Amotekun: Inspiration for regional integration in Nigeria

AMOTEKUN, a regional security organisation,  was on 9th January, 2020  inaugurated  by the six state governments of Western Nigeria,  to protect and secure the lives and properties of  the people living in the  region.  This became necessary because of the inability of the police and other  law enforcement agencies  to contain the magnitude of the kidnappings for ransom,  cattle rustling, Boko Haram attacks , communal clashes, Fulani herders  menaces, and to guarantee the safety of ordinary people. The  operatives of Amotekun are expected to work closely with the police to stem this trend, and at the same time, take independent lawful actions against all criminals, ritual killers, local kidnappers, armed robbers, fifth columnists, and such evil groups,  irrespective  of their creed or origin.

The rise of insecurity  to this frightening state  in Nigeria did not happen overnight or suddenly. It is partially due to several ill-conceived experimental  economic/ social policies, most of which are still ongoing, but are  hurtful to the welfare of ordinary people. The failed privatisation policy, bank consolidation, open  market economy, limited or outright withdrawal of government from people’s welfare programs led to massive job losses and abject poverty.  The institutionalisation of  economy of growth without development has earned  Nigeria the derisive title   of poverty capital of the world, and deceitfully described as  the largest economy in Africa.  These challenges not withstanding, there can be no justification for committing crimes. The society must be secure and safe before the government can take necessary actions to address the social problems.  And as such, firm action had to be taken against these miscreants to prevent the country  from collapsing totally.

Operation Amotekun  is a novelty in Nigeria’s security arrangement because of its regional dimension. Its success will encourage the setting up of similar outfits in other geopolitical zones in the country.   Amotekun, for it to set the pace for others to follow, must be  uncompromising on integrity and discipline. It should not be an intimidating force, but an outfit which  operates with such dignity and firmness that the  mere presence of its operatives,  like the British Police Constable (Bobby) will  demotivate criminals. They must not have  pre conceived ideas about individuals or people based on their  ethnicity or religion. While tackling the security challenges on one hand, the overall social and economic problems of the region must also be addressed at the same time.

The regional governments should draw inspiration from the policies of the old Western Region on education, health,  low cost houses, agricultural development, provision of potable water etc  and introduce innovations, such as regional railways, which will link the cities in the region  with other parts of the country. The six state governments should collectively create common  institutions through which regional programs will be implemented. For example : Western Nigeria Economic Development Corporation, Western Nigeria Railways Corporation , Western Nigeria Highways Development Authority

Western Nigeria  Trade, Cultural and Welfare mission abroad to source investments for the region and assist its  citizens in distress, Western Nigeria Sports Council to revive regional athletics and football tournaments in schools, Western Nigeria Textile Mills, Western Nigeria Hotels. Western Nigeria University, which will be well funded and rank amongst the best in the world. etc

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Most  of these structures existed during the tenures of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola as Premiers of Western Region of Nigeria. The region at that time had limited resources, but with good and capable   leadership   was able to execute  epic programs such as free education,  WNBS/WNTV, first in Africa, the Liberty Stadium, Cocoa House, Cooperative Bank, Insurance companies, among several other enterprises. The same feat was performed during the second republic, when the old Western  Region,  unified under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) worked with the party manifesto to deliver  low cost house estates in Lagos State, the free education policy in all the states, Cocoa Industries, Oluwa glass Industries, State Banks etc. In essence, Western Nigeria, which today is a geopolitical zone should form an economic community which will work collectively to achieve a common purpose, while retaining their political structures, and freedom to take independent actions in any endeavor of their choice.

The other geopolitical zones in the country may toe the same line with adaptations, which will take into consideration their specific needs, peculiarities and challenges.

The concerns of the  North East and North West geopolitical zones of Nigeria for now are peace and security by all means. The state of  insecurity in this zone has halted most  economic activities, such that people cannot ply  the highways, farm and even undertake   routine daily activities. In the North East, especially in Borno and Yobe states, where  the insurgency is most severe, the Kanuri, Bura, Kotoko, Shua tribal leaders, monarchs, serving/ retired military officers, former/ serving governors must seek alternative solutions to end this war,  which has no military solution. They should come out and save the ancient Kanem Bornu empire of Shehu Idris Aloma, who in the 16th century related with the Sultans of the Turkish Ottoman Empire on the basis of equality and mutual respect.      The rest of the country through the Federal Government can only help, but Kanuri leaders  must be at the forefront to defend their inherited legacies, which is being destroyed.

The leaders of other nationalities are protecting the interests of their people from the complications of being embroiled in the Nigerian State. Ohaneze  is speaking for Ndigbo, Afenifere for the Yoruba nation, General TY Danjuma for the Jukuns. Miyetti is standing in for the Fulanis.

