Thousands of people yesterday poured into the streets in the six South-west states to show their support for the region's security initiative, Amotekun, threatened by the federal government's objection to the outfit.
The solidarity rallies for the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), however, suffered setback in Lagos State as the police dispersed the marchers before the rally could begin.
Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the South-west Governors' Forum, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), also blamed those he described as internal collaborators for the various derogatory statements on Amotekun.
He described the National Secretary of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Alhaji Alhassan Saleh, as an arrogant miscreant over his outbursts against the South-west governors on a television programme earlier yesterday.
THISDAY gathered that no fewer than 78 socio-cultural groups under the aegis of Yoruba World Congress (YWC), led by emeritus Prof. Banji Akintoye, facilitated the solidarity rally.
The objective of the rally was to make public their alignment with the decision of the South-west governors setting up the regional security outfit to address the various security challenges facing the people.
The rallies were held against the backdrop of the declaration by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), that Amotekun is illegal and the governors should drop the idea.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the solidarity walk was held at the Remembrance Arcade, opposite Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, amidst tight security.
Uniform and plain-clothes security operatives, including those drawn from the police, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), had besieged the venue in large numbers before the event started.
Some of the groups that took part in the rally included Hunters Group of Nigeria, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA), Agbekoya group, Atayese, Yoruba Reconciliation Groups, Kaaro Ojiire group, Oodua People Congress, Majiyagbe Vigilante group, United Self Determination People, Oodua Liberation Movement, Oodua Sovereignty Defence Agenda, Ojulowo Omo Oodua Group and Soludero.
The protesters, who bore placards with various inscriptions, chanted solidarity songs to express their support for the governors and ensure the implementation of the security outfit.
Inscriptions on some of the placards read, "Yoruba Omo Oodua: Protect Yourself, Amotekun;" "On Amotekun we stand;" "We want to know who owns the Land" and "No Amotekun, No Hisbah" among others.
Although security agents had attempted to abort the rally, they later allowed the Amotekun supporters to walk from the Government House to the Oyo State Government Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan, instead of round various parts of the state capital.
At the secretariat, the Amotekun supporters were received by the Chief of Staff to Governor Seyi Makinde, Chief Bisi Ilaka.
While addressing journalists on the purpose of the solidarity walk, the Head of Security, Yoruba World Congress, Mr. Kunle Adesokan, said it was to create awareness and also encourage the governors not to yield to pressure to back down on the security outfit.
He faulted the calls by critics of Amotekun that the South-west region might lose its presidential bid if it didn't back down on going ahead with the security initiative, stating that Nigeria belongs to everybody and not only any particular group or interest.
"Today is another day of history in our life time; this will serve as our stand for today's appearance of the real Amotekun to the people of the South-west. We are addressing our governors and we are giving all our governors in the South-west this solidarity support.
"We want to tell them that the entire Yoruba people are behind Amotekun and there is no going back. No matter the threat from wherever, the Yoruba are not going back on the Amotekun plan. We will never allow foreigners to come on our lands to start killing us unnecessarily. We are tired of the blood-letting," he stated.
Ilaka while receiving the protesters on behalf of the Oyo State government, said: "The idea of Amotekun is one that has come to stay. It is not one that's supposed to rival either the police or other security apparatus, which are national in nature. All we're trying to do is to complement their efforts. It's a fact that the police cannot be everywhere; they can't be in all the nooks and crannies of this state but we know that the national security apparatus is well stretched so we're only trying to complement."
Also, hundreds of Ondo State residents yesterday stormed the streets of Akure, the state capital, in support of Amotekun.
The residents who converged on the MKO Democracy Park, Oja-Oba, Akure under the aegis of Yoruba World Congress (YWC), embarked on a solidarity walk for the security outfit.
The solidarity walk terminated at the Governor's Office, Alagbaka, Akure, where the Ondo State Coordinator of the group, Mr. Tayo Akintade, said no amount of threats would intimidate the Yoruba.
Akintade said: "We will do everything to support these brave governors as they work tirelessly to see to a more secure South-west people and states."
