The national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has said that the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, erred by describing the South West Security Network, codenamed, Amotekun, as a defence agency.
The APC chieftain in a statement he issued on Wednesday described Amotekun recently launched by the governors in the region as a commendable effort to protect the people.
The former Lagos state governor noted that while the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami 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.
He stressed that the use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles might not be the best ideas but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group.
Tinubu noted that the foundation of the country had not been put at risk with the South-west regional security outfit launched by the governors of the zone in a bid to confront the insecurity in their states.
He stated that those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the republic had taken themselves upon a madcap excursion.
Tinubu stated: “Those claiming that the federal government seeks to terribly suppress the Southwest 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.”
Tinubu stressed that this was an opportunity to clearly define federalism, but said that one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language, adding that objectivity and calmness are required.
According to him, 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. He said such disagreements were inevitable, adding “this is not the first. Nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them. “
Tinubu stated categorically that until now, he had deliberately maintained a studied silence regarding Amotekun, despite the fact that many had tried to goad his swift public reaction.
He said that those who have taken this road did so not because they care about Amotekun or even the people it intends to help protect, but they did so knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many.
The APC chieftain said that these cynics did so hoping that, in haste, he might misspeak or misstep in a manner they could twist to their political advantage.
Tinubu stated: “Seeking to fulfil their mandates by helping protect their people, the governors of the Southwest collectively established a program to buttress existing security mechanisms. Seeking to protect the constitution as best 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.
Conceptually, Tinubu noted that there was nothing wrong with this, insisting that It does not appear to insult the constitution.
However, he added that his position regarding Amotekun was not blind or uncritical, saying that there are 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.”
Tinubu said that the regional approach has only limited benefit with regard to the procurement and maintenance of vehicles and communications equipment because this wider approach allows for economies of scale.
He emphasised that the regional approach also helps tackle the growing incidences of interstate criminal activity.
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.”