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
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.