Jamiu Folarin: Mystery of ‘The Bottled Leopard’, Amotekun and dynamics of security architecture in Nigeria

I was originally enrolled as a science student at Ojoku Grammar school, Kwara State. I had to change to commercial class because memorising the 20 elements was my nightmare. All efforts of the daughter of my Guardian, Salmat Ibrahim to convince me to remain in the class proved abortive. I will later find myself finding it difficult to cope in the commercial class as the Accounting topics move from Profit and Loss Account, Trial Balance to Balance Sheet.

Though it was a situation of forced marriage between me and the school, because I do not have an idea of why I must be educated as a child. As I profited from my brilliant performance at the Junior Certificate Examination (JSE), I lost my track as a science student and the trial at the commercial class will not enable me maintain my balance in the school.

Consequently, I had to complete the circle of the three sequences in secondary school by moving to the Art class as a failed student of Science and Commercial classes. Till date, I still wonder why and how the school system allowed me to traverse the three sequences – Science, Commercial and Art, within one year.

Literature in English was the subject that trapped me and got me bottled in the Art class so that the next step will not get me out of the school completely.

One of the reading texts for the Literature In English subject in the Art class was “The Bottled Leopard” authored by Chukwuemeka Ike.

When I read the news of the death of the highly revered author of the novel in the world of literature, I recalled how my exposure to the book and other related recommended texts for the Literature In English subject then, served as the rope which hold and sustain my stay in school and give meaning to my education.

Incidentally, the South West Governors initiated and launched a security intervention tagged: “Amotekun” (Leopard) and few days later, the author of the popular novel, “The Bottled Leopard” died. What a mystery! Does it mean that the bottled leopard has been released after the death of Chukwuemeke Ike?

Some analyst described Nigeria as a “forced marriage”, and advocated divorce as solution to the problem presently facing the country due to matrimonial disputes among the couple. To however prevent this divorce, there is need to renegotiate the terms of the marriage.

Whether it is a forced marriage or not, all the partners have profited from the trial marriage in different ways and it is my considered opinion that they should continue with the relationship until the circle is completed or balanced.

Attempts have been made in the past to renegotiate the terms of this trial marriage which include holding of constitutional conferences, several amendments to the constitution, and horse trading among the key partners of the marriage.

The major controversial terms include fiscal federalism, resource control and allocation, and political control. Intervening variables such as religion and selfish interests make it difficult to reach consensus on these issues.

Security is one of the issues that are on the front burner in the controversial discussion over fiscal federalism. As designed in the constitution, security is under the exclusive list and the implication of this is that, it is only the Federal Government that can legislate on it.

Over the years, the Federal Government has deployed the Military, SSS, Police and other Paramilitary agencies such as NSCDC, Immigration, and Custom Service to combat the issue of insecurity in the country.

Critics however observed that all these security architectures are not operating within the reality of the configuration of Nigeria. Nigerians over the years have been contending with issue of insecurity such as kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, cultism, ethnic and religious violence among others.

Successive governments, both military and civilian, had adopted difference measures to nip on the bud the state of insecurity in Nigeria. Many of these interventions only address the insecurity challenge in the country on the short term with the problem rearing its ugly head after sometime of hibernation.

In an attempt to address the challenges, individuals, groups, communities, State and Local Governments who are directly affected by the security challenges initiated ingenious ways of addressing specific and local security challenges in their terrain.

These interventions led to the establishment of security outfits that have provided temporary succour to the people only to snowball into another demon ravaging the communities or territory it supposed to protect.

As a student leader during my days at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, sometime 2005, I recalled that it got to a time incessant cultist attacks nearly paralysed academic activities in the University with the Ago- Iwoye community and its environs ravaged with cult-related killings virtually every day.

The effort of the State security agencies did not yield the required results, compelling the community to adopt security measures that reduced, to bearest minimum, the level of insecurity in the communities.

Due to community support and achievements recorded in restoring peace to the entire communities and the University by extension, the local security personnel decided to extend their terms of reference to other issues outside which they were established. They became terror to the same community they are supposed to protect with accusation of rape, torture and killings of students in disguise of apprehending cultists.

A particular case of the local security personnel allegedly killing of an innocent student accused of wandering late in the night was the last stroke that broke the camel’s back. The students protested and torch the palace of the king of the community, the Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye.

This led to violent face off between the students and the local security personnel leading to the death of several students and closure of the University for months.

This incident from the micro level has been recorded with varying degree of experience in different part of the country.

There are even worst cases or instances where the established security outfits set up by individuals, community leaders, and politicians became major security threats to the entire nation. This brings to mind the accusation that a former Borno State Governor set up similar security outfit which later got out of control and developing into Boko Haram.

There are also records of community leaders and politicians setting up some of these security outfits to serve their selfish and political interests only to lose control of them after delivering on their mandates. From the North to the South, the experience remained the same through out the country.

The establishment of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) seems not to be enough to address specific grassroots security challenges, hence the advocacy for establishment of State Police.

Since the individual community, State and Local Governments efforts failed to address the specific local security challenges in many part of the country, the South West Governors have decided to experiment with a “regional” security initiative christened “Amotekun”.

I expect the South West State governors to use their influences to ensure the amendment of the provisions of the 1999 constitution to facilitate the establishment of State Police rather than flagrant disregard to the law.

I am not sure whether any of the six South West State Houses of Assembly passed any bill to the effect of establishing Amotekun and offered sacrifices and spiritual blessings to the freeing of the leopard from its cage. Why the South West Governors released the Bottled Leopard (Amotekun) after the demise of Chukwuemeka Ike?

Shall we then summon the spirit of Chukwuemeka Ike to appease the gods in order to put the escaped leopard back into the bottle so that it will not lead to terror which we might not be able to tame in the future?

I pray that the Amotekun security initiative in the South West remain a fiction just as the novel written by Chukwuemeka Ike – The Bottled Leopard. resolve the mystery behind the Bottled Leopard, Amotekun and dynamics of the security architecture in Nigeria, I reluctantly support the position of the Federal Government for kicking against the establishment of Amotekun for violating the constitution. I will not either want to live or die to tell the story if the State governments lose control of the security outfits to serve selfish interest.

Until the constitution of Nigeria is amended to put the issue of security under the concurrent list, security initiatives such as the Hisba, Amotekun, Neigbourhood Watch, Vigilantee Group of Nigeria (VGN) and other related initiatives fashioned out by individuals, groups, communities, State and Local Governments will remain illegal.

Jamiu Folarin writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State

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