Vigilantism: Can political solution cure economic problem?
Our Nigerian Brothers have a proverb that no matter how far a man pisses across onto his neighbour’s compound, the last drop of urine is always at his feet.
The pressure on us as a nation to curb the menace of vigilantism and what it represents in the eyes of the comity of nations has caused a normally taciturn National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to call out the two main political parties in the country to rein in their wayward appendages.
We have sat down for years doing nothing, but wailing and lamenting the potential danger inherent in this phenomenon and now the threat is more than real.
The security implications of a clash between the Azorka Boys, Bolga Bulldogs, Invincible Forces, Delta Forces, the Hawks and other such groupings, who could potentially network to fight alongside their ideologically aligned peers could lead to massive loss of lives needlessly.
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The phenomenon is not a recent development. Indeed, when multiparty activities in the country were proscribed in 1982 by the Provisional National Defence Council, the regime enlisted the masses, mostly the youth to form the bulwark of its security.
Vigilantism has, therefore, been a means for survival for a cross-section of our people over a long time. The variations have been the practitioners and the manifestation.
In that era, it found expression in the form of Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, where the members operated as regime protectors and a pseudo-law enforcement outfit, often taking on-the-spot decisions that normally would need several days to make.
Managers of the nation at the time pushed some of the revolutionary elements into the existing security services. However, the psychology of vigilantism and what it means to our youth, many of whom have grown to become today’s political practitioners, are stuck in the minds.
I have heard and read about the discourse on vigilantism from many different perspectives and so far I am unconvinced about the solutions being proffered.
Nearly everyone is calling on the security services, particularly the Police, to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of the senseless attacks on innocent public servants and institutions.
Why are we not addressing the root causes of this menace? Is it not a fact that economic consideration is at the root of vigilantism?
Lack of economic opportunities and an environment that supports individual and collective efforts are responsible for many a youth joining groups and clubs that rely on brawn instead of the brains.
This is not a sporting activity to the members who join these groups. It is purely a means of survival and those who should be primarily responsible for creatively giving them opportunities to fend for themselves are the ones exploiting them.
The ‘beneficial owners’ of vigilantism are politicians and political parties, yet in our discourse we are not calling out names and bringing them to the table for discussion.
Before the Inspector General of Police (IGP) makes any arrests, he must first invite the political owners and financiers of all these groups to the table for a sincere no-holds-barred discourse.
When you disband the groups without the involvement of the political pay-masters, they will resurrect in different forms because the political system has not found an antidote to the canker of deliberate ballot snatching and poll disruptions.
Our intelligence community should be able to clearly identify the remote hands behind all the vigilante groups and commit them to a bond of good behaviour.
If and when the groups go on rampage and misconduct themselves, the financiers who have been already bonded should be hauled to the courts for jail terms without the option of a fine.
Our governments should also work harder and come up with solutions to engage the youth in beneficial activities and not spend resources on political projects that only have electoral successes as the ultimate goals.
We must begin to look at Ghana beyond re-election and Parliamentary seats, if we genuinely want to solve the problem of vigilantism. Wicked souls that dip their hands into resources meant for youth programmes should not be treated with kid gloves.
We must punish them severely to deter others with like-intentions.
There are nations with higher youthful populations that have managed to channel the highly potent energies into useful avenues that we can learn from.
The next time anybody, whether politician, civic institution or religious body, speaks on the issue of vigilantism, they must first ask themselves what they have done individually and institutionally to create opportunities for work and self-actualisation in the country.
When the state appoints an individual to an office and instead of using their God-given skills and talent to create opportunities, they rather loot from the system, they must realise that they are remotely contributing to the phenomenon of vigilantism in the country.
This is not an attempt to justify or rationalise the uncivilised behaviour being exhibited by groups of young men who, on one hand are exercising their right to free association, but are clearly misguided in their purpose, drive and goal.
I have not come across any provision in our constitution that bars political parties or religious organisations from establishing farms, factories or service companies in much the same way as has been done in regard to educational institutions.
Will those bemoaning the current state of affairs bell the cat by setting up factories to support the government’s efforts at job creation?
Shouldn’t the government consider talks with churches and Muslim groups that are capable of setting up factories, albeit at a medium level in our communities? Apostle Kwadwo Safo, the Kantanka of Africa, has demonstrated that this is doable so can we think outside the box and try these out?
Rather than spend millions of cedis on party paraphernalia repeatedly on internal executive and national elections, our leaders should begin to look at spending party resources on income-generating ventures that can offer employment to the rank and file, no matter how little, and depart from promises whose fulfilment depends on limited state resources.
The writer is a journalist