By Bola Bolawole
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The South-west security outfit code-named “Amotekun” may have survived threatened abortion, widely-expected still-birth, vicious Fulani attacks and scantily-concealed bellicosity of the Federal Government; it may appear to be well and alive, loved by the mass of Yoruba people home and abroad; and supported by other conscionable Nigerians; the truth, however, is that it is not yet ‘uhuru’ or freedom, as it were, for Amotekun. Witness spirited efforts by Federal authorities controlled by non-Yoruba desperately and virulently struggling to whittle down Amotekun and reduce it to toothless, disjointed and segregated “community police”! And South-west governors appeared to have acquiesced!
Truth be told, the coast is not clear yet of those plotting Amotekun’s downfall from the outside; neither are the inner recesses of the Yoruba nation itself emptied of every Sanballat and Tobiah (Nehemiah 2: 10, 19 & 20; 4: 1 – 8; 6: 1 – 19), fifth columnists, and enemies within that harbour ill-motives towards Amotekun.
These Amotekun enemies working in cahoots are only biding their time to strike mortal blows at the South-west security initiative. We must note the time-tested and time-honoured wisdom of our people, to wit, “ehinkunle l’ota wa, ile l’aseni n gbe”; also “t’iku ile o ba pa’ni, t’ode o le pa’ni”. Oh yes, the enemy within is more dangerous than the enemy without and it is the enemy within that opens the door for the enemy without to compromise the security of a household. Amotekun is, thus, confronted with the grim prospects of the enemy within as well as the enemy without! Yet, unity of purpose and action is sine qua non if Amotekun is to fulfil its manifest destiny.
Even though Amotekun started on a shaky, uncertain and unsure footing, kudos to those who made it happen! Not many, taking the Yoruba’s antecedents into consideration, gave Amotekun protagonists’ a fair chance of speaking with one voice on the matter. To make matters worse, neither the objective nor subjective conditions gave an inkling that the Yoruba could speak with one voice and mass around Amotekun; let alone fight ferociously in its defence, marching fire with more audacious fire. When governors of the South-west were men of great political stature, they failed to rouse the region. When they belonged to the same political party, they demonstrated little or no communality of purpose and shared vision.
Who could have expected that PDP’s Seyi Makinde will see eye-to-eye with his other APC governor-brothers or that rich and arrogant Lagos state will be on same page with its “poor” neighbours? Ex-Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode encouraged the Lagos/Oodua romance while erstwhile Ekiti PDP governor, Ayo Fayose, left a good example for Makinde to follow in that, although the lone opposition governor in the midst of his APC colleagues, Fayose keyed into the Development Agenda for Western Region (DAWN) commission, which birthed Amotekun.
I recall attending a security summit organised by the Ondo State Government in January 2019. Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu sat in the conference throughout to demonstrate how important the summit was to him. Not surprising, though, with the hell Ondo state had been through in the hands of killer-herdsmen and the people’s impatience with the perceived politically-induced hesitation of their government to seize the bull by the horns. That Akeredolu seemingly carries Amotekun on his head is, therefore, not a surprise. He has an election to face on October 10 and Amotekun could be the life-line he requires to resonate with Ondo people once more.
The argument in some quarters, though, is that the same Amotekun and the prominent, even heroic, role Akeredolu has played in its formation have pitched him against the Fulani-controlled Federal Government and their South-west allies led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Akeredolu and Tinubu’s political romance or dalliance has always been a ding-dong affair and needs not detain us here while the likely political repercussions of the displeasure of the Presidency with Akeredolu over the governor’s role in birthing Amotekun may not be as easy to predict and strait-jacket as some may want to make it appear.
Yes, Akeredolu may be denied the APC ticket; what if he defects and contests under another party? Yes, the ubiquitous “Federal might” may be deployed against him; but what if the heroic and war-like Ondo people, tested many times in the past for their resilience, political sagacity and unyielding and uncompromising independence of thought and action, insist he is their choice – if only because of Amotekun? Watch out for Ondo state!
