By: Israel Umoh
At first, Amotekun appeared like a stillborn baby. At least in the security circle. Moreso, in the Federal government enclave. But gradually, it has gained momentum in different places and climes. Its survival is no more in doubt. It has continued to evoke trepidation in many with negative minds. Bandits and other criminal elements in the South West Region hearing the name readily develop goose pimples. Many who were not familiar with Yoruba have now learned the language by force that it means a leopard.
In a way, Amotekun may be compared to the Leopard Society or ekpe ikpa ukod. The society is believed to have developed in the 1700s from an all-male warrior group that existed in ancient Ivory Coast, Gabon, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to protect their societies in the late hours of the night from sudden attacks.
Members were known as the Leopard men because they attributed themselves to the animal which existed as a powerful totem for many tribes across West Africa.
According to oral history, the Leopard men took up the responsibility of killing westerners and slave traders who visited the lands during the early hours of the night to indulge in their trade. But their primary reason for existence was to kill and devour human flesh in an attempt to secure wealth and dominance in their respective societies.
Amotekun may not acquire all the characteristics of a leopard society. But one thing they seem to share in common is the name- leopard and both are dreaded by evil people- slave traders and exploitative colonialists. Similarly, Amotekun is a security outfit meant to chase out bandits, robbery suspects, ritual killers and kidnappers out of Yoruba land.
As soon as Amotekun was launched by the six South-West governors in Ibadan, the outfit became a subject of controversy in different quarters. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, threw the first verbal missile by declaring it as ‘illegal.’ Balarabe Musa, the impeached second republic Kaduna governor joined the fray. Hassan Saleh, the national secretary of Miyetti Allah and Alhaji Junaid Mohammed, an elder statesman threw insults and barbs on the apostles of Amotekun.
Yet, these eminent Nigerians, patriots and true Nigerians have not risen in unison to condemn the insecurity in the country that has spiralled into kidnapping, rapes, beheading and killings of innocent Nigerians. The same patriots who are more concerned about balkanisation of Nigeria than human lives have not proffered solutions to the unending security infractions confronting many and threatening the corporate existence of the country.
However, many from the South West including other Nigerians rallied support for the security outfit. From solidarity rallies on the streets to social media and traditional media outrage, they spoke in one voice: No backing down. Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National leader sought dialogue instead of vilification of the body. IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, said no going back on Operation Amotekun.
The opposition to the take-off of the security outfit appeared to have been cleared after the South-West governors met with Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo; the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammad Adamu, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Malami in Abuja last Thursday.
Despite the truce, the Federal Government is suspected to be prescribing what looks like tramadol drug to states to swallow and dose off. Already, the Federal Government has directed the police hierarchy to commence the recruitment of special constables nationwide preparatory to the implementation of its community policing policy.
To begin the recruitment of constables, Adamu has directed state police commands to set up screening committees. The IG ordered all state Commissioners of Police, Assistant Commissioners of Police and Divisional Police Officers to liaise with traditional rulers and community leaders in their domains to screen volunteers who would be engaged after passing the screening tests.
In a way, it looks like an underhanded ploy to whittle down the power of the outfit and to nip in the bud attempts by other states in the country to launch their security outfits. Will this FG’s initiative alone be able to check the worsening insecurity?
Without ado, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2010) has given teeth to states to provide security to its citizenry. Chapter II, Section 14, sub-section 2(a) of the constitution under Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of the State policy stipulates “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Every tier of government- Federal, state or local government- is constitutionally conferred with residual power to provide security to its citizens. This is the reason a humongous sum of money is disbursed monthly as security vote to the President, state Governors or local government chairmen to perform the onerous task.
With the surging insecurity, states should formulate a strong security policy backed by worthwhile modus operandi useful to them in curtailing increasing banditry occasioned by cult-war in their respective areas of jurisdiction. There is a need for state governors to resurrect such disbanded groups as Bakassi, militants, Neghbourhood Watch backed by a law enacted by their Houses of Assembly.
Though Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly is lauded for concluding plans to enact law for the establishment of a security outfit, there is a need for Akwa Ibom government to turn it to leopard society or ekpe ikpa ukod. This group was a desperate creation for desperate situations mainly to weed out foreign spoilt brats and slave merchants. Though it had some misgivings, it is believed that given a legal backing, the group could inject heavy doses of fear into the spines of ethnic imperialists and territorial bandits.
If OPC members may be incorporated into Amotekun, why can’t our governments both at the state and local level flood their security outfit with ekpe ikpa ukod members to flush out rampaging herdsmen and serial criminals threatening the fabric of peace and development in the state? The insecurity in the country looks cancerous and prophylactic methods must be adopted to end the pig-headed ailment. In the face of haunting insecurity, let Amotekun and other yet-to-be-state-mooted security outfits be!