they additionally monitor and procure the safety of thousands of corpers spread across every nook and cranny of the country stretches the limits of credibility and reasonability.
No doubt, conducting transparent and fair elections in nation of 170 million people with its infrastructural and logistical deficiencies represents a huge challenge. But it is a challenge that requires patience and diligence in identifying a viable and acceptable solution, not a kneejerk reversion to methods that come at no cost whatsoever to the decision makers, but however promise a world of anguish and heartbreak to those who lack the influence to shield their loved ones from harm’s way.
After all, the God of Nathan is still in the business of judgment.