TO say the very least, Nigeria is currently at a crossroads security-wise. Only this week, hoodlums invaded the fortress housing the Imo State police command and the Owerri prisons, setting buildings and vehicles ablaze and freeing inmates. According to reports, policemen in the South-East geopolitical zone are afraid to put on their uniforms, and attacks on police and military formations are heightening in the South-South, North-West, North-East and North Central zones. The North is groaning under the weight of banditry and kidnapping while the South-West, the focus of this piece, has become the site of ceaseless rampage by nomadic herdsmen who abduct, rape, mutilate and butcher people at will, particularly on farmlands. Food insecurity worsens by the day as life becomes nastier, shorter and more brutish.. It is therefore trite noting that the reality of the moment has made it imperative for states to look inwards in terms of security network, most especially in the South-West.
These are indeed terrible times. At no time in history have the Yoruba witnessed the murderous influx of blood-thirsty herdsmen like the moment. Farmlands have become what the Yoruba call erujeje (palpable fear); they are sites of tragedy. The criminal herders have done a lot of havoc to the psyche of our people; they have made loss of life and property routine. From Oke Ogun to Yewa to Akoko, the story has been the same: every part of the South-West has felt the pangs of these marauders. Given the kind of constitution that the country operates, restoring normalcy is a big challenge to the chief executive of each state. The unitary constitution that the country currently operates gives states no latitude over the security situation in their domains. It is a fact that military and paramilitary personnel all take instructions from their headquarters in Abuja and not from the governors who are dubiously tagged Chief Security Officers of their respective states. It is a regular complaint that most of the people posted by the police to man specific areas are not familiar with the terrain. Security summersaults are thus routine.
The foregoing explains why the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun, an initiative by the leadership of the South-West states, has come to stay. Speaking in Abeokuta, Ogun State last week while inaugurating the state branch of the outfit, Governor Dapo Abiodun placed the Amotekun phenomenon in perspective. He recalled that at the South-West Security Summit held on June 25, 2019, in Ibadan, the governments of the six South-West states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti agreed to establish a security outfit to be named Amotekun. The objective of the governors and leaders of the South-West was the critical need to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies in the states, especially with a truly indigenous security agency that understands the terrain. Abiodun therefore submitted that the establishment of the security outfit was part of a holistic approach to addressing insecurity in the South-West geopolitical zone. As he noted, the operatives of the security outfit had been carefully selected and trained to secure lives and properties, while the state government had provided the outfit with vehicles, motorcycles, communication gadgets, technical back-ups and the political will for an effective take-off and efficient operation.
The governor indeed harped on a very crucial point, namely that the provision of equipment and recruitment of personnel would be a continuous exercise, as the government expected superlative performance from the operatives. His words: “Your role is primarily to prevent crime. You are to do this through systematic intelligence gathering and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, especially the security network agencies of other states. Let me at this juncture reiterate and say unequivocally that no part of Ogun will be a safe haven for criminals and criminality in whatever form or guise.” Also speaking on the occasion, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, commended Prince Abiodun on the inauguration, saying that the outfit was set up to complement the work of existing security agencies. Soyinka urged the operatives to be professional in their duties, adding that they must not tamper with the fundamental human rights of citizens. Also speaking, the Alake of Egbaland, Adedotun Gbadebo, noted that the major assignment of any government is to provide adequate security. The Alake lauded Governor Abiodun’s efforts, urging the security outfit to collaborate effectively with other security agencies.
With Amotekun on board the security train in Ogun, the landscape is expected to change dramatically. With proper linkage with communities and community heads and regular provision of information by the people, criminals will be in for a raw deal in the days ahead. There will of course be the regular attacks from the media mouthpieces of nomadic bloodlust, but it will be in vain. The Amotekun operatives should go about their duties with patriotic fervor and godly demeanour and end the banditry recently witnessed in parts of Yewaland and other places. They should stop the menace of people, including Kabiyesis, being kidnapped and rubbished. In any case, Governor Abiodun’s choice of a retired Commissioner of Police as head of the Ogun outfit shows the importance he attaches to the security of life and property, and the peace and prosperity of the Ogun populace. And also worthy of applause is the quality of people recruited into the outfit, and the equipment provided for them to excel in their admittedly daunting duties. But that can be no surprise given the governor’s record of heavy investment in security agencies in the state in terms of telecommunications, vehicular and other logistic support. Happily, the Ogun Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, has promised that the police would work closely with the Amotekun outfit in the area of sharing information and joint operations to send criminals out of the state.