Despite naysayers, Operation Amotekun takes off in flying colours
The controversy about the launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Operation Amotekun by the six governors of the South West was not unexpected.
The initiative is novel and has attracted different interpretations from different tendencies and cultures. Reason: No geo-political zone has had such security arrangement, where local security initiatives would complement the Police and other paramilitary organisations to fight crime.
When the South West Governors, namely, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Engr. Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Prince Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Chief Oyetola (Oyo) and Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu (Lagos) in June, last year met in Ibadan and decided to put aside their political differences to curb rising insecurity in the region, many discarded their pronouncement as another political statement.
But they were not deterred by the skepticisms of many. The governors went ahead to instruct its intellectual organ, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) to organise a security summit and later charged it to work on how to make the region safe.
Indeed, all these efforts were reactions to the public outcry over the security challenges facing the region. The region woke up to unprecedented cases of killings, kidnapping, raping and other life-threatening incidents that made the roads and forests unsafe for travelers and residents.
Many will not forget in a hurry how Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of the national leader of pan Yoruba Social-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Rueben Fasonranti was brutally murdered at Kajola, along Ore-Shagamu Expressway.
Also, suspected killer herdsmen on Akure-Ilesa Expressway, Otan-Ile and Imesi in Obokun, Osun State, kidnapped many travelers. It took the efforts of local hunters, vigilantes and O’odua People’s Congress (OPC) members and later the police and State Security Service to secure freedom of less than half of the passengers.
On the same expressway, daredevil bandits attacked the convoy of Ondo Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, in June, last year. The bandits bared their fangs in May, when they abducted a Professor of Medicine at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Olayinka Adegbehingbe, on the Ibadan-Ife Expressway. The surgeon said he paid ransom of over N5m to regain his freedom.
Similarly, three people traveling between Lagos and Ibadan suffered the same fate in July, last year. It took days for them to regain their freedom. In Ondo and Ogun states, high profile kidnapping incidents, particularly on the Sagamu-Benin Expressway, made the headlines.
Curiously, the mere announcement of the proposal had given residents some rest of mind, who have heaved a sigh of relief as noticeable drop in the activities of criminals could be felt. In fact, the perennial clash between farmers and herders has seen a drop.
The collaboration of the Lagos State Police Command and OPC to flush out the dreaded Badoo cult group in Ikorodu and efforts of the local hunters to make Abeokuta/Ayetoro/Imeko road free of constants attacks by killer herdsmen were reference points of the significance of local initiatives in fighting crimes.
The launch of the regional security outfit did not occur without opposition from powerful quarters that mounted pressure on the Federal Government and Police authority to stop it. Indeed, a day to the launch, there were rumours that it had been cancelled but the meeting between the Inspector General of Police and Governor Fayemi was said to have resolved the grey areas and gave the Police assurance that Operation Amotekun would only complement the efforts of the police and would not be used for politics and to disintegrate the country.
Last Thursday, Fayemi, while allaying fears that Amotekun would work against the corporate existence of the country said: “Most importantly, this is not an agenda to undermine the integrity of the Federal Government Republic of Nigeria. Just like some of us are unapologetic indigenes, we are also very proud Nigerians. And we would do everything to protect the integrity of our country. So, there is no conflict. Our primary interest is the security and safety of our people. We would continue to do all within our power to push the frontiers of this collective security initiative.”
He noted that the security of the region had been so bad that the governors had no choice but to respond by starting the regional security outfit.
“And as elected leaders of our various states, our primary responsibility according to the Section 14(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended is the security and welfare of our citizens. And that is what informed the coming together of my colleagues and I to fashion a way that we can utilize to complement the work of our mainstream security agencies that are quite overstressed in their efforts to arrest the menace that afflicted not just our zone but the entire country at a time having being a relatively peaceful zone that started witnessing this problem. Our people became extremely agitated.
“I am pleased that this idea whose time has come has been embraced by the leadership of our security agencies because the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu has since gone ahead to announce the Police commitment to community policing strategy.
