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Amotekun: The Beginning Of Restructuring

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Amotekun

After much preparation and alerts, the six governors from the South-West geopolitical zone of Nigeria unveiled the South-Western Security Network, also known as Amotekun, on Thursday, January 9. The outfit received acclamation and support from the region, while it received knocks, mainly from the North.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, was initially (mis) quoted as saying Amotekun is illegal. He has since clarified this, explaining all he said was that the legal back up for Amotekun was not yet there. I am not a lawyer, but I thought he is saying the same thing, this time in a subtle way.

I do not blame Malami. He is the AGF. He does not make the laws. His duty is to interpret the laws. He might have made a faux pas, but he has quickly corrected himself.

Rather, my grouse is with the South-West political leaders. The South-West had been at the vanguard of restructuring since the 1980s. Restructuring has been identified and accepted as the panacea to Nigeria’s major socio-political and socio-economic problems, including the almighty corruption. Except for few, the core of the South-West leadership has always been for the idea, though in varying formats.

When in 2014, the leaders went into alliance with others to form a new political party, and the party won the 2015 general elections, reform-minded Nigerians felt elated. The people thought it was a new dawn for the country. The reason for the elation is simple. Prominently and eloquently stated in the manifesto of the new party was the issue of devolution of powers, which, if faithfully followed, would have long addressed the present circumstances.

In the manifesto, the party said it would “initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments, in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit.” Specifically on security, the party said, it would “begin widespread consultations to amend the constitution to enable states and local governments to employ state and community police to address the peculiar needs of each community. This would mean setting boundaries for federal, state and community police through new criminal justice legislation to replace the Criminal Code, the Penal Code and the Police Act.”

Further, the standard bearer of the party, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), re-affirmed these positions in a document: “My Manifesto and Vision for Nigeria.” Buhari is slightly older than I am. Going by the way I forget things, Buhari could have forgotten about his party’s manifesto. But, how do we explain that a dominant political party, five years after winning the election, four years of first term, plus one year into second term, is yet to do anything about the core issues freely attested to in its manifesto. It is amazing. In my home town, spending more than three years getting ready to be mad is inexcusable.

This is what I cannot understand with the South-West leaders. The less charitable among us say they are busy at the dining table; and they have to obey the primary school rule of hygiene that you must not talk while eating.

But I am with those who think the leaders are suffering agonising frustrations in silence. The chicken is sweating, but the feathers will not allow people to see through.

Surely, we need to do something about the way we are. The present arrangement is not just sustainable; it is not worth sustaining. Despite the massive powers and funds at its disposal, the central government is not giving us desired results. In particular, it is now very obvious to all that the central government alone cannot cope with security.

I have argued somewhere else that it is a farce, and a deceit to call Nigeria a federal government. There is absolutely nothing federal about Nigeria. Our situation is utterly awkward. In any true federation, the central government is a creation of the component units. It is the other way round here; the component units are the creations of the central government.

We had a true federation in earlier years. But the federal arrangements collapsed on January 15, 1966, went into coma in July 1966 and finally died on May 27, 1967, when the then Federal Government split the country into 12 states and appropriated powers over the collection and disbursement of revenues. Over time, more and more economic and political powers and responsibilities have been located and domiciled in the central government.

Today, we have an unwieldy arrangement.

On the one hand, there is the central government suffocating in powers and money and yet is bogged down and unresponsive to the ever increasing demands of modern society on basic issues of security, education, health, employment, housing, etc, etc.

On the other hand, there are the states and local governments, ready and able to complement with the central government, but they lack the powers and the funds to so do.

I am always amused, when Nigeria’s politicians talk of moving the country towards “true federalism.” You can move towards a position if only you are on the path to that position. Nigeria had turned away from the path of federalism since 1967, the year our Abubakar Malami was born, and had continued to move in this otherwise direction since then.

Certainly, there is the need to reverse this direction. There is the need to unbundle the central government, and make it lighter and more operationally efficient. We have got to do this sooner or later. The alternative is to burst.

I doubt if we can ever go back to true federalism. The path is very thorny, and the overall cost to do this could be prohibitive.

However, we can re-set and re- structure Nigeria along federal principles. All we need to do is to be deliberate and pragmatic in the devolution of powers and responsibilities to states and local governments. By so doing, perhaps, we can end up with a pseudo-federal structure that works and delivers.

Amotekun could be the beginning of the needed re-set and restructuring. Initially, I had my hesitations and fears that Amotekun could be misused and abused, even by the governors themselves, as it happened to the old local government police in Western Nigeria, especially between 1962 and 1965. But I am persuaded by the arguments of Bolanle Bolawole that we must start somewhere, and do iterative correction of mistakes and errors as we move along.

I commend the courage of the South-West governors for this bold initiative. But, they must be reminded that the South-West people have suffered serial disappointments in the political leadership of the region since the transition of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I pray as I hope that the governors will not disappoint this time round. They have put their hands on the plough, they need not look back, as they are on grounds that will yield good results.

As events are presently unfolding, the probability is high that the Amotekun project will be resolved through dialogue and discussions. There are two legs to this: The political (legal) and the economic (cost). On both, the states and the Federal Government need to sit together and work out modalities, especially on how to support the states on funding. I guess this might involve tinkering with the revenue allocation formula. By then, the Federal Government might see the wisdom in expanding the dialogue table to a national one, so that the conclusions and recommendations will be applicable in all states. Thus, Amotekun may, indirectly, mark the beginning of restructuring, and this will be good for our country, Nigeria.

Daramola writes via obidarams@gmail.com
Culled from Tribune

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