Amotekun: South-West roared in anger

The pronouncement by Mr Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation declaring the recently launched security intervention put in place by the South-West states, Operation Amotekun,  illegal has been roundly condemned and described as hogwash by eminent Nigerians. STEPHEN GBADAMOSI examines some of the factors behind the determination of the governors of the South-West, Promoters-in Chief of the initiative, to forge ahead with a novel idea they believe will protect their people from harm

IN spite of the seeming opposition to the recently launched security outfit of the six states of the Yoruba nation, Operation Amotekun, the people of the South-West region seem undaunted and have expressed uncommon eagerness to follow the project through and ensure its successful implementation. During the week, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, stirred the hornet’s nest when he declared the outfit illegal in a terse press release from his office.

Since the statement got into the public domain, political leaders and opinion moulders across the country have been speaking against the ‘attack’ from the office of the nation’s chief law officer. While many of the stakeholders in the Nigerian project who have spoken on the issue so far have justified the necessity and urgency for such a programme, others have not spared the AGF over what they perceived as his indecorous position on a sensitive issue. From across the Southern part of the country and the Middle Belt region, Malami has received round verbal trouncing, with some accusing him of using his office to promote ethnic agenda.

The arguments in favour of Operation Amotekun derive mostly from the growing insecurity in the South-West and failure of the Federal Government to secure the land on the one hand and its demonstrated biases for criminal herdsmen who continue to carry out devastating attacks on people in the region. Thus, when the governors in unison called the bluff of Malami by declaring their readiness to forge ahead with Operation Amotekun, the people rose stoutly behind them for staring down the ugly face of tyranny.


Rising cases of banditry

Leaders in the South-West have insisted that the rising level of banditry in the nation remains unacceptable. Though some measures are being taken by governments of states affected by this shade of insecurity, particularly in the Northern parts of the country, the Southern part has been left mostly unattended to. Sometimes, with the growing cases of armed attacks and banditry in the region, the feeling is usually if the frequency of such attacks was not a deliberate plan on the part of government against some sections of the country, as the measures taken to contain the criminals are mostly seen as cosmetic.

Indeed, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, lamented that the military had been overstretched over the spate of insecurity in the nation.

“I think that there is still lot more to be done, quite frankly. If what you read in the national newspapers or what you listen to on the radio is true, there are still some challenges in most of these areas.

“I read in the papers about the young governor in Borno State telling the minister of defence that there are still some places that people could not go within the state. I am glad he said so, because that will give the military high command the technique to find results, the right way of thinking, because where the military officers must tilt should be more to the people.

“So, there are still a lot of challenges and what they need to do is to get a lot of intelligence in those areas. But it looks to me that there are people who are thinking for the insurgent groups. There are people who think for them and the thinking is that, we need to find out who are thinking for them. Who are those people leading them and who are those even supplying them weapons? We need these in order to put a stop to that. That is probably the way I asses it.

“However, the military is still overstretched. To get the police to do the job, there may be the need to withdraw the military from some of these things. Most of the jobs they do, under normal circumstances, are the job that the policemen should be doing. The military only intervenes when it has gone beyond the policeman,” the former leader said in an interview.


Federal Government’s failure to secure lives, properties

Chief among factors that are giving the South-West fillip over the Amotekun struggle is said to be the failure of the Federal Government secure the lives of the citizenry. Part of the argument is that there has not been any conviction arising from the killings that have occurred in the region. Indeed, there are cases in which arrests were made. And even then, the end of such reported arrests are never seen or known. The usual allegation is that whenever herdsmen implicated in killings or any other crime are arrested, such suspects are usually released by the police, based on “orders from above”.

Only on Thursday, a leader of Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, voiced his frustration and apparent lack of confidence in the Federal Government,  which he announced had halted investigation into the killing of his daughter, Mrs Funke Olakunri, by suspected Fulani herdsmen, about six months ago.

“We made a request that an enquiry should be conducted, but the authorities said it should not be done. In the case of my daughter, they normally should have done something very quickly, but the police said they were asked not to do it.

“We were very enthusiastic that police would do something about it. We asked the police to do something about it, but they came back to tell us they were asked not to do it.

“The Nigerian government said the investigation should not be done. I wouldn’t know why they said that. I was disappointed and embarrassed,” Chief Fasoranti told journalists.

It is against the background of experience like this that the people of the region are standing their ground. The argument is that it is better for them to prevent the unwarranted death of their people than wait for them to be killed and continue perpetual search for justice.


The urgency to protect the pride of a nation

There is also a growing consciousness among the Yoruba people of the South-West that is borne out of the urge to protect their race. Particularly in the last four years of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government, the South-West region has appeared as having been left in the cold.

Analysts have said that the configuration of the leadership of the security hierarchy under the Buhari-led government has not given many regions a sense of security and the South-West is not an exception. Added to this is the mounting pressure on the government of the day to restructure the country, a call that appears the government has decided to play the deaf to. Leaders of the Yoruba nation have been at the forefront of call to restructure the country’s political architecture, since the return of democratic governance in 1999. They have been expressing the belief that a return to the 1963 Constitution or something similar to the regional government of that period will engender real development of the country. They have also argued consistently that the over-centralisation of power in the Federal Government has been inimical to security, growth and prosperity of Nigeria.


The enemy within

However, despite the strong resolve among the leadership of the South-West region, there is also the consciousness that some powerful politicians of Yoruba extraction are undermining the efforts of the region to wean itself of dominance by other regions. There is the belief that certain politicians, for selfish reasons, would not mind sabotaging the collective efforts. Many have said that the 2023 presidency which such politicians are reckoning the North would help them to clinch, among other benefits, is largely responsible for these alleged acts of treachery.