The  Chief of Staff to the President, the NSA, the COAS, the Mai Deribe family, the Sir Kashim Ibrahim family, the Sir Ibrahim Waziri family,  the family of Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno, the family of Alhaji Indimi, the family of General Sanni Abacha, the family of General Muhammad Shuwa, Ambassador Babagana and Ireti Kingibe, Alhaji Mohammed Goni, Alhaji Ali Kotoko, and other illustrious  Kanuris and  tribes  in the North East of Nigeria, should form a caucus, which will dialogue with their  sons and daughters in Boko Haram to end this rebellion, which is primarily targeted at the tribal and political leaders for bad governance, which they are fully aware.

These eminent  personalities should not abandon the people,  who cannot move around by air or run away.

In all fairness, there are brave people, who have been working hard to bring this war to  an end.  Some have taken  great personal risks  to broker peace between Boko Haram and the government.

Hajia Hamsatu Allamin, Hajia Aisha Wakil, Ummu Umar of Kalthum Foundation for Peace , Hamma Adamu, Inuwa Yikala,  Ahmad Salkida, and others, who  enjoy the confidence of Boko Haram, and have negotiated  the release of captured hostages are valuable assets, who can also negotiate,  a ceasefire and eventually a peaceful settlement.

It is strange that the efforts of Hajia Hamsatu Allamin to negotiate peace between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government  is barely  acknowledged in Nigeria, but celebrated  worldwide. This noble woman enjoys  international recognition and goodwill for working tirelessly to bring peace to the troubled North East.

When this war is over,  and hopefully very soon, the fundamental issues  which gave rise to this crisis must be identified and addressed.

The displacement of 20 million people, who hitherto earned their livelihoods from the vast resources of  Lake Chad, which  due to desertification and the cutting off of water inflow into the lake, lost most of its waters and resources.  The displaced people, confronted with hunger, and poverty were easily recruited into the ranks of bandits and insurgents,

Lake Chad was an idyllic site , which teemed with fish, lurch grassland for grazing, wild life for hunting, safari park for tourism. It was the 6th largest Lake in the world. It covered 25,000 square kilometers of fresh water, which is about the size of Sokoto State and 8 times the size of Lagos State. The size has now shrunk to under 2,500 square kilometers, which is about 90% reduction from its original size.

The regeneration  of the Lake is a critical factor in bringing this insurgency to an end. It will revive  the economies of the surrounding states, so that the displaced people  can return to their normal daily routines  and trades.

The plan to draw waters from the mighty River Congo and the excess water from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon to replenish the Lake must be done expeditiously.  The state governments in the two regions must take this  assignment very seriously and personally. They should encourage the federal government,  the international community and other stake holders to actualise the regeneration program, as a matter of urgency. It could be an enticing proposal in the negotiations with Boko Haram.

The other geopolitical zones have their peculiar challenges and potentials, which should  also  be addressed at the regional levels.

The South East/ South South could cooperate  to form  a powerful Economic Community by drawing on their dynamic Human Resources. The region may take over and fix the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries and sell refined petroleum products to the rest of the country. The community may also collectively build the Asaba/ Onitsha river port,  build the Warri port, take over the Aba-Port Harcourt road, and other major road arteries  from the federal government and toll them. The community may  revive the Enugu coal mines, build rail network which will link the old Eastern Region within, and with the rest of the country. The community should summon the necessary courage to continue the activism of Ken Saro Wiwa on the oil spillages, gas flaring and overall environnemental degradation of the South South, which  is one of the most polluted regions in the world.

The North Central/ Middle Belt geopolitical zone is endowed  with vast arable lands, water resources for food production, fisheries, animal husbandry,  tourism and power generation.  The region could   earn  billions of dollars from cereals, tubers, fruits grown in the tropical sun, which are much sought after in local  and international markets. In summary, the security and economic development of Nigeria is best served at regional levels,  since most of the fragmented states are economically unviable.  And as such, lack the means to carry out major projects within their states, except they collaborate  with other states within their geopolitical zones.  The creation of these regional  economic communities will however, not distract nor detract  from the need to restructure the political system, as a truly federated nation. The  list of institutions which should be federated are; the  police, water ways, major roads,  railway networks, electricity generation and distribution and eventually resource control.

The  lopsided sharing formula of national revenues, half of which is held by the Federal Government, should be reviewed. The  responsibility of the Federal Government should be limited to Foreign Affairs, Defence, Mint, the Central Bank, Immigration,Customs, and such functions which may be permitted in a federated state.

Ambassador Rasheed, was Director, Trade, Investments and Policy Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.

 

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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