By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Governors of the South West sub-region recently established a security outfit called ‘Amotekun’ (the leopard). However, an Islamic organization has raised the alarm over what it described as the attempt of the handlers of the new security outfit to accept birth certificates registered only in churches as one of the pre-requisites for eligibility for recruitment into the outfit.
This was the view expressed by Professor Ishaq Akintola, director of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in a statement issued early on Friday, 17th January, 2020.
“Let us make our stand on Amotekun clear from the beginning. MURIC is not allergic to any state or region taking steps aimed at rubber-cushioning the effect of the security challenges currently facing Nigeria. But the approach must be transparent, assuring and all-embracing. There must be evidence of good intention. The legitimacy or otherwise of Amotekun is not our focus. We leave that to the relevant federal authorities.
“We have no objection to Amotekun. But ‘good intention’ appears lacking in the preparations for it as a security unit that will complement the work of the conventional security agencies. It appears shrouded in secrecy while attempts are being made to marginalize Muslims in the recruitment exercise.
“Or how does one describe the social media advertisement in which applicants are being requested to bring birth certificates from the church. This is most outrageous. Amotekun has not started, but we are already seeing symptoms of Christianisation and Islamophobia. This does not look good enough. It is hard to believe but tell us sincerely: is this advertisement from the Amotekun handlers? Who ordered registration in churches and why?
“Are the job vacancies which Amotekun is certain to open meant for Christians only? Are the South West states declaring their state as Christian states? Are they joining Nyesome Wike of Rivers in a Christian enclave? Is Amotekun a secret Christian army? Only one out of the five governors in the region is a Muslim. Are the Christian governors ganging up to form a crusader militia?
“Why then must applicants bring birth certificates from churches? Are we sure that this will not be followed by a request for applicants to bring referral letters from pastors? Handlers of Amotekun owe us an explanation. It is after the explanation that we will also declare our next line of action. But right now all we can say is that there are trepidations among Muslims in the region.
“While we await the response of the organisers, we remind them that no security arrangement can succeed in any society without the active support of the people. To get the support of Muslims in the region, we need assurances. The Muslims must be carried along while recruitments being made must not result in lopsided appointments. Both Christians and Muslims must be palpably visible as officers and other ranks. Nobody should tell us that there are no capable Muslims to join those handling the recruitment exercise. There are more than enough retired military and police officers who are Muslims.
“Apart from the issue of Christianisation of Amotekun, we are strongly of the opinion that the security outfit will perform better if it avoids stereotyping any particular people. Governors in the sub-region have the task of deradicalisation on their hands. Amotekun operatives must not be seen targeting non-indigenes of the area. Amotekun must not be turned into a tool of intimidation. Igbo, Itsekiri, Igbira, Hausa, Fulani, etc who reside in the sub-region must not be stigmatized in any form. The operatives must remember that the Yoruba are also spread all over Nigeria. They must not trigger any tit-for-tat scenario.”