Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, doubles as the head, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). He said in this interview with ISIOMA MADIKE that the governors of the South West region have sent a strong signal to protect and defend their people by formally launching the Amotekun security outfit. Excerpts…
The Ondo State government recently rolled out drums to formally launch the operation Amotekun. This came after that of Ekiti and Osun States. How prepared do you think they are for the task ahead?
Well, for Ondo State to have inaugurated the security outfit on Tuesday shows that they are already prepared to take off. You may have noticed that since four out of the six South West states approved the appointments of the Directors-General (DG) and recruitment of the rank and file of Amotekun in their respective states, the attacks on their villages and kidnappings have reduced drastically for almost three months now. So, for the governor to have done what he did sends a strong signal that the South West is now keen to protect and defend their people, who gave them the mandate to be governors in the first place.
Do you see that as their primary responsibility?
Of course, that ought to be the first responsibility of any responsible state governor, to protect the citizens of the state. For you to shy away from doing that because of political interest translates to the mandate not worth given to you. In future, the Yoruba would ask you, why you failed when we needed you to protect us as the number one citizen. So, what the Ondo State governor did on Tuesday is a welcome development and I am appealing to the remaining governors in the region, especially the Lagos State governor, to do the same without further delay.
But the Lagos House of Assembly has legislated on the bill…
We realised that the Lagos State government is reluctant to give the final approval for the security outfit to take off in the state. After the House legislated on it and passed the bill to the governor to assent to it, we expected him not to waste time in doing that. This is because the issue of security is paramount, especially now that world powers like the USA are sounding a warning that ISIS and al-Qaida are about to infiltrate the South having joined the Boko Haram in their deadly mission in the Northern part of the country. That signal is enough danger to awaken any responsible government into taking action to prevent that from happening and to make it to take the security of its environment very seriously. By the time there is maximum security, investors will have confidence to come and do business in your state. Even the citizens will have peace of mind and be highly creative in such an environment.
Are you convinced that the Amotekun commanders and men will be able to ward off the ISIS and al-Qaeda attack should they invade the region?
Well, information is key to security. When you are ready to share information with your people and with the other law enforcement agents, definitely we would be able to nip in the bud whatever criminal activities that crop up. When I listened to the spokesperson for the Defence Headquarters, I was not convinced enough on his reaction to that vital information from the USA. He said and I quote: “The issue of ISIS and al-Qaida is not new to us. We knew about it five to 10 years ago…” That to me is not good enough. I don’t know of any government which will trivialise such security information. When you have such a deadly terrorist group in your country, you can imagine what happens; they will crumble your economy because other nations will start avoiding you like a plague. Their investments would be withdrawn to another place they would consider safe to do business. They could ignite serious guerrilla warfare too. So, the way things are now, every responsible state government must take steps to prevent the infiltration of these deadly groups. If they are already here, actions must be taken to nip their activities in the bud without any delay. I believe strongly that Amotekun won’t be found wanting in that respect. So, every strategy must be activated to checkmate the looming danger that the groups portend. We understand that they are already in some West African countries and that Nigeria is their next target.
Which of these West African countries come to mind in this regard?
Already they have their foothold in Mali and other African countries. So, the South West might be their target, maybe they can infiltrate Benin Republic and Togo and use those places as a launch pad into the west. Seriously speaking, we must do something and fast too to stop that. We must make sure that our people are being protected; we must make sure that we apply internal mechanisms in making sure that they don’t infiltrate us.
Since the appointments of Amotekun DGs, has there been recruitment in the four states you mentioned?
I think they are in the process of recruitment now. Let me also emphasize here that Osun State has taken the issue of Amotekun very seriously. They have started their operations though they are yet to officially inaugurate it in public. Oyo too is doing well in that regard. With the information at my disposal, Oyo State is recruiting the highest number of Amotekun Corps, about 3000 men. Other states, some are less than 1000, and I think it’s very important that more men should be injected into it because if you are putting five to 10 men in a local government, it won’t be enough to cover such a large number of people.
Are they supposed to take the place of the established security agencies like the police, for instance?
They will only complement the effort of the internal security agencies like the police you mentioned, the SSS and the civil defence. That way they would be able to have adequate security coverage and to properly police and secure the citizenry. Having such structure will bring checks and balances so that the established security agencies would be kept on their toes at all times in making sure that the lives and property of the people are well protected.
Is OPC collaborating with the Amotekun commanders?
That is certain. We have no reasons not to collaborate with them. Before Amotekun, OPC has been doing the little that it can with the Nigerian police and the SSS. In terms of security, we assist them whenever they need our assistance and if we are called upon by the concerned security agencies. So, we have every reason to assist the Amotekun commanders any time they need us. We are ever ready to give them maximum backup because their strength is very limited. The states do not have much money to recruit the large numbers they need. Moreover, they need organizations like OPC that have serious security antecedents; that have security history that can give them proper backup. They also need us for a reliable operation against criminals in our region.
Have you been carried along all this while?
Well, three states: Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo. We are still watching the remaining states. Though the Osun State operational commander always calls me for advice we are not involved in their recruitment. Unfortunately, Lagos State has said it would do community policing but we believe such structure can’t safeguard an environment like Lagos. So, I don’t know their reason for opting for that. Community policing is about intelligence gathering, informants, not the structure that can confront a real crime in an environment.