In this interview, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land and National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Iba Gani Adams, declared that whoever is against the South-West security outfit codenamed Operation Amotekun (Leopard), is enemy of the region.
What are your views on Operation Amotekun?
Amotekun is a welcome development and at the same time, it is a belated idea that we have been expecting for a long time. I am one of those that gingered them to hold the South West Security Summit that led to the formation of Amotekun. Yoruba people are very happy with this initiative. Anybody criticising it, is either the person is a sadist or that he did not value lives. Not only life but also the property someone acquired with his labour.
Amotekun is not the same with state police we have been demanding before now. I see Amotekun as someone with fever that requires first aid treatment; otherwise, you may not have the chance to administer the full treatment.
Ordinarily, we wanted state police but in the absence of that now, something must be done. State police is a constitutional issue that would have process of amendment of the constitution. But a security outfit that will be controlled by governors is highly necessary now and not even next month.
We know from intelligence report available to us that the Yoruba nation has been highly infiltrated. We have been infiltrated by criminals both from external forces from Niger, Chad, Mali, Libya and even our own people who are criminals. Some Yoruba people have turned something else.
If you are talking of cultism in those days, you hardly heard about secret cults on the streets but only on campuses. Today, you have so many cult groups at motor parks, garages and in the streets. This is another serious threat apart from the herdsmen and criminals that have infiltrated our ranks.
To even add salt to the injury, President Muhammadu Buhari approved visa on arrival for some of the foreigners at our entry ports. This has created fear for our people. We realise that we are under a siege but the issue of Amotekun will solve these issues of insecurity even beyond the menace of Fulani herdsmen.
Let me disclose something to you. Between Shagamu and Ore on the Lagos-Ore-Benin Expressway, you will see some beautiful houses built right inside the bush on both sides of the road. These buildings are abode where ritualists slaughter their victims. From Ogere to Ibadan on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a similar thing is happening there; a lot of people get lost.
Also from Ilesa junction to Akure, something similar is there and from Owo to Okene, there is something similar. The issue of security threat in the South West goes beyond the Fulani herdsmen. We also have it on good authority that some Yoruba people are collaborating with these criminals.
As the Aare Onakakanfo, I am interested in the Amotekun operation not because of what I want to get. We may differ politically but what our governors are doing right now in regards of Amotekun is in the interest of the entire Yoruba land and we must support them. There is a limit at which we must play politics with our lives. The issue on the ground now requires that we Yoruba should allow God to use the present governors to secure our land.
The ball lies on the table of the governors and also on me as Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land. I am not supporting the idea because of personal gain but what it will do in Yoruba land. I am not even in government. My traditional position requires me to ensure that Yoruba land is secured.
Will Amotekun work out?
I may not know much about the technicalities but the DAWN (Development Agenda for Western Nigeria) Commission is there to handle that. Although I don’t know so much about the technicalities because there was a committee set up and controlled by the DAWN Commission, the committee comprises about 30 people and they are meant to build the technicalities. All the security advisers are there in the committee, there are retired Police and SSS officers and even there are strong criminology lecturers among the committee members.
When the Joint Task Force (JTF) started a partnership with the Nigerian Army to subdue Boko Haram in the North East, the Hausa stakeholders did not express any fear. Why is it that anything that has to do with us, we start to analyse and look for loopholes? Should we allow ourselves to be killed like chickens everyday?
About three or four years ago, South West was the most peaceful region in Nigeria but it is not so again today. Hisbah has been in Kano since implementing Sharia, penal code in our constitution for the past 15 years and nobody raised any eyebrow. Even Hisbah is psychologically more powerful than the Nigerian police within Kano State. The same thing in Zamfara State, the governor took the decision about four months ago and set up a security outfit to flush out bandits in Zamfara.
The difference between Amotekun and private security outfits is that government controls it. Therefore, it will be well planned; it will be legitimised. We have to encourage the governors to start first and I think with time, it will be upgraded. With time, they will be putting their houses in order, because by the time they launch this group and within just one month, criminals will move back, they will know that South West is no longer a safe haven for them.
I can tell you authoritatively that there are some ugly incidents that are happening in the South West and you media professionals are playing them down. You don’t want to create panic in our region. You deliberately play these incidents down and I will support you on that. You have some information that if you publish them, within three days, Nigeria will burn.
But because you don’t want to run down the government and you don’t want to create panic in the land, you play some of them down. But what of the families of those who are affected by these incidents? Do we know who will be the victim tomorrow? So against all odds, we have to support this Amotekun initiative.
What will be the benefits of Amotekun to South West?
Amotekun is not about our own economic interest, it is about the interest of the Yoruba people. It is about the interest of young Yoruba people that they kidnap when they are going to school; it is about the younger ones they are using for rituals. There is no nightlife in Yoruba land again. When we were growing up, you could go out in the middle of the night and to buy food that is not happening again. During this period, you would enjoy yourself at weekends.
