Amotekun, still a beast of illusion

By Olatunji Ololade

In Amotekun we entered animal aura. It promised magic, white and tame, black and wild. Enchantment corrupted psychic space and made it temenos. In this ritual precinct, the security outfit manifested as a sacred creed of mind; a political logic of space, nature and expediences.

Yet this minute, it unfurls to dominance and defilement. But who domineers? Who is defiled?

Recently, the police in Oyo State confirmed the death of 11 people in an alleged herdsmen attack on Igangan community in Ibarapa area of the state. Gunmen suspected to be herdsmen, allegedly stormed Igangan with about 25 motorcycles on Sunday morning and torched buildings including the king’s palace. Gory videos and pictures of human casualties have since been shared on several social media channels, inciting outrage and inflaming the social space.

Reacting to the attack, Ondo governor and chairman of the Southwest Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, in a statement on behalf of the forum, condemned the killings stressing that, “certain elements are bent on causing friction among the peoples of this country with the sole aim of achieving a pernicious end. We on our part are resolved to defend our people, their property, and all legitimate means of livelihood against both internal and external aggression. On this, there will be no compromise. We cannot afford to fail.”

The attack on Igangan comes months after the head of the Fulani community in the town, Salihu Abdulkadir, was ejected by self-acclaimed activist, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, who accused him of complicity in the murders and abductions of farmers and residents of the community by criminal herdsmen. Although Abdulkadir denied the allegation, he was forcibly ejected from the community.

In the wake of the recent killings, pundits accuse Oyo governor, Seyi Makinde, his SGF peers and the state security agencies for failing to preempt the attack.

Again, the debate segues to the efficacy of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) code-named: Operation Amotekun as well as the politics of power and self-preservation that informed its establishment. Apologists of the vigilance group enthused that it would protect lives and property of Yorubaland. The group was expected to work with the police and other security agencies to protect the region from killer herdsmen, robbers and kidnappers among other terrors, claimed the southwest governors.

“Whoever comes to Yorubaland to kill are known. Amotekun has 10,000-year-old technology that nobody knows. Amotekun must stand, it is a protective force for Yorubaland,” said an apologist.

It’s easy to get smitten by the romanticism and rage of it all. The politicised arguments, seasoned justifications, foxy upbraids and catlike ripostes attained harmony in the jarring snarl of the southwest’s feline sentinel.

The drama intensifies but the effort has, so far, been unproductive. In the wake of the Igangan killings and similar attacks in Papalanto and Sagamu in Ogun State, many have questioned the relevance of the security group.

While shared militia, driven by an autonomous but integrated command structure founded on superior, native intelligence seemed a worthy and commendable response to the forays of murderous herdsmen, armed bandits and kidnappers tormenting the southwest’s outliers, the success of the venture depends on the quality of commitment vested in it by the SGF and other stakeholders.

The falsehood of bromides and artifice disinters to sinister truths; for instance, the politics and drama of Amotekun was predetermined along the rigid straits of the southwest regions socioeconomic and political realities which like previous initiatives of similar nature, fulfilled Orwell’s Animal Farm stereotype.

While career courtiers and so-called “social media influencers” donned face powder and powered the governors’ raucous orchestra, none acknowledged that we are at this sorry pass because the SGF and their peers across the country failed the electorate.

The southwest needed an Amotekun because the governors had over time, failed to commit state resources to actualise development plans and policy objectives.

If they had spent judiciously on education, health, economy, and infrastructure, the region may have appreciated in scholarship, medical services, security and industry. The region, would thereby enjoy improved quality of youth and living standards, and an army of builders and progressives undeserving of enlistment as members of Amotekun, or the rampaging hordes of “real” and “fake” killer herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers.

The spectre of social unrest pervading the southwest, like neighbouring regions, feeds off the greed and ambition of inefficient leaders. While the region’s vulnerability to attack manifests as a consequence of the unforeseen economic collapse, civil disobedience and widespread violence wracking neighbouring states, it’s noisy plummet down the steep slope of anarchy is attributable to inefficient leadership.

While we applaud Amotekun as a worthy response to the southwest’s insecurity problem, the governors must facilitate seamless cooperation between Amotekun and state security outfits. They address, for instance, police contempt for the vigilance scheme. Several police officers have scoffed at the idea, lamenting that funding committed to Amotekun could serve better purpose if funnelled to improve police operations.

The governors must also seek the cooperation of their northern and southern peers, who have so far done little or nothing to improve cross-border security operations.

More importantly, they must rapidly re-enfranchise unemployed youths into legitimate, mainstream economy, and tear down the frames of the highly politicised, exclusive socioeconomic circuits to accommodate the impoverished divide. At the moment, the region suffers a dislocation between the short-term interests of the ruling class and the longer-term interests of the electorate.

The southwest governors must work against the notion that they haven’t been able to resolve the region’s security and development challenges because they are rich. Wealth and privilege insulates them from the major afflictions of the poor electorate; these include bad roads, substandard healthcare and education, and comatose infrastructure. Affluence permits them to turn those around them into compliant and expendable workers, hangers-on, sycophants, and candidates for lifeboat palliatives, like Amotekun.

Wealth, argues Fitzgerald, breeds a class of people for whom human beings are disposable commodities.

Although the governors affect a protective mien, their actions resonate as chilling neglect of the miseries of the impoverished outliers.

Sadly, the citizenry’s inability to grasp the pathology of their leaders as members of an oligarchic corporate elite makes it difficult to organise a resounding change in their fate via the ballot box.

Politics looms entwined with money and power across the region, two cuffs of its shackled-lyre.

Armed with the cuffs, the governors turn the electorate into docile subjects of their godlike delectation; there is a vast disconnect between what they say and what they do. Sadly, the masses are blinded and enchanted by their illusions. No thanks to a fawning press and civil societies.

While hope may yet flourish in its presence, this minute, Amotekun subsists as a frantic mental caress that induces weeping instead of applause. The masterminds (governors) grope and stroke their beloved (electorate) with calloused palms, violating the latter’s psychic spaces even as you read.

Until they match in virtual lock-step with their campaign promises, the governors will loom as marketers of illusion, skittish shamans channelling deceit to trade in confusion. They would be continually seen as crafty fabricators of mood and gesture, prowling the edges of duty cloaked in deceit. These are truths that can’t be ignored.