By Bolanle Bolawole
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“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come” – Victor Hugo in “Les Miserables”
“Les Miserables” is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo first published in 1862. Set in the early C19th France, it is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his desire for redemption after serving 19 years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. The literal meaning of “Les Miserables” is “the miserable ones” Valjean, the lead character, finally was released from prison, died a noble and his life was celebrated as he was reunited with God. The themes in “Les Miserables” are social justice, human rights, class conflicts that resulted out of these; and the meaning and purpose of life itself.
Before he decided to take the plunge – just like the South-West governors last week Thursday took the plunge with Amotekun – Valjean and his sister’s family had starved and struggled while others lived life to the hilt before their very eyes. Amotekun did not just drop from the skies; rather, it is the product of the impunity of Nigeria’s overlords. The South-west is the proverbial goat that has been driven to the wall and which is left with no option than to turn on its oppressor. The South-west has ceaselessly and unabashedly been oppressed by murderous Fulani herdsmen and bandits. The oppressors’ umbrella organisation, Miyetti Allah, instead of calling their folks to order has made their South-west victims the butt of cruel jokes, rubbing salt into a people’s injury.
Miyetti Allah has taunted and derided South-west governors, issuing threats and commands that insult and ridicule a people and their leaders. In the face of this, the Presidency, which is under the vice-like grip of the Fulani, has done nothing that has ameliorated the situation. “Did nothing” is even mild. Some other tribes at the herders’ mercy have alleged acquiescence, connivance, and complicity. Government has been reduced to issuing platitudes; shedding crocodile tears at the best. Worse, it has frowned at the victims defending themselves! Fulani leaders have generally not helped matters.
Many of them, including sitting governors, have made garrulous statements that shocked the country; such as that an injury to one Fulani man anywhere is an injury to all Fulani everywhere; that the Fulani anywhere and everywhere is free to migrate to Nigeria and make it home; that the Fulani is an elephant who will not forget any offence done to anyone of its folk. And such “offence” includes, according to Femi Adesina, the presidential spin doctor, reluctance or refusal by other tribes to let the Fulani seize their ancestral land! Your land or death, cried Adesina! The atrocities of the Fulani at all levels since 2015 when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) came to power will fill many volumes. Their sheer criminality, wanton destruction of lives and property; the bestial way they take life; the horrendous manner they destroy property; and the injustice they have wreaked upon Nigerian communities from North to South can only be condoned by sadists and beasts like them. For, as they say, birds of a feather…
Enter Amotekun! The South-west governors did not act in a hurry. They suffered the fools gladly for what appeared like an eternity. It then got to a point that the insults were too much to bear. “Ka ka k’a s’eru; ka kuku ku l’oto” They had practically lost face with their people. And help of any kind was not forthcoming from the Fulani-led Presidency which held the security apparatus in its hand and would not use it to secure anyone other than their own. And their own knew this and grew wings. They splashed their excreta on everyone. The South-west governors acted only when they had little integrity left. They dragged their feet for so long, thinking the Presidency and the powers behind the throne would have a re-think and use the power that belongs to all of us to serve all and not only their own. In the end, all hope evaporated. Even wishful thinking vanished. Everyone then knew they have got to carry their mother’s breasts. That is what Buhari’s Nigeria has become. The oppressors will go away with blue murder. They have done so again and again. The victims will cry and cry. Nothing will come out of it.
The South-west governors took this step even with trepidation. Some of them even tried to play safe but, on the whole, they were like biblical Israel caught between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s ferocious army in hot pursuit. My initial fear was that the Amotekun project would fail – but thanks to the fillip that the opposition has now given the project. If the project was meant to fail before, it will not fail again. The South-west governor who will fail to support Amotekun has not been born. The politician from the South-west who kicks against Amoteku kicks against the goad. The Presidency is the one that has now given life and hope to Amotekun. History is repeating itself before our very eyes. The Yoruba nation will gradually divide itself into two camps – for and against. “Omo Oko” and “Omo Ale”
I am from Owo in Ondo State, the birthplace of the Action Group and one of the hotspots of South-west politics in those “Wild, Wild West” days. I saw how it unfolded and I shudder to think we are re-living history once again. Wheat and chaff will be separated. Traitors and patriots only! There is no sitting on the fence. In fact, to sit on the fence is more dangerous than taking position. Like Prof. Biodun Jeyifous had told Prof. Wole Soyinka in those giddy days of ideological battles at the then University of Ife: Leftocracy or Rightocracy – Take position! No neutrality is possible. The dice is cast. The battle is joined. But we can still pull back from the brink. “They should stop poking their fingers in the face of everyone” You know who the “they” are.
