• APC national leader takes neutral position on operation
• Tinubu’s statement lacks substance, says Yoruba umbrella group
• Former Lagos governor made objective observations – Akeredolu
South-West governors and the apex Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, on Wednesday differed on the All Progressives Congress leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s position on the Western Nigerian Security Network, Operation Amotekun.
The governors commended the former Lagos State governor and promised to look into the issues he raised, but Afenifere hit Tinubu hard, saying his statement lacked substance.
After almost three weeks of silence on the launching of Amotekun, Tinubu on Wednesday made his position known on the security outfit, which was launched by the South-West governors in Ibadan on January 9.
Afenifere chieftains, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Senator Femi Okurounmu, had, in a report published by Sunday PUNCH on January 19, challenged Tinubu to speak on the security outfit, which the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on Thursday last week declared illegal.
Tinubu takes neutral position on Amotekun
But Tinubu, in a statement he personally signed, took a neutral position on Amotekun. His position is at variance with the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; Ohanaeze Ndigbo and prominent lawyers, who lauded the initiative.
Tinubu blamed both the South-West governors and Malami for the controversy the matter had generated.
The APC leader, who is rumoured to be nursing a presidential ambition, said the intentions of the governors were good but the manner with which Amotekun was being set up was wrong.
The former governor of Lagos State criticised Malami for issuing a statement condemning the initiative when he could have simply reached out to them and handled it internally and more amicably.
He added, “The governors stated that they consulted regularly with the police and security agencies. This was the right thing to do. However, their failure to include the office of the attorney general in these discussions is the fount of the current public uproar. This was an unfortunate omission the governors should regret and seek to remedy. However, the conceptual merits and positive functional aspects of Amotekun should not be tainted by this procedural defect.
“While the Attorney General is a conscientious public servant, he is also human. Not having been consulted, he was suddenly faced with an unexpected public announcement regarding a matter within his official ambit. He likely feared the failure to consult him meant that federal prerogatives were being encroached. To blame him for this conclusion would be to blame human nature itself. Though his negative reaction was understandable, it was also unhelpful.
“The Attorney General acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been. Amotekun was never proposed as a ‘defence’ agency; the Attorney General erred in using this description. The use of uniform and brightly coloured vehicles may not be the best ideas, but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group any more than a designated school van carrying uniformed students constitutes a paramilitary deployment.”
The APC chieftain said Amotekun was a laudable initiative, but needed some operational and conceptual modifications or else it would fail.
Tinubu wrote, “As I understand it, Amotekun is to be another set of eyes and ears to assist the police. As such, it is but the second generation of Neighbourhood Watch expanded to a regional scale. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with this. It does not appear to insult the constitution.
“However, my position regarding Amotekun is not blind or uncritical; there are several organisational and functional aspects of the proposal that could cause some problems if left unresolved.”
Tinubu said Amotekun should have been fashioned to the peculiarities of each state rather than having a regional structure.
He stated that the regional approach had only limited benefit with regard to the procurement and maintenance of vehicles and communications equipment because this wider approach allows for economies of scale.
Why I was silent initially – Tinubu
Responding to those who criticised his silence, Tinubu said as the national leader of the APC, he could not make statements without circumspection.
He added, “Until now, I have deliberately maintained a studied silence regarding Amotekun. Many have tried to goad my swift public reaction. Those who have taken this road did so not because they care about Amotekun or even the people it intends to help protect. They did so knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many. These cynics did so with the adversarial hope that, in haste, I might misspeak or misstep in a manner they could twist to their political advantage.
“Such people are possessed of a mercenary aspect that permits them to sacrifice almost anything, even jeopardise the very foundations of our political unity, if they might exact personal gain from the upheaval.”
He said in the coming days, he would meet with the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who is also the Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum, on how best to implement the Amotekun initiative.
Tinubu made objective observations – Akeredolu
Reacting to Tinubu’s statement, the Akeredolu, commended him.
The governor, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Security, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, said it was commendable for Tinubu to have broken silence on the issue.
He said, “We have to commend our leader, Asiwaju Tinubu, for his comments. As a leader who loves his people, he has made objective observations in his statement.
“In the comment he could see that the Operation Amotekun can never be a threat to the unity of the country and that the people of the South-West needed to be protected by their governors. Also, all other issues he pointed out in the statement would be looked into . Buy he has spoken well.”
Ogun agrees with Asiwaju’s stand on Amotekun
Also, the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, said he did not disagree with the submission made by the ex-Lagos governor.
The Special Adviser to governor on media, Mr Remmy Hassan, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “We in Ogun State support every agenda that promotes peace, security and welfare of the South-West people, including Operation Amotekun.”
The Director General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, Seye Oyeleye, on his part, said mischief-makers who could not assist the South-West in the wake of security challenges ravaging it, were behind opposition to Amotekun.
