National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has said the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, erred by describing the South-west security network codenamedAmotekun as a defence agency.
He also said among other deficiencies, the centralised command structure of the regional outfit would bring about inefficiency.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the APC chieftain said the initiative recently put in place by governors in the region was a commendable effort to protect the people.
The APC national leader spoke after several calls on him by analysts, particularly stakeholders from the region that he should avail the nation of his position.
Tinubu is believed to be eyeing the nation’s number one seat in 2023,a development which many thought had kept the former governor ‘in silent mode’ over the matter.
This is more so when the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBDAN) had publicly declared that the South-west’s chance of getting the 2023 presidency slot stands jeopardised if the region pressed ahead with the Amotekun initiative.
And Tinubu speaks
Speaking for the first time on the matter, Senator Tinubu said while Malami was being human in his response by faulting the unconventional security network.
He said while the AGF might be surprised that his office was not consulted, he acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been.
The former lawmaker noted that the use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles might not be the best ideas, but this would not make Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group.
He said the foundation of the country was not in way at risk with the South-west regional security outfit.
The ex-lawmaker stated that those claiming that “this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion.”
Tinubu said: “Those claiming that the federal government seeks to terribly suppress the South-west have also lost their compass. Those who occupy these two extremes have sunken into the dark recesses of fear and political paranoia that can undo a nation if such sentiments are allowed to gestate.
“Amotekun. This issue has dominated recent discourse and media headlines. Distilled to its basics, it concerns how best state governments can assist with the safety and security of their residents. This is a matter of serious concern entitled to sober thought. However, it has been turned into a political tug-of-war. Fierce, often unthinking rhetoric, for and against, has crossed the lips of too many Nigerians. More subjective talking than objective thinking has been the fuel of this outburst.
“Question those in favour of Amotekun. Most have but the vaguest notion about it. They know few details yet vigorously attribute to its opponents the most negative intentions. Ask those who oppose Amotekun, they are equally ignorant of its provisions. They oppose the initiative not on its merits but merely because it was proposed by their political opponents or because they don’t see an avenue for personal gain from it.
“While colourful, the rhetoric has been disconcerting. How people have mishandled this matter demonstrates that we still have far to go in perfecting this democracy. Too much energy has been spent distorting this issue instead of seeking a resolution that supports local enhancement of security while keeping the constitution intact. If this becomes the standard for how we handle disagreements, then we will obscure Nigeria’s path forward with our own rubbish.
“In this matter, I do not see malign intent in the differences of opinion between the South-west governors as authors of Amotekun and the Attorney-General as the primary law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. Shorn of the overly dramatic language, what lies before us is but a step in the evolution of our federalism.”
The APC leader said the Amotekun initiative was an opportunity to more clearly defines federalism, adding that “one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language.
“To a significant degree, the enduring quality of our republic will be established by the sagacity with which we handle disagreements regarding the division of power between federal and state governments. Such disagreements are inevitable. This is not the first, nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them”.
The former governor said he deliberately maintained “a studied silence regarding Amotekun, despite the fact that many have tried to goad my swift public reaction.”
He said those who took this road did so not because they cared aboutAmotekun or even the people it intends to help protect, “but they did so knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many.”
Tinubu further stated: “Seeking to fulfil their mandates by helping protect their people, the governors of the South-west collectively established a programme to buttress existing security mechanisms. Seeking to protect the constitution as best as he could, the Attorney-General offered his opinion on what he believed the governors have sought to do. No one can blame either party for seeking to fulfil what they genuinely see as their public duty.
“Such people are possessed of a mercenary aspect that permits them to sacrifice almost anything, even jeopardize the very foundations of our political unity, if they might exact personal gain from the upheaval, in that they know no nobler purpose than their own appetites, we should feel sorry for them. However, we must not allow our sympathies for their barren condition to persuade us that there is worth in their destructive misconduct. They must be left to the consequences of their own devices.
“If truly I am a political leader as I am often described, then I have not the luxury of hasty, ill-conceived utterances. There are those who will use inflamed words to spark the passions of others. This may bring transient applause. But when the cheers fade, we shall only have further descended because their words were never inclined toward resolution and long-term improvement but toward short-term popularity and perpetual confrontation.
“I believe in this nation and its benign prospects. I dearly love its people, all of them. Over the years of our existence, they have suffered much. Yet they still hold forth with heroic patience and an extraordinary optimism born of strong faith. To these people I owe my best. I shall not treat them cheaply or bandy their emotions like some errant football. The welfare of this good and decent people is my overriding concern.
