The launch recently of the Southwest security outfit known as “Amotekun” by the governors of the region in a way is a requiem of significant import on the broken security architecture of the country. It is the most potent commentary on the Buhari presidency as it raises fundamental questions which interrogate the politics of this administration, and its dire implications for national security and unity.
But more confounding is the response of the federal government which declared the move illegal. The declaration is the most audacious and brazen attempt to stifle true federalism as it is the most potent misreading of the constitution. And to say the official government response was from the Attorney General of the federation who ought to know what the constitution says is most regrettable. It also points to the vacuity that defines their gratuitous interventions.
The fear and apprehension of the federal government on the matter is difficult to comprehend. In the past two years, there have been wanton killings of Yoruba people by Fulani herdsmen in Yoruba land, yet the federal security architecture could not rein in the rampaging army of herdsmen perpetrating these killings. Aside the herdsmen attacks, there has been an increased in the spate of kidnappings and ritual killings. Amotekun is a response timely enough to stem this evil at different levels. The first and most important duty of government is the protection of lives and property. When a government is incapable to discharging this responsibility, it has indeed abdicated its legitimacy to rule. In the past few years, it is clear that government had failed to secure the lives and property of Nigerians as evident in the colossal carnage across the country.
Whilst the constitution reserves the provision of security in the Exclusive List the inability of the federal government to carry out this responsibility vitiates the protection of life and property as a fundamental right. Also most security agencies in the states controlled by the federal government are heavily funded by the state governments. This is an anomaly as the states are funding security without control over it.
As Governor Fayemi of Ekiti state has noted, Amotekun is not para-military organization but a regional arrangement to stem criminality. It is soothing that the intelligentsia and legal luminaries have condemned the official government position, including no less a person than one of their own, Professor Itse Sagay, a constitutional lawyer.
As a newspaper we find it difficult to understand why this administration chose the path of infamy on the subject of national security. Under its watch thousands of people have been killed by Boko Haram insurgents, Fulani herdsmen and sundry criminal elements across the country. At a point the country tethered on the brink of anarchy as there was overwhelming and unprecedented security challenge which official security architecture could no longer effectively handle.
Its position on the issue of Amotekun may have confirmed the sinister and devious motive behind its appropriation of all the heads of the security agencies for the north without recourse to the concerns and sensitivities of other parts of the country. Arming Amotekun, which is an official agency, is better than the marauding armed herdsmen who are amorphous and without control.
Amotekun has become a metaphor for the failed nature of our federation, where the states exist at the whims and caprices of the centre. Amotekun is an inconvenient truth that we should tell ourselves. It is the recalcitrance of the north to certain necessary changes and amendments of the constitution, including state police and fiscal federalism that has made Amotekun not only inevitable but indeed desirable.
Many discerning Nigerians, including this newspaper, have often looked further to locate a foreground for condoning of impunity of herdsmen and sundry other criminals by government. With the entire security architecture of the country in the hands of a section of the country, it would be difficult to prove beyond logical conclusion that it is a mere coincidence.
If other people who have suffered the rampage of the herdsmen could accept this apparent dominance of the security system, it sends a wrong signal that Amotekun yet in itself infancy could attract such official rejection. It suggests an unequal status in the relationship between the various parts of the country, which is reprehensible.
Again, the federal government position runs contrary to the existence of similar organizations in other parts of the north particularly, northeast and northwest. Also, whereas, the constitution guarantees the secularity of Nigeria, 16 of the 19 states in the north practice state religion, sharia. That is a contravention of the constitution as other religions are disadvantaged, which is discrimination.
In a country where merit, balance, equity and national character are jettisoned for primordial sentiments and prebendal politics, a natural progression of this kind of uncut arrangement is dislocation of body politics, state institutions and division of society along the various fault lines. As a newspaper, we regret to say that the above is what this administration has promoted by default.
All over the world, governments strive to reduce tension in the society, build consensus around issues and bridge ethnic and religious cleavages. Leaders should always rise above fault lines; that is the mark of statesmanship
This year, we have witnessed much activity on the Biafran war, yet the lessons of the war are not learnt, and regrettably, we seem to be moving gradually in the same direction of what caused the war. The tragedy of our malaise is the fact that one of the major actors in the war is President Buhari, and yet under his watch we still see around us reverberations of those issues that led to the war.
The Amotekun security outfit as far as this newspaper is concerned is legal, since the federal police have failed to secure the people. The federal government should not have made a declaration on it which is raising tension but simply take necessary legal step to test the action in the court of law. In a federal system, that is the path of reason and democratic practice. We urge caution on the side of the federal authorities as this matter is sensitive and may have long time implications for the unity of the country going forward.
A people have a right to self defence once the official security architecture can no longer guaranteed the needed security. Eventually, it may not be an issue of constitutionality – of right and wrong – but expediency or what was called the doctrine of necessity. Even the issue of constitutionality should be determined by the court and not the government.