It’s always a little challenge for me trying to ease back into life in the United States each time following a trip to Nigeria. I believe it has to do with leaving my happy place back to elsewhere to face the daily struggles that come with more opportunities. Although I have to admit that even that happiness doesn’t always come cheap and easy. This last time, being that I travelled with the entire crew, I had to make sure to dot all I’s and cross all T’s. In fact, I even had to hire my own little security detail. Of course my detail though consisting of a pilot vehicle in addition to the one I drove was nothing elaborate like our glamorous politicians with unlimited budget. In the end it still managed to leave a deep hole in my pocket. A pocket already rendered shallow by other sundry demands. Little wonder Nigerian families in the Diaspora find it hard to make the yearly pilgrimage.
Few months ago, following some serious security breaches, Enugu State Government set-up a five-man Joint Security Committee that included former AIG, Aloysius Okorie. A former IGP, Ogbonna Onovo, was also appointed a security consultant to the state government. It was a culmination of extensive effort that saw to the establishment of the forest guard that now patrol all nooks and cranny of the state. The Ugwuanyi administration purchased 260 operational vehicles, 260 motorcycles and other secure communication gadgets to cover the entire electoral ward in the state. Though there are still occasional reports of attack by hoodlums, it’s nothing in the scale of what obtains in other places in the country or even in Enugu few months prior to the implementation of the comprehensive security measures. Enugu State without doubt now enjoys relative peace compared to other states in the federation. And so throughout the country you have similar outfit springing up in their record numbers in an attempt to replicate such a feat.
Not too long ago, Chairman of South-West Governor’s Forum and Ondo State governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, announced that plans were underway to launch a regional security outfit to combat the spate of security challenges plaguing the zone. Few weeks ago, that outfit was born and is now codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun’. It’s purported to be an adhoc security arrangement meant to tackle the scourge of widespread banditry allegedly mostly spearheaded by herdsmen. The operation is expected to be funded through a collaborative effort of the states that make up the SW geopolitical zone.
In the Northern states of Kano, Borno etc, you have hybrids program such Hisbah, CJTF that fight alongside the nation’s security agencies to curb the menace of Boko Haram and the likes.
To a lot of Nigerians who have been at the receiving end of the insurgency and pervasive insecurity in the land, such an outfit was long overdue. It’s no secret that relying solely on an ill-equipped and poorly funded national police force that has been accused of being constantly manipulated for use in executing sectional agenda is a Hobson’s choice.
As would be expected, not everyone warmed up to the idea. Initially some of the staunchest criticism even came from the Southwest. Afenifere speaking through her national publicity secretary described the outfit as a waste of time and asked the governors to rather expend their energy in support of demand for true federalism instead. Even Aare Ganiyu Adams of OPC cautioned against politicising security by those in government. Later on, everything changed and it gained an almost unanimous support from the Yorubas. It appears that the opposition from Miyetti Allah was the tonic needed to galvanize the southwest to queue behind it. A typical case of enemy from without.
There has been lots of concerns raised about the legality of such an outfit. Folks are also worried about the command and control of such an arrangement to avoid spiralling out of control. In the past, such a setup had triggered instances of extrajudicial killings and some have been deployed to fight political opponents. Those are all genuine concerns and needs to be seriously looked into.
What is not in contentious is that state chief executives have a primary responsibility to do whatever it takes to secure the lives and property of the people under their domain. In the face of an apparent inability of the federal security apparatus to get the job done, the states have no choice than to step in. Which is why the actions of Governor Ugwuanyi, South-West governors and others demand a big commendation. I hope no one is suggesting that we retort to the usual prayer and fasting when the whole country is overrun by criminals, killing our men and women and raping our young girls. Anything short of that would be unconscionable.
Lately, there has been a surge in the push for the formation of a state police. One of the main argument in favour of a regional police force is that the force will be populated by men and women who are from the area of assignment and so will likely have a vested interest to protect where they serve. They will also enjoy more trust and confidence from the people and not seen as an occupation force. But just like restructuring, the government at the centre is yet to show any reasonable propensity to objectively look at these issues on their merit. It appears like the centre is very comfortable with the current arrangement and is very unwilling to listen to alternative arguments.
Not too long ago, the Federal Government put the death toll from banditry at 1460 in 330 attacks within a space of seven months. Of course most people believe this number is extremely conservative. Just this last Tuesday night, gunmen attacked the convoy of the Emir of Potiskum, Alhaji Umaru Bubaram, during his journey between Kaduna and Zaria. Though the Emir was lucky to have survived, four of his aids in addition to about 30 killed and estimated 100 kidnapped were not. Such is the reality of today’s Nigeria.
Truth is whenever a problem is left unsolved it doesn’t just disappear into thin air. When it doesn’t go away, folks will start to look for a way out. Amotekun just happens to be one of such.
Osmund Agbo, MD, FCCP, writes from Houston, Texas, United States