Amotekun Triggers a Stormy Wind of Change and History Beckons on Buhari
There is no way any patriot can miss the historic significance of 9th January, 2020 as a date. On that day, southwest Nigeria pulled off a political feat rare in a largely mediocre polity of the stomach where as the pivot of democracy, the doctrine of separation of powers for checks and balances amongst arms of government, now belongs on the garbage dump. Specifically, the Nigerian legislature now lay castrated before the executive arm of government - graphically corroborated by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege on his knees, historically, before President Muhammadu Buhari on 11th June, 2019.
As ominous as that despicable sight, the grave implication is now less doubtful. How? Leader of the lower chamber of Nigeria’s bicameral legislature, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila appears to have confirmed the electorate’s worst fear of unethical fusing of institutionally separate powers or arms of government - a consequential loss of checks and balances and; a looming dictatorship. As Speaker, Mr. Gbajabiamila’s 22nd December, 2019 public declaration that he was not elected to fight the executive arm of government sounds complimentary to a Deputy Senate President at the president’s feet – depicting conquest.
Where in the world are checks and balances achievable in a democracy by treading a path of least resistance? Did Nigerians kick out military dictatorship for a resurgence in another garb? Had Nigerians regarded dictatorships as infallible or divine, could both Omo-Agege and Gbajabiamila have become parliamentarians? If no, is invariably, the answer to those questions, why the unfolding coup d’etat against patriotism by egotism?
Again, crucial judicial verdicts have become predictable in favour of the ruling party or executive arm of government with verdict on the 2019 presidential election petition, unprecedentedly delivered long before the Supreme Court came up with explanations, more or less afterthought. The irony of it all is that those leading the assault on a democratic order and rule of law in Nigeria are members of the judiciary themselves. Apparently, as that proverbial last hope of the common man is on a self-destruct mission, Nigerians might as well prepare to survive a full-blown dictatorship in the foreseeable future.
Nauseating as the foregoing, who would not applaud the elected representatives of southwest Nigeria for giving the Nigerian electorate, something to cheer in a long while? Despite divergent and often divisive political views, politicians of that geopolitical zone closed ranks to save their people further debilitating security nightmares. They were proactive ever before precedence could be fallaciously cited to goad them into humiliating and bankrupting criminal “peace deals” with impertinent bandits of every imaginable alien nationality.
On the fallacious claim of precedence credited to our Inspector General of Police – Mr. Mohammed Adamu, there is no parallel on any ground between Katsina State’s “peace deals” with recalcitrant armed bandits and the amnesty granted by the late President Shehu Yar-adua to erstwhile Niger Delta militants. Outside an armistice that conclusively ends a war – civil or international, where in the world does a country share sovereignty with obstinate armed bandits except in Katsina State where even after a criminal peace deal, there is no peace like in Borno State where ransom payments, “deradicalization” of terrorists and “prisoner exchanges” are eternally strengthening mendacious Boko Haram?
Once more, while the erstwhile Niger Delta militants had known or legitimate socio-economic demands, the implacable bandits in Katsina State have none whatsoever. Above all, the Niger Delta militants surrendered their weapons at President Yar’adua’s feet in exchange for amnesty and never posed with him like an AK47 wielding bandit posed cheekily in a photograph with unnamed Governor Aminu Masari. So, who is really in-charge in Katsina State?
Is that not a threat to public order and an incentive for armed struggles across Nigeria while the government is dissipating energy on “hate speech” legislation to hang citizens for exercising their universal freedom of expression? Between an armed bandit and a law abiding citizen who is actually a threat to law and order? Must there be an armed citizenry in Nigeria before the present government becomes representative and accountable to the electorate? It is pure cowardice to enter into “peace deals” with roving armed bandits while seeking to hang unarmed and harmless citizens.
Right from the earliest of times, security of lives and property has been the only justification for people binding together to form a government. That forecloses a state of nature – a social setting where life is nasty, brutish and short because individuals are personally avenging wrongs against their person. Thus, as individuals give up some natural rights for rule of law to be sustained, in exchange, they gain some civil rights including protection and defence against violence by others.
Therefore, a government is one capable of using monopoly of violence to protect subsisting social power relationships by eliminating or mitigating any threatening or opposing forms of violence. Otherwise, any government unable to control the use of coercive violence like the activities of bandits and militias, has failed. By implication, governance has failed in the Nigerian administrative centres (states) where armed bandits now share monopoly of violence with supposedly elected governments.