That Ibadan was chosen as venue for the launch of Amotekun was not simply because the ancient city is generally seen as the political capital of the South-west but importantly also because of the clear disposition of the young man at the helms of its political affairs, Gov. Seyi Makinde. Without Makinde’s unflinching support for Amotekun, playing host to it despite relentless pressure mounted on him to renege, thereby releasing his head to be used to crack the Amotekun coconut, if need be, the Amotekun launch of 19th January would have been aborted.
On the appointed day, chanting youths and all manner of Yoruba self-determination groups had gathered at the venue with only a smattering of notable Yoruba leaders, the most prominent among whom was Prof. Banji Akintoye, recently elected by a coterie of Yoruba groups as Yoruba leader. It was like the launch would not happen. Notable Yoruba leaders had started leaving the venue when the Ooni of Ife drove in. A glance at the venue convinced him that “Baba-nla” trouble was brewing. According to reports, he drove straight to Makinde where he met the governor and his guest, Akeredolu, and told them that judging from what he saw at the venue, there would be bedlam if Amotekun’s pregnancy was aborted.
In all of these, where was the Ekiti State Gov. Kayode Fayemi, another of the staunch protagonists of Amotekun? Fayemi’s support for Amotekun also was not without justification. He had been the butt of cruel jokes as a result of Fulani herdsmen’s atrocities in his state. The marauders got so emboldened that they even hoisted their flag in Ekiti! For a people who had witnessed how the strident activism of erstwhile Gov. Fayose tied the hands of the Fulani herdsmen, Ekiti could hardly understand, least of all put up with the “cowardly” disposition of Fayemi. Can this be the same bold, audacious, and fire-spitting Fayemi, the widely reported moving spirit behind Radio Kudirat, a pedigree traced only to the inimitable Wole Soyinka, the widely-assumed “Gun-man of Ibadan” that held a whole station hostage and forced the announcer to broadcast an anti-government tirade?
Seeing that the Federal authorities were bent on truncating Amotekun, Fayemi was dispatched to Abuja “to discuss with his people” “Omo ina l’a n ran s’ina” If they could not abort the pregnancy of Amotekun, its opponents were bent on ensuring that the mother had a stillbirth! But Fayemi returned in the nick of time to give assurances he had succeeded in mollifying “his people” and that the launching could proceed. Together, the three governors reportedly drove in the Ooni’s vehicle to the venue to rambunctious applause and ululations. But for Fayemi’s “peace mission” to Abuja and the encouragements and solid support of the Ooni, Amotekun would have suffered a stillbirth.
I doff my hat for the Ooni! I also salute Prof. Banji Akintoye for his patriotism, resilience and tenacity of purpose. Leaders properly so-called must be where their people are. Followers make strong, powerful and impactful leaders. The massive outpouring of support for Amotekun, especially after the Fulani aimed their guns at it, must have astounded many. Even the Yoruba must have surprised themselves with the way they rose up to the challenge not only as one man but also as a moving train without brakes mowing everything in sight. The gaping holes in Amotekun were ignored; the opposition was tackled and wrestled to the ground. Shell-shocked, Amotekun opponents first retreated, confused and benumbed before recovering and gathering themselves together again.
Herein lies the danger that confronts Amotekun! Amotekun enemies only retreated; they did not surrender. Amotekun enemies only dipped further into their bag of tricks; they were not honest with the concessions they made to Amotekun. They dropped less effective weapons only to reach into their arsenal for more potent ones; they did not disarm. For goodness sake, how can Miyetti Allah, the agent provocateur in the first place, now turn round to demand a part in Amotekun? This is mischief and looking for trouble (Ezra 4: 1 – 7).
On-going legal frameworks are the first hurdles Amotekun must scale. The South-west’s best brains must draft them. Next is Amotekun’s operational framework. The South-west should make the best use of its avalanche of military professionals, retired and serving. Why not conference specifically with this group? Then a Yoruba think-thank on the economy, security, cultural renaissance; greater Yoruba autonomy, among others have become imperative. The time is now that the Yoruba, like the Fulani and Igbo, must see themselves as a nation within a nation – and conduct ALL their affairs in like manner.