In this interview, Second Republic lawmaker and elder statesman, Junaid Muhammed, said Amotekun is politically motivated and a ploy for secession by the Southwest
Recently, governors of Southwest states came together to set up a security outfit called Amotekun to check insecurity in their region. This comes as the national security architecture seems overwhelmed, but the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, said it is unconstitutional. What is your take?
First and foremost, a line has been drawn among most conscientious and not reasonable Nigerians. A line has been drawn on the question of the desire or otherwise of what people call state police. The agitation for state police started from the Southwest. It was purely political; it had nothing to do with security. It started long before this Fourth Republic and the main purpose for the agitation for state police was that some political elements among the elite of the Southwest believe that somehow they would be in a position to exercise political power to their own satisfaction, unless they control those elements of national police, particularly the police and the secret services.
This is not new. So, they kept on the agitation until this republic, especially from 2009 when the security situation became much dire with the emergence of Boko Haram. So, you can see clearly they use the dire state of insecurity in the country as an alibi. There was a political intent; there was a political purpose. They needed to create a regional police, not just state police emanating from that part of the country, because of the idea of seceding to create Odudua Republic for a very long time. So now that the Federal Government, using the president, as one single spokesperson on the issue, has yielded to them on the idea of state police, they quickly went round, rediscovered their old agenda of having their own regional police and now they came up quickly with this Amotekun.
The way things happen quickly in Nigeria it must be a surprise to us who are observant that within a very short period that they have been given the right to do it they have come up with the structure; they have bought vehicles and they are planning to buy arms. So, if people are concerned they are justifiably concerned, because this is nothing new but a rediscovery of an old agenda, which is tied up with the idea of seceding, because they have gotten everything they wanted from Nigeria. They control the economy. Lagos alone controls over 50 per cent of the economy and they believe that they can do without Nigeria even though, in their own view, to rubbish everything that is national; they forget the fact that even if they have the manufacturing base, they don’t have the market to sell. Without the market I don’t see how their economy can thrive. Everything in Lagos today was done by the Federal Government. Somehow they believe that they can get away with it, retain what is their own, let the rest of us all go and wallow in poverty. Good luck to them.
I don’t want to speak to what the attorney-general has said because I am not a member of his party neither am I a member of his government. I am completely persuaded that it was wrong to have allowed the idea of a state police. Some of us have been talking against it for over two decades. Now that it has come to pass, the hidden agenda has now come out. Nigerians should now open their eyes to see what is afoot. As I said, when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s regime decided to create Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and he appointed Professor Wole Soyinka, one of the prior statements of Soyinka was that he was going to arm most of the officers, who came from among his boys, errand boys many of who came from background of drama and fine arts. How do you think they could take charge of the extensive road network in Nigeria? Nobody cared to ask. The idea of arming FRSC died only because the seed money given for the takeoff of the project was said to have allegedly been put in somebody’s personal account and it became a national scandal.
Is Amotekun any different from Hisbah and Civilian JTF?
Why are they comparing the issue of Amotekun with Hisbah? It is a programme I have spoken against for over 20 years. My views about Hisbah are negative views wherever it exists. The head of Hisbah in Kano under former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau was the one that was inciting people not to allow children to be vaccinated, but when he was arrested and taken to Kuje Prison, we had peace and later Shekarau had to issue a statement and allow the vaccination to continue. You can see that they are all political creations. If you want to believe that this wonder organization can solve your security problem then you are making a blunder. To solve security problem you have to be sincere, study the problem and have a national consensus about the problem, especially what are the real issues confronting us in terms of security? But don’t tell me about what (Femi) Falana has been saying; he knows he is lying.
I recall vividly he coming to congratulate me about what I said on Hisbah and even about the introduction of Shari’a. Bala Usman and I had a reason to go and tell (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo not to get involved in it, because they will drag it into the worse politics. We warned late Bola Ige that anybody who is not a Muslim and is looking at this issue, the same Muslims will teach those governors using religion to win election, only to get there and do nothing but corruption.
