Tears, Anger and Disappointment as Families, Friends Mark First Anniversary of Slain Youth Corp Members in the wake of April 2011 Presidential Elections

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It was again moment of tears, anger and open demonstration of disappointment as families, friends and concerned Nigerians gathered Wednesday morning to pay tribute to the memories of a group of Youth Corp members murdered in cold blood in the wake of Nigeria’s presidential elections held on Saturday, 16th April, 2011.  The event was attended by parents, siblings, friends and colleagues of the slain youth corpers as well as members of Nigerian civil society.

Following the unrest that broke out after the presidential elections in northern part of Nigeria particularly Bauchi state, Northwest region, at least ten young Nigerians serving their fatherland under the mandatory Youth Corp program and who were subsequently conscripted as ad-hoc staff for the 2011 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were slaughtered by yet to be apprehended rioters who took to the streets to violently protest when it became apparent that President Goodluck Jonathan had secured victory at the Presidential poll.

In the wake of the violent ambush of the Youth Corps members who served as INEC’s ad-hoc staff by rioters following the outcome of the presidential election, Ikechukwu Chibuzor Ukeoma from Imo State, Teidi Tosin Olawale from Osun State, Nkwazema Anslem Chukwuonyerem from Imo State, Okpokiri Obinna Michael from Abia State, Adowei Elliot from Bayelsa State, Adewunmi Seun Paul from Ekiti State, Adeniji Kehinde Jehleel from Osun State, Gbenjo Ebenezer Ayotunde from Osun State, Akonyi Ibrahim Sule from Kogi State were murdered on Monday 18th April following their betrayal by policemen at a police station in Gaide, Bauchi state where the victims had taken refuge; fleeing from post elections rioters.

At the anniversary lecture/press conference in commemoration of the first year anniversary of the deceased which held at the International Press Centre, Ogba, Lagos, family members and friends again broke into bitter tears while expressing unhealed anguish occasioned by the unwarranted loss of their beloved ones and at the huge embarrassing disappointment constituted by the failed promises of President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of the NYSC. Emotion was let loose at the gathering, following personal accounts, by siblings of the deceased, that revealed how the unfortunate incident led to miseries in the families with broken-hearted parents and siblings still mourning the loss of their loved ones. A parent of one of the deceased was said to have been hit by stroke following the shock that accompanied the sad news of the demise of his son.

At a press conference attended by some civil society actors under aegis of Friends of Aik (Ikechukwu Chibuzor Ukeoma); one of the slain youth corps members, Nigerians were again reminded of the fragile polity and fractured unity that pose continued threats to democratic stability in the country. The organizers of the event noted: “in the days following the murder of our friend, Aik and the other corpers, issues pertaining to the security of youths being deployed for national service came up, there was public clamour for redforms of the decree establishing NYSC and some who went to the extreme called for outright scrapping of the scheme. NYSC was established in 1973 to foster national unity but what we witnessed last year was the unjust murder of a group of bright youths from the southern part of this country and we ask the question, if indeed we are one Nigeria, WHY THE KILLING? Why were these Corpers not protected? As we speak now, the state of security in the North is still not encouraging and young graduates are still being deployed to serve there”. The organizers expressed worried that the federal government was yet to take serious measures to ensure the security of innocent youth corps members and other Nigerians in the northern parts of the country as the deadly scourge of Boko Haram has led to wanton and reckless loss of innocent souls one year after the ugly incident in Bauchi state. Family and friends of the slain youth corpers again demanded that the perpetrators of the heinous crime be brought to book; noting that since the security of lives cannot be guaranteed in parts of the country, the NYSC program should be restructured in such a manner that youth corpers should be deployed to serve in the region of their origin to guarantee their safety

The organizers also noted that President Jonathan has failed to fulfill his promise to the family and siblings of the victims of his electoral victory almost one year after he met with the family at the state house Abuja precisely on the 10th of May, 2011. The elder sister of Gbenjo Ebenezer Ayodunde, on the slain corpers confirmed that the President was yet to fulfill his promise to provide employment for at least a sibling of each of the victims of the crisis. She also told the gathering that neither the government nor the NYSC was yet to do anything in fulfillment of the presidential promise to immortalize the deseeded. An elder brother to one of the slain corper narrated how he was in contact with his brother on phone while the victims were at the critical moment at the police station before they were eventually chased out into the hands of their assailants by the police.

Speaking to NigerianEcho at the event, the parents of Teidi Tosin Olawale narrated how terrible the last one year has been. Mrs. Olawale who sat with some of Tosin’s friends at the event told NigerianEcho in an emotion-laden voice; “here are some fellow corpers serving with Tosin in Bauchi. They were all taken refuge at the police station before they were chased out by the police when the assailants surrounded the police station. Unfortunately, Tocsin was one of those who could not survive the evil design of the assailants”.  A young lady, Omowunmi Adeniyi, one of the lucky survivals of the election violence in Bauchi narrated her survival to NigerianEcho. According to Omowunmi, “It was a divine design that I am still alive to tell the story. I was actually stabbed by the assailants numbering over 300 as we were running for our dear lives after losing protection from the police. My attackers apparently I had died or just couldn’t make it. It was just by some divine intervention that I was rescued and taken into safety by some people who later saw me where I was laying half-dead”.

Mr. Debo Adeniran, the National Convener of the Coalition against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) who was at the event with other civil societies lamented the prevailing situation in the country where insecurity of lives and property could no longer be guaranteed. He described the unfortunate incident of April, 18th as horrendous and regretted that there were no yet assurances that such ugly incident could not repeat itself again. Adeniran urged members of the civil society to network with the organizers of the remembrance to proffer ways of salvage the country’s democracy through reengineering of the polity to guarantee a country Nigerian can genuinely call theirs. Similar comments were made by several individuals who called on President Jonathan and the NYSC to take urgent steps to fulfill the promises made to the family of the deceased and more importantly to immortalize the youth corps members who died while serving Nigeria.

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