There is no justification at all to allow Civilian JTF in the North and not allow Amotekun in the South-west. There is no reason why they should have Hisbah in the North and not have Amotekun in the South-west. Civilian JTF and Hisbah bear arms, make arrests, engage in battles, and sentence offenders. Why should Amotekun not do likewise? Unless one are oppressors and the others are victims. Unless one are the Owners of the Animal Farm that Nigeria has been turned to and the other are hewers of woods and fetchers of water. Unless one are the Aryan race – the master race – while the others are inferior, second-class citizens in their own country. But we have been here long before they came. Again, I am sure you know who the “they” are. We are autochthonous to this place while their own history is recent, as recent as 1804. Our own history has no dates. We can count their age but we are ageless.
Yes, State Police or Amotekun can be abused. Yes, Native and Customary police in times past were abused. But so have the police and other security outfits been abused from time immemorial – up till now! The abuse has reached a crescendo with the coming of Buhari, who has concentrated all security positions and powers solely in the hands of his own people. Listen to this and hear me well: “Egbo ile” is repulsive; it is worse if “egbo ita” is now washed into the food we must eat. Are politicians not making unpardonable mistakes today? Are Nigerians satisfied with their performance? Still, we say we should allow them room to learn the ropes and improve. We must do similarly with State Police. If we had allowed it since 1999; they, too, would have made appreciable improvement by now.
This is where we will never stop blaming Obasanjo and Jonathan for not doing the needful while in office. When in office, Southern leaders pursue inanities while their Northern counterparts pursue critical policies that further enslave the South to North. Under Buhari, it has not even been enslavement to the North or Muslims; it is the enthronement of the Fulani that has been pursued with relentless vigour. We obfuscate the issues and help “the troublers of our Israel” if we continue to talk of North/South and Muslim/Christian dichotomy. It is a tiny minority, riding on the back of others, that is causing us this grief.
Is Amotekun the beginning of the restructuring we have been clamouring for? If so, so be it! I will not ask anyone opposed to restructuring to hug a transformer or jump into the lagoon but I will encourage them neither to swim against the tide nor stand akimbo before a moving train. Amotekun, or restructuring, is an idea whose time has come. Like Hugo quoted above made clear, “there is nothing more power than an idea whose time has come” Except Amotekun came before its time, no force – military, political, diplomatic, diabolical, economic – will prevail against it. It remains for the people of the South-west, the political leaders especially, to study, understand and draw useful lessons from the history of their own people.
One: There will always be treachery. It had been so from time immemorial but traitors will be punished. Two: When a people make up their mind to cross the Rubicon, they will cross it. You cannot bribe them. Intimidation will also not work. No matter how powerful the forces arraigned against them, you cannot break their will. Yoruba are usually not a people who look for the support of others before achieving set goals. German writer, Ibsen, must have the Yoruba in mind when he wrote in “The Public Enemy” that “the strongest man is he who stands alone” Believe it: A tree can make a forest! Call it mystery tree or whatever!
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil or betray it”, says Frantz Fanon. The generation of Awo discovered its own mission and fulfilled it; hence it remains a reference point to this day. Of course, treachery and betrayal dogged Awo’s feet. There will always be traitors; except the cause is not worthy. Yoruba leadership is often forged in the furnace and crucibles of fire. It is not a chieftaincy title bestowed by one fawning chief in one remote corner; it is not got through a motion sponsored on the floor of any “jeun-jeun” parliament nor is it bought by bullion vans of cash. It is not forced. It is not seized. It is earned. Ask Awo! It is merited. Godfathers and oppressors, the fore-fathers of present-day traducers, tried in the past to bestow it but the experiment ended in a fiasco. Ask Akintola!
We passed through this road before. Happenings sound all too familiar. The jig-saw puzzles are being put together again. The lines, as of old, are falling in their usual places. The cast is filing out. Who plays Chief Traitor this time around? And who is the Baba “Layinka and Baba Tokunbo of the moment? Honour beckons! Shame and disgrace also stand akimbo in a corner. Some will etch their name in gold; but some will become a proverb and by-word, a taunt and a curse.
Kingdoms are about to fall. Kings will be dethroned and reigns will come to an end. Empires will come crashing down. The ruins will be worse than that of Ozymandias! “Omi titun ti ru”; it becomes necessary for “eja titun” to enter! Who the “eja titun” will be, time will tell! New wine cannot be put in old wine skin. “Eewo Orisa”! Unmistakeably, Amotekun or state police or whatever it is called is an idea. “A ti n je l’enu” for quite some time; whether its time has now come remains to be seen. Except it’s time is not come, nothing can suppress it; not even the concentration of Executive, Legislative, Judicial, political, economic, and military power in the hands of a minority few who have grown so confident that they now play God. But also understand this: Even if Amotekun’s time is not now, it is a project postponed. The groundwork it has done within this short time is massive. It has removed whatever veil that had covered some people’s faces. It has helped to unite the South-West and has muted the voice of errand boys and lackeys of the oppressors. Mark my word: The radicalization of the South-west that will follow efforts to truncate Amotekun will surpass that of the June 12 episode. You will say I said so!