“And Western Nigeria Security Network, Amotekun is nothing but a Community Policing response to a problem that our people will like to see the back of pending the time that Community Policing Strategy being put together by Nigeria Police Force come to fruition, it is clearly important that we give our people a confidence-boosting strategy,” Fayemi said.
For the Chairman of the South West Governors Forum and Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, who was the convener of the programme, the essence of Amotekun was to protect people of the region from, “banditries, terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen/farmers conflicts, ritual killings and cyber crimes.”
Acknowledging the efforts of the Federal Government and its agencies in stemming the dangerous tide of insecurity in the polity, Akeredolu said Amoteku is the region’s contribution to “complement to the security architecture that may be put in place by the Federal Government in the future.”
He said: “It is not our intention to erect any antagonistic structure whose operation will be at cross purposes to the existing template. That’s not what we are here for. We want us to work together.”
Oyo State Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde, who expressed joy that the launch was successful described the initiative as a bold step to fight insecurity in the region.
He said: “Sometimes, people throw out revolutionary ideas because people either do not understand it or are not willing to understand it. But, as an African proverb says, ‘the brave man is not he who doesn’t feel afraid, but he that conquers that fear.’”
“Six months ago, we met, right here in Oyo State and decided to set up a regional collaborative security agency. And I am happy that we followed through. As governors of these states, it is our priority to ensure that both indigenes and settlers living within the boundaries of our various states can carry out their legitimate activities in a secured environment. The security of their lives and properties should be of paramount importance.
“When we discuss the development potentials of our states and talk about investment opportunities and growing our Internally Generated Revenue by exploring areas of comparative advantage, we remain keenly aware that we cannot achieve anything in a state of insecurity.
“To those who are afraid, I say, when we assumed office, we all took an Oath of Office and promised to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; to follow the dictates of the Constitution and protect the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We have not forgotten our oath.
“Our regional integration, our coming together, should be seen in one light and one light alone: That we are coming together to fight a common enemy. That enemy is not Nigeria; the enemies are the elements among us and their affiliates, who are determined to cause commotion within the borders of our states and threaten our peaceful coexistence,” he said.
The Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi thanked the six state governors for putting aside their political differences to form an initiative to fight insecurity in Yoruba land.
The monarch who spoke for all the traditional rulers in the Southwest said he was particularly happy that Yoruba leaders could speak with one voice and fight crimes in their region.
The Leader of Yoruba World Congress, Professor (Senator) Banji Akintoye, told The Guardian at the event that, “it is a very good day. It is a sign that our governors are now stepping forward to let the Yoruba people defend themselves. To stop the aggression going on in Nigeria in the face of attempts by small ethnic group to violently subjugate other people of Nigeria. We Yoruba people are fighting to defend ourselves. But it a good thing to have our governors step forward to render very significant help. It’s their duty to do it and they are doing that. We’re very happy about that.”
For a former Commissioner in Osun State and son of the late Chief Bola Ige, Architect Muyiwa Ige: “Amotekun is a step in the right direction. It is a new day in the annals of history of Western Nigeria. We are taking the bull by the horns. I must commend the six state governors for coming together and ensuring that the project becomes a reality. Interestingly, the Amotekun vehicles coming to town gives everyone a sense of security that somebody is taking charge. Yoruba land has to be where it used to be. People should be able to sleep with both eyes closed now knowing full well that security is assured.”
On fears of the operatives of Amotekun becoming high-handed in the future, Ige said: “There is no such thing. It is a fear of unknown. When other groups launched theirs, how come nobody had any apprehension? This will work. It has come to stay. We should galvanize everyone to come and be a part of it to ensure that it succeeds.”
The National PRO and Commander of Planning, Research and Statistics of Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Prof. Nelson Olabamji Fasina, said: “Everything about human existence is about security. We are concerned about the security of the entire nation not just of a region. But then where we find some regions attempting to complement the efforts of formal security agencies, we attempt to cooperate. That’s why the Amotekun initiative is a welcome one to secure this part of Nigeria. We hope other regions will be able to emulate this so that we can have a secured Nigeria.”
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