By Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The solidarity walk in support of the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun, held at the Remembrance Arcade, opposite Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, Tuesday amidst heavy security.
While the event slated for 9am didn’t start until some hours later, uniform and plain-clothes security operatives including the police, Department of State Services (DSS), and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) besieged the venue in large numbers.
The heavy security presence with no fewer than 10 police patrol vehicles initially instilled fear and apprehension on the participants and as to the certainty or otherwise of the protest holding as schedule.
No fewer than 78 socio-cultural and militia groups under the aegis of Yoruba World Congress led by Emeritus Prof. Banji Akintoye, facilitated the solidarity walk across the six states of the South-west to make public their alignment with the decision of the South-west governors in embarking on the regional security outfit to address the various security challenges facing the region as a whole.
Only a few of the security operatives carried rifles.
Though, the security operatives declined speaking to journalists as to the reason behind their massive turnout at the event, one of the leaders of the security men while familiarising with the protesters, said the security operatives were not out to sabotage or obstruct the protesters but to ensure that law and order were maintained while the event lasted.
Some of the groups present at the walk include Hunters Group of Nigeria, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA), Agbekoya group, Atayese, Yoruba Reconciliation Groups, Kaaro Ojiire group, Oodua People Congress, Majiyagbe Group Vigilante group, United Self Determination People, Oodua Liberation Movement, Oodua Sovereignty Defence Agenda, Ojulowo Omo Oodua Group and Soludero group, among others.
The placard-bearing protesters also sang various solidarity songs to express their determination to support the South-west governors and ensure the security outfit works.
Inscriptions on some of the placards read: “Yoruba Omo Oodua: Protect Yourself, Amotekun”, “On Amotekun we stand”, “We want to know who owns the Land. Amotekun”, and “No Amotekun, No Hisbah”, among others.
Despite the initial unfavourable security report that disallowed the protesters from walking round major parts of the city as planned, the group later resolved to walk from the Government House to the Oyo State Government Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan where they were received by the Chief of Staff to Governor Seyi Makinde, Chief Bisi Ilaka.
While addressing journalists on the purpose of the solidarity walk, the Head of Security, Yoruba World Congress, Kunle Adesokan, said the people are out to create awareness and also encourage the South-west governors not to yield to pressure to back down on the security outfit.
He faulted the calls by some sections of the country that the South-west region may lose its presidential bid if it didn’t back down on the Amotekun project, stating that Nigeria belongs to everybody and not only any particular group or interest.
According to him, “Today is another day of history in our lifetime. This will serve as our stand for today’s appearance of the real Amotekun to the people of the South-west. We are addressing our governors and we are giving all our governors in the South-west this solidarity support.
“We want to tell them that the entire Yoruba people are behind Amotekun and there is no going back. No matter the threat from wherever, Yoruba is not going back from the Amotekun plan. We will never allow foreigners to come on our lands to start killing us unnecessarily. We are tired of the blood-letting.
“Nigeria is for us and for us all. Not for certain section of people. We are here on our own land with a sense of belonging to accommodate everybody to come to the South-west region for trade, commerce and every other legitimate thing, and we will not allow anyone to come here, rape our wives and daughters, kill our farmers, destroy our farms and kill our people unnecessarily. We will not allow that.
“Here is my message to Mr Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde on behalf of the leader of Yoruba Worldwide namely, Prof Banji Akintoye:
“We commend our governors for floating the phenomenon security project. It is in appreciation of this great venture that all the Yorubas worldwide have risen to express their massive support for the project which impliedly is appreciating you.
“While I am therefore appreciating you is why I am thanking you for the challenge which we are posing to you now which is that there should be no retreat in your commitment to the idea until we have peace in our lands and therefore asking you to give your total support across the board to the executing bodies of this project namely, the DAWN Commission and the Yoruba World Congress and our amiable Yoruba leader, Prof Banji Akintoye.
“Right now, as it is happening here, so also it is in other six South-west states. We are only trying to tell the governors that they are not alone in this game.
“It is unfortunate that the people that should give us adequate security refused to do so. What I want to tell you categorically is that security is an environmental matter. You just have to have an idea to secure your own environment. No matter what.
“In other countries of the world, there are state police, county police and different types in different places. This is what we have been asking for, for a very long time, restructuring of Nigeria is inevitable. Bringing thousands of police cannot stop the will of the people. People want to secure their lives and there is no argument about that. We don’t own anybody any apology for doing so.
“We have heard some people from some cultures and tribe threatening that if Yorubas did not denounce the Amotekun project, they will deny us the presidential slot in 2023, we call that ordinary fallacy because Nigeria belongs to us all.
“As far as we are still in Nigeria, it belongs to us all. No certain section of the country can determine who becomes the president of this country.”
Ilaka, while receiving the protesters on behalf of the Oyo State government, said: “The idea of Amotekun is one that has come to stay. It is not one that’s supposed to rival either the police or other security apparatus which are national in nature.
“All we’re trying to do is to complement their efforts. It’s a fact that the police cannot be everywhere, they can’t be in all the nooks and crannies of this state but we know that the national security apparatus is well stretched so we’re only trying to complement.
“But it’s an idea that has come to stay because we have security challenges in this part of the world and in order that we can address them and complement the efforts of the police, this is an idea that has come to stay. I’m sure the commitment that the governors have demonstrated is just the beginning. The demonstrations will demonstrate further commitment to this idea. So, people can buff and puff, nothing is going to change, the idea has definitely come to stay.”