Tinubu Breaks Silence on Amotekun, Calls for Dialogue

Bola Tinubu
  • Says security outfit not threat to national unity

Ejiofor Alike

The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, has called for a private discussion between South-west governors and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, over the regional security initiative, Amotekun.

The former Lagos State governor, in his first intervention since the rift over Amotekun broke, said contrary to allegations, the security outfit, launched by the governors of the zone to confront the insecurity in their states, had not threatened the foundation of the country.

He, however, warned that national unity could be threatened by what he called the dangerous rhetoric of those who should know better.

Tinubu in a statement said: “Those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion.
“Those claiming that the federal government seeks to terribly suppress the South-west have also lost their compass. Those who occupy these two extremes have sunken into the dark recesses of fear and political paranoia that can undo a nation if such sentiments are allowed to gestate. ”

The statement titled: ‘The Public Discourse over Amotekun,’ noted that Amotekun had been turned into a political tug-of-war.
He said: “Fierce, often unthinking rhetoric, for and against, has crossed the lips of too many Nigerians. More subjective talking than objective thinking has been the fuel of this outburst.

“Question those in favour of Amotekun. Most have but the vaguest notion about it. They know few details yet vigorously attribute to its opponents the most negative intentions. Ask those who oppose Amotekun. They are equally ignorant of its provisions. They oppose the initiative not on its merits but merely because it was proposed by their political opponents or because they don’t see an avenue for personal gain from it.

“While colourful, the rhetoric has been disconcerting. How people have mishandled this matter demonstrates that we still have far to go in perfecting this democracy.
“Too much energy has been spent distorting this issue instead of seeking a resolution that supports local enhancement of security while keeping the constitution intact. If this becomes the standard for how we handle disagreements then we will obscure Nigeria’s path forward with our own rubbish.

“In this matter, I do not see malign intent in the differences of opinion between the South-west governors as authors of Amotekun and the Attorney-General as the primary law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. Shorn of the overly dramatic language, what lies before us is but a step in the evolution of our federalism. This is an opportunity to more clearly define that federalism; but one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language. Objectivity and calmness are required. To a significant degree, the enduring quality of our republic will be established by the sagacity with which we handle disagreements regarding the division of power between federal and state governments. Such disagreements are inevitable. This is not the first. Nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them.”

According to him, by setting up Amotekun, the governors tried to fulfill their mandates by helping to protect their people.
Also, Malami tried to protect the constitution as best he could, by offering his opinion on what he believed the governors sought to do.
“No one can blame either party for seeking to fulfill what they genuinely see as their public duty,” he said.

He explained that as the highest elected official in his state and thus the individual embodiment of the will of the people, a governor must view safety and security as a foremost priority, integral to his mandate.

According to him, to disregard these concerns would be a grave dereliction.

Tinubu explained that as the governor of Lagos State, he had set up Neighbourhood Watch to help complement the efforts of security agencies.

“Our aim was not to replace existing structures but to complement and augment them. The mission of Neighbourhood Watch was to monitor the wards and neighbourhoods of the state. The group would gather information and intelligence to pass to the police and security authorities. The Neighbourhood Watch also provided an early warning system to keep citizens from harm’s way. The idea worked. Crime and violence reduced significantly. Even the overreaching Obasanjo government did not contend against Neighbourhood Watch,” he added.

According to him, the Attorney-General acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been.

“Amotekun was never proposed as a “defence” agency; the Attorney-General erred in using this description. The use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles may not be the best ideas but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group any more than a designated school van carrying uniformed students constitutes a paramilitary deployment,” he stated.

Tinubu said having believed that the governors had crossed the line, the Attorney-General should have reached out to them instead of going public, adding that that way, the issues could have been discussed and all grey areas cleared.

Saying the matter cannot be resolved on the pages of newspapers or by attributing negative motives to either side, he recommended that the two sides should initiate private discussion.

“Either the governors should seek an official but private meeting with the Attorney-General, or the Attorney-General can initiate the contact. Since Amotekun is their initiative, the governors bear the greater onus in seeking the meeting.

“The fabric of the republic has not been put at stake by Amotekun. However, that fabric could be torn by the dangerous rhetoric of those who should know better,” he said.

The former Lagos State governor said he had initiated communication with the Chairman of the South-west Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, with a view to meeting the governors to explore amicable solutions to the controversy.