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It is time for the owambe zone to do something different

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Akeredolu inaugurates Amotekun in Ondo

It was quite a spectacle on Tuesday when Governor Rotimi Akeredolu formally inaugurated the Ondo State Security Network Agency, nicknamed Operation Amotekun. He came to the parade ground like one of those Field Marshalls in glittering epaulets and uniform. It shows that the Amotekun initiative of the South-West is taking on a life of its own.

In January, 2020, the governors of the Yoruba speaking states of Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos agreed to create the Amotekun outfit to combat the growing security challenges in their states, especially the threat from kidnappers and suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.

Some people, notably some officials of the Federal Government, raised eyebrows about the outfit. In the end the governors agreed with Abubakar Akeredolu inaugurates Amotekun in Ondo Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, that Amotekun would not have an overall regional command. Instead, each state would have its own command and it would be more involved in community policing. Tuesday drama in Akure shows that Akeredolu is ready to fulfil the full intent of the Amotekun initiative. He said the outfit would be more involved in the prevention of crimes before they happen. It is expected that Amotekun would work hand in hand with the state’s Police Command.

What is crucial is that the leaders of the South-West, essentially the owambe zone of the country, is thinking of a regional arrangement. This is good for the country.

Each of Nigeria’s six geo-political zone should be involved in not only security, but also economic matters. It is time that the restructuring we are all clamouring for should come from the zones instead of expecting the Federal Government to take the initiative. After all, all thechanges that have occurred in Nigeria were often initiated at the states or regional levels. Why should constitutional re-arrangement be different?

It is noteworthy that none of the leading candidates in the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election is campaigning on the issue of the restructuring of the polity. Restructuring to some members of the political elites, is a distant song. They do not offer any manifesto on this nor do they mention it on their campaign trail. It is becoming increasingly clear that among the Nigerian political elites, ideology or manifesto does not matter. More often than not, the candidates doesn’t even bother themselves to prepare any manifesto. Neither Akeredolu, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate in the forthcoming election, nor his leading challenger and old rival, Eyitayo Jegede of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has publicised any manifesto. Both are busy on the husting, distributing promises on roads, hospitals, markets and stomach infrastructures.

What is missing on the campaign trail is the undying debate on the restructuring of the country. This campaign had been led mostly by the Yoruba political elite especially since the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the business mogul and publishing magnate, Chief Moshood Abiola, the late Aare Ona Kakanfo. It was the belief then that General Ibrahim Babangida would not have voided Abiola’s victory in such a cavalier manner if the country had a better structure. Many of our leaders, especially Chief Anthony Enahoro, was of the firm opinion that we can only arrive at an acceptable Constitution through aSovereign National Conference.

Since 1999, Nigeria has been operating a Constitution bequeathed to the country by the departed military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar. It is another version of the 1979 Constitution which gave Nigeria the presidential system of government that we adapted from the American system. The late Enahoro believed, and I agree with him, that it is a lie when this Constitution declares, “We the people…!!

As of now, many internet warriors are following the footsteps of Enahoro. They want a new Constitution. Some groups are also making a lot of debate, asking that the 2023 general election should not hold until our country agrees on an acceptable Constitution. As it is playing out in Ondo State, the political elites, active on the field, are not putting this debate on the front burner. The internet warriors, who are not really active on the field, are nonetheless busy on this campaign on the cyberspace. There should be a meeting point.

The youths of our country are confused about this campaign where everyone seems to be dissatisfied and many are trading in disinformation and outright lies. What is clear is that the current structure of 36 states, not just the Constitution, is not working in the interest of the vast majority of our people. If a system allows access of few people to steal so much public fund as being alleged recently in public hearings at the National Assembly, then something is wrong with that system. It may not be long before that system self-destruct.

Therefore, regional initiatives are needed to challenge the Federal Government behemoth and create a system that would be equitable and just. The current Constitution does not forbid regional initiatives and cooperation. The Amotekun outfit has shown that something good can actually be done if everything is not left to the President and the Federal Government. The state governments should not be shy in taking steps to amend the Constitution through legal pronouncements. That was the experience of the Federal Government under the American Constitution.

We know that the Supreme Court can change popular perception and create precedence that put new meanings to Constitutional provisions. In 1999, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the presidential candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, had challenged the victory of Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, at the Supreme Court. At that time, Nigeria had only 19 states. Popular opinion was that two third of 19 states was 13 states. The Supreme Court agreed with Shagari’s lawyer that two-third of 13 states was actually 12 two-third states. Shagari’s lawyer, Chief Richard Akinjide, later became the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice.

Therefore, the governors of the South-West should take the initiative beyond the realm of rhetoric and seminar outings. They need to now move forward and create new outfits to address the issue of the economy and social infrastructures. It is the prosperity of the people that would guarantee safety and not guns and military parades. In Norway, the society had abolished poverty and therefore the prison service is facing problem. There are not enough prisoners to keep the warders fully employed. For us, it is a long road to travel, but we must take the first step.


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