Annual Street Carnivals and Youth Violence in South-West Nigeria.

AuthorOjedokun, Usman A.


In the last one decade, there has been an increase in the incidence of youth-carnival related violence in south-west Nigeria (Adelaja, 2013; Osun Defender, 2013; Awoyinfa, 2012; Okoli, 2012; Igomu, 2011). Although the end-of-the-year carnivals are primarily organised by various neighbourhood youths in most major cities and some rural communities for the purpose of reunification, merriment and entertainment, the incessant outbreak of carnival-related violence and its attendant loss of lives and property have made it an issue of major concern in most of the States in south-west Nigeria in recent times. For instance, in December, 2013, a 13-year old boy was stabbed to death during a carnival that turned violent in Ota, Ogun State (Osun Defender, 2013). Similarly, in December, 2013, 15 women were reportedly sexually assaulted, while 60 commercial vehicles were destroyed at a carnival organised by youths of Idikan in Ibadan NorthWest Local Government (Ogunsola, 2013) Furthermore, in 2011, a man, Kehinde Ogundare, was hit by a stray bullet at a carnival organised at Humani Street, Somolu area in Lagos (Balogun & Oseghale, 2012).

Carnival-related violence has added another dimension to the problem of youth violence. Globally, youth violence has been recognised to be a serious problem with a wide range of socioeconomic and health implications (Human Right Watch, 2008; United State Agency for International Development, 2005; Krug et al., 2002; Satcher, 2001). Although violence affects all age groups, youths between the ages of 12 and 24 are more likely to be victims of violent crimes compared to persons of other ages (Krug et al., 2002). The Nigerian society, and indeed, many other African countries have witnessed an increasing trend in the scope and sophistication of youth immorality and violent antisocial acts (Olusanya, 2011). Between 1999 and 2007 alone, violent deaths continued to rise in Nigeria, increasing from 70 to 80 murders per 100,000,000 people (Human Right Watch, 2008).

Presdee (2012) submits that carnival is a time of great festive excess where pleasures of the 'body' are foregrounded in opposition to the dominant and accepted values of restraint and sobriety. Awoyinfa (2012) traced the origin of end-of-the-year carnival in Nigeria to the 1850s when people of African origin who were earlier sold into slavery returned to Lagos from Brazil, Cuba and Sierra Leone. Similarly, Ikuomola, Okunola & Akindutire (2014) assert that street carnival in contemporary Lagos State and other parts of Nigeria has its roots in the cultural expression of the African- Brazilian returnees on the Lagos Island.

The period of carnival, according to Bakthin (1984), is a time when people come together to relieve themselves from the prevailing truth and established order; it serves as a good time to oppose official feasts, and is often marked with the "suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions". Through its acts, structure and imagery, carnival legitimises its participants behaviour that would have been otherwise considered, outside of carnival, to be deviation from the norms, and beyond the bounds of what is generally seen as proper within the 'normal' social space and calendar of everyday life (Presdee, 2002).

Although carnival can be both violent and law breaking, yet, the need for it is accepted and to some extent tolerated as a senseless time full of senseless irrational acts that appeared necessary, even 'natural' in the rhythm of the year (Presdee, 2002). However, unlike government organised carnivals, private carnival organisers, typically, do not put adequate measures, especially security into basic logistics at the planning phase of most street carnivals (Brunt, Mwaby & Hambly, 2000). Consequently, in the ecstatic, marginal, chaotic acts of carnival, damage is done, people are hurt and some 'pleasurable' performances reflect on or articulate pain (Presdee, 2002).

Street carnivals in Nigeria are gradually becoming marked with different arrays of deviant and criminal activities which often result in constant tensions between residents, carnival organisers, the Police and local authorities in most communities (Ikuomola, Okunola & Akindutire, 2014). However, in spite of the fact that incidence of carnival-related violence has become an annual phenomenon in most of the cities in south-west Nigeria, the problem has attracted little scholarly attention. Therefore, this study investigated youth violence associated with annual street carnivals in south-west Nigeria.

Theoretical Framework

This study was anchored on the propositions of social disorganisation theory. This theory was first developed in the studies of urban crime and delinquency by sociologists at the University of Chicago and the Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s. Proponents of this theory saw social disorganisation as the inability of local communities to solve common problems, and they believed that the degree of disorganisation in a community was largely predicated upon the extent of residential mobility and heterogeneity present in that community (Schmalleger & Volk, 2011). As a theoretical approach to the study of crime, social disorganisation theory has its roots in the process of social change. Rapid social change was viewed as damaging the organised society's web of normative social controls; and thus, results in social disorganisation in which normative consensus is replaced by normative dissensus. According to the basic logic of disorganisation theory, social disorganisation is likely to be followed by personal disorganisation (Pfohl, 1994). A breakdown in the normative control increases the likelihood that individuals will experience a similar breakdown in moral constraints in the everyday behaviour because social disorganisation has disrupted socialization, the process through which one generation of people passes its beliefs, values and normative constraints to another. The power of traditional beliefs, values and norms is dissipated by a disorganised moral climate in which "anything goes". At the individual level, this means that many people will fail to develop the self-censoring conscience which are said to regulate behaviour in a well organized society (Pfohl, 1994). Normative competition, conflicts, or dissensus are a key characteristic of social disorganisation, and one of the by-products of disorganisation is an increase in deviant behaviour which is a natural by-product of rapid social change.

High rates of non-conformity occur when too much change in too much a time disrupt the normative order of society (Pfohl, 1994). The frequency with which outbreak of violence is being recorded during the annual end-of-the-year carnival celebration in south-west Nigeria in recent times may be explained as resulting from the inability of some neighbourhoods to solve common problems due to a breakdown in the normative control that formerly regulated individuals' behaviour through the development of moral constraint and self-censoring conscience.

Research Setting and Study Population

The study...

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