Also, the Chairman of the solidarity walk, Mr. Toyin Ogunlakaka, said the support for Amotekun should not be seen as a sign of the Yoruba being against the federal government, adding that they are against Malami's declaration of Amotekun as being illegal.
Mr. Jeff Abidoye, who also spoke during the protest, said going by the present capacity of the Nigerian Police, which is not capable of dealing with the country's security challenges, Amotekun must be given all the necessary backing to thrive.
Receiving the group on behalf of Akeredolu, the Chief of Staff, Chief Gbenga Ale, who lauded the people for their support assured them that they will not be abandoned to their fate amidst the security challenges.
In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, citizens thronged the major streets of the state capital to fraternise with South-west governors over Amotekun.
The residents, who were chanting solidarity songs, marched from Nelson Mandela Freedom Park through Okefia down to Oja Oba all in Osogbo metropolis.
The Chairman, YWC, Osun State Chapter, and convener of the peaceful rally, Dr. Akin Adejuwon, said the rally was aimed at creating awareness for the security outfit and mobilising the people to support it.
"It is not a protest but a walk of mobilisation and awareness and sensitisation of people to the fact that Amotekun is being deployed on their behalf," he added.
While explaining the need for Amotekun in the South-west, he said it was a response to the security challenges facing the region.
He said: "The South-western part has been known to be the most peaceful part of Nigeria for generations and we have discovered that that peace is being cut short by some calculated efforts by brigands and all sorts of negative powers. So that's why we have to bring all that to a stop."
In Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, a cleric and key members of hunters as well as members of Oodua People's Congress led the Also in the rally were members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Vigilance Group of Nigeria, Yoruba Koya, Man 'O War, Oodua Union, Ekiti Council of Elders and Agbekoya.
The police and operatives of the DSS provided heavy cover for the participants, who trekked from the Fajuyi Park through Okesa Junction, Ojumose to the Erekesan Market and Ijigbo area of Ado Ekiti.
Speaking at the rally, the Coordinator of the peace protest, Pastor Praise Ayodele, said:"Amotekun has come to stay in the South-west Nigeria. We are not fighting anybody. The security of our people is very important. We are to do this to support our governors that we are happy with Amotekun.
"It is sad that our people were being killed and kidnapped and many of these carnages were without arrests. We are daily in fear of being killed and these and many more are the reasons for the formation of Amotekun.
"On the proscription of Amotekun by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, we are of the opinion that the minister only expressed himself as a private citizen who is entitled to his own opinion," he said.
He urged the governors to be focused and not to politicise Amotekun.
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Kayode Fayemi on Internal Security and former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Dele Olugbemi, addressing the rally, said: "Amotekun is for easy identification of all visitors to Ekiti and South-west. It is sad that Malami made pronouncement over issue he knew nothing about. He spoke as if he didn't know the level of insecurity in this zone.
"Some of these evil doers besieged even our towns, killed the people and destroyed everything in the farm. Amotekun will work in their localities and it is not about fighting anybody."
Making his contributions, the Coordinator of Oodua Union, Hon. Femi Robinson, said the security architecture in the country had collapsed and, therefore, there must be concerted efforts to safeguard lives and property.
The leaders of Agbekoya and Vigilance Group of Nigeria, Chief Sunday Omoyajowo, lauded the Yoruba for maintaining a united front about Amotekun, adding that nothing will change their stand.
"Amotekun won't render the police useless because security is a function of everybody; so we appreciate our governors for this initiative," he added.
The leader of the delegation of Ekiti Council of Elders, Chief Niyi Ajubulu, regretted that people can no longer move around as a result of increased insecurity.
"We have to be vigilant in this zone. Amotekun has landed and we must cooperate with them. Whoever that is averse to the formation of this outfit is satanic," he stated.
In Ogun State, the police led other security organisations such as the DSS, NSCDC and FRSC to monitor the rally, which was held in Abeokuta, the state's capital. The state's Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kenneth Ebrimson, led the security team.
The Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), YWC, Yoruba Council of Youths Worldwide (YCYW) and the NANS were among participants at the rally.
Leaders of the protesters, who included the Coordinator of Amotekun Solidarity Rally in the state, Chief Olawale Taofeek; Chairman of Oodua United People's Association, Mr. Ola Bello and the National Secretary of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Yinka Folarin, among others, were on hand to issue instructions to participants.
Speaking with journalists, Ebrimson said the state police command had no prior knowledge of the rally, but it had to come around to prevent a possible breakdown of law and order.
"I am on routine visit: everyday, I go round the metro to ensure that everywhere is calm but I got intelligence reports that some groups, yet to be identified, are trying to protest or do rally and I just came around to talk to my men and place them on the alert to ensure that there is no breach of peace.
"We are here to ensure that nobody harasses, intimidates or causes a breach of peace and goes on wanton destruction of properties; that we will not tolerate," he explained.
Coordinator of the rally, Taofeek, said Amotekun was not to victimise or witch-hunt any individual but to protect lives and property, adding that it will complement the efforts of security agencies.
"We want to tell the federal government and the entire Nigerian populace that we want Amotekun in the South-west. If Hisbah can be in the northern states, if there can be Azaru and Civilian JTF, if there can be vigilance groups, some of them even carry arms, arresting even legitimate police officers and prosecuting, so there is no reason we should not consider Amotekun in the South-west," he said.
Chairman of Oodua United People's Association, Bello, said, Amotekun was launched to check the excesses of criminals in the region.
Bello added that the entire Yoruba race was in support of the governors of the region, saying that Amotekun had come to stay.
National Secretary of the CDHR, Folarin, also said Amotekun was not to compete with any security outfit, but complement their efforts.
However, in Lagos, police stopped the rally from taking place.
THISDAY gathered that when the organisers of the rally got to the venue early yesterday morning, they found out that it had been taken over by battle-ready policemen.
The rally, which was billed for the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota, failed to hold as the police ordered the people to leave the venue.
Addressing the journalists around the venue, the Director of Media and Communication of YWC, Mr. Mathew Adeleye, expressed sadness over the development, saying that the denial by the police to use the Gani Fawehinmi Park for the protest came to them as a surprise as approval had earlier been granted by the Area Commander confirming the use of the venue by the group.
According to him, thousands of Yoruba sons and daughters came out to participate in the rally in support of Amotekun but were disappointed.
The protest was to be led by the YWC leader, Prof. Banji Akintoye.
Adeleye said the YWC was concerned about what was going on in Nigeria, adding that Akintoye in the next 24 hours, will inform the people on the next line of action.
Lagos State coordinator of the rally, Mr. George Akinola, equally expressed sadness over the disruption.
"Nobody knows Yoruba land better than the sons of Oduduwa. Whoever comes to Yoruba land to kill are known. Amotekun has 10,000-year-old technology that nobody knows. Amotekun must stand, it is a protective force for Yoruba land," he said.
Akeredolu Blames Internal Collaborators
Meanwhile, Akeredolu yesterday blamed those he described as internal collaborators for various derogatory statements on Amotekun.
Akeredolu described the National Secretary of the Miyetti Allah, Alhassan, as an arrogant miscreant for his outbursts against the governors on a television programme yesterday morning.
The governor, in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Oyewamide Ojo, noted that Alhassan would not have been bold to abuse the Yoruba race, if not for the conspiracy of some Yoruba for selfish political reasons.
He said: "Rather than throwing same stones the arrogant miscreant threw at the governors, we will rather put the blame on those internal collaborators whose parochial political pursuits have beclouded their sense of tomorrow.
"Yes, the possibility of an outburst as such can only be seen when a serving senator because of his political ambition, would rather demonise Amotekun than support the scheme."
According to him, it was shortly after a supposed senator whose immediate environment is the most affected by insecurity flayed Amotekun that Malami declared it illegal.
Segun James in Lagos, Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan, Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo, Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti, Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta and James Sowole in Akure