By Rotimi Fasan
THE unitarist mind that is brought to the operationalisation of Nigeria’s federal structure is the reason why there would continue to be disagreement between the constituent states and whoever are the centrists running the “federal” government of Nigeria at any point in time.
The very reasons that make a federal system of government workable and attractive are the same Nigerian federalists uphold to deny other Nigerians the gains of federalism.
That was why Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, could so brazenly sit back in Abuja and declare illegal a security arrangement put in place by the governors of a beleaguered people in the face of Abuja’s failure.
Had Abuja been up to par in playing its part, perhaps Nigerians in the south-west, as are others in other parts of the country, would not today be forced into a situation where they have to fight to assert their right of self-preservation following the inability of Abuja to protect them.
Aside the cheek and arrogance of Malami’s purported proscription of Amotekun, the reasons advanced for the declaration are nonsensical. They are a specie of the tyrannically gratuitous attempts by a section of the Nigerian populace to stall development in other parts of the country and to impose a unitarist culture of mediocrity on every section. Do we need to tell these enemies of progress that federalism or unity should not be an excuse for failure?
Why in a federal structure should any attempt by a state or a section of the country to assert their right to self-determination and to make progress that is for the good of their own people, be interpreted as an obtuse execution of a secessionist agenda? Why must every progressive move at a regional or state level receive the nod of the centre? Why should governors of the south-west states be required to get the imprimatur of Abuja before they could float a security outfit that is meant to complement the inadequate effort of Abuja?
Where in the agenda of the promoters of Amotekun is it stated that the outfit is meant to target people from a part of the country or a prelude to creating a regional army? Why should somebody else’s fear determine other people’s reality or way of life? Indeed, the governors of the states promoting the outfit went out of their way to make clear that their effort was supplementary and subordinate to that of the national police.
What further assurances can they provide? If there are genuine fears about the reasons for the establishment of Amotekun such could be addressed frontally without the foolish argument to stifle creative social engineering in statehood by sectionalists determined to hold others down to their level.
In reality, there is nothing novel or even creative as such about Amotekun. Its establishment falls within the ambit of governance in a federal state system. There is no reason why anybody, organisation or section of the populace, should lose their sleep over it. There is no point inventing the wheel. We can always learn from the example of others. And we have the example of America where the notion of securitisation even at the county (our local government) level to learn from.
Declaring, as Malami did that the Nigerian constitution recognises only a central armed forces and police system to protect the territorial integrity of the country is at best a conflation of issues or a wilful demonstration of ignorance on his part. The mandate of Amotekun is clear. It does not purport to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts against citizens from other parts of the country.
As many commentators have pointed out, organisations similar to Amotekun operate in other parts of the country including Malami’s Kano State where the Islamic Hisbah police has been known to tackle Nigeria’s regular police personnel. The civilian JTF in parts of the north-east is yet another case in point. In these different parts of the country there are non-Hausa-Fulani Nigerians who never complained that the system was rigged against them. They have minded and have continued to mind their own business for as long as they know their hands are clean.
What prompted Malami into making his ill-advised statement illegalising Amotekun, a knee-jerk response of a bloated ego, is nothing but a fear of the unknown and an inflated sense of his own importance and that of others he represents. Their insistence on a rigidly centrist federalism where Abuja must always dictate the pace of development in other parts of the country is a nonstarter. It can only lead to the implosion of the country.
It was the so-called federal government under Muhammadu Buhari that stopped the Lagos metroline project. It was another “federal” government under Olusegun Obasanjo that wrecked the Enrron Power Project in Lagos. The argument then, as now for Amotekun, is that such moves would either put Lagos (the Yoruba?) ahead or make it easy for the Yoruba to establish an Oduduwa State. Such stuff and nonsense!
The fluke that Abuja is immune to the ailments that afflict other parts of the country is unacceptable. It is this mindset that informs the imposition of IPPIS as a payment system on universities (without prejudice to its other merits). It is the reason for JAMB which has now been supplanted by “post JAMB” requirements.
These are all attempts to monitor and control the pace of development in other parts of the country. If Amotekun can be misused so are Nigeria’s armed and paramilitary forces being misused. Rather than pulling down the structures. Therefore, what Malami and others like him should be doing is helping the promoters of Amotekun to bring it in alignment with the extant laws- not seek to proscribe it outright.
As for those pretending to oppose Amotekun because it is not backed by law, let them be reminded that the anti-open grazing regulations in Benue State passed through the Benue State’s House of Assembly. That did not make those opposed to the laws accept them. The problem with our system of governance is the deep distrust and mistrust of one another and, right now, Muhammadu Buhari’s disrespect of diversity in appointment and dealings with other parts of the country has only worsened the situation.
Otherwise, Malami’s statement on Amotekun will not come across as the pronouncement of a Fulani man on the right of the Yoruba to self-preservation. Had this government and its security structure been more inclusive, people would be more open to the “federalist” argument of Malami, Balarabe Musa and their co-travellers. The task before the promoters of Amotekun is to invest in its funding and personnel while making clear its mode of operations. Not kill it.