Yoruba’ll rise against govs if they dump Amotekun – Adebanjo: A leader of the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, talks to ALEXANDER OKERE about the security outfit, codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun,’ launched by South-West states in Nigeria and the declaration by the Federal Government that it is illegal
You have been an advocate of restructuring and state police amidst the security challenges facing the South-West. What is your reaction to the position of the Federal Government declaring the recently inaugurated security outfit, Operation Amotekun, as illegal and unknown to the Constitution?
The position of the Federal Government is not tenable. It is an insult to the people of western Nigeria. How can it say we have no right to take care of our gates, which it has proven incapable of supervising? A lot of professors and prominent Nigerians have been kidnapped around our area, while it is supposed to take care of them. So, we said we wanted to employ an assistant for the government to take care of our area. How can that be illegal? Anyway, I am not surprised. They (Presidency) have a hidden agenda to render us helpless and allow herdsmen to attack us.
Are you saying there is an ethnic agenda behind the rejection of the regional security outfit by the Presidency?
I have said it; I am not just saying it. And I am accusing (Maj. General Muhammadu) Buhari (retd.) of it. It is the process of Fulanisation and part of the process is saying any Fulani from Africa can come (to Nigeria) and get their visa on the spot. He is not asking investors to come and get visas on the spot. He is asking herdsmen to come and get visas on the spot, people that have been accused of attacking us, molesting us, raping us, killing us and burning our houses. It is just wicked.
And that is the reason why we say until we have a restructured Nigeria under a federal system, there can be no peace. Buhari is oppressing us. He is not leading us. He is acquiring all powers of dictatorship. If not, how can he say I cannot man my gates or that a security guard cannot be employed when the community cannot do that? Even in estates that engage the services of security guards, individuals also employ private guards.
But the Federal Government said it was not carried along before Amotekun was set up. Do you think proper consultation was done before the launch of the security outfit?
Why should we consult them about security? That is part of the awkwardness of the Constitution. The state governments are not under the Federal Government; under a federal system, they are coordinates, not subordinates. The Attorney-General (of the Federation) must read the law thoroughly. You want a state governor to come and consult you to govern his state and protect his people? What an insult! What ignorance of the law!
Critics of Operation Amotekun are concerned that it is being used to push for political restructuring which the Federal Government doesn’t seem open to. Do you think it should be a concern?
Why should they be concerned about that when we say we want to be autonomous in a federating state? That is vindicating what I have accused Buhari’s government of. Does he not want us to have state police, autonomy or go back to the Constitution under which we had independence, which is what restructuring is, which is what I have emphasised? That is the Constitution signed by (the late Alhaji Tafawa) Balewa, the Sardauna of Sokoto, (the late Alhaji Ahmadu Bello), the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo at independence. It was the military that changed the Constitution to what we have now and we are saying we don’t want it.
We are saying we don’t want violence, so let’s sit down and agree on one. We had one in 2014 and he said he wouldn’t look at it. He wants to continue to rule us by force with a Constitution made by northerners, whereby he acquires all the powers in the country.
Considering the displeasure among residents in the South-West at the activities of Fulani herdsmen, don’t you think Operation Amotekun could be abused as some groups opposed to it have said?
How can anybody say that? When we say we want to take care of our area, they say it can be abused. It is just like the excuse they are giving about state police, that the governors might use them against the opposition. Is the Federal Government not using the police against the state that does not belong to its party? We are not fools. All these are untenable arguments in a society of enlightened people. They have not learnt anything from the Nigerian Civil War. It is because they want to rule by force that they exclude certain people from the government of the day and still say they want one Nigeria.
That is why I accuse Buhari of insincerity about the country being united. He is the number one enemy of a united Nigeria. As long as he refuses to restructure the country with the agreed constitution of the people, he is a dictator; not withstanding his claim that he was a born-again democrat when he was sworn in; he is the opposite. He obeys any court ruling that he wants and disobeys others. Criticising Amotekun is just pretence. He wants to render everybody defenceless and he has not disarmed the Fulani herdsmen. When we say we want to defend ourselves, he says no. What kind of dictatorship is that? What kind of oppression is that?
There are concerns that some South-West governors in the All Progressives Congress may withdraw their support for Operation Amotekun, following the disapproval by the Federal Government…
If they do that, the people of Yorubaland will rise against them! They dare not! I challenge any of them to say he is withdrawing. I am even saying Amotekun is not enough for us. We want complete state police under the control of the governors and like I said, with the authority of the police not being in the hands of the governors, the governors are lame duck governors.
They are called the chief security officers of their states, yet they have no control over the apparatus of security. But the little they are now trying to do, the Federal Government is saying no to it. Can you see how helpless they want us to be when the bandits attacking us are armed? Only God will forgive Buhari. The oppression is too much.
As a prominent Yoruba leader, what would you advise the governors to do to ensure that the security outfit is not suppressed?
Nobody can suppress it. As a matter of fact, the AGF has no legal right (to say Amotekun is illegal). He should go to court to establish it. That is the essence of the judiciary. This is a constitutional democracy. So, if he believes that the states have gone beyond their jurisdiction, he should go to court to assert it. He has no right to sit down in his office, as one of the governors said, to issue orders. My view is that the governors should immediately get an injunction against that order.
What is your reaction to the warning by the police that they would not tolerate the unlawful possession of firearms by members of the new security outfit?
They (police) are only looking for crises. If they arrest anybody, saying we have no right to protect ourselves, we will call for uprising for against them.
Don’t you think the controversy surrounding the establishment of the outfit could be detrimental to the South-West if the governors and the Presidency don’t reach an agreement?
You should talk to Buhari about that. The man is beating us and saying we shouldn’t cry. He is pushing the people of the South-West. We would be stupid not to rise against him.