The return of democracy in 1999 saw the return of political campaigns by politicians, which, unfortunately, continues to take dangerous dimensions and trends in each of the succeeding general elections. Politicians deploy whatever is at their disposal to realize their dreams, but the most dangerous trend was their integration of youth in political thuggery.
This spells doom as these easily manipulated youth are being engaged to cause mayhem of all sorts, including but not limited to the perpetration of violence before, during and even after elections.
Sadly from the 2003, 2007 and 2011 polls, this scenario has continued unabated. To execute their masters’ bidding, these youth use vehicles well covered with their masters’ posters, pictures and so many campaign materials to identify them and their political parties.
During the political periods, those vehicles, either well tinted or covered, are the ones moving around without being checked by either the security forces. Their number plates removed and replaced with party logo or name of a politician.
Since 2003, our security forces blame the illegal possession of arms with more emphasis on holding of AK47 and other riffles to politicians who either give the youth the weapons or support them with the money to buy such weapons.
But part of the major concern remains the unanswered question of how did these weapons get imported or transported to different parts of the country, despite the seeming widespread number of security road blocks?
Nigeria has had serious security challenges before, during and even after the 2015 general elections. The security problems like kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery became serious after the degrading of Boko Haram insurgents and are now assuming the level of another national security threats.
The proliferation of light arms is another problem though the ministry of interior in several occasions lament the porous state of the Nigeria border. But again, how did these arms cross the borders and reach these political thugs?
We most often appear naive by focusing on only one aspect of the problem and forgetting the very impetus to its proliferation. The mode of transporting arms, drugs and even money for vote buying have never been looked at. And these campaign vehicles, usually driving with impunity and evading any security check point at will are likely to portend danger during and even after the 2019 election, if something tangible is not done immediately.
The major reason I see why the security agents decide not to be checking those vehicles are: firstly, if they check any vehicle belonging to a candidate of the ruling party, the candidate will use the power from above and the officers involved can be queried, redeployed or punished severely. So the fear of the order from above was quite an excuse for them at that moment.
Secondly, when the security agents check or stop the vehicles of the opposition candidates the issue can easily turn to politics by describing it as an effort to use security to muscle or intimidate the opposition.
The above reasons are indeed unfortunate when we look at the security challenges we are facing as a nation. When the security look the other way when these vehicles come cruising, two questions are germane: what if the vehicle is carrying arms, drugs or even money that can be used for vote buying? Are the people in the vehicle Nigerians or how sure are the security agencies that they are not either terrorists or kidnappers using political vehicles to disguise?
It is indeed very important that the police, army and all security agencies, pay attention to all so called campaign vehicles so as to ensure they are not used as means to transport arms, drugs or money for vote buying.
I also advise the security agencies not to be used as tool to witch-hunt or muscle the opposition parties by ensuring all parties’ vehicles are checked to stave off any iota of doubt in their operation.
-Bala wrote this piece from Abuja