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Electoral Violence: How Much Is a Nigerian Life Worth?

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By Ucheoma Onwutuebe

In the quiet town where I live, we have noticed the arrival of dark, straight-faced, uniformed men on parade, with guns in hand; and we warn one another, “Do not gather in groups, don’t be seen outside in ungodly hours. If they demand to search you, do not to get into any form of scuffle with these armed men, dispatchment comes so easy for them, you know. Do not wear branded T-Shirts of any political party on election days; that is not the day to openly show support for your party. Discretion is the keyword.” etc,etc.
That sense of dread has returned and we are tiptoeing for fear of harm.
In the past elections, electoral violence can almost be called kith and kin of election periods and if popular predictions hold water, it is sadly being expected this year. Not only have idle touts with bloodshot eyes been recruited to do harm, even young university undergraduates have put themselves up for hire to be used as thugs to carry out the violent bidding of politicians.
It is always a laughable thing whenever INEC says “Stand by and watch them count your vote.” It is the right thing to do, we agree, but is it a wise thing to do in certain places?
Black people in the West are still having a hard time convincing the world that their lives matter, after years of slave trade and civil rights movement, with the killings and police violence in America for instance. Here in Nigeria, our value of life comes close to nothing, with our ears having grown accustomed to ever increasing death tolls, especially in the north where terrorist groups are having a field day and shallow graves are brimming over.
What these daily death news have taught me about my country is this: If anyone dies, life moves on with alarming alacrity.
My heart goes out to any one ready to put his life in line for any politician. The big man who pays pittance out of his abundance for you to wrought violence- to steal ballot boxes, to carry a gun- does not give a whistle about you. None of these folks are worth dying for, no matter how much he gives or promises to give afterwards.
Haven’t we had enough of the senseless deaths? These warring politician would settle their scores behind the scenes over glasses of palmwine and akpeteshie and secretly exchange Ghana must go bags, while a young person somewhere who was foolish enough to carry the matter on his head lies stone dead. Another statistics.

Let us vote with ink, not blood.

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