After the initial fury, unnecessary vituperations as well as the unusual display of media strength and activism that followed the proclamation (of illegality) on Amotekun – the South West Security Network – by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN); the executive governors of the six states of the Southwest eventually admitted their flaws and made a u-turn to do the needful.
Mr Malami who spoke through his media aide, Dr. Umaru Gwandu quoted provision of item 45 of the Second Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to drive home his point.
The AGF had simply performed the duty of his office, as the security outfit was created without any form of legal backing from either the states or the National Assembly, but the governors, among whom is a PhD holder in Political Science, Dr Kayode Fayemi and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu; rather than take the advise in good faith decided to initially play politics with the initiative.
Prominent legal luminaries from the Southwest in particular, such as Mr Femi Falana (SAN), Dr Afe Babalola and many others posited that the Attorney General has committed a serious gaffe in the interpretation of the law of the land, arguing that Amotekun could be situated in legal context.
Some other personalities who were caught in this quagmire included the likes of Prof Wole Soyinka, the Afenifere leaders like Pa Ayo Fasanmi, Pa Fasoranti, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, its Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, and of course the controversial Femi Fani-Kayode.
It is worthy of note that the governors only agreed to heed the legal advise of the AGF after rounds of meetings, consultations and deliberations, including a meeting with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (along with the Inspector General of Police and the AGF) who directed the governors to go back to give the initiative the legal backing. The VP’s meeting followed a release by the National Leader of the ruling APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who earlier spoke in the same vein.
The governors had made a resolution to create a security outfit named ‘Amotekun‘, a Yoruba name for ‘leopard’, to arrest the upsurge in insecurity in the region.
During the launch in Ibadan on January 9, 2020, the Ekiti State Governor, Mr Kayode Fayemi said, “Amotekun is a complement that will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office.
“So, we do not want this to create fear in the mind of anybody as we are not creating a regional police force and are fully aware of the steps we must take to have state police”, he said, adding that, ”We do not want anybody to misconstrue the concept of Amotekun.”
The above statements notwithstanding, the initiative was immediately greeted with mixed feelings from various quarters, with many prominent individuals and groups from the Southwest, including pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the outlawed terrorist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) declaring full support for the regional initiative.
On the opposing divide was prominent individuals such as the Patron of the Yoruba Community in Benue State, Asiwaju Isaac Akinkunmi; former Commissioner of Police, CP Alhaji Abubakar Tsav (rtd), who didn’t only kick against it but warned that it may lead to proliferation of arms.
Another strong antagonist of Amotekun was the Fulani socio-cultural organisation, Miyetti Allah, who through its national President, Bello Bodejo, insisted that the outfit is a plot against the Fulani ethnic group, thereby calling on FG to arrest the supporters of the security outfit.
While the arguments raged on social media with citizens dividing into camps, another accusation against the Amotekun surfaced. And this time, it was from the Southwest Muslim community.
On January 14, the information that applicants for the security outfit ‘could produce birth certificates from churches’ surfaced online with many Muslims accusing the promoters of Amotekun of pushing a Christian agenda.
“How could a regional government security network be demanding a birth certificate from one religious group if there is no sinister motive. There is indeed, fire on the mountain. I fear for Yoruba Muslims It seems Bosnia scenario is imminent,” Lukman Solahudeen Ayyubi asked in a Facebook post monitored by Muslim News.
In his usual manner of proactivity regarding the affairs and the rights of the Muslims especially in the southwest region, the Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Prof. Lakin Akintola called out the Southwest governors, accusing them of brewing and pursuing a crusader militia.
In the press release, titled, “Amotekun: who ordered registration in Churches?”, Prof Akintola faulted the process of application, thereby asking, “Are the job vacancies which Amotekun is certain to open meant for Christians only? Are the South West states declaring their states as Christian states?
” Are they joining Nyesom Wike of Rivers in a Christian enclave? Is Amotekun a secret Christian army? Only one out of the five governors in the region is a Muslim. Are the Christian governors ganging up to form a crusader militia?
“Why then must applicants bring birth certificates from churches? Are we sure that this will not be followed by a request for applicants to bring referral letters from pastors? Handlers of Amotekun owe us an explanation,” Akintola said in a statement.
Few days after MURIC described Amotekun as a Christianization agenda, the Osun Muslim Community (OSMC) also raised a similar alarm, branded the security outfit a Christian agenda to silence Muslims.
In a statement jointly signed by Alhaji Mustafa Olawuyi and Alhaji Hashim Olapade, the group relied on the circulated information on social media, thereby condemned the process of recruitment into the newly launched Western Nigeria Security Network.