What solutions do you recommend to tackle the spate of insecurity in the country?
If I have the solution or panacea or a silver bullet I shouldn’t be sitting here in a small bungalow in Kano; I should be the president. I don’t know and, in fact, nobody does. Let me be honest with you: nobody has the solution by himself. It is a country of over 200 million people. God did not curse us to live under the situation we find ourselves. Let there be an elite political consensus. I have been saying this since 1985 after Babangida came to power on 27 August 1985. I said the elite must come together with sincerity, discuss this issue, come out with modalities on what needs to be done. Whatever needs to be done must be weighed critically and we must know who has responsibility for what. Asking me as an individual that I should give solution to the problem in all the areas of this country, I think you are not being fair to me.
But the attorney-general never issued any statement against Hisbah in Kano?
In Kano and Zanfara, Hisbah don’t bear arms. In the Northeast, particularly in Borno metropolitan and parts of Adamawa, the people recruited are hunters, who carrying bow and arrow. Can you compare that with sophisticated guns and sub-machine guns that are being carried by Operation Amotekun members? The argument advanced by Falana is fraudulent, divisible. Hisbah has never carried arms. Anyway Hisbah itself has never been universally accepted. I am one of those who opposed it in the past and I took my opposition to both Obasanjo and also to late Bola Ige. As far as I am concerned, the comparison between Hisbah and Amotekun, which is going to be a force under a single command with lavished amount of money and communication gadgets and vehicles to rival the Federal Government’s security outfits, which is represented in those areas, is a recipe for anarchy and confusion and those lawyers, who are trying to present those arguments are being simply duplicitous as always.
The issue of border closure is also closely related to insecurity. How far has that solved the problem?
We knew that the government has been supported, by and large, by majority of Nigerians on the issue of the closure of our borders, because open borders are threats to our national security. Secondly, the borders are used by our neigbours to undermine our national economy. That is why people supported the government, not because of party or any region or religion or ethnic affiliation. However, to our surprise Ganiyu Adams, who is the de facto leader of Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) issued a statement in which he was warning and threatening the government not to do anything about the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic because, according to him, the Yoruba race are also living in Benin Republic, so nobody should enforce the Federal Government’s decision to close all the borders, particularly the Nigeria-Benin Republic border.
The greatest enemy of Nigeria today is the Republic of Benin, because the President of Republic of Benin is a businessman, who is involved in the criminality that is going on in Nigeria. Call it bunkering, smuggling of cars, smuggling of rice. In fact, as small as Benin Republic – it is smaller that some states in Nigeria – it is the biggest importer of rice. We all know that the rice is not meant for consumption in Benin Republic, but for smuggling into Nigeria and for its consumption in Nigeria with our population of about 200 million people. We cannot afford to have Benin Republic divide our national economy. Our wealthiest businessman, not only in Nigeria but Africa, Aliko Dangote, has said that it is impossible to survive and thrive with a neighbour like Benin Republic as neighbor. Yet Gani Adams says otherwise. That is why I said we should be very careful about the mindset of these people.
Is there no way these things can be harmonised?
You people in the media are eating your cake and having it. Nigeria is a federal system; it is a federation, a federation in it’s own casual document; the constitution has elaborated issues, which are the responsibility of the Federal Government, those of the state governments and those for the local governments, covering for the three tiers. But it also provides that in anywhere, joint responsibility is possible between the Federal Government and the states, and where it is possible it should be done. But the idea that the police in Nigeria – I don’t know anywhere else other than Nigeria where police should be in the hands of state – especially state governments given their temperament, their irresponsibility, their recklessness and corruption. It might be a reckless recipe and it shows clearly that some people are pursuing a political agenda of secession and turning the country haywire and using that same lawlessness and lack of security to justify their breaking up the country.
Is another civil war looming?