He allayed fears that Amotekun would be against an ethnic group, saying it would serve the interest of all ethnic groups resident in South-West. Oyeleye said this during a programme aired by a private radio station, Rave FM in Osogbo.
Tinubu’s comment warmly received – DAWN
DAWN’s Head, Special Projects and Funding, Prince Adetayo Adeleke-Adedoyin, said the comment of Tinubu on Operation Amotekun was well conceived and warmly taken.
In a telephone conversation with our correspondent, Adeleke-Adedoyin said, “Asiwaju’s comment on Operation Amotekun is welcomed. He is from the region and he is a national leader also.”
Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Aare Muyiwa Olumilua, reiterated the state Governor, Kayode Fayemi’s position that Amotekun was established to enhance security in the South-West.
Olumilua said, “Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is entitled to his opinion just like any other person. But I stand firmly by every single detail of what Governor Kayode Fayemi had said as regards Amotekun.
“Amotekun does not in any way violate the constitution. It is just a way of further strengthening the security architecture in the South-West. Nothing more”, the commissioner said.
Ex-Lagos gov’s statement lacks substance – Afenifere
But the Afenifere dismissed the statement by the former Lagos State governor, saying it lacked substance.
It said Tinubu spoke in a forked tongue, adding that his statement failed to defend the decision taken by his kinsmen to defend themselves against marauders.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, recalled how the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), visited the then Oyo State Governor, Lam Adesina, to protest the alleged killing of his kinsmen.
He said, “Maybe, he (Tinubu) should have kept quiet. This is not the time to speak in a forked tongue. What is the reason? You are afraid of Buhari?
“In 2001, when there was a crisis between herdsmen and farmers, what did Buhari do? He went to Ibadan and told Governor Lam Adesina ‘your people are killing my people.’
“In 2013, what did Buhari do? He told President Goodluck Jonathan you can’t declare amnesty for Niger Delta militants while killing Boko Haram. Attack against Boko Haram is an attack against the North.
“We are being killed for months, our women are being raped. Now, our governors are taking a token measure to secure our people. At this point, if you can’t speak for the people, it is better to keep quiet. We are not impressed.”
Also, an Afenifere leader, Adebanjo, said Tinubu only came out to react because of his aspiration to be President in 2023.
Adebanjo, who obviously disagreed with Tinubu’s position, said the APC National Leader would not say anything that would contradict the position of Buhari.
Forward Amotekun bills to Houses of Assembly, Falana tells govs
However, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, said the South-West governors should submit bills on Amotekun to their houses of Assembly.
In a statement on Wednesday, Falana noted that the police had endorsed Amotekun while the attorney general of the federation questioned its legality.
He stated, “Athough I had cause to take issue with Mr Malami over his legal opinion on the security outfit, I was compelled to call on each of the South-West governors to forward a bill to the house of assembly of each state for the formation of Amotekun.”
According to him, in the absence of an enabling legal instrument for the establishment, structure, functions, control, funding and operation of Amotekun various interest groups in the country have continued to express divergent views.
He stated, “Amotekun is not a regional paramilitary organisation but a zonal security outfit being set up to assist the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies in combating incessant killings, kidnapping, armed robberies and other violent crimes that are on the ascendancy in the region due to the negligence of the Federal Government to effectively police the country.”
Apart from those who are strenuously opposed to Amotekun, the concerned people in the South-West who have embraced the security initiative are entitled to know the law setting it up.
Therefore, the attorneys general in the states in the South-West should be saddled with the urgent responsibility of ensuring that the enabling laws for Amotekun are enacted by the respective houses of assembly without any further delay.”
He advised the the Federal Government not resort to force or self-help in resolving the constitutional dispute.
Meanwhile, the Osun State Governor, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola, on Wednesday warned against bringing ethnic and religious sentiments into Amotekun.
The Osun Muslim Community in a statement by its president, Alhaji Mustafa Olawuyi,and secretary, Hashim Olapade, on Monday, rejected Amotekun, saying it was sectional and at variance with the constitution.
But the governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan, on Wednesday, said the claim that Amotekun was an agenda against a particular faith or adherents of a particular religion was preposterous and efforts in bad taste.
Oyetola explained that no recruitment for Amotekun had been carried out in the state, adding that rather than constituting themselves into opposition of the project that residents of states in South-West all clamoured for, people should all rally support for it.
He stated, “But to politicise it on the altar of religion and ethnicity will be unhealthy, dangerous and counterproductive. Amotekun is a collective response by the South-West region to the spate of armed banditry, rape, kidnapping, and other violent crimes that suddenly became a past time in the South-West.”
The Peoples Democratic Party, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said Amotekun and such other security apparatus in various parts of the country indicated a vote-of-no-confidence in Buhari’s regime.
The PDP said the failure of the regime to take a decisive step to stem the escalated wave of killings by insurgents and the refusal to re-jig the security high command showed that the Buhari regime could not guarantee the security of lives and property.