“Equally, I do not cow to the demands of those who press for me to make a premature statement on an important issue. Again, that is a game devised by those who care more about political cleverness than the quality of governance. I chose to talk when my position has been made ripe by a collection of the facts and a reasonable assessment of those facts.”
Tinubu explained that as the highest elected official in the state and thus the individual embodiment of the will of the people, a governor must view safety and security as a foremost priority, integral to his mandate.
He added that to turn a blind eye to these concerns would be a grave dereliction.
Tinubu said, “That the South-west governors seek to work together to complement the extant security architecture is, in principle, a commendable undertaking. In embracing this concept, they have acted in consonance with spirit of their offices for the better interests of their people.
“As Governor of Lagos State, I confronted a burgeoning criminal menace. I could not sit idly in the face of the violence and property destruction that struck genuine fear in the hearts of the people. The police tried as best they could; but their coverage was thin. They simply did not have the personnel or material wherewithal to be everywhere at once. We formed Neighbourhood Watch to help fill the gap.
“Our aim was not to replace existing structures but to complement and augment them. The mission of Neighbourhood Watch was to monitor the wards and neighbourhoods of the state. The group would gather information and intelligence to pass to the police and security authorities. The Neighbourhood Watch also provided an early warning system to keep citizens from harm’s way. The idea worked. Crime and violence reduced significantly. Even the overreaching Obasanjo government did not contend against Neighbourhood Watch.”
Tinubu stressed that “judging from the public statements of the governors,Amotekun is meant to be structured along similar lines, and Amotekun is to be another set of eyes and ears to assist the police.”
Tinubu said there was nothing wrong with this, insisting that it did not appear to insult the constitution.
However, he added that his position regarding Amotekun was not blind or uncritical, saying there were several organisational and functional aspects of the proposal that could cause some problems if left unresolved.
“We have been fighting for local and decentralised policing for a long time because we know that too much centralisation impedes performance. In regard to actual performance of its appointed tasks, Amotekun should have focused on grassroots local organisation at the state level without a regional command hierarchy. The regional approach may undermine efficiency,” the former governor said.
He said the regional approach has only limited benefits with regard to the procurement and maintenance of vehicles and communications equipment because this wider approach allows for economies of scale.
Tinubu added: “The governors state that they consulted regularly with the police and security agencies. This was the right thing to do. However, their failure to include the office of the Attorney-General in these discussions is the fount of the current public uproar. This was an unfortunate omission the governors should regret and seek to remedy. However, the conceptual merits and positive functional aspects of Amotekun should not be tainted by this procedural defect.
“While the Attorney-General is a conscientious public servant, he is also human. Not having been consulted, he was suddenly faced with an unexpected public announcement regarding a matter within his official ambit. He likely feared the failure to consult him meant that federal prerogatives were being encroached. To blame him for this conclusion would be to blame human nature itself. Though his negative reaction was understandable it was also unhelpful.
“The Attorney-General acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been. Amotekun was never proposed as a “defence” agency; the Attorney-General erred in using this description.”
And for the umpteenth time, Ondo state Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has said he threw his weight behind the formation of Amotekun out of his desire for national cohesion rather than personal political ambition.
Akeredolu, who also chairs South-west Governors Forum, vowed not to back down on the regional security initiative, even if means sacrificing his second term ambition.
The governor spoke against the backdrop of fears in certain quarters that his role in the formation of the regional security outfit might cost him his second term bid.
A statement Wednesday by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Donald Ojogo in Akure, the state capital, said the decision taken in respect of Amotekun was in the interest of the entire nation and not just the South-west.
Ojogo said: “Expectedly, there are possibly, political vultures waiting to reap from an imaginary scenario, especially as we approach the 2020 Ondo governorship primary of our great party. For Governor Akeredolu, everything that is desirable must be blessed by God. 2020 is a year that will be decided by the people of Ondo state; it can only be directed by God and His Will alone shall prevail.
“In words and in deeds, Governor Akeredolu will not sacrifice the compelling need to make lives safer in the South-west on the altar of political convenience, comfort and partisanship. The welfare of the people must come first.”
He said the governor considered more compelling, the need to institutionalise an acceptably complimentary and more enduring security framework in the South-west.
He further said: “For those who have chosen to impose deceitful contentment on themselves for the sake of political ambitions, especially towards Ondo 2020, the choice is free for them to make. The people are conscious and enlightened enough to discern the undercurrents; and more importantly, the consequences of those choices are lurking in the corners of our collective psyche, waiting to unleash on all of us as the Governor is unperturbed.”