The harmattan was biting. The television camera brought worrying images of one of the twenty two Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps in Benue State. A mother has only a small wrapper to cover her baby and herself. It was a losing battle. The type that the about half a million IDPs in the state have had to fight in the last few years against starvation, cholera, measles, general insecurity and death
They are victims of the criminality the President Muhammadu Buhari government has allowed to fester by not sending the military to take back the villages and towns seized by plunderers who claim to be herdsmen, and returning the victims to their ancestral lands. So, a culture of impunity has been nurtured.
There are forced population displacements. So rather than build houses for our increasing population, we build IDP camps or convert schools and public places to such camps. Children who should be in school, are roaming the streets. The same scenario plays out in neigbouring Plateau State where the bandits have renamed about three dozen conquered communities and villages.
The Buhari administration in 2018 actually advised the victims to abandon their homes for the invaders as it is better to be alive than be killed defending their ancestral homes! We have a duty to reclaim those lands and allow the displaced to return home. Otherwise, we risk future conflicts as the displaced or their children try to retake their lands.
Imagine the possible scenario of more bandits coming from other parts of the republic or outside the country to reinforce the invaders, and the local people asking for support from other Nigerians; civil war can break out. The time to act is now or what is the use of a democracy that depopulates?
Already, many parts of the North West have witnessed bandits creating their own republics with their own laws, police, judiciary, and exerting ransom from whole communities. Granting the bandits amnesty and signing peace accords with them, have not fundamentally changed the situation on the ground. In these areas and parts of Niger State, populations have been forced to move into IDP camps or completely relocate. Already, the Boko Haram terrorists in the North East have transformed large parts of that region into IDP camps.
For me, it does not make sense for the populace to continuously retreat and abandon their homes to the ravaging bandits. They must be assisted to stand and fight. That way, the bandits will not roam virtually unchallenged. Part of the solution is to mobilize the populace to defend themselves, their families and property, and complement the efforts of the security services as the Civilian Joint Task Force is doing in the North East against the Boko Haram.
If your neigbour's house is on fire, it will be stupid to fold your arms and watch until it spreads to yours; containing the fires of banditry and the resultant IDPs in the North must have influenced the decision of the governors in the West to evolve a common self-defence effort called Amotekun (Leopard). The name should not evince fear except in the minds of the bandits. Employing such names is no different from the military launching operations like Snake or Crocodile Smile.
Those governors, like others in the country, spend huge sums buying equipment for the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies and assisting them with operational costs. But the reality is that the police and other security forces fighting the Boko Haram and other bandits in several parts of the country, are overstretched. There is a saying that you do not admonish the hunchback to straighten up; if he could, he would have done so from childhood. So also do the security services not need any admonition from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces or any of us to check banditry, kidnapping and violent crimes that are spiraling out of control.
The governors do not need to wait until the West also becomes a sea of IDP camps before taking appropriate measures to defend the life and property of the people they have been elected to serve. In fact, their slow response in establishing 'Amotekun' was beginning to seem like an act of unresponsiveness to the yearnings and needs of the people in that part of the country. In any case, what is the worth of the chief security officer of a state that cannot raise a finger to defend the lives of the people in the state? The most fundamental right is the right to life, and if that is threatened, every human being has a duty to self-defence. Anybody that has a contrary opinion is a wolf in sheep clothing.
While the police and other security agencies have a duty to ensure the security of the land, it is the people who know their homes that are in the best position to provide intelligence and complement the efforts of the security services.
I have read the rather arrogant opinion of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami declaring in a magisterial manner that 'Amotekun' is illegal. People like him suffer from multiple diseases including arrogance, appropriating the powers of the judiciary, sense of proprietorial ownership of the country and a generally poor understanding of policing.
Malami is like people who see football as a kick-and-follow game rather than an art that requires the skills of a Gordon Banks in goal, a Paolo Maldini in defence, a mesmerizing Jay Jay Okocha in the midfield and the goal scoring prowess of a Pele, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo; he sees policing as a baton and gun matter.
Whereas policing is more of prevention, intelligence gathering, use of the intellect and incorporation of the citizenry in achieving the desired results of protecting lives and property. He also seems incapable of understanding that he is the Attorney General of a federation and not of a conquering unitary system where all power must flow from a central command.
In many countries, a scheme like the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, would be a paramilitary outfit with the twin duties of serving the communities and protecting them against criminals. But Nigerian elites think they must control all citizens, in this, they will fail.
Reading Malami's body language, the plan is to humiliate the Western governors and claim a sense of superiority over them as if there are first class and second class citizens in the country. The governors of the West have a choice either to capitulate to threats and intimidation, and lose face, or continue with their noble steps of protecting the populace over whom they govern.
I support 'Amotekun' I am an Amotekun.