The Western Nigeria Security Network code-named ‘Operation Amotekun’ is just another idea, whose time has come, reckons Samuel Ajayi
At a point, it was always a nightmare for people to do interstate commuting in the South Western part of the country. Traveling from Lagos to Osun, Ondo or Ekiti State would leave people with their hearts in their mouths. And the reason was not far-fetched: the fear of kidnapping and killing by marauding criminals, suspected to be herdsmen seemed to be the beginning of wisdom.
Mid last year, July 12, to be precise, Funke Olakunri, one of the daughters of Chief Reuben Fasoranti, a foremost leader of the Yoruba, and former commissioner in old Ondo State, was killed by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.
Till today, no one has been brought to book. There have been other killings and abductions like that of the son of a former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole. And still fresh in mind was the kidnapping of a former Minister of Finance and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae. One can go on and on.
It was therefore a major political as well as strategic masterstroke, when governors of the South-west states came up with the idea of the Operation Amotekun, a security initiative that was the brainchild of Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, his Ondo State counterpart, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, as well as that of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde.
The idea was to bridge the gap between the job of conventional policing and security realities on the ground in the Southwest.
Credit be given to these governors, they have committed so much to the project in terms of logistics and manpower. When the initiative was launched on Tuesday January 7, there were already on the ground over a hundred and twenty operational vehicles as well as thousands of personnel who had been recruited.
It must be noted, however, that three of the Southwest governors – Lagos, Ogun and Osun – were not present at the launching of the security initiative, which fuelled suspicions that the initiative might be frustrated to the point of being abandoned.
But that does not seem to be the case going by the way people of the region as well as other regions especially, the Southeast and South-south, had bought into the idea. This has reinforced the thinking that ‘Operation Amotekun’ is perhaps an idea, whose time has come.
Prior to the launch, governors in the zone, who had hitherto been seen as trying to be politically correct by aligning with Abuja on critical issues, were put on their toes by the cries from the people of the zone, who wanted them to something about the security situation in the region.
The Agbekoya, a group of cultural as well as farming groups in the Southwest, had said they were waiting for the governors to request for personnel for the security outfit. Also, leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, had also said late last year that his group was waiting for the governors so they could know the number they would contribute to the joint security outfit.
His words: “The present stage is that the group is awaiting the response of the governors so that we can know the number of personnel needed.”
Kayode Samuel, a former commissioner for information in Ogun State during the Gbenga Daniel administration, has this to say about the Amotekun Initiative:
“The Yoruba say, bi iya o ba ti kari, kii to ko (when injustice has not been felt across, then, the time to act may not have come). That, perhaps, is the basis of the near unanimity amongst the Yoruba on the Amotekun initiative.
The Governors showed leadership by supporting the thinking process that was set off by the Dawn Commission. The affront that banditry represented had reached every part of Yorubaland, so, no one needed to be preached to that it was time to act.”
Beyond politics, virtually every cultural and political leader in the region has thrown his or her weight behind the security initiative.
However, the initial stoic silence of a national leader of the ruling APC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, had been a cause for concern with many insinuating that he was against the initiative for political reasons.
Besides, it was believed that it was no accident that three governors, believed to be his loyalists, did not attend the launch. But Tinubu, on Wednesday, last week, broke his silence on the initiative. Curiously, he was neither here nor there.
“The regional approach may undermine efficiency. There is no compelling logic why the same personnel providing security and informational assistance in Ado-Ekiti should be under the same functional and operational leadership as those providing assistance in Lekki or Akure.
“This will not lead to optimal leadership. The regional approach has only limited benefit with regard to the procurement and maintenance of vehicles and communications equipment, because this vendor approach allows for economy of scale.”
On the other hand, he blamed the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for declaring the initiative unconstitutional. He also said he should have called the governors for a meeting instead of condemning the initiative.
No matter what, the unprecedented consensus about Operation Amotekun among the Yoruba is an indication that it is an idea whose time has come. In fact, those who are against it could not voice it out. And no matter what, the governors deserve huge pat on the back.
Is the Amotekun idea all about politics? Maybe, but it is one that is being played with utmost patriotism. That is why the birth of Operation Amotekun has re-energised the call for a national conversation on the need for restructuring.
Ironically, this used to be the national anthem of key figures of the ruling party including Tinubu, when they were in opposition, but which they jettisoned when they got into power.
Amotekun seems to have suddenly re-opened the need for restructuring especially, with the Southeast and South-south mooting their own security outfit, whilst the North’s aversion to the idea has further heightened the belief that perhaps, Amotekun would serve as a catalyst for restructuring of the country.
Above all, with the successful outcome of Thursday’s meeting of the Southwest governors with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Malami, not only is Amotekun an idea, whose time has come, the initiative has finally come to stay.