The South-West security outfit, Operation Amotekun, started on shaky ground on Thursday with the absence of three governors of the zone from the launch of the event.
Governors, who were not present at the event, were Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State; Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State and their Osun State counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola.
But the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, explained that Abiodun and Sanwo-Olu did not attend the event because of bad weather.
“I must convey the apologies of two of our governors, his excellencies, governors Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun. They wanted to be here but the problem is associated with bad weather. That is one of the problems that are associated with governing rich states. Those of us from poor states used an alternative, like arriving in Ibadan since yesterday,” Akeredolu said.
However, Abiodun and Oyetola were represented by their deputies. The Lagos State governor was not represented on the occasion.
Also, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu was not present neither was he represented by any of his subordinates.
Following serial killings and kidnapping by the Fulani herdsmen last year, the South-West governors, at a summit convened by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria in June, agreed to set up Operation Amotekun.
But The PUNCH had on Thursday exclusively reported that intrigues among the South-West governors and interference by the Federal Government were threatening the operation of the security outfit.
According to the report, some elements within the Presidency and the police high command, are not favourably disposed to the regional outfit because they consider it as part of restructuring agenda, the South-West has been clamouring for.
It was gathered that ‘the body language’ of the Federal Government had created a division among the governors, with some of them developing cold feet.
When The PUNCH contacted the governors on Thursday evening, they gave reasons for their absence from the launch.
Local politics prevented me from attending Amotekun launch – Abiodun
When asked why Abiodun was not at the event, his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, said, “Every politics is local.” He said the governor was inaugurating the state elders’ council in Abeokuta.
Somorin, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday evening, said the governor asked his deputy, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, to represent him at the launch so as to attend the state elders’ consultative forum, which he considered as local politics.
The inauguration was held at the Obas complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta on Thursday.
When asked why the governor was absent from the launch, Somorin said, “He (governor) held another programme; Elder consultative forum.”
When asked if the inauguration of the consultative forum was more important to the governor than Amotekun, he said, “What I know is that deputy governor can represent the governor anywhere. It is not about rating one higher than the other. Every politics is local now.”
Bad weather prevented me from attending Ibadan event – Sanwo-Olu
But the Chief Press Secretary to Sanwo-Olu confirmed that the absence of the governor from the launch of Operation Amotekun was caused by the bad weather.
Akosile, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “Governor Sanwo-Olu was billed to attend the launch. He has always cooperated with other South-West governors and has always attended every of the meetings on this initiative. As of Monday, the manifest that came out specifically stated that the governor would attend the launch of Operation Amotekun on Thursday.
“The helicopters operators called to inform us they will not be able to fly to Ibadan because of bad weather. At the time we got the information there was no way we would meet up with the programme by road transport.”
Oyetola attended to matters that were as important as Amotekun – Aide
The Chief Press Secretary to the Osun State Governor, Ismail Omipidan, said the governor was attending to state matters that were as important as Amotekun. He, however, said the state government was officially represented at the event.
Omipidan said since the regional security meeting started, Oyetola did not miss any of the meetings.
Omipidan added that Oyetola sent a delegation that included the Deputy Governor, Benedict Alabi; the Deputy Chief of Staff, Abdullahi Binuyo; the Commissioner for Special Duties and Regional Integration, Lekan Badmus.
Although Omipidan did not mention a specific event that prevented Oyetola from attending the launch personally, one of our correspondents learnt that the governor received his predecessor and Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, in his office on Thursday.
Omipidan said, “As a government, Osun State attended the launch of Amotekun in Ibadan today. Since the South-West security meeting started, Governor Oyetola has never missed a day.
“He has always attended in person. On two occasions, it was only himself and the host governor that were physically present. Others sent representatives. But today, he needed to attend to other state matters that were as important as the security issue you mentioned.”
Besides Akeredolu, others at the event included the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, as well as members of the Oodua Progressive Congress, local hunters, vigilance group and the Agbekoya from the South-West.
The Are Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, was represented by Akogun Kayode Balogun.
