© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Amotekun: Some inconvenient lessons and truths
By Martins OLOJA
‘NO force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come’. ‘Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come’. ‘No army can stop an idea whose time has come’. ‘Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come’. ‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come’.
Many of these paraphrases of a French poet, writer and philosopher, Victor Hugo’s thoughts have a closer match in a passage from Gustave Aimard’s earlier-published novel Les Francs-Tireurs (1861): ‘There is something more powerful than the brute force of bayonets: it is the idea whose time has come and hour struck…
It is a good thing that there has been some remarkable consensus on the ‘Operation Amotekun’. The powerful forces in Abuja who undoubtedly have the power to destroy have come to brass tacks and so have worked out some significant and workable alternative dispute resolution mechanism on the new deal in Western Nigeria. The conclusion of the whole matter shortly before the weekend was: those who advertised the ‘Operation Amotekun’ should legalise it. And the conference of speakers in Western Nigeria has agreed to legalise it. ‘No victor, no loser’ or so it seems. And so it is now well with ‘Operation Amotekun’. In a sense, we can congratulate all the actors who have contributed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, which was again threatening security and stability of the nation.
There is no need to take or share any glory, local or regional at this time. It is a time of reflection on the state of the nation that can’t secure itself at this moment.
But before politicians and leaders even in Western Nigeria begin to take glory and share blames, this is a time to point out some significant lessons to all duty bearers and managers of our resources.
Specifically, we need to underline some lessons for those who have authorities to govern at all levels. Yes, those cocky people in office and in power who are desperately careless about how to manage our peculiar diversity in this complex federation, need to be sober and absorb some lessons from this phenomenon called ‘Amotekun’. Lesson number one: as Victor Hugo has pointed out, there is no force on earth that can stop an idea whose time has indeed come. This is a lesson to the ruling party bigwigs (in Abuja) who have lost their mojo and broken their covenant with us: that they cannot run away from restructuring of the federation, after all. The way good people from all over the place, have risen in defence of the ‘Amotekun’ idea should not be ignored by those who claim that they love the Buhari administration.
The spirit of ‘Amotekun’ has, in the main, become a wakeup call for the Buhari administration to swallow its pride and vanity and dust up its own document on federalism.
Specifically, the el-Rufai Committee report is a good document to begin with. Most people who did not see the remarkable report may not know that the special committee actually attached a draft copy of a bill on the report to the National Assembly. In other words, if the president is persuaded today that he would like to make history, after all, on the expediency of restructuring this federation that isn’t working, there is a draft bill that can be rejigged to the National Assembly without delay.
The report supports state police issue, for instance among other things. All the elements of federalism as promised in the APC constitution are contained in the document that has been gathering dust in the presidency and APC national headquarters in Abuja.
This is a time to fulfill that covenant with the people – that they would restructure this federation. They need to understand one of the many versions of Hugo and Aimard’s words on marble that, all the soldiers and indeed the federal police powers can physically stop operations of ‘Amotekun’ in the southwest states but they cannot stop the idea of federalism, our ‘paradise lost’ since 1966. Reason? It is a powerful idea whose time has come.
The president’s men who love the president, those who want APC to be remembered for one good project need to look beyond the peculiar politics of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the brinkmanship of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the rare courage of Kayode Fayemi, the curious cooperation from Governor Seyi Makinde, the inexplicable fluctuation, dilemma and quandary of Governors Babajide Sanwoolu, Adegboyega Oyetola and Dapo Abiodun.
The deliverable from the ‘Amotekun’ challenge here is that, there is but one mind in all these governors, all bent against the debilitating unitary system that has slowed down development in South West since 1966 when the soldiers struck down federalism.
The Abuja people should note that the storm of uncertainty is over for them. I hope the president’s men and indeed the APC fixers in Abuja underlined the declaration of Governor Akeredolu, (SAN), the first to confront the Attorney General of the Federation (that “laws are not made in AGF’s office”)that he would support the ‘Amotekun’ initiative to secure his people even at the expense of his second term! That is a gubernatorial courage that cannot be ignored, in the circumstances.