In Lagos now, every party ends by 9pm. If you fail to end your party by 9pm, by the time you are moving from the party by 11pm, you see area boys tearing your shirts, collecting your phones with just locally made pistols. The issue of security is very paramount and that should not be taken lightly.
What do you think is the solution to the problem of insecurity in South West? Is restructuring the way out?
Amotekun is just a temporary way of solving the problem. Even having the state police without restructuring is not ideal. State police is a content of true federalism. If we want to solve our problems, we should solve it once and for all. Restructuring is very key. What we mean by restructuring is allowing the federating units to have their own autonomy; that is all.
During the constitutional conference in 1996, the late General Sani Abacha government had structured Nigeria into six zones; South West, South East, South-South, North West, North Central, and North East. Even though we don’t want to waste our time, we don’t even want to waste our money going for another conference, let the component units develop at their pace.
Let the federal remain in Abuja. Abuja should control the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the SSS, federal police, Civil Defence Corps and other relevant agencies at the federal level. At the regional level, when we are talking about security; they should have their regional, state and local government police. The structure of the police in this country should be like four.
In Britain, with a population of about just 60 million people, we have seven structures of police. In the US, you can’t even count the number of structures the United States Police have and we borrowed this constitution from the United States in 1978.
I read the autobiography of Joseph Wayas He said they spent about two months in the US to study their constitution because they wanted to replicate their constitution in Nigeria, as Senate President (in the Second Republic) by then in 1979. So why should you replicate a constitution without using it the way you took it from there? You replicate true federalism in the US and you remove the ones you wanted and threw the main content of the constitution away.
If you don’t accept the report of the National Conference in 2014, what of the Republican Constitution of 1963 that our leaders sat together to write by themselves? That is the main people’s constitution. The 1960 Constitution was from the then colonial masters, but the 1963 Constitution was written by our former political leaders. So we have a lot of options for restructuring Nigeria but the federating units, they should give them their own autonomy.
Assuming a federating unit was given its own autonomy, I don’t think Nigeria would be as worse as this. Nigeria could have been a better country if the federating units were given autonomy to run their units.
I can assure you that within seven years, Nigeria would be a country that the entire African countries would be worshipping because ideas would flow, economic competition would be there; development competition would be there and everybody would be saying, what can I do that I would realise so and so billions? By then a healthy rivalry would be there on the basis of the federating units and all of us would not be running to Abuja and running to Lagos.
You can see the dream of everybody in their states, and the spirit of let me run to Abuja, let me go to Lagos and make money would not be there. People would go back to all these rural areas and develop those places.
When you go to developed countries, the kind of eateries and the shopping centres you have in very urban areas, you will see them in the villages and with the same products. You will see them in the remote villages of developed countries and at the prices, they are selling them in the urban areas.
With that, you will now see somebody living in Ekiti – that’s what I noticed in Europe, US and UK – somebody living in Ekiti, when you meet him or her in Ekiti or if you ask why has he or she has not come to Lagos, he or she would say ‘what will I go and do in Lagos? Everything I need is here, is it not everything you see here that you also see in Lagos?’
So the gap between urban and rural areas is too much and it is giving an unnecessary dream to the youth to leave the rural areas and go to the urban areas. By the time they get to the urban areas, most of them would not be able to fit in, you now see some criminals luring them into criminal activities. So a lot of things have to be corrected and restructuring is the only way that can solve this problem. If we don’t restructure Nigeria, we are wasting our time.
We keep on borrowing everyday. According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), the last count of our debt is N25trn. The government is trying to borrow more now, that is $30billion and when you convert it to naira, it is almost N11trn. So if the government borrows another $30billion, our debt will be N35trn and some economic experts say that the money you want to borrow, you will be using half of the money to service it every year, it doesn’t make sense.
And when you see the budget that is coming out now, they have already targeted that they would borrow 30 per cent to run it, they would now generate 20 per cent from increment of tax. So, anybody that is reasonable, that has a little economic knowledge would know that Nigeria is not moving to anywhere, we are not moving.
We have a lot of things to develop that would give us more money. Our attention lies in oil, and our attention is also about making money from tax and we don’t even improve on our electricity supply. Now we are using a generator here at home, you can see that without a generator, there is no way we can survive in this place. You don’t improve on our electricity supply and you want to make money.
When you are moving from Anthony to Apapa in Lagos, it is an industrial area. The number of industries we have in that area is between 400 and 500, hardly do we have about 50 that are working now. When you ask the investors the reason behind that, they would tell you they are running their factories with generators and most of the modern equipment they wanted to bring into the country, the generators could not work with them.