Without a doubt, the Nigerian police has failed to protect lives and properties in many rural communities that have been afflicted by the activities of the armed herdsmen and assaulted non-indigene criminals. But Amotekun’s action against the hundred cows on Monday gives a hint of how unprofessional and partisan ad hoc security outfits would operate.”
Nothing symbolizes Nigeria’s appalling governance and the inability of the country’s politics to solve problems as much as cows. All over Nigeria, cows symbolize the politicisation of policing and security. Rather than propose and negotiate lasting solutions, politicians on both sides of Nigeria’s “cattle divide” tend to, by their actions, utterances, and silence, further inflame inter-ethnic suspicions and hatred, as well as assault the national constitution.
All this was on display on Monday, March 22, when Amotekun (the unconstitutional security outfit founded by Southwest Yoruba states) officials “arrested” about 100 cows along the Ilesa- Akure expressway in the state. On February 21, 2021, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had sent an anti-open grazing bill to the state house of assembly. The bill seeks to ban night grazing as well as prohibit underage grazing of cattle and the movement of cattle within cities and highways.
Ondo State, like many others, is seeking to provide a solution to what has become a national problem – armed herdsmen, invariably identified as Fulani, whose cattle destroy farms as they indiscriminately seek pasture to feed on.
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The arrest of a hundred cows in Ondo on Monday shows the problem involved in creating 36 solutions to a single national issue. By calling on Amotekun, an outfit unknown to Nigerian law, Ondo State acknowledges that the Nigerian Police Force will not enforce (yet-to-be-passed) anti-open grazing laws. Is Nigeria really better off having state legislation that would be enforced only when state governments create their own security outfits?
Amotekun’s action against the hundred cows gives a hint of how unprofessional and partisan ad hoc security outfits would operate. The head of the Amotekun division suggested multiple crimes that the herders could be involved in – illegal grazing, obstruction of traffic, and possibly kidnapping – while speaking to the press. He was speaking not as a security expert who relies on investigation, facts, and analysis but as any member of the communities that have suffered the destruction of farmlands, violent attacks, and kidnapping for ransom. These communities have come to regard all herdsmen as murderers and kidnappers.
Without a doubt, the Nigerian police has failed to protect lives and properties in many rural communities that have been afflicted by the activities of the armed herdsmen and assorted non-indigene criminals. And certainly, the Buhari administration has not done near enough to reassure Nigerians that the atrocities of the so-called killer herdsmen (a catch-all descriptor) do not enjoy official forbearance.
Democracy should be above all a competition of good ideas to solve national problems and mobilising citizens behind the ideas. Nigerian politicians are as guilty as President Buhari and his advisers in not proferring viable national solutions to the country’s insecurity problems. Life and property is not safe in any part of the country, especially in places like Buhari’s Katsina. The appropriate response should be agendas for reforming Nigeria’s security apparatus (and politics) worthy of building successful presidential campaigns on, not attempts to build mini replicas of the inefficient federal police. What is particularly galling is that many of the governors who have created Amotekun are members of President Buhari’s APC. What is the use of having Africa’s largest political party if members resort to village solutions to national problems?
The “true federalism” which the Southwest has championed can only come about through rigorous crafting of regional and national institutions. The rush to unilaterally create unconstitutional outfits which are doomed to be replicas of malfunctioning national ones risks turning Nigeria gradually into a space governed by mutually antagonistic agencies if not ethnic militias.
It is a paradox that for constitutional devolution of powers to work for Nigeria’s ethnic groups or envisaged regions, it must also refashion Nigeria at the federal level into a coherent state with effective institutions, including a police force that works for everyone.