Mohammed Fawehinmi, first son of the late legal luminary and renowned human rights activists, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, has admonished those opposing the formation of the regional vigilante, Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Amotekun, accusing them of directly wanting the seething bloodletting raging in the Southwest region to continue.
Mohammed in this interview raised concerns on the level of opposition being generated since after launch of the security outfit by the six governors of the Southwest geopolitical zone.
He also spoke about his father’s time as a politician and other national matters. Excerpt:
Amotekun has been in the news since over two weeks it was formed by the six governors of the Southwest; how did you react when you first heard about it?
To be honest when I heard the move, I was so excited, that I even fell off my bed. And I think it’s the first time governors of the Southwest have demonstrated interest on the welfare of Nigerians in their region. So, when I heard it, I thought it was a dream. I increased the volume of my television to make sure it came out loud and clear. Six governors of the Southwest came together to cooperate. First, to brainstorm about security and welfare of the people, and then proposed and formed a unit to ensure that. However, whenever a good idea is brought forward, there are bound to be hitches. So, you have to scale over, and see the i’s and t’s that need to be dotted and crossed. I think Amotekun is necessary in the Southwest based on what has happened and is happening. The ravaging of farmlands, killings of people in the Southwest, and other parts of the country. I also read from the dailies that some governors of the Northern part find it admirable and would want to adopt the same means in their fight against Boko Haram and bandits. That tells you that it is a step in the right direction.
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has tagged it ‘illegal’, several personalities and groups have voiced serious concerns on the move to form the vigilante group. What is your view with the level of oppositions that have greeted the initiative?
The AGF, Abubakar Malami SAN, with all due respect, is not a sound constitutional lawyer…
But he is a SAN? That should at least indicate that he’s sound enough in Nigeria’s legal circle, shouldn’t it?
Yes, it should, but there are lawyers, and there are lawyers. Also, there are SANs, and there are SANs. I don’t know any Attorney General in the history of the world that would wake up and make such pronouncement from his own office. It shows that he’s not well grounded. Because if he is well grounded, on spotting, hearing or even visualizing the event of the registration of Amotekun, he should have entered the courtroom and sued the six governors.
What about the political concerns raised by many, that Amotekun is a ploy by the Southwest to foist their restructuring agenda?
Even they also based their opposition to Amotekun to defending the country. And I ask, ‘is the creation of Amotekun to usurp the powers of the president? WillAmotekun usurp the powers of the military or police?’ Because from what we’ve gathered, Amotekun is a vigilante group to gather intelligence and supply the police with information. Again we have Hisbah and the Civilian-JTF in the North, and both are licensed to carry arms. Mind you, as a person, I can walk up to the Inspector-General (IG) to get a license to get firearms to protect myself and my people. The IG can within his wisdom issue it to me. The AGF or anyone has no business in it. Malami’s business is to advise the government in court. There are dangerous implications of the stance of the AGF and others towards Amotekun. Because it might imply that they enjoy the killings going on in the Southwest, and they want it to continue. So, I think they, especially the AGF, should apologize to the six Southwest governors for insulting their intelligence. Among those governors that formed Amotekun is a respected SAN, in the person of Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State, who I believe would have advised the other governors adequately on the steps to take. Governor Akeredolu is not a decorated SAN. He is well grounded, and used to be the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The AGF’s statement undermined the competence of these six governors, and he should apologize to them for that. A lot of people should put on their thinking caps and understand the situation of being a governor. A governor has the authority to perform his duty in compliance to ‘Section 14:2A and B’ because it is said that ‘the primary purpose of government should be welfare of the people’. A state is a sub-region on its own. And a state governor has the authority to get loan from IMF in the interest of building the state. Now, if a state government can do that, what then stops state governments from collaborating? And I have this to tell those kicking against Amotekun, ‘If you don’t understand what is going on, ask those that understand to explain to you. Don’t jump into conclusion or make careless insinuations or assertions about things you don’t know about’.
Let us talk about your late father, Gani Fawehinmi, during his life time, some people criticize his onslaughts on almost everything in government. The said Gani seemed to have sworn never to see anything good in most of Nigeria’s leaders. How do you see such views about your father?
My father can’t stand any fundamental breech of law. Secondly, he can’t stand illicit acts. Thirdly, my father can’t stand unstatesmanly conduct. Four, he hated looting of the treasury by people in government. Five, he abhorred extra-judicial killings, just like what former President Obasanjo did in Odi and Zaki-biam, and also the time he gave orders to military to attack Fela’s house, which led to the death of his mother. So, when government does these, and misplaces their priorities, my dad runs to drag the government to court; because while he was young, he had the opportunity of enjoying an organized Nigeria, there was free education, proper healthcare, efficient power supply. But all these collapsed because of bad governance. So, those that praise him for all his sacrifices, and for being a voice of the voiceless, are right to do so. Also those that criticize him for being a constant critic of government are also right to hold such opinion of him. But a lot of his critics are today benefitting from the sacrifices he made back then. My father went far and beyond to improve the legal system of Nigeria. He was hated by a few, and loved by many. He was appreciated by many, and a lot of what he has done builds the framework of the modern legal industry.
You have spoken so much about his legal career, but let’s look at Gani as a politician. How do you rate him, and why do you think he didn’t fair so well in winning at the polls?
For me, I think I am a better politician than my father. My father is a straight arrow, he doesn’t know how to bend or meander. Gani, my father, doesn’t know how to play the diplomacy in politics, and be chameleonic when faced with tricky situations. He will state things the way they are and damn the consequence. That is why I said he was a very bad politician. And the politicians that control votes in the country, saw him and laughed at him when he came into the political scene. It appeared they said that they would teach him the game of politics. That was why they gave my father a humiliating 48 votes in the entire Southwest during the presidential polls. So, you can imagine the humiliation. He toured the whole 32 states at that time, he was even attacked in Ekiti. So, that experience made him lose interest in politics and to go back to his legal practice. He made up his mind after seeing the chameleonic style of politics being played. So, as a politician, my father did not have the instinct or the inclining to do what a typical Nigerian politician does to clinch power. That was why he didn’t do too well.