Of course, it wasn’t impressive reading one of the governors say Amotekun was a South East idea stolen by the South West governors.
Stolen? The entire states of the world have police establishments, and we can hardly tell where it actually started. But is that important? No! It is not?
Now, it has taken off in the South West, where the menace of cattle herdsmen, impunity of unruly elements and desecration of the lands is a shade of years behind what has been happening in the South East and other regions. Indeed, it is a century old in the Middle Belt Region. And from the Middle Belt, it had gained traction in the South-South where it is better welcome than preponderance of Igbo presence. In the South West, the late appreciation of the menace of faceless, bush-camping, strange and possibly foreign propelled invaders, has been delayed by the savouring of a novel, even enchanting and nationally, political bedfellowship that has run for over half a decade now. Yes! Enchanting and rewarding, I said!
The marriage of the present South West political Nabobs and the present North-north political Yakunzos has helped Nigeria in many ways. Some sanity is being forced back. In the South East, some unthinkably dreamed of projects, like the 2nd Niger Bridge, the Zik Mausoleum, 9th Mile-Orokam old road, Onitsha-Enugu-Umuahia-Aba-PH expressways, etc, are being done, as some rogue-done, rogue-operated projects, like the Enugu (international my-foot) Airport, etc, are being re-done. That is by the way.
So, the Igbo governors said their idea was stolen and called Amotekun, Yoruba word for Leopard. Igbo word for Leopard is “Agu-Owuru” – the indomitable walloper. Do not mistake it for Odum, Igbo word for Lion, which is rare even in pre-colonial Igbo history.
For the lone dancer who has been denied cheers for too long, seeing a cheerer, is permitted to grab him to his bear-like embrace. This generation of Igbo governors is smart. Indeed, with strong mental acuity. Being, all of opposition party, they are living it up in bliss, with the President Muhammadu Buhari government doing all it is doing without recourse to political party bigots.
Why are regional security outfits gaining great currency in Nigeria today? They are easily decipherable:
1. The all-talking, all-knowing Gov Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, said strange killers of Nigerians were foreigners he had paid, imploring to take money and go, but they refused.
2. The Presido himself, my man, days back, said they were Libyan fighters plying their trade, and are inconsolably baying for blood.
3. A certain North East governor said, oh, every Fulani, anywhere in the world is a Nigerian and should come over and claim portions of the available land.
4. MACBAN, the almighty Miyetti ginidi, said they own Nigeria and every portion, including people’s farms would be grazing spots for their cattle.
5. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have been dispatched to early graves by herders who would not tolerate challenging of their cows in any form.
6. Analysts have reasoned that the heightened spate of kidnapping in the country can be traced to the fund-sourcing programmes of Boko Haram who must use captive Nigerians to raise money for their deadly operations.
7. When Ruga failed or was it suspended, herdsmen had gone for broke, breaking limbs, eating up farms and raping more women.
8. There are more.
Now, look at the dilemma of Igbo governors:
1. This is a region with the smallest land mass in the country. Indeed, the entire South East is smaller than Niger State of Nigeria.
2. By political manipulation, the 77 local government areas are just about the number, less a few, of Kano and Jigawa states.
3. It was the heartland of the region targeted for punitive military defeat, which was realised and which the Yakubu Gowon administration and successors, fully enforced with policies of total deprivation and degradation via “abandoned property policy”, “indigenisation policy”, £20 (Nigerian) policy for every bank deposit” and “conscious industrial-plan restrictions” for a long time.
4. It is a deep seated republican region (ndi-kwe, ndi-e-kweghi – each man knows what the other man knows) where decisions are not as easily reached as they can come in the South West or North of Nigeria.
5. Bereft of oil derivation funds, and consciously, politically programmed, paucity of population, most of the states come in with begging cap in hand, the governors are like the janitors of the floor for others; and,
6. Desirous of maintaining a field of free operations for the restless citizens, the governors are hesitant. It was possible they had the idea of “Agu-owuru”, now called “Amotekun”, but restrained by inherent factors.
