A babel of dissenting voices greeted comments by the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu; criticizing him for his moderate views about the security outfit, Amotekun, set up by the South-West governors.
Amotekun, launched early January, was kicked against by the Nigerian government through the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, who declared the security outfit illegal and unconstitutional. Malami’s objection, despite several security challenges facing the Southwest states, sparked widespread controversies; with the cattle herders group, Miyetti Allah saying Amotekun was a “threat” to Nigerian democracy, and warning the Southwest governors to dump the outfit or banish any thought of producing the next president in 2023.
After maintaining a conspicuous silence, Tinubu, while reacting to the raging controversies, appeared centrist about the issue. He said both the governors and Malami are “seeking to fulfill what they genuinely see as their public duty.” He regretted that while Amotekun “is a matter of serious concern entitled to sober thought, 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.”
He also criticized the “formulation” Amotekun stating that “some things need to be corrected before Amotekun becomes operational” adding that both parties should “enter private discussions.” Insisting that his position on Amotekun is “not blind or uncritical,” Tinubu highlighted some “organisational and functional aspects of the proposal that could cause some problems if left unresolved.” He noted that some aspects of Amotekun might undermine the objective of low-key information gathering, even as its “showy paraphernalia” could aggravate public perceptions that “its mandate is more expansive” than it appears.
He argued further: “Amotekun should have focused on grassroots local organisation at the state level without a regional command hierarchy. The regional approach may undermine efficiency. There is no compelling logic why the same personnel providing security and informational assistance in Ado-Ekiti should be under the same functional and operational leadership as those providing assistance in Lekki or Akure. This will not lead to optimal performance.”
Tinubu summed up some of the drawbacks, warning again: “The current formulation of Amotekun is in need of repair before it takes to the road only to quickly slip into a ditch.” The APC national leader blamed the gulf between the Southwest governors and the AGF on “an unfortunate lack of communication.” He explained: “Their (governors’) 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.”
Tinubu, however, added: “Believing the governors had crossed the line, the attorney general should have reached out to them. Before going public, he should have sought a private meeting so that he could have a better factual understanding of Amotekun. This would have enabled him to give the governors any specific constitutional or other objectives he might have. In this way, the two sides would have engaged in private consultations to reach agreement on the way forward. This cooperative process might have helped to correct some of the organisational lapses above identified. Such a diplomatic and wise step also would have prevented the current public acrimony now surrounding the issue.”
To resolve the controversies, Tinubu called for a “private discussion” between both parties. “Either the governors should seek an official but private meeting with the attorney general, or the attorney general can initiate the contact. Since Amotekun is their initiative, the governors bear the greater onus in seeking the meeting.” He clarified: “The fabric of the republic has not been put at stake by Amotekun. However, that fabric could be torn by the dangerous rhetoric of those who should know better.”
According to him, “Those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion. 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.”
But the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, knocked Tinubu for what the group described as his “Tanko-like” comments, noting that Tinubu was expected to take a “stand” instead of speaking from both sides of his mouth. “I think is better to keep quiet than to go that route,” Afenifere’s spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin said, noting that Tinubu might be “afraid of Buhari to speak the truth.” “We are not impressed by his comments. We won’t abuse him the way he is abusing those of us who are standing for Amotekun; but he (Tinubu) should not forget that the Yoruba people have a very long memory and 2023 is not too far off,” Odumakin added.
Also reacting to Tinubu’s statement, Afenifere chieftain, Dr. Femi Okunrounmu, said: “Tinubu’s statement is neither here nor there. He is trying to be on the sides of both the government and his kinsmen. He doesn’t want to offend the government, so he is trying to be neutral. As a Yoruba leader, I expected him to be on the side of the people, since Amotekun has become inevitable in the interest of the people.”
A similar sentiment was also expressed by the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice. The group’s leader, Suleiman Adeniyi, in a statement said: “for someone believed to be a leading figure of the Yoruba race, Tinubu cannot continue to turn his back on his people just because of his presidential ambition. We have read his reactions to this Amotekun issue and we are of the view that he is afraid to take a stand,” Adeniyi added.
“Yes, he might have spoken but he has not displayed any support for the Yoruba people. He should come out clear, take a stand and support Amotekun absolutely. He should not sit on the fence. Tinubu should not be afraid of the Hausa people because he wants to be the President of Nigeria. “Let us know where you (Tinubu) stand because if you cannot defend the Yoruba people, then you don’t deserve our support. Rather, we will oppose your presidential ambition.”