IDEAS Radio 10 January 2020

IDEAS issues in Àmọtẹkùn

Aghogho Oboh: Alright, good afternoon, good evening to everyone, it’s seven minutes past four on 99.3 Nigeria Info, and you know now all the members of the Square are seated.  Rotimi Sankore and Ayo Obe, great to have everyone join the Public Square, most importantly you who’s listening. Public Square, the discussion is on Àmọtẹkùn.  I don’t know if I’m getting the pronunciation right, I’ve been dealt with by Yoru …  I just know it’s a cheetah. South West …

Rotimi Sankore: It’s not a cheetah, it’s a leopard.

AgO: It’s a leopard, Ok. Thank you very much.  They told me: “The thing that sees at day and night”.  That’s what I was told. But thankfully, the leopard.

RS: They look … they look similar.

AgO: Ah, ok.  So that’s the first learning we get today on Public Square.  There’s a lot of controversy about the South West security … regional security network, and on the IDEAS with Ayo Obe, we’re going to be looking at the IDEAS element of this, and then on Public Square, we have a big discussion also on it.  So join us also on our social media handles where you can have the conversation at 99.3 Nigeria Info, @NigeriaInfoFM, @PublicSquareNG @RotimiSankore, @ideasradiong, @naijama @AghoghoOboh.  Any of these handles, your comments, put it up there, we will take them during the course of the conversation.

RS: Yeah, so, thanks so much Aghogho.  So, well, unless you landed from Mars in the last one hour, in fact, even all the way from Mars you may have known that the Àmọtẹkùn discussion has been going on for quite a while, and what we’re hoping to do is … 

AgO: Àmọtẹkùn … I see you put all the intonation and everything on the …

Ayo Obe: You’re surely not turning to me as an expert on the matter?

RS: So, of course there are a lot of questions about it.  Some people have tried to answer the questions in advance of even the questions being asked.  So Governor Kayode Fayemi for instance, has helpfully tried to explain, I don’t know if he has explained in a convincing way, that it’s not … 

AO: Well, well Rotimi, I think … the way I see you’re going, is that you are going to be dealing with the political aspects of it … 

RS: No, I just wanted to introduce the issue, I just wanted to introduce the issue to say, because the obvious thing that most people thought was that: Is it state police?  And Kayode came out in advance to say, no, it is not.

AO: Yes,

RS: Now, we can ask people later, but that’s the big issue around it.  So, for IDEAS,

AO: Aha!  There are other issues, because to me, it seems as though all the discussion has been around the question of: “Is this a threat to the Federation?  Is this is a threat to the Nigeria Police Force?” And so on and so forth.

RS: And of course, who are the personnel accountable to?

AO: Well no, that hasn’t been asked, that’s the point!

RS: No, I’m adding it as an IDEAS  component. Who are the Àmọtẹkùn personnel Accountable to?  And what are the Integrity and Ethics standards?

AO: I think you should just know that the President and the Inspector-General of Police are in the know about this, and it’s not therefore, I’m not sure that there’s very much traction to be had in that.  Equally, the …

RS: I mean traction in saying: Is it a threat to …?

AO: Well, it’s in the same stand … it stands in the same shoes as the Hisbah in Kano, because I notice that the … the National Congress of Northern Youths, or some similar group, had complained … National …  Northern Youth Council of Nigeria … had berated the South West Governors for establishing Àmọtẹkùn, and I’m just thinking to myself that the issue should not be that because the Governors have joined up together.  I mean one of the things that we’ve always said about the question of whether we want to establish regional governments, is that you don’t have to be forced into cooperation with anybody.  That’s why you found Lake rice because Lagos decided to cooperate with Kebbi state on the issue of rice production. Now, the South West Governors have decided to cooperate on the issue of a state security type of outfit.

Now, yes of course, there are obviously going to be questions about whether it’s a rival, but I would rather – as you said – that we look at the question about the actual outfit that is to be established, because the reason given certainly is the security and safety issues, but in terms of how these people are going to be able to address those issues, that’s what is not clear.  And whether the … Governor Fayemi likes it or not, no matter how many disclaimers there are from the other Governors in the South West, people will compare them to a police force, just as they compare the Hisbah to a police force. I mean, the talk is as though it’s going to be more of a police service, or a security service than … but given that it does have that background, people will want to know: Is it just going to be more of the same?  You know we’ve always said that the problem about the question of state police is the very mistaken view of Governors that the mistake that we have at the federal level whereby the President in charge of operations, should be repeated at the state level. And so they … basically, they want their own outfit.