Apparently, that is what the western Nigerian politicians have proactively moved to avert in their geopolitical zone. Their decision is courageous as it tantamounts to a vote of no confidence on a supposed national government for which they share a responsibility. That risks reprisals which could harm their political fortunes and future. Yet, they were unperturbed. That is patriotism and courage paralleled only by Benue State calling it quits with membership of the ruling party for the same negligence on security for the governed.
Those two conscientious decisions drawing the line between official propaganda on security and the reality on ground, portend or spell doom for any expansionist drive by any geopolitical zone to subjugate the rest of Nigeria for a tab on legitimate political agitations across the land. Nowhere in the world has brute force succeeded in cowing a determined people. In the end, the will of the people always prevails. Even superpowers have bitterly learnt that lesson and consequently mended their ways.
Down memory lane, successive defeats by ragtag armies in the 18th century American independence war and in the 19th century Afghan war, apparently forced “Great” Britain to rethink imperialism. The turn came in 1989 for the erstwhile USSR to eat her own humble pile by compulsively freeing countries she forced into communism. Similarly, the USA learnt the hard way, the futility of trying to defeat natives on their home soil. However, since 2003, the harder she has tried to forestall a semblance of her waterloo by Vietnamese natives, the more she has missed a strategy for a dignified exit from Afghanistan where the war wearied unipolar power is pinned down by war hardened natives.
Those are world powers that struggled or are struggling to end wars although they boast both arm factories and superior arsenals, compared to Nigeria that relies on off-the-shelf weapons accessible by all and sundry. Can you then imagine the naivety and futility of any covetous geopolitical zone in Nigeria, day-dreaming of colonizing the rest of the country by force of arms?
On Amotekun, although the Attorney-General of the country – Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN has slammed the security agency as unconstitutional, the people of the southwest geopolitical zone have spoken through their elected representatives. That electorate could not have asked for Amotekun if there is security in present day Nigeria where rather than protect the citizens, the police now collect ransoms on behalf of kidnappers – an unparalleled fallout of the now official “peace deals” with violent criminals. Therefore, all hands should be on deck at both state and central government levels to actualize the southwest electorate’s demand for security because according to the late Reggae star – Bob Marley, “he who feels it, knows it.”
However, perhaps the central (neither national nor federal) government’s fear and disapproval of Amotekun stem from its expansive geographical scope - the potential firepower. Actually, based on the subsisting second tier of government comprising thirty-six separate administrative centres (supposedly federating states), Amotekun as a joint project by six out of thirty-six states, is unconstitutional. While the states that jointly floated Amotekun might be after benefits of economies of scale, the central government might be apprehensive on what the combined firepower of a regional security organization portends for national security.
Agreed; there are at present, state security organizations in some states, especially in northern Nigeria but they are not geopolitical with a potentially overwhelming firepower of Amotekun. While the ideal of restructuring Nigeria into socio-economically viable zones has been gaining currency, the idea remains only a notion until an enabling legislation. Therefore, southwest states could have floated individual security forces and pooled resources informally for benefits of economies of scale.
But is that not already known by a region famous as the cradle of education in Nigeria? Hence that geopolitical zone may have actually invoked the doctrine of necessity to tackle a cancerous threat mitigated only by concerted efforts on the face of failing law and order in Nigeria - where the police now collect ransoms on behalf of kidnappers and governments including that of Katsina State - the nativity of the Commander-In-Chief himself, officially sharing monopoly of violence with criminals.
While attempt to allay any fear of threat to national security might have informed assurance on Amotekun reporting to state police commissioners, how workable remains unfathomable. Would there be no conflict of interests, with command and control still constitutionally in the hands of state police commissioners whose loyalty lies to Abuja and not to supposedly federating states? Worse, of the thirty-six state police commissioners, only few, if any, are policing their states of origin – an utter disdain for comparative advantage of terrain familiarity.
Obviously, there is no harmony of objectives on security between the central and state governments. While governors are concerned about security in their states, the central government appears preoccupied with perpetually subjugating supposedly federating states to a centralized authority in Abuja. Hence in addition to army garrison commanders posted to geopolitical zones other than theirs, police commissioners do not report to state governors and are rarely deployed to police their nativity where they would be more effective owing to terrain familiarity.
All of that raise a mind-boggling question. Whose interest is the present unitary government system and centralized policing, serving? While answer to that question might ever remain in the realm of conjecture, the Amotekun decision by the southwest heralds a stormy wind of change in the Nigerian polity. As a patriot, one can only pray we do not learn the hard way, the futility of swimming against the tide. It is foolhardy nowadays to bank on sophisticated weaponry or quantum troops for victory in warfare. Otherwise, stability could have returned, long ago, to Nigerian states including Zamfara, Katsina, Borno, etc. and; countries like Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc.
