The word Amotekun is gradually becoming a household name in Nigeria. Hardly can one say, especially among close watchers of happenings in the polity, that someone, somewhere has not heard the name especially in the last few days. But for those who may still be wondering what it is about, it is simply a name given to the Western Nigeria Security Network by its initiators, the Governors of the South West states of Nigeria to protect their citizens from the deadly armed robbers and kidnappers that took over many parts of the zone in the not too distant past. There had been many reactions to the establishment of the outfit with many expressing fears that it could be used for purposes not in the original objective for setting up the outfit. Some even thought it was an avenue for establishing the state or regional police force as being canvassed by progressives in the South West, through the back door.
At its launch in Ibadan, the Chairman of the Governors Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti State governor had tried to allay the fears. “Amotekun is a complement that will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office. So, we do not want to create fear in the mind of anybody as we are not creating a regional police force”.
It would not be too far-fetched to conclude that the idea of creating a south west security outfit to tackle the deadly marauding kidnappers got a boost in the aftermath of the death of the daughter of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. His daughter, Funke Olakunrin had fallen under the hails of the deadly fire of kidnappers suspected to be herdsmen. This was confirmed by Governor Fayemi at the launch of the security outfit. The governors said it was also part of their responsibility as enshrined in Section 14(20) of the Constitution to protect lives and property of their citizens.
The assurances have not given any assurance to the power that be in Abuja. The Inspector General of Police had summoned Governor Fayemi to Abuja where the issue was further discussed before the police boss acquiesced. It was a short-lived celebration as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami who seemed to have been slumbering, when the plan was afoot to float the outfit was on, suddenly woke up to declare Amotekun as illegal because the power over security belong exclusively to the Federal Government and no part of the federation either singly or jointly has the right to take such security measures. There have been many reactions to the AGF’s statement, Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka urged the governors to go ahead with the idea which he said had come to stay as it was borne out of the yearning of the people. Governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State have also reacted describing the AGF’s statement as mere opinion. Other reactions from the people in the zone have also queried what makes Amotekun different from Hisbah, the Sharia Police, the Civilian JTF that had been assisting the Nigerian Army in the North East in the fight against Boko Haram, all which had been operating in the country with no eyebrow raised. Hisbah is said to have even arrested a police officer, a federal operative, a few days ago when he was alleged to have been found in the midst of three women.
That is the way the matter stands at the moment. Governor Akeredolu has said there would be further consultations with Abuja to find a political solution, as if no consultation was done before the launch of Amotekun.
However, it is obvious that the present situation is a major litmus test for promoters of Amotekun- especially the All Progressives Congres (APC) governors and other major proponents of true federalism among the progressives fold in the country. It is equally a test case for the ruling party which has not hidden its support for true federalism whereby the federating units have control over some activities in their domain. Would the governors bow to the Abuja stance as espoused by AGF Malami or stand on their conviction that as chief security officers of their states, they have the right to protect lives and property in their States? Majority of the people in the South West zone have the bit in their teeth on the matter. Nowhere is the ideal of true federalism more rooted than the south west. It is where the major opinion on the legitimacy of Amotekun is more vociferous. South West prides itself as a major promoter of progressive politics, thus, this is a test case of putting words into action. Would South West leader rise up to the moment?
However, I have my fears. Fears among the promoters of Amotekun who would not want to rock the political boat. It is no longer a hidden fact that among the promoters of Amotekun in the governors’ fold are one or two with ambition to take their political Journey further than the present. Some of them are convinced that in order to realize their ambition, they have to dance to the Abuja music. They also want to be seen as those who would not rock the political boat in the political calculation. Herein lies the problem, if perchance Abuja expresses its opposition to the idea of Amotekun, (forget what AGF Malami said though he could also be flying the kite and testing the waters to gauge the West’s mood, the real powers know how and where they will express their support for or against the security outfit), I would not be surprised if a few of the promoters capitulate. I will however advise that the Amotekun initiative should not be allowed to die, it should not be sacrificed on the platform of political expediency. It would not reflect positively on the promoters. Not only that, APC cannot afford to withdraw support from the initiative which aptly captures all it stands for as a party on the issue of true federalism.
On a last note, the South West governors still have a lot to do in order to legitimize their creation. There are germane issues of concern that have been left unattended to. For example, what are the structures that would drive the initiative? What guidelines did the promoters put in place? What about the legal framework for its operation? Where would the headquarter be and would all the affiliated States have their own offices? Would Amotekun have a manual of operations? How would you differentiate the Amotekun operative from Ondo State from the one from Ekiti State, would it be through different uniforms, especially since their operation would cut across the States in the South West?
Are they going to be categorized as Civil Servants and what would be the qualification and the entry salary? Some of the States are yet to pay the minimum wage, so how would they pay the operatives and most importantly, what would be the funding arrangement? All these should be in the instrument setting up the outfit. Sadly, this was not done and if it was, no one is in the know. I wonder what happened to the Attorney Generals of the States involved? Did they not advise their principals on these finer points of law that are sine qua non for establishing such an outfit? It is when these issues are tackled that the seriousness of the promoters would be clear to all and sundry.