Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said that the regional security outfit set up by the six states in the South- West geopolitical zone, codenamed “Operation Amotekun,” has come to stay despite opposition by the Federal Government. Soyinka, who declared this yesterday at a press conference in Lagos, described Federal Government’s opposition to the regional security outfit as unpatriotic and inhuman. He, therefore, challenged the Federal Government to go to court on the issue. Governors in the South- West had, at a security summit organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), agreed on the establishment of the security outfit, following serial killings and kidnapping in the zone by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The outfit was launched last week to complement the work of the police.
The ceremony was held in Ibadan and had in attendance, political and traditional leaders across party lines in the zone. But days after its launch, the Federal Government declared Amotekun illegal, stressing that policing is a federal duty under the Exclusive List of the Nigerian Constitution. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Tuesday, said the setting up of the organisation “runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.” But, Soyinka, who faulted the Federal Government’s position, said: “To come and say that a people do not have a right to defend their lives, to secure their means of livelihood, to flush out the evil elements among themselves, in other words, to pick the slack which existing security units have been unable to fulfill, I consider this action unpatriotic and inhuman. “This has been the result of collective consciousness of the people of this religion, whose governors met, looked seriously at this menace and examined its antecedents.
They are our elected representatives and they came up with this solution – Amotekun. “And now, some people who’ve been sleeping all this time, taking belated actions in many directions, watched the citizenry of this nation being decimated, villages being wiped out, farmers being chased out of their lands, are now coming and telling us that this initiative is illegal and unconstitutional. I think they should go back to sleep.
“I make no bones about it, I have always believed passionately in self-policing. If it were possible for us to avoid, in a society the use of uniform police, whether secret or open or uniformed, if it were possible to avoid the so-called DSS, SSS, native administration police, etc., if it were possible to eliminate any kind of formal outfit, I will be for it.
“But you know, it is impractical, so obviously there has to be some kind of organised security organisation. I just want to state my own personal philosophy quite clearly that my preference is always for as much community policing as possible. “It is this article of faith which led me to, decades ago initiate as some of you know, Road Safety Corps. I was sick and tired at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, of scooping up the brains of my students, of my colleagues on that road which we called the slaughter slab between Ibadan and Ife. “I was sick and tired of visiting students who become paraplegic due to injuries sustained in motor accidents. So, I sat down one day and wrote a proposal to the then Military Governor
of the state, Colonel David Jemibewon. It turned later that similar proposals had been made to the government. But in the end, it was my proposal which was accepted and followed in effect and largely by the government. And it was community policing model. “I mention this little experience just to let you understand how effective a determined community unit can be in taming one of the most brutal forces on the road.” Soyinka added that policing the road is not quite the same as when going into the forest to deal with kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle herders and religious fundamentalists. According to him, it is a different kettle of fish.
His words: “We are talking about the fundamental rights of the people to defend themselves, to purge their communities of killer forces, killing in the name of religion, in other words, descending on villages, farmstead, mowing them down simply because they want to pursue their own commercial enterprise.
“Whenever there is danger, it is our responsibility as citizens to do whatever we can to eliminate such dangers, not to ourselves as individuals alone, but for those we bring into this world, our children, our families, extended families and others who are incapable of defending themselves – the aged, the crippled and handicapped.
“It is in consciousness of this that, on May 26, 2012, I met the then National Security Adviser, the late General Azazi. Boko Haram has become a reality in this period; Boko Haram was already devastating sections of the North-East, and it was already beginning to move down south. “As you know, one of my favourite forms of relaxation is to take my gun for a walk in the forest.
My colleagues and I began to notice a very different kind of denizens in the forest. Eventually, we were encountering camps in the forest. We made enquiries and came to the conclusion that that these were secret camps in the forest used by Boko Haram, who would sometimes chase farmers and take over their lands.” Also speaking, Solomon Asemota (SAN), who expressed surprise over the position of the Federal Government on Amotekun, noted that what is happening is a result conflict of ideologies. According to him, two ideologies are operating and fighting themselves – one, the product of Christianity and the other, the product of Islam. “I am of the opinion that the Western states are in order,” he said, adding that the Attorney General of the Federation is a Sharia compliant lawyer.