Over the weekend many of us head about the bomb blast at the INEC offices and the unfortunate NYSC Corps members that where caught in the think of it. I read this following post and it really hit home. So here are the passionate words about the entire situation:
My name is Oye Odutola, I am a young Nigerian and I am angry. Last night, a friend of mine who lives in Niger state called to tell me that there was an explosion at the INEC office in Suleja, also in Niger state and a lot of corpers had been caught up in the blast. I was half asleep at the time and I couldn’t process what he was saying until I came downstairs this morning and met my mother on the phone, talking about the bombing and looking very upset.
Apparently, the story of the explosion made the front page of the Punch Newspaper, and as I began to read about it, I became very very angry. As a Nigerian, I’m used to being angry and frustrated but I’ve never felt as helpless and overwhelmingly sad as I do right now and since shouting about it and slapping the newspaper around wasn’t helping me feel any better, my father suggested I write about it.
According to the punch newspaper; “at least 25 persons, mostly corps members” were involved in this explosion – these corpers were there to find out where they had been assigned to serve as INEC officials when the bomb went off. The explosion was so horrific that a Mallam Baba-Sule was quoted as saying “…victims were dismembered and their bodies littered the office complex”. These victims apparently didn’t die immediately but rather “They were said to have died after much groaning and writhing in pain as they could not get urgent medical assistance”. When this urgent medical assistance finally came, those victims who were still alive were shipped off to… Suleja General Hospital.
Suleja GH? Of everything I read in that article, that was what shocked me the most. I am shocked and appalled by the degree of nonchalance exhibited by the Nigerian government over what has happened to these corpers. What level of care can they possible receive in a public hospital in Suleja? These people have third degree burns and missing limbs! The circumstances that brought them to the scene of that explosion were completely beyond their control. The majority of corps members have no say in where they are posted to and the selection for INEC service was completely random. These are people’s children and to put them in the face of death in the name of “national service” without any provision for their health and safety is not just callous and irresponsible, it is vile and despicable.
This is a national tragedy and for me, it hit dangerously close to home. I left NYSC camp barely 2 weeks ago and while I was there, a lot of the friends I made got “drafted” into INEC to work as election officials. These corpers were told by the soldiers at camp over and over again that they were “playing with their lives” and should not involve themselves in anything to do with elections. But who listens to soldiers… Right?
As a corper, once you pick up your call-up letter and head off to camp, you place your life in the hands of the government for an entire year and, unless you have some debilitating medical condition, are married, an international student or have what is known as “long leg” you generally get flung wherever the NYSC pleases, and once you’re there, you are given three weeks of “orientation” and then left to fend for yourself.
Its hardly news that the Nigerian government shows an unprecedented degree of apathy for its populace. Isn’t that why babies die of malaria while “civil servants” award themselves salaries and allowances that would rival the yearly budgets of several small nations? But I digress, that is not why I am writing this article.
Right now, I don’t care how much money is squandered or stolen from the national treasury every year, and I am not interested in who is in the process of rigging the elections at this very moment. What I care about is that every year, hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians are sent off to unfamiliar territory to “serve” in the most hostile conditions imaginable. They oftentimes cannot speak the language and are ill-treated by the very people they have come to help and what does the government do to help theses corpers? Absolutely nothing.
Every year, corpers are raped, maimed and murdered in their Places of Primary Assignment and the government does nothing about it. They turn a blind eye and continue to send these young people into these dangerous situations. I know that some of you may feel that this matter does not directly concern you or you might read this, feel bad for a little while and then move on but I want you to think of this;
National Youth Service corps members are wards of the state. The government is responsible for their well being and even pays them a monthly allowance (which it should be noted, is half the country’s approved minimum wage). Also, this attack occurred on government property, inside a government compound while these corpers were on government assignment and there were no measures put in place to protect them. Even after the explosions, there were no emergency services available, no paramedics at the scene and so far there has been no inquiry into who planted the bomb and there have been no arrests.
If the corpers in this country are not safe during these elections then who is? So far, arrangements are being made to take only one of the injured corpers out of the country for treatment while the rest still lie in agony or maybe its already too late for them.
The issue of election violence in Nigeria has been trivialised if not completely ignored and barely any measures have been taken to protect the integrity of the voting process or safeguard the lives of the election officials and the voters. We must bear in mind that this year, a record number of people have registered and are coming out to vote on open streets with no protection whatsoever in a country that has a history of violence during elections. With everything going on in the country at the moment, this begs the question; who is looking out for us?