Now, in a way we might say that diffusing the ownership of the … Àmọtẹkùn is actually going to guard against the possibility of its being used for political vendetta, but … and another point that Governor Fayemi went out of his way to make was that it’s not going to be like O’dua People’s Congress, because the whole point about law enforcement and security, is that it is the Nigeria Police that is responsible ultimately for our security.  It is the Nigeria Police that can make arrests, can detain people and it is the criminal justice system which can bring those who are accused of crimes to justice. So if the personnel who are being recruited into this outfit are not properly trained, then we could find ourselves with the same problems that we have in any other security outfit that doesn’t know the law.  And I will say that when … one of the things that civil society has said about security and policing, is that this closed shop idea about recruitment is a very disturbing one. So we want to see an open recruitment system whereby anybody can apply, you don’t have to know somebody, you don’t have to be a member of a political party, you don’t have be related, in order to be employed: that they should set out the criteria for appointment … 

RS: Even the issue of ethnicity …

AO: Yeah.  They need to set out the criteria for appointment very clearly, so that everybody will know, because as you say, people living in the South West, in the states setting up this force, are not all Yoruba, and whatever the name of the organisation, we need to know: Is it going to be … as I said, they need to make the criteria clear, so that if they set out criteria which are not clear, and which perhaps breach some of the provisions of the Constitution which prohibit discrimination, then we will be able … it will be  able to be challenged, but in any event, it should be an open process. That’s number one, so we need to know, what are the criteria for being employed.

RS: I think there are also some other issues to be considered, because reading the papers – and I’m not sure whether all the papers quoted Professor Banji Akintoye correctly – so I will just say what was reported in some of the papers.  For instance, using Vanguard as an example, I think they had the most detailed report there. And Vanguard report him to have said at his goodwill message as the Yoruba … President of the Yoruba worldwide

AO: Yoruba World Congress.

RS: Yes, Yoruba World Congress, and he said: “Indigenes will not fold their arms while they are being overrun”, and “the foundation of our economic wellbeing is being eroded.”  “We can’t just watch, the Yoruba people have not just watched” … and so forth like that. And I can see some commentary on that reporting saying: people understand that there are insecurity issues, but the suggestion by some of this reporting that indigenes, it is set up to protect indigenes from being overrun, is making “non-indigenes” a bit concerned, that … what could happen, that if … if for instance you have a land dispute with somebody who says they’re an indigene, does that mean that you are … you are in trouble?  Because land and farms and things are being mentioned. and I think these are genuine concerns. It will be nice to ask Professor Akintoye to clarify, because I know he chooses words carefully, he’s a professor of history. But the reporting yesterday and today from his goodwill and things other people said, have raised some of these concerns …

AO: Justifiable concerns

RS:…  yes, about what is the balance, what’s this talk about indigenes  and land and non-land which is an extension of what you are saying, about what’s the criteria for being employed?

AO: Well that’s what I’m saying that …  one problem that we’re having with security is the number of things that are going under the table, the number of people who are being slotted into jobs because somebody is owed a political favour.  Now if we have the criteria firstly set out and it makes any … it raises any concerns that non-indigenes are being discriminated against in the employment, then that’s something that the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of … 

RS: Ethnicity

AO: … of ethnicity.  I, of course have to mention issues like gender, which often get thrown by the wayside.   Now, again, the … a security outfit, the … One thing that Professor Akintoye did say is that they are going to relate with Police and the Army.  That is to say that they will not have any independent powers of enforcement by themselves, and I think that’s again an important part of it, that if they don’t have any independent powers of enforcement, then you cannot be …  then the issue of your having land … it’s not that you should not have concerns, because the fact is that even when it’s just the Neighbourhood Police Committee, the Chairman of that … or the Chairperson of that committee often is in a better position if you happen to be the tenant on the wrong end of the stick.  But you see, I think that the objective of this … one of the things that … if you involve yourself in human rights at all, is that you see that some of the things that people think are short-cut answers, turn out to be very costly in the long term. So if the idea is that indigenes will rule the roost and non-indigenes will not, because as we are sitting here in Lagos … most of us are “non-indigenes”.  If that is the idea, then it will be counter-productive, because instead of getting the support of the whole community, it will be setting the community against each other.

RS: And thereby possibly fuelling insecurity for some people.

AO: Well, but this is … that’s why I’m saying that it could be counterproductive.  And so if the end result is that the security issue is not addressed, then we will find … then we may find that.  But I have to say Rotimi, that this is not a new phenomenon and it’s very interesting, maybe … it’s not just because Professor Akintoye is talking about non-indigenes, because others …

RS: Well, as reported by many papers.

