The thorny and much-debated subject of Amotekun, the southwest security network, bears some illumination.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so the saying goes. So should there be more than one way of moving away from the overbearing influence of the Federal Government on this nation. And if this behemoth of a system won’t budge on the issue of a more open; transparent and more devolved power structure; you’ll then have to start chipping away at the structure to eventually reform it.
It is in that sense that I view Operation Amotekun, the Western Nigeria Security Network, WNSN; which has dominated political discourse in the past few months. It has really opened up a can of worms, particularly as it relates to Nigeria’s fault lines.
Amotekun means different things to many people. It is not a surprise, therefore, that the usual suspects, including, sadly, Balarabe Musa; a former governor and one who is thought to have some liberal bent; have canvassed that the launch of the security network is a ploy of the southwest; one targeted to dismantle our union and do a SWEXIT.
It is a major play on the S (secession) word. And as our dear Professor Wole Soyinka said; “Raising the spectre of secession is a facile approach to the dangerous self-evident lapses in governance which Balarabe Musa himself acknowledges in his response to the Amotekun principle made flesh. Balarabe is sadly, but I hope not tragically wrong … because the making of tragedy, especially for nations; often begins when fears are mistaken or promoted as facts, and governments either by themselves of together with interest groups are enticed by fears into embarking on precipitate irrational and irreversible acts.”
This quick invocation of the S word over matters which some people don’t understand; or haven’t given sufficient thoughts to is really very damaging to the oneness of this nation. Rather than talk about the merits or the demerits of any political action; the tendency is for us to shout at ourselves; often taking what may even be described as untenable positions.
“That is the basis of tragedy towards which nations are propelled by a partial or wrongful reading of social political realities and history,” as our Nobel Laureate Soyinka said.
Worse still, the Miyetti Allah group believes Amotekun is even a threat to democracy; in a supposedly federal system. By inference, the Miyetti Allah believes that the new security apparatus in the southwest; is directed at driving the herders from the region. Now, based on the atrocities of some criminal elements amongst the herders in the southwest; the killings, the destruction of farms and livelihood, such people should really be afraid.
However, the different arguments of those opposed to the coming of Amotekun; fail to take cognisance of an important element of the formation of the security group demanded by the people of the region against unbridled criminality in their part of Nigeria. The governors who midwifed Amotekun have painstakingly explained that the group is to fight criminality in the southwest; not as a Yoruba militia but as an addition that enhances the work of the police; as well as other security organs of the state.
The logic is very clear. No state government worth its weight in gold will leave its citizens at the mercy of criminal elements; of whichever hue. If, as in the recent past, states can fix federal roads in their domain to make motoring safer for people in their communities; it stands to reason that they will the protection of their people against criminality very seriously. While this may challenge the masculinity of this impotent federal government; the continued massacre of Nigerians by bandits; armed robbers; and herdsmen is unacceptable to these governors; who have decided to come together to deal with crimes in their different states but also interstate crimes.
It is generally a Nigerian thing to want to flex (apologies to social media jargon) on any issue. Some do it not because they sincerely want to contribute to a resolution of a particular issue; or advance it positively, but to have their 15 minutes of fame.
And that is why rather than illuminate, they tend to muddy the water. Some commentators on this issue wanted a huge battle between the southwest and the federal government; especially after Amotekun was declared unconstitutional by Abubakar Malami, the federal attorney general and minister of justice. The governors were asked to defy Malami and go ahead with Amotekun; as if that would have removed the toxicity and emotion associated with the issue.
Further, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who made an important intervention on this issue; was pilloried for speaking “from both sides of his mouth”. Also, he was abused for not supporting a Yoruba cause. But his intervention was truly critical; as the southwest governors were able to look into the gaps in their own plans and actions when they decided to create Amotekun.
As Tinubu said: “Those who claim that this limited inoffensive addition to security threatens the Republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion…Those claiming that the federal government seeks to terribly suppress the southwest have also lost their compass.” He argued for a rethink by the governors; and a meeting of minds between the federal and southwest governments.
In the end and in order to remove anomalies and ambiguities in the Amotekun structure; the federal government led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with the southwest governors to trash out the issues. The law setting up the structure is expected to signed Friday February 14; an important omission by the southwest states.
The good thing is that other geo-political zones, particularly the southeast; now want their own security structure to help combat criminality in their zones. It is a good development. Indeed, it is an indication that we can really come together to tackle important issues by logic and reasoning; rather than competing to know who can shout the loudest. I am sure the southeast governors would not make the mistake of southwest governors; when they put together their own version of Amotekun.
But the job is not finished yet.
Now that there is talk of asking the Inspector General of Police to approve arms for the Amotekun security men; we’ll await the response of the IG when and if that happens. What is clear is that we all have to be worried about insecurity in Nigeria. The police and the military are obviously incapable of combating it. They need all the help they can get.
This is a new way of enhancing the battered and rather ineffective security architecture of the nation. It needs new life; it needs uplifting.