AMOTEKUN: THE BARKING LEOPARD BY LARRY MALEMI

While speaking at the University of Ibadan, during a book launch, General T. Y. Danjuma was quoted to have said that “Nigerians will lose their sleep, if he reveals what is going on in the country” and that “In Yorubaland, everybody seems to have lost their voice, scared. And people appear not to care about what is happening. If I tell you what I know is happening in Nigeria today, you will no longer sleep…”

Prior to this bold declaration by one of Nigeria’s foremost and influential military veterans, there has been widespread unabated violence in the western part of Nigeria.  There were cases of the abduction of a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Prof. Olayinka Adegbehingbe, in May. Also, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and four others were kidnapped at the Ogere area of Ogun State in August. However, what seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back was when gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, killed Funke Olakunri, a daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, on the Ondo-Ore road.

The Birth of Amotekun

Many reactions trailed the above occurrences. However, it seemed as though the “secret” comments of General T. Y. Danjuma coupled with the murder of the daughter of one of the foremost leaders in the western part of Nigeria gave the six Governors in Western Nigeria sufficient guts to think out of the box towards protecting their people despite their varying political inclinations and divide. Consequently, the fallout of the Governors’ deliberations was the creation of a security outfit christened Southwest Security Network codenamed “Amotekun” with the image of a cavorting and furious leopard in full flight.

The Leopard

What inspired the choice of a Leopard as the image of Amotekun? Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State had insisted that Amotekun is only an intelligence gathering outfit that will complement the efforts of the Police without any sinister motive. Perhaps it was this intelligence gathering objective that motivated the choice of a Leopard as its image.

Leopards have very unique characteristics. First, Leopards do not need much water as they survive from the moisture they get from consuming their prey. Second, they can run up to 36 mph (58 kph), jump forward 20 feet (6 meters) and leap 10 feet (3 m) straight up. Third, their ear can hear five times more sounds than that of the human ear. Fourth, Because of its adapted retinas, leopards can see seven times better in the dark than humans. Leopards are carnivores, but they are not picky eaters. They crouch low to sneak up to their prey and pounce before it has a chance to react. A leopard will kill its prey with one swift bite to the neck, breaking it. The Leopard refrains from fighting just anybody, it chooses its prey carefully in the thick of the night when other animals are far too asleep to do a thing.

The Leopard makes a variety of sounds which includes: a territorial hoarse, a raspy cough, a contended purr and a threatened hiss. However, more interesting is the fact that a leopard barks when it needs to make a bold statement. Unlike a dog, the barking of a leopard is accompanied with an innate and ferocious desire to devour, annihilate and subdue prey with precision rather than permutation and with the requisite mens rea and actus reus to bring its intention to fruition.

Amotekun – To be, or not to be

Back to the main subject – The inauguration of Amotekun has since garnered overwhelming support from different parts of the country including political, business and academic heavy weights from the West and indeed the entire country. However, despite the sporadic support for Amotekun, there has been a direct confrontation from a section of the Northern region particularly the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, one of the most influential groups from the North in recent times. The Group expressed their fears first by tagging Amotekun an ethnic militia which if allowed to operate, could turn out to be a disaster for Nigeria. They went ahead to argue that their members were the direct target of Amotekun and that the westerners stand a chance of losing politically if the Governors go ahead with their plans. In fact, a key member of the Group was reported to have cast aspersions on the educational prowess of the entire Western Region.

It is important to note that Nigeria has over 250 ethnic nationalities. However, the fire and brimstone emanating from a small section of one of the regions of Nigeria over this Amotekun issue, give one reasons to take a careful look. On the surface, it appears the intention of the Western Governors is particularly to protect the lives and properties of their constituents and nothing else. However, the outcry from the Miyetti Alla Kautal Hore over a seemingly harmless move has opened a barrage of discussions on the powers of the Governors to constitute such a security outfit including the true motives behind it. It is conceded that whatever the fears expressed by the Northern Group should not be totally ignored, as Amotekun must be made to abide by its original mandate of assisting law enforcement agents in the protection of lives and properties.

But then again, who will remain unperturbed at the sight of an angry, audacious and marauding Leopard? A wild animal whose ears can hear five times more sounds than that of the human ear, whose adapted retinas can see seven times better in the dark than humans and who can break the neck of its prey with a single bite?

One reasonably expects that in situations like this, Government officials would be a bit circumspect about their comments owing to the sensitive nature of the issue at stake. However, the comments attributed to the office of the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, appears to have struck a match in a tinderbox. The Honourable Minister observed the Amotekun initiative as illegal, noting that no other authority at the State level, whether the Executive or Legislature, has the legal authority to set up its own security outfit. He went further to state that “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has established the Army, Navy and Airforce including the Police and other numerous paramilitary organisations for the purpose of the defence of Nigeria.”

The argument about whether the Honourable Minister was right or wrong is one for another day. But one thing is certain, the Honourable Minister would have been on track with his comments if his office had approached a court of competent jurisdiction to declare the activities of Amotekun illegal just as he did with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Shiites. To make an open declaration about the illegality of Amotekun without a substantive court order declaring the outfit illegal, is, with due respect, reckless and insensitive.  The Honourable Attorney General may be a “god unto himself” as it relates to matters under section 174 (1) (a)-(c) but not in this circumstance.

On the other hand, Amotekun is a masterstroke and the boldest statement any region in Nigeria has ever made to the Federal Government in recent times devoid of violence or even a public protest. It is a carefully thought protest mechanism against the Government for its inability to tackle insecurity squarely, which have been an infinite continuum. Amotekun is not a cause rather it’s a cure. Amotekun is not an ailment rather it is an antidote. Amotekun is not a problem rather it is a solution. Amotekun is not a noise, it is a sound that is understood by a majority of Westerners.

Amotekun is not the cause of the fire, rather it is a mighty rushing water possibly from the heart of rivers Osun and Oshogbo carefully directed at quenching the wild and menacing fires of insecurity pervading the entire nation. It is a signage that the Westerners may not be toothless bulldogs after all.

Expectedly, the legal fireworks will commence soon. While the Governors may advance the argument that they have the constitutional right as Chief Security Officers of their various states with the full responsibility of protecting their citizens, they must contend with the copious provisions of Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Most importantly, a clear legal contest between the Federal Government and the six Governors of the South Western States, on the legality or otherwise of Amotekun as well as the wheel of time, would have revealed whether Amotekun is the “barking of a leopard” or that of a fearful dog”.



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