AO: No no no, I said … I didn’t say that he wasn’t talking about it.  The concern is not just because he’s talked about it, but there seems to be an idea that: Well we can put up with it in other parts of the country, but we don’t expect to see it in the South West.  Now, in a way that should make the South West, because of its cosmopolitan nature, it should make it say: Yes, we are in fact an open society. But at the same time, it should not say that: Well, because others have done the wrong thing, we too  should be allowed to do the wrong thing. Because as I said, a lot of reference had been made to the Hisbah, not simply on the question of: Is it lawful under the Constitution? But this … the way the Hisbah itself actually behaves, going in and smashing up people’s bottles of beer and so on and so forth, in other words, undertaking police functions.  So the fact that some states have got things that are doing … what one would normally see as operating in a criminal manner, does not mean to say that the South West states should follow suit. Rather, one expects them to set a standard to which others will then try to adhere. And that’s why when I say that it is counterproductive, because if tomorrow now, the South-Eastern states set up a similar outfit, and people start saying: Ah ah, that it’s only Igbo people that are being employed, then they will say …  it will be a matter of mutual finger-pointing. That is not going to deal with the security …   

RS: What about the other people?  They only employ the ethnicity from the region, so they too have to defend themselves …

AO: That’s why I’m saying that in the end, it turns out not to be very useful, and of course, in a state like Lagos where we have people from all over the Federation, and I mean quite frankly, in most of the other states too, you have people from all over the Federation: we can’t afford that.  So I would say that the standards that we are expecting to see from this security outfit … never mind that they are insisting that they are not a police force, never mind that they are saying that the Inspector-General of Police and the President are all on board. You’ll remember that – well you won’t remember – but let me just say, that in the First Republic, the Western Region established a Court of Appeal.  So every other region, you would go from your High Court, and your appeal would go straight to the …

RS: Federal.

AO:  … to the Supreme Court.  To the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

RS: At the Federal level

AO: Yeah, but it’s … the Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of Nigeria

RS: No, I just wanted to make distinction between Federal and Regional.

AO: So every other state had a High Court and then the only other place you could appeal to was the Supreme Court of Nigeria.  In the case of the Western Region there now became, you could appeal to the Western Court of Appeal and then, cases might go from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.  Now that was ground-breaking, but … What’s all this? Western blah blah blah blah blah, but in the end, the Federal Government set up the Federal Court of Appeal which is now just the Court of Appeal.  And what I’m saying is that: It’s good to be ground-breaking, but you must be ground-breaking in setting a high standard, so that if it’s a matter of putting people who are going to be properly recruited, properly trained, and who are going to know the limits of their authority, that will be one thing.  Then we can talk about a … a police service or a security service that should look to these people to see how they do policing security with Integrity in an Ethical Manner and, but I think that … I can see that my time is up, but I will also want to say that another issue that has to come up about this is that: To whom are these people Accountable?  We have a Police Service Commission that members of the public can complain to if they have a complaint about the Nigeria Police. To whom are the members of this body Accountable? And where can members of the public go if they have a problem with them? So those are the things, transparency will be a big plus if this thing is to work properly.

RS: Right, thanks so much for those questions, clarifications and pointers as to what people should look out for with respect to Integrity, Ethics, Accountability and Democracy.  Professor Banji Akintoye did say that: “Not everything that is good in everything is apparent from the beginning.”

AO: Yes, but that’s what I said, that’s why I referenced the Western Court of Appeal …

RS: And somebody too responded by saying: But Not everything bad in everything is apparent from the beginning.  So we’ll see what the balance is.

AO: That’s actually the problem, when you’re going to be saying that things are bad we would have raised that it was bad when it was being set up in Anambra, when it was being set up in Kano and various other places.  Yes there’s a higher standard perhaps, but … I don’t know … I don’t know whether one should be … whether the Western States should be flattered by that or not.

AgO: Alright, let’s take a quick break, when we come back Public Square will continue.

RS: When we come back, we should say that our Politics Editor, Georges MacNobleson-Idowu had an opportunity to interview Ganiyu Adams the day before. 

AgO: Exactly, Ganiyu Adams is the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.

RS: Yes.

AgO: The chief warrior.

AO: They’re busy saying that this is not going to be like that, that they’re not going to be using cutlasses and charms.

RS: Well, he said some interesting things to Georges MacNobleson Idowu,  including on the Àmọtẹkùn so after the break, we’ll play that short interview, and then we’ll be interviewing some people behind the structure and the process that led to the Àmọtẹkùn and then after that we’ll hear from you what you think.