Fayemi, who is the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said the initiative was conceived to secure the zone from criminal elements.
Fayemi, who described the launch of the security outfit as historic, said, “The genesis of this initiative was when we were being assaulted by kidnappers, bandits and armed robbers across the length and breadth of Western Nigeria. We, obviously, sought succour from right places and the mainstream security agencies did their best to arrest the situation.”
Amotekun not alternative police – Fayemi
Lamenting that the information in the social media was an attempt to sabotage the Amotekun initiative, he said, “We are not creating a regional police force neither are we oblivious of steps to take in order to have state police. Yes, some of us are apologetic advocates of state police, but we are also law-abiding citizens of Nigeria. We know the process and procedure to undergo to get to that point.”
On his part, Akeredolu said no state was immune to the negative impact of insecurity. He stated, “Most of us are so worried about it such that our children abroad would call and say that they were afraid to come back home. So, we resolved that it is our collective efforts that can save us from these banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, ritual killing, armed robbery, herdsmen and farmers’ conflicts, cybercrime, and that proactive and pragmatic approach will be the solution to these problems.
“Our zone became the main focus of negative reports and this is because South-West constitutes about 90 per cent of the media in the country. The security of our people needs serious counter measures from the government, and we have resolved that we will not relent until the entire space is secure. It is our sincere hope that our security efforts will serve as complement to the security architecture put in place by the Federal Government. It is not in our intention to erect any antagonistic structure whose operation is at cross-purposes with the existing template of events.”
Disclosing that of the 120 patrol vehicles being procured, no state has less than 20 patrol vehicles in the operation, he said Oyo procured 33 vehicles.
S’West must come together – Makinde
Makinde said it was the priority of the governors to ensure that both indigenes and settlers in their states carry out their activities in a peaceful environment.
He stated, “Our regional integration should be seen in one light and one light alone – that we are coming together to fight a common enemy. That enemy is not Nigeria; the enemies are the elements among us and their affiliates who are determined to cause commotion within the borders of our states and threaten our peaceful coexistence.”
Also, the Ooni said the Federal Government was not against community policing.
The monarch stated, “We are not undermining the authorities of the Federal Government but it is very important to realise that we have to address our immediate problems first. This is our own. All of us are Amotekun. The governors have done their best. I implore all Yoruba people to support Amotekun.
Oyetola, who was represented by his deputy, Benedict Alabi, said, “Amotekun is in the interest of the South-West and humanity as a whole. It is all about protecting what the region stands for.”
A professor of History, Banji Akintoye, commended the governors for setting up the security outfit.
He stated, “I don’t think anybody is in doubt that our nation is in danger today. The foundation of our economic wellbeing is fearfully being eroded. And we can’t just watch and the Yoruba people have not just watched.”
A former Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, urged the South – West federal lawmakers to support Operation Amotekun.
Olujimi, in an interview with The PUNCH, specifically called on her colleagues to forget about political party differences by rallying round the governors from the region, to ensure the success of the security outfit.
She also appealed to leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in the zone to support the initiative and see it as the best way to effectively tackle crimes in the South-West.
It’s unfortunate our govs can’t stand firm – Afenifere
The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere condemned governors, who failed to attend the inauguration.
Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said, “I was shocked that on the eve of the launch of Amotekun, some of our governors were saying 24 hours was too long to decide if they would attend the event. This is most unfortunate.
This is the time we need the governors to bind together as one. If you cannot stand up at this moment, will you be able to stand up when some Nigerians roll out hard tackles against the security outfit?”
Afenifere noted that northern governors, who introduced Shariah, supported the aspiration of their people to ensure the success of the Islamic legal system.
“In this same country when 11 states introduced Shari’a, their governors stood firm. Today, we have the Hisbah police to enforce Shari’a in all those states,” it stated.
But the Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the absence did not mean they were not serious with the project.
Olajide said, “The inauguration is symbolic . Those absent were represented by their deputies and this is in order. It is absolutely in order.”