In its bid for an effective takeoff of the regional security outfit, Amotekun, the South-West is not only faced with opposition from external forces, according to Ondo State Governor and Chairman, Southwest Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu.
Indeed, Akeredolu yesterday took a swipe against internal enemies he accused of sabotaging Amotekun, describing them as “collaborators whose parochial political pursuits have beclouded their sense of tomorrow.”
He insisted that these, and not Miyetti Allah, deserve the blame for misgivings about the southwest security outfit.
In a statement released by the senior special assistant to the governor on media and publicity, Mr. Ojo Oyewamide, Akeredolu, said: “The possibility of an outburst as such can only be seen when a serving senator, because of his political ambition, would rather demonise Amotekun than support the scheme. Is it not curious that it was shortly after a supposed senator whose immediate environment is the most affected by insecurity pummeled Amotekun that the federal attorney general came out that same evening to issue a statement?”
He clarified: “For the umpteenth time, Amotekun has come to stay and all legal means will be deployed to achieve same without necessarily affecting our oneness as a nation. Like others elsewhere, Amotekun remains complementary. It is not a regional force.”
Akeredolu’s observation came as the police in Lagos yesterday prevented supporters of the security outfit from gaining access to the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, the venue of a planned solidarity march. The event however witnessed a large turnout in Osun, Oyo and Ekiti States.
Condemning the clampdown, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in a statement yesterday, said: “No human power has the authority to criminalise the protection of human life and no human ambition is worth the failure to speak in support of the people in order to remain in favour with the oppressors of the people.”
According to him, “Nigeria has crossed the Rubicon and cannot go back. There is too much insecurity in the land and too much inefficiency from the Federal Government, leading to wanton and unnecessary loss of life. It is easy to think that all is well when you are secure in State Houses, but the reality is that the security situation is far from fine for the average Nigerian citizen.”
He stressed: “Internal security is not a call for secession and we must abandon the paranoia that makes us see it as such,” he said: “The reality on the ground in Nigeria today is that our armed and paramilitary forces are overstretched. To deny this is to unpatriotically put their lives at risk.”
Also, some Yoruba leaders and groups condemned the police actions. A former presidential candidate of the National Action Council (NAC), Dr. Olapade Agoro, said: “Those disturbing Amotekun are only postponing the evil day. Amotekun was an idea but now it has become a Yoruba project. Governors should be proactive and back it with the legal instrument.”
In a statement by National President Olalekan Hammed, the Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA) Worldwide said: “It is unfortunate that we are still experiencing what we had during military regimes. Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, religion and socioeconomic status have a right to peaceful protest in support of or against unfavourable government policies. The security operatives have trampled on citizens’ rights. The president should stop frustrating our efforts to put an end to criminality in Yorubaland.”
The national public relations officer of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Prof. Nelson Fashina, noted: “They (security agents) are supposed to maintain law and order. The intervention should be to ensure that the rally doesn’t escalate or cause public disaffection. They should avoid provocative actions. For this country to remain united, we need to negotiate to understand. We need to reason together in a relationship of unity in diversity. So, any attempt by a segment of this country to be free from hoodlums, kidnappers, murderers, armed robbers, arsonists should be supported by security agencies and the Federal Government.”
The General Secretary, Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said: “If it is true, it is wrong. I don’t see what happened as a protest, but a demonstration in support of the governors and the security outfit. All that the police are expected to do is merely protect them so that hoodlums do not take advantage of the demonstration and begin to vandalise property. The Federal Government must tread softly. They should not give us the impression that our lives do not matter, that we should be exposed to criminals, especially when other outfits in other parts of the country are not being harassed.”
This came as the Oyo State government insisted there was no going back on Amotekun. Addressing supporters of the security outfit led by Evang. Kunle Adesokan, who is the Oyo State coordinator of Yoruba World Congress, the Chief of Staff to the Oyo State Governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka, said: “All Yoruba sons and daughters across the zone accepted the initiative wholeheartedly. This is the idea that has come to stay. We will do all we can to ensure that the idea becomes further entrenched. Very soon, from ward to ward, you will be seeing their presence. Security is for our people. We want to use every right we have under the constitution.”
Adesokan said: “We will never allow foreigners to take over our land and start killing us unnecessarily. We are tired of bloodletting. Nigeria is for us all, not for a certain section of the people. We are here in our own land and we have the sense to accommodate anyone that comes to the southwest for commerce and other things. But we won’t allow anyone to come here to rape our wives and destroy our land.”
Presenting a letter to Governor Seyi Makinde, he said: “In other countries of the world, there are state police and county police. When you go to other places, you see local government police. This is what we have been asking for in a very long time. Restructuring of the country is inevitable. We don’t owe anybody any apology for trying to protect ourselves. Nigeria belongs to us all.”
A founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, also said the Federal Government should not expect people to fold their arms when bandits, kidnappers and armed herders make their lives difficult.
Reacting to the dislodgement of the supporters, Momoh said the use of federal power might not deter the people of the southwest or any other zone intent on alternative security arrangements, especially when the conventional apparatus appears to have failed.
The party stalwart, who once told The Guardian that Nigerians “should stone APC if the party failed to perform after two years in office”, said it was better for the Federal Government to allow Amotekun than permit the situation in Katsina State where the government was forced to negotiate with bandits. “That, I feel, the southwest people may not want to condescend to.”
He added: “While such like (Amotekun) is in place, negotiations with the established security agents in accordance with the constitution could then be examined, discussed and fine-tuned instead of declaring it illegal.”
In another reaction, a former national secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, described Amotekun as a child of necessity in need of legal and political resolution. “I maintain that from whichever angle one looks at it, one point that stands out is the fact that the duty to tackle insecurity in Nigeria is collegial and Amotekun is patently a child of necessity and one of the panaceas to this security malaise.”
He warned: “The Federal Government must be cautiously constrained not to do anything that would rupture or jeopardise the existing fragile understanding between the component units of the Nigerian State of the southwest region and other regions.”
But rights lawyer, Femi Falana, stressed the need for Amotekun to be backed by a legal framework. According to him, “Once the laws are enacted, the Federal Government will be at liberty to test the constitutional validity of Amotekun in the Supreme Court. However, the Federal Government should not resort to force or self-help in resolving the constitutional dispute.”
Falana made the disclosure as Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, faulted the position of a former Kaduna State governor, Balarabe Musa, on Amotekun, saying misreading the objective of the initiative was a recipe for tragedy.
Musa, in an interview with a national daily (not The Guardian), had said that the security outfit would lead to the declaration of an Oduduwa Republic.
“Balarabe is sadly, but I hope not tragically wrong. I invoke the tragic dimension here because the making of tragedy, especially for nations, often begins when fears are mistaken or promoted as facts, and governments either by themselves, or together with interest groups, are enticed by fears into embarking on precipitate, irrational, and irreversible acts,” Soyinka said.
Meanwhile, Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari has warned against playing politics with the security situation in his state, noting that the problem affects everyone and not members of the ruling party alone.
The state has been grappling with kidnapping, banditry and cattle rustling. It has also witnessed military operations in the dreaded Rugu Forest, where many bandits were reportedly killed. Recently, Masari signed an executive order restricting the movement of motorcycles.
He told the leadership of the state’s Inter-Party Advisory Committee: “We should look at security beyond partisan considerations. We have no other place but Katsina. If the state is secure, all of us are secure.
“Irrespective of our political leanings and beliefs, I’m sure a kidnapper, armed robber or bandit visiting any house will not demand the membership card of the political party you belong to. So, the issue of insecurity is beyond partisan consideration. Let us collectively, as Katsina State indigenes, unite and fight it.”