Enter ‘Amotekun’, the Leopard

If a man sees a snake and a woman kills it, the important thing is that the snake is dead and no longer a threat. To argue that the woman has taken over the role of the man is sterile.

What does mankind achieve by demonising every bid to devise alternative solutions to nagging problems?

That is my candid reaction to some negative reactions trailing the inauguration of the Western Nigerian Security Network (WNSN), code-named Operation Amotekun, by the six governors of the Southwestern states. I am on record as one of the staunch supporters of the Civilian JTF which sprung up in the heat of the Boko Haram campaign in the northeast of Nigeria. At that time, Boko Haram actually controlled some local government areas as a de facto rogue ‘government’.

While some people felt that civilians had nothing to contribute to what they saw as a purely military campaign, many of us who don’t play tribal games were of the view that we had nothing to lose by throwing everything — including the kitchen sink — at the mass murderers. Several years later, we are all witnesses to the great contributions those fellows have made at great risk to their lives and those of their families. Their knowledge of the terrain is not in any military textbook or police manual.

Of recent, the Southwest has been under the hammer of unbridled banditry like never before. The catalogue of gruesome killings is all over the media. The wide spectrum of victims, from the farmer to the labourer to the academic to the politician to the business mogul was simply confounding. Then it got to a stage when armed bandits stalked vehicles on inter-state highways and unloaded bullets from semi-automatic rifles. Every trip was a potential opening glee to another rendition of nunc dimitis.

Should the governors of the region have folded their hands when it was all but clear that the police and other security agencies had done their best but their best was apparently not enough? The issue of security was a big campaign point during the last elections. That is why the governors came together across party lines to apply cerebral muscle to tackling the problem. They ought to be commended, not condemned. We have tried the existing security architecture so far, but there is still a long way to go. What do we lose by adding Amotekun to what currently obtains?

To allay fears of inaugurating an alternative army as the critics alleged, Governor Kayode Fayemi, by far the most sedate of all the Southwest governors and the closest to President Buhari explained: “We were daily assaulted by armed robbers, bandits and kidnappers. The mainstream security agencies did their best. …Though criminal activities were all over the country then, our people in  the Southwest, a relatively peaceful zone,  became agitated over the increasing insecurity…

“The IGP has announced its endorsement. Amotekun is nothing but a community policing response to the yearning of our people. It will fill the void pending the time community policing structure being planned by the police will be ready. It is a confidence-building strategy for our people in the Southwest.

“When elements that will work in a joint task force are ready, they will do it with the knowledge of the language and culture and terrain of the places where they will work. So, we do not want this to create any fear in the mind of anyone. We have seen all manners of things in the social media. It is an attempt to sabotage what we are doing.

“We are not creating a regional police force. We are not oblivious of the steps we must take to have a state police…

“As long as they are close to our people and they can be held accountable, we are okay by it… They will operate independently but relate regionally. Most importantly, this is not an attempt to undermine the Federal Government of Nigeria….”

As proof that the Amotekun idea recommends itself to the rest of the country, if indeed any was needed, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State who doubles as Chair of the Northwest Governors’ Forum lauded the idea and is considering replicating it in his zone: “We have a lot to learn from them (the South west). I will call a meeting of the states affected by insecurity to see what they are doing and how we can borrow from them… Criminality has now come to the cities and towns from the forests; the criminals in the cities now invite the bandits from the forest to kidnap for ransom.”

Some of the fears expressed by critics is that politicians could use the new outfit to fight private wars. That was the kind of fear expressed during the Second Republic when the Bola Ige-led government of old Oyo State established the country’s first road safety corps. Naysayers went to the extent of instigating the NPN government at the federal level to ban the outfit from federal roads. With time, the federal government itself borrowed the idea under General Ibrahim Babangida to establish the Federal Road Safety Corps.

There must be a limit to the perennial mutual suspicion which regularly pits one section of the country against the other. “All seems infected that the infected spy, as all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye”, says Alexander Pope.

It shouldn’t matter who or what kills the snake of insecurity — as long as we get rid of the snake.

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