Amotekun, undoubtedly, is a compelling precedent. Today, it is the southwest floating a region-wide security organization. Tomorrow, it could be another geopolitical zone but one that might lack both the cultured intellect and political sagacity of the southwest. There lies the grave risk of Nigeria restructuring herself by default and not by design. Again, that might be sooner than later if the incendiary outbursts of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH) – a political pressure group, represent the reaction of its geopolitical zone.
Apparently, MAKH’s northern Nigeria having surreptitiously taken over leaderships of the three arms – executive, legislature and judiciary of the present Nigerian government, might have considered its second consecutive term of office, a blank cheque with which to cash controversial policies including the contentious plan to officially spread cattle colonies across the length and breadth of Nigeria. But any such contemplation might now die on arrival with the Amotekun ambush. Come to think of it, why should the murderous herdsmen severally denounced by the central government as aliens, be settled officially on any part of Nigeria?
Yet, MAKH’s northern Nigeria might view Amotekun as a betrayal - a stab on the back by a geopolitical ally. So, reprisals could follow and the first casualty? Hope of the southwest falling beneficiary to an unwritten power rotation accord, come 2023, might evaporate. Thus, MAKH’s northern Nigeria might hold onto power beyond 2023 at risk of the pre-1999 political turbulence. In any consequential rofo rofo (respect to memory of the late Fela), anyone dreaming of a snapshot victory would be counted a lunatic. That grave foreboding is only one of numerous reasons why history beckons on President Muhammadu Buhari to seize the initiative and write his name in gold and not in dust.
Truth be told, until Amotekun, there has been no better vote for true federalism on which Nigeria set out as a sovereign state at independence in 1960. Hence Amotekun as a courageous political decision on security by the southwest, is a vindication of return to true federalism calls that include: “Distorted Federalism and Pervasive Insecurity” serialized by a national tabloid on 17th and 18th March 2013 – yes; that was seven years ago. Yet, that write-up vividly predicted the present sorry state of security in Nigeria and perhaps, contributed to paving the way for a constitutional conference the following year - 2014.
Surprisingly, however, that confab’s official document which could be fundamental or pivotal in mitigating the present state of insecurity has, sadly, continued to gather dust on the shelf of a government that feigns itself democratic. Apparently, as long as the present government continues to prefer the 1999 constitution – a product of dictatorship to that of the 2014 democratic process, its nationalism and democratic credentials for meaningful constitutional development of Nigeria are doubtful.
Once more, Amotekun is a validation of the truism that no matter how fast and far falsehood might travel, it would be overtaken by truth. For those that have ears to hear and eyes to see, it is getting loud and clear that Nigeria can survive and thrive only in a truly federalist political environment. Any pretense and preference for the contrary would be as futile as attempting to swim against the tide.
By the day, our burgeoning human population like our myriad ethnic nationalities, is getting herculean to manage with a suffocating unitary administrative system. Even when our pre-independence population was 45.2 million - less than a quarter of our present 200 million, Britain as a shrewd colonial master never did us a disservice to foist a unitary government system practiced by herself that time, on Nigeria. Again, our erstwhile colonial master with just three ethnicities compared to our well over 250 and a far smaller population of 66.44 million compared to ours of 200 million, has since 1998 dumped the unitary government system – devolving political power to her only three ethnic nationalities – Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
While the unitary system might have suited the control and command structure of successive military dictatorships that ruled until 1999, its continued elongation after two decades of unbroken civil rule is grave. Perhaps that informed the 2014 constitutional conference. Although outcome of that confab might not be a panacea to all our constitutional challenges, it could be as decisive like the first step in a proverbial journey of 1,000 km. Yet, the report of that fundamental political step has continued to gather dust. One may not know the reason for that but as events are unfolding, any hope or deliberate plan to elongate unitary government in Nigeria appears to be eroding national cohesion and unity. Or any better interpretation of MAKH’s inflammatory reaction to a strategic political decision by the president’s trusted political base - the southwest?
Although nobody expects President Muhammadu Buhari to return Nigeria to true federalism by military fiat, he can neither be non-committal on the matter. Moreso, as our supposed democracy is unarguably now a dictatorship with his geopolitical zone unconstitutionally monopolizing leaderships of the three arms of government. That has, rather, increased the president’s responsibility for whatsoever happens – good or bad to Nigeria during his tenure. That truth is irrespective of Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (rtd.) going public on his allusion of a dangerous betrayal of public trust by a supposed national government.
