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The Amotekun in all of us

By Yakubu Mohammed
29 January 2020   |   3:22 am
At last, the controversy over Operation Amotekun, the South West Region’s creative answer to the incessant insecurity problems plaguing the zone, seems to have been laid to rest.

At last, the controversy over Operation Amotekun, the South West Region’s creative answer to the incessant insecurity problems plaguing the zone, seems to have been laid to rest.

With the chief law officers of the respective states in this zone back to the drawing board to fashion out the legal framework that would make Operation Amotekun conform with the law of the land, one can safely say that there is now an acceptable template for other zones of the country to use.

When other zones come up with their own fresh initiatives or wish to expand the existing ones like Hisbah, for instance, they will only be doing so not to confront, as widely feared, but to complement the Federal Government’s community policing efforts.

In retrospect, we can now see that all the tension, the passion and the unnecessary heat the controversy generated while it lasted, were nothing but the proverbial storm in a teacup. But this particular storm had a salutary effect.

Such altercations, noisy and threatening as they appeared, were some of the building blocks of a true democracy. It must be said clearly that democracy, unlike autocracy, dictatorship and fascism, profits from plurality of ideas. Even the conflicts such divergent opinions breed, from time to time, help to nurture democracy. These are also some of the irritations of democracy. But if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen.

But given the brittleness of our democracy and the wrong notion and perception that the country’s unity is ever so fragile and vulnerable to eruptions occasioned by heated debates and acrimonious discourse, there is always the possibility of fear in the system that the country under their watch is being driven to the brink.

When the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami declared that Amotekun was illegal, I believe that he was not unaware of the unwholesome situation that gave rise to it; the enormity of the security problems that rankled the proponents of Amotekun which made the controversial outfit necessary: he knew that banditry, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and the ugly farmers and herdsmen clashes had gone beyond tolerable level.

But as he was forced to clarify later, his traducers, and they were in battalions, misinterpreted him. What he said simply, which may appear like an afterthought, was that the setting up of Operation Amotekun was not backed by law. And if his advice was sought, the various states of assembly in the South West would have done their homework and provided the legal framework for the gigantic operation to have the force of law. Unfortunately that was not done and his friendly advice therefore came across like an enemy action. But as the Jagaban Bola Tinubu put it eloquently, there was nothing in Operation Amotekun that would threaten the fabrics of Nigerian unity. And those who opposed the setting up of the operation did not quite get a handle of it, hence their apprehension. On both sides, he observed, there was some work to do to harmonize the various position. Following his advice, and at the instance of the Federal Government, the parties to the dispute namely the state governors of the South West region and the Attorney General of the Federation met with the vice-president Professor Yemi Osinbajo, an eminent legal luminary, and all the issues of law and legality were thrashed out.

The Federal Government, as represented by the Attorney General in this case, and the rest of the society including the proponents and the warriors of Operation Amotekun have slowly but surely come to an understanding that they are on the same page. They all know that no day passes without incidence of one or two of these security problems or an unholy alliance of all of them – banditry, kidnapping and burning down of a whole community as in the case of Tawari village by unknown arsonists – happening.

The situation seems to have gone out of control despite the spirited efforts by government to contain it or to deny it. It is no longer the task that must be left to the government alone. Security has become everybody’s business. When you see something, according to government slogan, say something. That is part of security collaboration.

Those in a position to do something must also be encouraged to do something. And that goes for state governments or the amalgamation of states in collaborative efforts. To compliment the official security apparatus which is the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government would, therefore, appear to me as a patriotic duty. Those who volunteer to offer services, like the civilian JTF, and the nascent Amotekun in collaboration with security agencies, the police, the army, the DSS must be commended, not vilified.

At the end of the day, we are all Amotekuns, if this has become a metaphor for self-help, providing security for ourselves where the inelastic official security is either not sufficient or simply unavailable. In every home, in every community in the urban areas of this country, in nearly all these places communal efforts have taken the centre stage of our lives. Communal security with street gates and security outfits of various descriptions have become common place.

Each person is a local government to himself. Through self-help, he provides his own water, well water or borehole water or water from hawkers. And his own power. He provides his drainage system and clears them through self-effort. He has his own personal Amotekun, the resident main guard, even if only to open and close the gate having consigned his and his family’s security into God’s hands. All these happen because the services of those paid by taxpayers money to secure you have turned their back on you. Local governments exist only on paper. Officials collect their monthly allocations from Abuja and share them as appropriate. To hope that some modicum of service would be rendered, even by accident, is to engage in forlorn hope or to tango with Tantalus and its false hope.

And on the highways, you dance all manner of dance with potholes and gullies holding your heart in your mouth for fear of the omnipresent kidnappers or armed robbers, or what is worse, the combination of the two.

Why won’t I vote for the Amotekun if the matter is put to vote and there is no mago, mago and wuruwuru and no ballot box snatching and the wielding of Ak 47.

Leah Sharibu

Shame of a nation
No matter the effort of this administration, the plight of Leah Sharibu, once the blight of the Buhari administration, has morphed into the eternal shame of the nation. Even if she is released today, the damage has been done. And it is a cruel and an incalculable damage. Leah was one of the 110 school girls abducted by the “decapitated” Boko Haram insurgents from their school premises in Dapchi on February 19 2018.

After negotiation with the Federal Government, the terrorists released all the other girls but decided to keep Leah Sharibu purportedly because of her faith. Either she denounced Christianity, so we were made to believe, or she remained captive and a prisoner of faith. She chose to remain captive despite world-wide condemnation, despite President Buhari’s spirited assurances that she would be released before the next cockcrow.

Two years later, rumour is now rife that she is a mother of a baby boy. And the husband, not by marriage but by force and against Islam, is a commander of the Boko Haram. This episode, to say it with some respect, is nothing but the shame of a nation.

Last week, the president told European Union officials that he would use his civil war experience to end the carnage of the Boko Haram and hopefully to secure the release of the remaining but forgotten Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu. Problem is whether the EU officials or the traumatized parents of the Chibok girls and those of Leah Sharibu are convinced.