The other lesson point for Abuja is the majesty of democracy. They need to note, in this regard that when it comes to issues, especially welfare and security of the people, governors and their allies cannot ignore their own. They dare not.
Besides, the president’s men and women should note too that Nigerian governors (including south-west’s) know that president Buhari is on his way out and he won’t be bothered about another term and who will succeed him. They now know that survival of the governing party is no longer important to him. They now know that even the security situation in his state, Katsina is not getting his special attention.
All told, the Abuja powerful men should note that the southwest political leaders, power and business elite have not lost their sophistication. They only dozed off in 2015 and were outsmarted in 2019 through the power of incumbency. And so when it comes to the regional interest of Western Nigeria, they will not align with even their perverted leaders and kinsmen. What is more, the Abuja strategists should note, specifically, that classically, the political ‘Western Region’ includes the old ‘Midwest’ now Delta and Edo people – beyond the Abuja spirit that is now in leader Oshiomhole and co.
They should note as I warned here sometimes last year that the Yoruba nation has been agonising but organising. They are now irreversibly organised. They now know that most Abuja people who used them before as ladders are unreliable and treacherous. Behold, the governors and other leaders know that.
In the same vein, the response of the mainstream media should also be a warning signal to the men behind the throne in the capital of the federation that no responsible media can ignore any public interest matters, no matter the owner of the ass that brays.
It should be clear now to the fixers in various capitals who think they can ‘buy’ the media to clear their swamp that when it comes to public interest, the media will always ignore the lies and lying liars who tell them.
Those who hardly read lessons of history should note that the media including the citizen’s genre we call social media now will not ignore public interest issues such as corruption, mediocrity, abuse of rule of law and, notably restructuring of this complicated federation.
No, no matter the level of relationship, the Nigerian media gatekeepers I know, are too sophisticated to ignore public interest. We are now aware of overrated integrity and hypocrisy in public service. We are now aware of so many limitations and how mediocrity can be celebrated too at the highest level of government. We are now aware of how a cabal can be more powerful than a cabinet. We are now aware that welfare and security of the citizens may not the primary purpose of certain government, after all. We are now aware that the federal character principle in the constitution and even the Commission set up to enforce it are just there and can actually be ignored by leaders. We are now aware that even an executive head of an important organ such as an anti-corruption agency can be acting for more than a term of office (4-5 years) even after the senate has rejected a nominee to the office. We now know that in the new electoral justice system, the voters and the legal counters of the votes do not matter anymore: only the courts can declare winners. We now know that the danger signal the iconic seer, Chinua Achebe told us about in 1983 is still there. Achebe, the oracle had then looked into the seed of that time and warned us about the trouble we needed to shoot then when he wrote: ‘The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership’. The Nigerian press has again realised that despite all the sweeteners and veneers in the corridors of power, the trouble has not been fixed.
And so the salient message this week is that those in authorities at the centre and peripheries of the centre should begin to number their days in power so that they can apply their hearts to wisdom. They need to know that the wind of time has never been wrong. That powerful wind has graciously blown federalism to us through ‘Operation Amotekun’, as an idea whose time has come. And so all the powers, all the armed and unarmed forces in Abuja should not dare standing in the way of this powerful idea – whose time and hours have come. They should just see the remarkable idea as a weapon that all regions or states should copy. It is nothing to fear or envy or misinterpret. ‘Amotekun’ is a security network established by governors of South West, Nigeria to wage war against insecurity across the region. It is just a civil community force as a complimentary effort to that of police and other legal and loyal security agencies.
And the message for those who are being insulted for this masterpiece called ‘Amotekun’ still comes from the same ancient French philosopher and poet, Victor Hugo who said:
‘You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud, which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear’.