Once more, except President Buhari enlists to remain ambivalent, he cannot pass the bulk of returning Nigeria to true federalism to an ultra-loyal legislature as evidenced by an overwhelmed Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege kneeling at his feet and the National Assembly speaker – Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila asserting cheekily that he was not elected to fight the executive arm of government – a counter oath to ditch his official oversight function.
Therefore, like Britain, our erstwhile colonial master and President Goodluck Jonathan, President Buhari should create a forum for the constituent nationalities of Nigeria to discuss a mutually beneficial joint future. His unrivaled political goodwill in the core north would assure that region, fairness on an outcome of a constitutional conference. We have already seen that in his courageous and commendable recognition of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Ironically, the same dictators (from one particular region of Nigeria) that annulled the 1993 watershed election, grudgingly and unilaterally gave us the Trojan horse called 1999 constitution which patriotic Nigerians including the late legal luminary – Chief Rotimi Williams dubbed a fraud because the constituent nationalities of Nigeria have no input in the fraudulent document. Worse, Chief Yinka Odumakin fingered the constitution as the fountain of corruption in Nigeria. Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, also, faulted the constitution as prodigal for emphasizing sharing of national income as opposed to socio-economic development.
That is a sad reminder of the singular “settlement” agendum of those that foisted the constitution on Nigeria with an unwritten power rotation agreement for apparent treasury looting by turns - now sadly taken to a selfish, insensitive and ridiculous extreme with one geopolitical zone, presently occupying leaderships of the three arms of government, police, army, paramilitary services, most ministries and parastatals, all alone – a regional government foisted on the rest of the country.
Also, because our polity - a derivative of the 1999 constitution is the highest paying in the world, our economy suffers hiccups as captains of commerce and industry dazed by the lavish lifestyle of mediocre politicians, flee in droves into politics. In a truly federalist USA, can you imagine Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos, etc. pretending they are going into politics to serve but apparently for fame and money when they are already global icons and their staff earn more than Mr. Donald Trump as president? Sadly, that is happening in the Unitary Republic of Nigeria where politics is the shortest route to fame and stupendous wealth.
Specifically, HRH Lamido Sanusi Lamido even while in office as the Central Bank governor, lampooned the 1999 constitution for allocating 25% of our national income to members of the legislature for merely chorusing “nay” and “yeah” in parliament. In fact, the USA president never earns as much as our parliamentarians according to an outcome of a research by Prof. Itse Sagay. No wonder our legislature and not commerce and industry, is the next port of call for our retiring billionaire governors. So, who would not protect that status quo by pledging blind loyalty to unpatriotically forestall checks and balances amongst arms of government?
Therefore, fighting corruption without doing something about the fountain – the 1999 constitution, is pretentious, theatrical, chasing shadows instead of substance, targeting symptoms of a sickness instead of the cause and a deliberate consent to continued looting of our national treasury.
Once again, President Buhari is strongly urged to go on record like President Frederick De Klerk who after an ambivalent predecessor – Mr. P. W. Botha, took the credit for dismantling apartheid in South Africa. Similarly, Prime Minister Harold MacMilan abolished colonialism after a predecessor – Mr. Winston Churchill asserted he was not elected to preside over liquidation of the inglorious British Empire.
A parallel to that is Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev’s courageous Perestroika and Glasnost (restructuring and openness in Russian) that gave freedom to nationalities hitherto in a forced unitary government by erstwhile communist USSR. By that same token, the world was saved a menacing nuclear holocaust. Nearer home, President Goodluck Jonathan scored a first in 2015 for handing over power to the opposition in Nigeria since 1960; but only after President Olusegun Obansajo as a patriot, retired “political soldiers” from the Nigerian Army for democracy to take root in Nigeria.
Two of those decisions were far more consequential than simply returning Nigeria to true federalism for national security, economic prosperity and never dissolution as the now historical empires of USSR and Great Britain respectively. Yet, their leaders as true statesmen, were courageous and decisively planted their footprints on the sand of time.
The restructuring of Nigeria like every ripe ideal, which no human force can further delay, is an imminent inevitability. But that would be safer if by supervised implosion than explosion by atmospheric pressures – risking fallouts that wiped out Yugoslavia from the world map, broke Sudan into two and halved another country into India and Pakistan respectively. Ethiopia was similarly not enamoured against a historic break-up. Neither a shared history with the world itself nor millennia of warfare experience that boasts a victory over a world power – Italy, was of any avail when she was severally humiliated on the battlefield by her hitherto unfancied tribes for the birth of Eritrea Republic. So, never say, never! History painfully repeats itself anywhere there is willful ignorance and arrogance of Corporal Adolf Hitler.
Mr, Uwaya is the Author of “Security Awareness: An Imperative and The Urgency”. He lives and wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.