Then let us look at the possible asides:
The governors may have been hampered by other strong factors, especially relating to the laws of the land. Did you hear somebody saying he swore to an oath to defend the constitution, not his people?
Well, I say, “tufiakwa.” What is the constitution? Who are the people? I can even answer, dullard I am. The constitution is a mere pack of papers put together by one Prof Yadudu on behalf of retiring soldiers. The people are Ndi Igbo, Ndi Yoruba, Ndi Awusa, Ndi Ibibio, Ndi Efik, Ndi Birom, Ndi Higgi, Ndi Hildi, Ndi Tiv, etc. But we leave it here. Some day, may be.
Yes, the constitution is important. I swore to it, too, good or bad.
And in the circumstance, let us look at section 14 (2) b: “Security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. …” Just take note of “shall” and “primary purpose.” Both mean almost the same thing in this context: “must and basic/unavoidable.”
Now, take a look at section 214, sub-section 1: “There shall be a police force for Nigeria….no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.”
Now see where the kicking went to the groin:
Section 215; sub-section 4: “…the governor of a state….may give to the Commissioner of police of that state such lawful directions on the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary and the Commissioner of police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.”
Wow!!! You would say, as I heaved a sigh of premature relief.
Now, there is a proviso! A proviso in law means definitive condition precedent. “…before carrying out any such directions…..the Commissioner of Police may request that the matter be referred to the President or such Minister of the government of the federation as may be authorised…”
Now, look at the head-banger: Section 215, subsection 5: “The question whether any, and if so what, directions have been given under this section shall not be inquired into in any court.”
O pari, my Lagosian fellow citizens would say. Matter is closed.
That is not the dilemma, but the bases of the dilemma of Igbo governors.
Following the constitution, even in its imperfection, to the letter, they are not mistaken to be circumspect, even as they couldn’t have been right to say they had the idea of leopard before others stole it.
Yet, constitutions are not the be-all in any state, all over the world. They are guides. We all know that despite section 214, the same Federal Government has established the DSS/SSS, Federal Road Safety Commission and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps etc. We also know that away from the textbook stance of the constitution, the police have failed or are unable to meet up with the security challenges, at least, at present.
Indeed, there has never been such a society, except in the failed Soviet empire, where a centrally organised police force effectively took reasonable charge of the society. If they say that every crime is local, why are people, especially the Federal Government, rattled that some local content is shoved in to hold off the vermins called criminals?
But there are other reasons for circumspection:
1. Cost of running state police forces. Truth is that most governors know they can hardly afford such addition to their overhead and capital expenditure, but they have to pretend.
2. The Federal Government is scared of state police forces rising as challenges that may threaten the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
3. Elements of political opposition are scared stiff of what tragedy befalls them should state police forces become instruments of subjugation (I belong here: Governor Sullivan Chime used the illegal police (thugs) of Enugu North LG) to demolish my property).
4. Governors are scared of creating the monsters that would consume them, post-office.
Curiously, the extremely panicked Federal Government had made good uses of what they call Civilian JTF in the North Central, North East, etc, to hold back local criminals. Each state governor had employed traffic enforcers, revenue collectors ,and the rest, who have all acted the police all along. And opposition elements, who eventually landed power have quickly turned the MOT, Revenue Enforcers, thugs, etc, to their uses, and the poor masses have borne it all. What the masses have not been able to bear is losing his crops to slummy, wicked, cattle herders who value expendable animals more than human lives.
“The Federal government ought to know it: something else has to happen for a war to start from the Igbo areas. If ever there is the necessity, nobody will be in the dark.”
Who said it: “Ndi Igbo are a race of open minded people…they do not sit on the fence. They do not ‘do’ slumbering women. They wake them up and say, ‘woman, I have come.’”
For these, and more, I think all hands just have to come on board for Operation Agu-Owuru to take off in earnest.
•Ogazimorah writes from Enugu.