Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has added his voice to the current debate on the legality of “Operation Amotekun”, the security outfit established by the six governors of the South-West geopolitical region.
In a statement which he personally signed on Wednesday, his first since the debate began, Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, urged the governors of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states to dialogue and work out the modalities of the outfit with Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Tinubu’s intervention comes after Malami declared the establishment of “Amotekun” as illegal, stating the 1999 constitution (as amended) has made the creation of security outfits an exclusive preserve of the Federal Government.
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He stated that the South-West governors and the AGF both had good intentions and valid reasons for their difference in opinion, stating that the public officers acted in accordance with their duty to their electorate and the provisions of the constitution.
He noted that contrary to the views of individuals opposed to the outfit, the unity of Nigeria has not in any way been compromised with the “limited, inoffensive addition to the security” of the South-West region.
Tinubu, however, chided proponents on both sides of the divide, saying they employed “fierce, unthinking rhetoric” which has been “more subjective talking than objective thinking”.
The statement, entitled: ‘The Public Discourse Over Amotekun’, partly read: “In this matter, I do not see malign intent in the differences of opinion between the SW 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. This is an opportunity to more clearly define that federalism; but one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language. Objectivity and calmness are required. 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. Such disagreements are inevitable. This is not the first. Nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them.
“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.
“Until now, I have deliberately maintained a studied silence regarding Amotekun. Many have tried to goad my swift public reaction. Those who have taken this road did so not because they care about Amotekun or even the people it intends to help protect. They did so knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many. These cynics did so with the adversarial hope that, in haste, I might misspeak or misstep in a manner they could twist to their political advantage.
“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.”
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Recalling his stint and the establishment of the Neighbourhood Watch in Lagos State, Tinubu said he understood the plight of the South-West governors battling different forms of criminality such as armed robbery, kidnapping and murder and their establishment of “Operation Amotekun”.
Tinubu described the initiative by the governors as a “commendable undertaking”, but insisted “several organisational and functional aspects of the proposal that could cause some problems if left unresolved”.
He stated that he does not support the provision of arms to “Operation Amotekun” personnel as the public may have the wrong perception about the outfit’s mission.
He also stated that the outfit may be at variance with the Federal Government’s planned community policing strategy, recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari and approved the additional recruits from all 774 local government areas will be added to the force to help protect their own communities.
“Some things need to be corrected before Amotekun becomes operational. If not, it will not live up to expectations. Thus, the current formulation of Amotekun is in need of repair before it takes to the road only to quickly slip into a ditch,” the statement read.
The former Lagos governor also said the South-West governors were at fault as they failed to consult with Malami prior to the inauguration of the outfit.
“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,” the statement read.
Tinubu, however, said “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. The use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles may not be the best ideas but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group any more than a designated school van carrying uniformed students constitutes a paramilitary deployment”.
He, therefore, called on the South-West governors to privately reach out to Malami and resolve all contentious issues concerning “Operation Amotekun”.
“In trying to help resolve this matter, I have initiated communication with the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, with a view to meeting the South-West governors to explore amicable solutions to the avoidable controversy. I am sure that, at the end of it all, peace, security, and progress shall reign in our nation,” the statement read.