Amotekun and Quest For Centrifugal Federalism, By Banji Ojewale
…we have suffered too long at the hands of fake federalist leaders unwilling to submit to the restructuring of the country according to popular wishes. The ripple effects of their failure to listen to us have taken us back to Neanderthal times. Our people don’t deserve to be in this Stone Age, with so much wealth at our beck and call.
Long before we offered Amotekun, aka Leopard, a visa to relocate from the jungle and be our guest here among human beings, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) had taken the unprecedented step to bring in predatory beasts into our conversation. In 2012, as he inconsolably nursed a defeat in the previous year’s ballot as presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari needlessly transported these wild creatures into our system. Painting a “gory picture of Nigeria as that of a hound and a monkey engaged in a battle for survival”, he told party loyalists who visited him in Kaduna: “God willing, by 2015 something will happen…If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”
2015 did come; and Buhari did become our president. But it came to pass that since his outburst and advent, wilder animals have begun to stray into our day-to-day lexicon and lifestyle.
Many have taken a cue from him. When the president was away for a long time in London receiving medical care, Senator Shehu Sani went into the jungle for inspiration. He wrote: “Prayer for the absent Lion King has waned. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispers; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not.” Buhari’s wife, Aisha, took over on Facebook. She wrote upon visiting her recuperating husband: “God has answered the prayers of the weaker animals, the hyenas and jackals will soon be sent out (of) the kingdom.”
More ferocious denizens of the wild forests have assaulted our civilisation after the floodgates were opened by these fellow Nigerians. Crocodiles have smiled. Pythons have danced. Cats have frolicked. Snakes have ‘swallowed’ millions of naira. Rodents have chased the president from office. Finally, Nnamdi Kanu, champion of Biafra restoration, seeing all these nonfiction tales of wild creatures on the loose in the land, returned this verdict: Nigeria is a zoo.
The terminal halfway post-1966 coup house of cards we continue to hold on to, in the name of preserving our unity, is rather breaking and killing us slowly. How come we all agree that we’re more divided, dismembered and disconnected now than in years past, despite the fiercely superficial centripetal drive of a succession of governments?
But Kanu must hear this: Governors of the South-West states have followed in the footsteps of Buhari; they’ve invited Amotekun, the dreaded leopard, to join the crowd of carnivores we’re leaning on to deliver us from men and women who are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
You can’t blame them for looking away for succour from a defaulting, dowdy and deficient central government sitting atop a system correspondingly drivelling, dystopic and degenerate. For years since the military destroyed the true federalism Nigerians enjoyed from Independence till 1966, power and its accompanying levers, including its critical security offshoot, have been unevenly exercised, resulting in broken down institutions that wouldn’t deliver what would enable Nigeria to care for its citizens. A centre that is an island to itself pretends it is the father of all the sovereign constituent states. But it refuses to let go of the powers that would free the people from their dependence on it. The centre appropriates all the powers and resources of the states under our hideous ‘federal’ arrangement.
As it is at the ‘federal’ level, so it is in the states. The local councils are idle, indolent and infertile, perennially waiting for some money from the state capital. Yet they possess the most valuable and enduring of the resources to trigger wealth creation and development: people and land. Why aren’t we making use of them? We’ve been incarcerated in a system that challenges those who query the imbalance of the present system. But it is such a resistance or intervention that would bring out the full potential of our people.
The terminal halfway post-1966 coup house of cards we continue to hold on to, in the name of preserving our unity, is rather breaking and killing us slowly. How come we all agree that we’re more divided, dismembered and disconnected now than in years past, despite the fiercely superficial centripetal drive of a succession of governments? The more the official homilies goading us to the centre, the more the prayers asking for deliverance from the deadly stranglehold of the centre.
I am among those who would say although Amotekun is several years late, it nevertheless offers us opportunities to make demands to secure more powers in the states and local administrations. We should go the whole hog and ask for state police, cut in national allocations to the centre and more for the outer wings etc.
Nigerians are the genii trapped in a bottle. We can’t unleash our ‘magical’ powers in the bottle of a so-termed unitary federalism. It is coerced unity. The genii in Arabian folklore would pay any price to be freed, knowing the illimitable endowments they had for society once set free. We can’t play the giant we mouth if we remain caged in the bottle of the present ‘federal’ contrivance.
What the governments in Njgeria’s South-West did the other day by asking Amotekun to leap to the rescue of their people only reminds us that we need to dislodge the present ‘federal’ contraption and put in its place a centrifugal one. Worldwide, the state and local administrations are the pull of gravity of development, not a nebulous and alien central government. The paradox of a fabulously endowed land numbering among the poorest of the poor on earth isn’t the handiwork of witches and wizards. Nor is the fault from outside. We can’t even go back to 1914. We’ve had more than a century to reverse the ‘curse’ of the Amalgamation and the ‘evil’ that came with. We can’t go back to it. But we can deal with its monstrous effects in our day.
It is the reason there is universal applause for Amotekun. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka has heralded it as the governors’ ‘New Year Present’. Dismissing Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami’s objections that Amotekun is ‘persona non grata,’ Soyinka argues that the legal nuances raised by the minister are beside the point, that Amotekun has “come to say.” And writer and columnist, Bayo Ogunmupe, commended the six states for breaking party barriers to sponsor the Western Nigeria Security Network, aka Amotekun. He says, “It is the most courageous step ever taken by the Yoruba.”
I am among those who would say although Amotekun is several years late, it nevertheless offers us opportunities to make demands to secure more powers in the states and local administrations. We should go the whole hog and ask for state police, cut in national allocations to the centre and more for the outer wings etc. For, we have suffered too long at the hands of fake federalist leaders unwilling to submit to the restructuring of the country according to popular wishes. The ripple effects of their failure to listen to us have taken us back to Neanderthal times. Our people don’t deserve to be in this Stone Age, with so much wealth at our beck and call. Other nations with far less than a quarter of our resources are global leaders because of one simple reason: they run a system that makes the people greater than the leaders.
Banji Ojewale writes from Ota, Ogun State.