I think there is a misguided conviction among some politicians in certain parts of this country that somehow the country owes them a living, that the country cannot do without them, that whatever they want must be law and be a cardinal point of this country. That cannot happen. Secondly, the idea that we can develop by being divergent, reckless and irresponsible does not hold because history does not prove that. Thirdly, those who imagine that somehow they can make their own mistake and make the entire country pay for the mistake are also being fascist. Those who encourage others to go to a civil war only to come and laugh at the people who are at the receiving end… the damage the civil war did to this country is a great disservice, because without that tribal coup, of course, the creation of more states and the civil war, Nigeria would have been a better place and even our democracy would have matured. But here we are today: you cross your bridge as you approach it.
The way we are now there is no alternative to national police, but I believe some day, when we are more sophisticated and more sincere and we have better leadership, then it will be possible to delegate some of the powers as regards maintenance of security to lesser bodies. But the idea that you can now carve out law and order in other areas and then create a super police, which is neither federal nor state, is, in my view, fraudulent; it is mischievous, irresponsible and they imagine that the country is going to take it lying down? I think they have made a very serious mistake. So, coming back as an afterthought, they said they did not even mean to confront the Federal Government. It is neither there nor here; it is sheer nonsense. If they like let then go and confront the Federal Government; the Federal Government is not afraid of them.
But I hope the Federal Government learns its own lessons, because you don’t make policies by opening your mouth to say ‘go do this or don’t do this’. Go back to the law; many of them are lawyers. If they don’t understand that the law itself is supreme and as far as possible we should follow the law, as provided, before we do anything reckless, because this idea of Amotekun was an act of recklessness. Those who are at the forefront of the Amotekun, while in Abuja they are APC, but whne they go back to their respective states, they are something else. So, it shows you that these people are actually unreliable. If care is not taken they will drag us into another civil war and I don’t believe the country can survive another civil war.
The national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) has not spoken and people have been challenging him to speak up. What would you say to that?
As far as I am concerned, I know (Ahmed Bola) Tinubu’s views because I have access to him. I can go and discuss with him. Tinubu has never, in his political carrier, questioned the existence of Nigeria as a single state. He has always believed that Nigeria and Nigerians will be better off by being one united country. Secondly, I don’t have to repeat to you again that Tinubu is one of the two credible presidential candidates for 2023. You have to make a choice in politics when to speak and when not to speak. Tinubu has not been anointed and he has never appointed himself as the leader of the Yoruba race. Those who have, have never been elected by anybody, people like Ayo Adebanjo and so on. There is another self-appointed leader, Banjo Akintoye, who now says he is the leader of the Yoruba. Tinubu has never placed himself in that position, but he says he is a politician. He is out to be in power, because he believes he can do good by being in power. And I believe it will not serve Tinubu’s interest to simply come and take side on this issue, because both sides have made blunders.
As far as I am concerned, the president should have not told them to go and create state police. He knew the argument has been ongoing for almost two and half decade. So, why are you asking Tinubu to speak? If he speaks, will that change what Buhari has said or what the Amotekun zonal governors have done? If you want to criticise somebody, if you are in politics, it is fair game you can be criticised. You have to be fair in criticising somebody; that is the way I see it. I am one of those who can go and confront Tinubu, and tell him, ‘look, this thing is a blunder,’ but I believe he has no hand in it. Are you saying everything that happens in Kano must be my responsibility even though I don’t have any formal position in the governance of Kano? Some of these arguments are childish arguments.
There are some of APC governors, who hate Tinubu like hell. Why? Because he has been successful and he has avoided some of the common mistakes politicians make. He has not shown his hands too early. Is Tinubu our own universal problem-solver? Instead of asking Tinubu as leader of APC to speak up, why don’t you blame Buhari? Who gave the order in the first place? Because if Buhari had not said so they would not have dared gone ahead to do what they have done. So be fair to everybody, even our enemies.