Operation Amotekun: The beginning of necessary change?

In recent times, national discourse has been dominated by “Operation Amotekun”, the new security outfit launched by the governors in the South West Zone of Nigeria. The launching of the outfit came as a pleasant surprise to many. It was warmly welcomed by the indigenes of the zone and, initially, by virtually all other zones in the country. It is on record, according to newspaper reports, that Governor Masari of Katsina State in the North Eastern Zone was one of the first to hail the initiative and even indicated that it will be replicated in their Zone. However, the euphoria was somehow dampened by the declaration of the AGF, that the outfit was “illegal”. This declaration was most unexpected since the South-West governors claimed that relevant federal agencies were carried along/consulted before the outfit was launched.

The declaration of the AGF, no doubt, heated the polity as it had virtually polarised the country. Expectedly, most Nigerians in the South-West, South East, South South and North Central Zones had warmly embraced the concept behind the outfit while elements in the northern zones had become lukewarm in their support. As things are, indigenes of the South-West zone had fully endorsed the concept and vowed not to go back in its implementation. This is even gaining wider support from some other zones on a daily basis. Nigeria is now at a precarious crossroad on this issue and if it is not carefully handled, it can escalate to a bigger crises that can eventually threaten the unity of the Country. If, as it is being speculated, the declaration of the AGF represents the stand of the Federal Government on this issue, then I want to posit that the government handled the issues in a most careless way. First, the best thing would have been to make their position known initially and prevent the launching of the outfit. In essence, the declaration is now very much belated and it will only cause more harm than good. It appears to me that the Federal Government is not even aware of the potency of this initiative from the South-West Governors.

For sometime past, many Nigerians had been clamouring for “restructuring”. While the term ‘restructuring’ had different meanings to different people, there appears to be a general consensus that it is essentially to make Nigeria functions as a true Federal entity. Many Nigerians are of the view that too much power had been reposed in the Federal Government so much that Nigeria operates more like a Unitary State. People rightly believe that until and unless this phenomenon is changed and Nigeria starts to enjoy real devolution of powers to the federating units as in a true federal system, Nigeria cannot make any appreciable progress. Let me say that I am an unrepentant disciple of this school of thought. The setting up of the security outfit is, therefore, seen by many as the beginning of much-desired restructuring process which will eventually lead to effective devolution of powers to the federating units in the Country. Thus, many Nigerians see the setting up of the “Operation Amotekun” as the beginning of a much-desired and necessary change towards turning Nigeria into a true federal unit.

In this regard, I have a hunch that the tide which has been set in motion by the launching of “Operation Amotekun” will be difficult, if not impossible, to stop. Its ripple effect is daily expanding and its acceptance as a right step in the right direction is spreading like wild fire. This development is unique and historical. For the first time ever in history, the Yoruba people are united in endorsing a concept. This did not even happen during the golden years of Chief Awolowo in the South West.

For once, the Yoruba are now united on an issue. This should convey a noteworthy significance to discerning minds and they should see the  development as being beyond ordinary. Secondly, it appears that some people in authority are taking the issue of Nigerian unity for granted. These people should please have a rethink and do the needful to meet the yearning of the people soonest to forestall dire consequences. Hitherto, it has been a few enlightened Nigerians that have been openly crying for restructuring. Now some State Governments, may be inadvertently, are beginning to promote this concept. The Federal Government should take due cognisance of this trend and act fast to douse the tension generated by this development. There is palpable widespread discontent in the land for various reasons ranging from worsening poverty, general insecurity, widening gap between the poor and the rich, unreliable power supply and decaying infrastructures in virtually all sectors and nothing should be done to make this discontent boil over to open confrontation. Any open expression of discontent can be easily hijacked by various elements with their own personal grouses to become a hurricane that may eventually engulf the whole nation.

The time is ripe for the Federal Government to effectively read the mood of the nation and start the process of meeting the greatest yearning of the people for better governance which can only be kick started with devolution of powers to the federating units of the country. A stitch in time can still save nine.

Osunro, a retired permanent secretary, writes in from Ibadan

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