The gruesome murder of ten Nigerians on the youth corps scheme-National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC)- in the wake of the post election violence that gripped some parts of Northern Nigeria is without any doubt a tragedy of paralyzing proportion, no matter how one looks at it.
Only maniacs would rationalize or justify the bestial killings of people in their bloom. It is a measure of the senselessness of the killings that no organization, however close to the lunatic fringe, has openly associated with the atrocity or even claimed credit for it. But the unanimity of our revulsion does not absolve us of the duty to grapple with the roots of the dastardly and brazenly felonious murder. We owe it as a duty to the memory of the patriots who lost their young lives in the service of the country to demonstrate that we are interested in the search or enquiry as to the cause of their death. Here one is not referring to the bureaucratic investigation set up by government but which is likely as always to come up with recommendations which everyone including the principal and the agents or commissioned investigators know will never be implemented. Our duty is not limited to asking questions but to taking actions as citizens to unearth all agents of such murders, state and non-state.
Understanding the Social Roots of the dastardly murder: Even if the post election violence that followed the announcement of the result of the Presidential election in the Northern part of Nigeria were premeditated, which I doubt seriously as I will show subsequently in spite of the eminence of some who have lent their voices to the premeditation theory, it cannot be seriously disputed that many of the people who took over the streets and suspended the operation of law or any semblance of it by killing, maiming, looting and burning properties belong to the underclass or what some scholars would refer to as the lumpen proletariat. They themselves, from the footages we saw, are as young as those they dispatched, if not younger. For the purpose of answering those who may accuse us of unscientific generalization, we may assert here until the contrary is proven, that none of the children and close relatives of the contestants in the Presidential election was involved in the heinous crime, at least not on the streets. The truth is that those who participated in the violence were unemployed, ignorant and in all probability homeless. These are the products of the Nigerian State that is controlled by a tiny cabal in their own selfish and parochial economic interests contrary to the dictates of the basic law of the Country which they themselves wrote.
My argument is that the rapacious, illegal and violent violation of the entire Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, especially section 16 thereof by the Nigerian State and its constitutive class is not ‘a’ but ‘the’ fundamental remote and immediate cause of the violence that greeted the announcement of the result of the presidential election. I should be glad if the Presidential Investigation Committee on the Violence reads this contribution. A cursory reading of section 16 of the Constitution should be sufficient. For the purpose of emphasis, section 16(2)(b)(c) and (d) provide as follows:
‘The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:
(b) that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.
(c) that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and
(d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens’
The Nigerian State concentrates the wealth of the country in the hands of a few people by criminally awarding them oil blocks or licences and contracts thereby pauperizing an overwhelming majority of the people who they render shelter-less, food-less, wage-less, sick, doubly disabled et cetera. Let us not engage in self deception, these are the ready army, the foot soldiers in the post election violence. If anyone preplanned the violence they did so simply settled in the knowledge that an army was available. The challenge facing all true patriots in Nigeria today is to engage in acts of agency that will stop the production of that army. I will return to this engagement later on.
We also need to pay attention to the primitivity of the struggle for power among the contending forces or factions in the ruling class as ‘a’ not ‘the’ cause of post or even pre election violence in Nigeria. To be sure this primitivity or lack of decency is based again on the nature of the Nigerian State. Although its leading lights like to deceive the people that the state can best be driven by the private sector, the truth is that the so-called private sector is absolutely and essentially dependent on the state for sustenance. The competition for power is therefore stiff and inexorably violent as state power is the only avenue for sustaining the irresponsible appetites and stupendous but illegal and immoral wealth of the ruling elite. It should therefore not be surprising if a barely literate politician who officially earns N15 Million per month and unofficially accumulates double that amount weekly would stop at nothing to keep him/herself in an elective office using thugs, explosives and other dangerous and violent means in a country where the official minimum wage is N18,000.00! In other words, even if the post election violence was premeditated, we ought to have seen it coming.
Nigeria: Not yet a Nation! : The most devastating consequence of the rapacious and violent exploitation of the masses by the Nigerian state is that the contending factions of the ruling class in order to maintain relevance and sustain themselves in power necessarily resort to ethnicity, parochial regionalism and religious sentiments. The armies of the devalued which we alluded to in their ethnic domains are mobilized to see people of the other ethnic or religious groupings as enemies that must be crushed. The dialectics is that although the members of the ruling elite are united in exploiting the masses, that unity is impossible without keeping the peoples of the country apart and divided.
The NYSC Scheme: A Failing Fraud?: In order to hide the fact that the bitter ethnic divisions and periodic eruptions of violence are a direct consequence of its policies and nature, the Nigerian State engages in deceptive moralization and designs cosmetic schemes to unite the people. The NYSC is such a fraud. Section 1(3) of the National Youth Service Corps Act, cap N84, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 lists among the objectives of the Scheme:
a. To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration
b. To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups
c. To develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria
Clearly, you do not ‘promote national unity and integration’ when the leading politicians and mainstream political parties keep or retain their positions by championing ethnic and religious cleavages. The question that arises is: do we then do away with the Scheme simply on account of the fraudulent intent of its founders? I think not. That would be too simplistic. In spite of the founders, there may yet be young Nigerians who are sold to the idea of a strong and just Nigeria as a result of their participation in the Scheme. It has also been suggested that young graduates should be mobilized to serve in their regions. While the suggestion does not conflict with section 1(4) (b) of the Act which provides that ‘as far as possible, Nigerian youths are assigned jobs in states other than their states of origin’, it does not resolve the fundamental issue that the Nigerian state is the fundamental cause of the violence unleashed on innocent Nigerians. At any rate, if we abolish the Scheme are we also going to restrict the movement of Nigerians to their regions or states of origin? What happens to Nigerians working in Federal establishments in other regions? Are we going to ask them to also return to their ethnic cocoons? To do away with the Scheme will be nothing other than replacing a cosmetic solution with another, a circular sort of movement that will lead nowhere.
Conclusion : The non implementation of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II of the Constitution is a political decision aimed at entrenching the interests of the ruling class. It is not a moral issue. The people and their allies cannot approach it casually. It is a revolutionary project. It will involve the working people, students and artisans mobilizing by all means necessary in order to ensure that the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution becomes justiciable. That is the only way to create a just Nigeria where erruptions of violence on religious, political and ethnic grounds will be a thing of the past.
By Bamidele Aturu
Aturu is a Lagos-based lawyer
June 5, 2011