By Kalu Eme, PhD
Exactly five days after the launch of the South-West security outfit codenamed “Operation Amotekun” (Leopard), the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday, 14th January, 2020, swiftly declared the outfit illegal. He didn’t waste much time. Just five days. And he was not equivocal about it. He meant what he said. Napoleon, sorry, Malami is always right.
On October 27, 1999, Alhaji Ahmed Sani who was then the Governor of Zamfara State, in a brazen defiance of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, publicly declared Zamfara an Islamic State. The concept of a secular state that Nigeria operates is enshrined in the Constitution which provides that the Government (at every level) shall not adopt any religion as State religion. That Constitutional provision meant nothing to Alhaji Ahmed Sani because he knew nobody could stop him. Before long, eleven other States in the northern part of Nigeria joined him and Nigeria had 12 States, all in the North, that declared themselves Islamic States. Today, twenty-one years after, Malam Abubakar Malami is yet to declare those 12 Islamic States illegal. He may argue that he was not the Attorney-General in 1999 so he would not be expected to issue the declaration. But there was an Attorney-General then just as he is today. It is not the person that occupies the office that matters. It is the office. The occupant of the office then did not see anything illegal in 12 States in the north being declared Islamic because, as many people have stated, there was, and there is still, an Islamisation agenda.
On May 24, 2019, Vanguard newspaper, accessed online on May 26, 2019, quoted former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and the National Christian Elders’ Forum as asserting that “Boko Haram and herdsmen’s activities have become a tool to Fulanise and Islamise West Africa.” On Friday, December 20, 2019, the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo joined the list of voices who have attested to an Islamisation agenda in Nigeria when he declared that the US had placed Nigeria on the watch list of countries which “had been violating freedom of religion.” And just a few days ago, the outspoken Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Rt. Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah “accused the Federal Government of being sympathetic to Islamist insurgency” (ref DailySun newspaper of January 9, 2019, page 10). In a statement, the bishop alleged that the Federal Government was using different methods to achieve the same goal of Islamic dominance in Nigeria. According to him, the Government “is using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence.”
The above weighty assertions by those who know better define the actions and utterancesof the Abubakar Malamis of Nigeria. When the issue in question is in tandem with the Islamisation agenda, it is legal. No comment. But when the victims attempt to protect themselves, it is declared illegal. According to the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and National Co-ordinator of Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Operation Amotekun is a joint taskforce involving OPC, hunters, other vigilante groups, the police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the army and it is aimed to “address the rising incidents of kidnapping, robbery and killings in the South-West” (ref. DailySun edition of January 9, 2020, pg 4).\
It is common knowledge that beginning from 1998 when their attacks were first recorded in Jos, Plateau State, cattle herders, aka Fulani herdsmen, have held Nigeria hostage, particularly the southern parts of Nigeria, killing innocent citizens at will, maiming others, kidnapping some for ransom, destroying farm crops and constituting a terror to farmers and rural communities. Since Abubakar Malami has not declared their activities illegal, should concerned Governments remain helpless and watch their citizens slaughtered like Ramadan rams?
In February 2016, the Agatu killings were reportedly master-minded by cattle herders.The Guardian newspaper of February 25, 2016 reported that “shock, disbelief and anger yesterday trailed the alleged killing of hundreds of persons in four Agatu communities in Benue State by marauding Fulani herdsmen and militiamen.” Abubakar Malami was not available to declare such murderous gangsterism illegal. Two months later, the Vanguard newspaper of April 26, 2016 published a banner headline screaming “Bloodbath in Enugu as herdsmen kill 40; Catholic Church, 11 Houses Burnt” in Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. The herdsmen were reportedly “armed with sophisticated guns and machetes” as has become their tradition. There was no Malami to declare the herdmen’s act, nor their carrying of sophisticated arms and ammunition illegal.
The Vanguard newspaper editorial of March 15, 2016 states that the Federal Government “had paid scant attention to the now frequent invasions of Nigerian farming communities by heavily armed herdsmen alleged to be of Fulani ethnic stock. In fact, no week passes without a report in the media of fresh attacks carried out by these herdsmen who have for years made the South-West, South-South, South-East and North-Central zones of the country the theatres of wanton killings and destruction.” In an interview with DailySun newspaper published on November 2, 2019, the National President of Miyetti Allah, the socio-cultural organization covering Fulani herdsmen,. Kautal Hore warned that “any Governor that wants to enjoy peace in his State must establish RUGA settlements for herdsmen.” That was a security threat and Hore was fully aware of this. He had the guts to issue that threat because he knew he had the support of the powers that were behind the Islamisation agenda. Abubakar Malami saw nothing wrong in that threat. For him, it was legal.
The Attorney-General should persuade the Federal Government to declare illegal the security threat of cattle herdsmen. The Government should also, as a matter of urgency, arrest the wanton killings and destructions perpetrated by cattle herders. This done, there would be no need for Amotekun, nor its declaration as illegal.
Rev. Kalu Ulu Eme, Ph.D
Former Director of Information & Public Affairs,
The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria
& Moderator, Umuahia East Presbytery