The Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) Operation Amotekun is not a threat to security of the federation, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said on Wednesday.
Instead of heating up the polity on the matter, he canvassed a need to “properly discern the situation”.
Tinubu, national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) made his position known in a statement.
It was the first time he was speaking on the controversy trailing the security plan.
Amotekun was launched as a joint security outfit on January 9 by governors of the Southwest states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo.
But, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, declared it illegal on January 14.
Tinubu said: “Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with Amotekun because it does not appear to insult the constitution.”
He added, however, that there were no enough consultations between the governors and the AGF.
He urged the governors to initiate talks with the AGF on how to resolve the grey areas.
He pleaded with Nigerians to shun those who are bent on hijacking Amotekun to divide the country.
He said those alleging that the Federal Government was trying to “suppress the Southwest over Amotekun have lost their compass”.
Tinubu said he did not join the debate on Amotekun before now because as a leader, he did not have “the luxury of hasty, ill-conceived utterances.”
He said: “This matter cannot be resolved on the pages of newspapers or by attributing negative motives to either side. The best way to resolve this is still for the two sides to enter into private discussions.
“Either the governors should seek an official, but private meeting with the Attorney General, or the Attorney General can initiate the contact. Since Amotekun is their initiative, the governors bear the greater onus in seeking the meeting.
“The meeting will initiate further discussion on how to resolve what appears to be a misunderstanding caused by an unfortunate lack of communication. Remedy the gap in communication and the misunderstanding will begin to disappear.”
Tinubu urged Nigerians to shun those fanning the ember of division in the country over the establishment of Amotekun.
He added: “The fabric of the Republic has not been put at stake by Amotekun. However, that fabric could be torn by the dangerous rhetoric of those who should know better. Those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the Republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion.
“We are one nation, 200 million strong with 36 states and a great complex of federal authority residing in dozens of federal ministries and agencies. If everyone is allowed their democratic expression, there are bound to be disagreements. This is inherent in the federal structure.
“Before leaping from our seats to lift our voice to the high rafters in profound indignation, we first would be wise to properly discern the situation.
The ex-governor expressed confidence that the row over Amotekun is resolvable, if the proponents and antagonists imbibed the spirit of democrats.
He said: “The resolution of this matter is not beyond us if only we allow ourselves to be the democrats that our better conscience and the very documents of our national existence call us to be.
“In trying to help resolve this matter, I have initiated communication with the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu with a view to meeting the South-West governors to explore amicable solutions to the avoidable controversy.
“I am sure that, at the end of it all, peace, security, and progress shall reign in our nation.”
Tinubu, who initiated Neighbourhood Watch during his tenure as Lagos State governor, said there is nothing wrong with Operation Amotekun.
He said Operation Amotekun was an upgraded version of the Neighbourhood Watch.
But, he said it was wrong for the governors to have given Operation Amotekun a regional structure.
He said Amotekun should have been a state and local grassroots organisation without regional command hierarchy
“As Governor of Lagos State, I confronted a burgeoning criminal menace. I could not sit idly in the face of the violence and property destruction that struck genuine fear in the hearts of the people. The police tried as best they could; but their coverage was thin. They simply did not have the personnel or material wherewithal to be everywhere at once.
“We formed Neighbourhood Watch to help fill the gap.
“Our aim was not to replace existing structures but to complement and augment them. The mission of Neighbourhood Watch was to monitor the wards and neighbourhoods of the state. The group would gather information and intelligence to pass to the police and security authorities. The Neighbourhood Watch also provided an early warning system to keep citizens from harm’s way. The idea worked. Crime and violence reduced significantly. Even the overreaching Olusegun Obasanjo government did not contend against Neighbourhood Watch.
“Judging from the public statements of the governors, Amotekun is meant to be structured along similar lines. As I understand it, Amotekun is to be another set of eyes and ears to assist the police. As such, it is but the second generation of Neighbourhood Watch expanded to a regional scale. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with this. It does not appear to insult the constitution.
Tinubu faulted both the governors and the AGF for failure to consult and acting hastily.
He said: The governors state that they consulted regularly with the police and security agencies. This was the right thing to do.
“However, their failure to include the office of the Attorney General in these discussions is the fount of the current public uproar. This was an unfortunate omission the governors should regret and seek to remedy. However, the conceptual merits and positive functional aspects of Amotekun should not be tainted by this procedural defect.
“While the Attorney General is a conscientious public servant, he is also human. Not having been consulted, he was suddenly faced with an unexpected public announcement regarding a matter within his official ambit. He likely feared the failure to consult him meant that federal prerogatives were being encroached. To blame him for this conclusion would be to blame human nature itself. Though his negative reaction was understandable it was also unhelpful.
“The Attorney-General acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been. Amotekun was never proposed as a “defence” agency; the Attorney General erred in using this description.
“ The use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles may not be the best ideas but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group any more than a designated school van carrying uniformed students constitutes a paramilitary deployment.
“Believing the governors had crossed the line, the Attorney-General should have reached out to them. Before going public, he should have sought a private meeting so that he could have a better factual understanding of Amotekun.
“This would have enabled him to give the governors any specific constitutional or other objectives he might have. In this way, the two sides would have engaged in private consultations to reach agreement on the way forward. This cooperative process might have helped to correct some of the organisational lapses above identified.”