Surprisingly, in less than 48 hours, OSMC made a u-turn shortly after meeting with the government of Osun state, whose governor, Alhaji Ishaq Oyetola was the only Muslim among the 6 southwest governors behind the formation of the outfit.
Although the real reason for the sudden change wasn’t made public, Alhaji Olawuyi however said, “We want to allay the fears of the teeming population of the Muslims that the outfit has no plan to marginalize or short-change the interest of Islam and Muslims. No one would be put in darkness whenever the operational structure and guidelines are out before implementation.”
While many critics interrogated and questioned the sudden U-turn, another allegation against Amotekun surfaced. Muslim critics claimed that the name of the security outfit, ‘Amotekun‘ has a biblical origin, coined from Jeremiah 5: 6 which says, “A leopard shall guard over their city….”
According to them, Amotekun was mentioned in the verse with reference to guarding a city. This latest revelation was another justification that the promoters of the initiative purposely picked the name in order to score a pyrrhic spiritual point, the real clandestine motive behind the initiative.
The Vice President of the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria (NCSN), Sheikh Abdur Rasheed Hadiyatullah frowned at the coinage even though he seemed less offensive compared with the fact that it was once advertised that any applicant for the purpose of recruitment into the outfit should produce a birth certificate from a church as a precondition for qualification.
Sheikh Hadiyatullah said, “This is the height of rude insults to the religious sensibilities of the Muslims in the region. It tells a lot about the real motive of the promoters of the programme. Little wonder no consideration was given to the legal conflicts such a programme would generate in the face of the extant Laws of the land which is the 1999 Constitution as amended.”
The Truth about the Allegations
The promoters of Amotekun have however debunked the claims that applicants are to produce birth certificate from Church which was the genesis of the religious angle to the controversies.
The Director-General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye, in a chat with Muslim News via Facebook page said the controversial information about the requirement for recruitment was not authentic, saying it is the handiwork of mischief makers.
Further, Mr Oyeleye was also quoted in an interview with The Sun of January 26, saying, “there was no order from the state that those to be recruited must present birth certificates issued by churches.
“Thankfully, the governor of the State of Osun, His Excellency, Gboyega Oyetola, quickly issued a statement, rebuking and rebutting Prof. Ishaq Akintola, saying that is not true. This is Yoruba land. We don’t play religious politics.
“Every household has traditional worshippers, Christians, and Muslims. I know of twins from the same parents, one is a Muslim and one is a Christian. We read the news on the birth certificates too and we quickly put out a disclaimer that it is not true.
Muslim News investigations later revealed that the circulated information about the recommendation letter or birth certificate from the church was not genuine.
The lengthy message which also had other requirements of recruitments including the Amotekun uniform, was not signed. No one knew its source.
“It is very sad that the Muslim community didn’t verify the originality and authenticity of the information before using it as a yardstick for the rejection or criticism of Amotekun. If we had followed strictly Allah’s injunction on the need to verify information as firmly established in surah Hujurat (Q 49), we would not have been where we are today,” Saheed Ayinla, said while speaking with Muslim News.
However, according to Alhaji Lukman Onaolapo, the Coordinator of the Concerned Muslim Organisations in Oyo State, Muslims have every reason to be suspicious.
“You can’t really blame the Muslims; they have every reason to be apprehensive. They have been oppressed and suppressed. Hijab has been denied severally in public institutions despite a plethora of court cases. They were gate out and short-changed at the National Confab (National Conference) during former President Goodluck Jonathan era.
“The injustice was never addressed, despite the promise by the then president. The same Jonathan with a Christian governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria removed the Arabic inscriptions from Naira, the Nigerian currency, because of sheer hatred for the Muslims and Islam.
“In addition to this, the Christian Association of Nigeria has laid the foundation for volatility – always blowing non-volatile issues out of proportion. So, Muslims are only paying CAN in their own coin.
“However, if the issue of obtaining Birth Certificate from the church cannot be substantiated, the source of Amotekun from the Bible is too real to be regarded as a coincidence. So why won’t Muslims be suspicious of their neighbours who under many guises of educating our children have converted and led many out of Islam,” he said.
Amotekun in the Bible claims
Some Christians have argued that Amotekun is not their agenda despite the special mention in the Bible.
According to a pastor Joshua Bola Taiwo of the Gospel Faith Mission International, Amotekun is not a Christian name. It is an animal’s name although mentioned in the Bible. (Jer. 5:6). There are one thousand and one animals names mentioned in the Bible.
“What many of you don’t know is that majority of Christians may not join Amotekun because they cannot carry charms. If it is compulsory for Amotekun members to use charms, I bet you, true Christians will not do it. Amotekun is far from being a Christian programme.”
To be continued…..