Amotekun, that security outfit that has dominated national discourse in the last two odd weeks, though officially launched by six governors of the Southwest in the ancient and symbolic city of Ibadan, is the natural creation of Abuja, that is, of the federal government.
By design or default, Abuja made Amotekun possible and inevitable. Another thesis: the time for Amotekun has come. It should and will lead to many more types of local police across the land. In a sense, ‘local police’ is not new in the current dispensation. There are shades or variants of it in Lagos, Northeast Nigerian, and Kano State. It is now a necessity. The inherent structural challenges of the Nigerian police make effective policing impossible.
All the signs of the need for a different approach to security, were there, staring us in the face. The power holders lived in denial, somewhat, failing to grasp the enormity of the challenge to nationhood that inefficiency and parochialism was pushing the country to.
From the early insurgency of the armed militias in the Niger Delta to the rise of IPOB and the Boko Haram outburst in Northeast Nigeria, even with half an eye, one could see how brittle and fragile the string around the waist of the dancing masquerade was! Individuals now have their personal security. Neighbourhood watch groups. Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) is more effective than policemen in Lagos and the Southwest states. Once thieves know OPC is in charge, they stay away from the area!
The only force that could have prevented Amotekun and other things that are likely to follow, was justice and a very fair government. But the emergence of the current administration made that possibility a remote one. The current federal government was perceived as being insensitive to the security concerns of other parts of the country. The rise of murderous Fulani herdsmen has not helped matters. Suddenly Nigerians felt that the federal government looked the other way while criminals of an ethnic group went about killing people across the country. The new dimension of Boko Haram executing Christians in order to provoke a religious war is scarier!
To be sure, there is no way the president could have supported wanton killing. But his response to the Agatu and some other mass murders killings was short of statesmanship. It was an abdication of duty, sort of. The attempt to set up cattle settlements in different parts of the country and seizing hold of shorelines by the federal government was fatally suspicious. The presidency obviously misread the mood of the nation and the effects of some of their policies. When retired General Theophilus Danjuma came on the side of the people and ordered them to defend themselves, Nigerians knew that the handshake had gone beyond the elbow!
But the biggest conflicting issue is that of having a unified police command under a federal-appointed Inspector General to police the constituent parts of the federation. It is an anomaly. It is detrimental to societal growth. It is an anachronism from the days of military misadventure in government. Policing is local. Security is local. If we agree on this, then we would make a change. A situation in which the Nigeria Police High Command is headed mainly by persons from one section of the country, the madness of 2018 and 2019 was inevitable. Perception is important. Police officers would tell you that they know who their real bosses are!
Let us address the issue of abuse. It is a possibility. In other words, police or security commands that are controlled locally could be used to terrify political opponents. Just the way the federal government currently uses the federal security agencies to its advantage. They are deployed during elections to enforce the will of the ruling party. Used before by PDP. Now being used by APC. But this has not stopped us from using the Nigeria Police in all parts of Nigeria. To avoid abuse of local policing, the federal authorities will have a stronger hand in arresting extreme situations. In other words, citizens could either use the law courts or the federal police to seek redress. If local police fail to secure life and property, it will become an issue in the next election. It is true that initially there will be shaky boundaries. Ultimately, things will shape up.
Other regions should start their security outfits now just as Governor El Rufai has done. It is the way to go. The old Midwest region now made up of Edo and Delta States, of course, should not be left out with this strong desire to protect citizens. Already, the Midwest Movement led by Dr. Don-Pedro Obaseki has been on the ground to ensure that once the whistle of regionalism is blown, that region will not be caught napping. It is time for Governors Ifeanyi Okowa and Godwin Obaseki to synergise and create a security group that will protect the state from incursion. They should create Operation Okokobioko or Operation Omotekpokpo as their own response to insecurity. The impunity with which some of the foreign criminals violated lives in the two states should be enough reason to swing into action. As for the Southeast, the Bakassi boys are readily available and should morph into a disciplined force to protect the people. Already, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State has promised to hold dialogue with his counterparts from the Southwest because he wold like to replicate Amotekun in his region.
Against this background therefore, the Federal Attorney General was on his own when he issued the first letter. To declare Amotekun illegal while he maintained a blind eye to Hisbah, and the Joint Civilian Task Force in the Northeast is the highest form of hypocrisy. For good measure, Hisbah is reported to have arrested a policeman found in the company of three women in a hotel! It is inimical to building confidence across ethnic lines. It makes the federal government sectarian in purpose and outlook. It is good that common sense has prevailed at last. The federal government held a meeting with stakeholders and common ground has been found. Chaired by the Vice President, the meeting seems to have prevailed on the Attorney General to eat his words. Which is good. Good for the unity of the country. Good for other regions to see the signal and secure their regions against invading scoundrels in the name of commerce or religion! We hope at some point the presidency would not reject the recommendations of the meeting as it had done to some decisions reached while the president was away.
The federal government ought to be national in outlook. One law should govern all parts of the country. The state governors should stand firmly and remember that ‘those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety’. Once, at the height of the cold war on the international scene, there was the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Today, in Nigeria, we are working towards Mutually Secured Regions (MSR). In my considered view, Amotekun as a metaphor for self-preservation (read ethnic preservation) is the future of Nigeria and the future of Nigeria is Amotekun!
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha