The prayer of every parent is to see their children graduate from the university, serve their nation and be gainfully employed, however this sometimes isn’t the case.
In exchange for patriotism, the destiny of countless youth corp members have been cut short leaving their parents in untold agony and pain, many thanks to “serving their fatherland”.
April 17th, 2011 no doubt, is a year that will forever remain embedded in my memory; I took part in the election while serving in Niger state as a presiding officer in Gbako local government area of Niger state. After the presidential election (April 16th, 2011) it became glaring to me that politics and election in Nigeria is a “do or die” affair rather than a game of who gets what, when and how through voting process.
Prior voting, the electorate were registered, accredited and giving a ballot paper which would be used for voting; Let me paint a clear picture of how it really went down; 2000 persons were registered within my unit, 1500 persons came for accreditation, and only 1000 persons came out to vote.
Basically, it means that 500 persons were eligible to vote but did not turn up. To my utmost shock, the political party agents began insisting I must share the unused ballot paper to their individual candidate which I bluntly refused. This was going on between 10:00pm – 10:30pm.
Meanwhile, a colleague of mine who is also my neighbor had the same issue but being a lady she was overpowered, beaten and was even poured fuel to be burnt but miraculously she managed to escape.
Contrarily the story didn’t end there for me, without mincing words and with undeniable clarity, a man told me that I should better ‘use my head and corporate within this unit’ saying ‘mark my words youth corpers will die out of negligence and lack of cooperation, if not in Niger state, then in other regions in Nigeria’ adding that I should better wise up so my blood will not to be wasted – this, was not an empty threat!
A few minutes later, a popular man, well respected within the unit came by to ask for my cooperation to play along, feeling bold I paid him no attention then immediately he dialed a number spoke on phone with the person and told me that my boss in NYSC wants to talk to me, as soon as I placed the phone to listen, the caller said-”young man, corporate for your own sake and benefit, save that ward and do everything humanly possible as the presiding officer to favour us. If you were at the INEC office this morning, you will notice a man with white bears. I am the one talking to you and not your NYSC boss.
While I tried to talk or change location, he said remain where you are, don’t reply my words so people around you would not know what I’m saying. Have a nice day.” Then I felt ghost pimples on my body…
I tried to be diplomatic but to no avail, in the end the political party with highest vote won within the unit and the agent signed.
By 11pm as I was heading back to the office with materials I had used, I got an anonymous call warning me to be at alert that some people wants to attack me but luckily I later got help from security operatives.
On the fateful day April 17th, back at my Corpers lodge we were observing the election process and listening to results being aired on national television by 7pm-8pm when suddenly, the Muslim corpers in my lodge went into their rooms and came out dressed in white gown and cap, holding their prayer chaplet, somehow at that moment I knew something was about happening.
As soon as the presidential result was announced in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan, we got a call from our NYSC zonal inspector instructing us to run for safety because it was assumed corpers rigged the election in favour of Jonathan.
Within seconds, my former lodge – NCCF corpers lodge Minna was burnt by angry youth who were supporting the opposition party.
Enraged with a passion to kill, the youths stormed the area armed with all sort of weapons; daggers, sticks, stones and even fuel.
Luckily, we managed to scale through the fence with our credentials before the mob gained entrance to our lodge leaving the Muslim corpers who could speak Hausa and have good relationship with the northerners.
While some of us slept in a classroom in Bida Polytechnic, others were able to make it to the military barracks.
To be alive, you’ve to say the magic words; ” sai Buhari (presidential candidate), sai Shettima (Governorship candidate in Niger), Allauwakuba.
The local youth we gave our old clothes and shoe were the one identifying us as corpers.
It was indeed a bitter experience for corpers in Bauchi, painfully some ran the race but their speed was not enough to save their lives. Several corpers were killed in Bauchi and other Northern states.
Indeed with a heavy heart but with unquantifiable appreciation to God I write this, April 17th, 2011 was a tragic day but to God be thy glory, I am privileged to be among the living.
I leave with this, to the Youth Corp members participating in the forth coming elections especially in the North, I charge you to be wise, smart and at alert, remember it is he who is alive that can tell the story.
To our government, I urge you to protect your citizens, provide adequate security to protect youth corp members who volunteer to contribute their quota to the nation’s development.
We pray for peace in our nation Nigeria. God bless us all. Amen