THUGS understand the business of violence. The boldness that has grown from not punishing them is evident in the havoc they are causing. They are appropriating space, the law watches, they are becoming the law.
From humble beginnings that saw thugs on the fringes of elections, they have assumed commanding positions in our politics. The growth and importance of thugs are sustained by willingness of most candidates to use them, protect them, and reward them.
Thugs are in business because violence is profitable. Thugs are growing in numbers and in the intensity of their actions. They adorn an air of invincibility because society permits them, dreads them, and sometimes adores them.
Elections used to be the season of thugs. However, profits from the enterprise have seen ambitious thugs extending their business to pre-election matters. Their choices of where to strike extend as the political campaigns are in their apogee. As the stakes increase, the use of force is taking over the sphere – all parties are involved. In the full glare of the nation, they attack their master’s opponents, journalists, or whosoever catches their fancy.
A consistent attribute of the imposition of thugs is that the police concede space to them. They watched as contending thugs took over the PDP secretariat in Abuja last year and have had the same attitude elsewhere. These days, thugs are armed enough to bomb their opponents out of existence.
Port Harcourt is becoming a flashpoint that consistently represents what happens in other parts of the South South. Territories appear to have been apportioned and the quests to extend control lead to conflicts. Thugs are not concerned that the programmes are being covered by live television. Claims and counter-claims compete for acceptance in the brutality thugs visit on their opponents, the law watches askance. Thugs have seized authority. Nobody would be punished for these infractions as was the case with the 2011 election riots that swept through many States.
Thugs act for people. Someone controls, equips, feeds, pays and owns them. They are drunk on their principals’ violent utterances, and most importantly, they are assured the law would not inconvenience them. The law should not excuse murderers and arsonists because they act for politicians. Duplicity in punishing electoral offenders belittles the law.
Every Nigerian has a right to lawful contention for power. We must avoid being so consumed about winning elections that we set the country on fire. Those who aspire to lead Nigerians should not use violence to achieve their ambitions. They should tell Nigerians how their leadership would improve Nigeria, instead of promoting violence.
Immunity for thugs and their sponsors approves unprecedented violence. Thugs are overdue for punishment.