Having failed to surreptitiously smuggle the National Water Resources Bill 2020 into the country’s statute books, the sponsors of the controversial bill that has caused intense anger across mostly communities in the South of the country and the Middle Belt, are reported to be making moves to retrace their sneaky steps and work to return the Bill through the front door by having it gazetted for proper debate as required under democratic practice.
A tenor of near juvenile arrogance has attended statements made by promoters of the Bill located in the Presidency but, working through members of the National Assembly including Hon Sada Soli, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Water Resources who represents Jibia/Kaita Federal Constituency in Katsina State. Soli had declared that there was no going back on the passage of the Bill. Sali’s rhetorics of arrogance and similar expressions of disregard for the feelings of other ethnic groups in the country by Northern politicians who enjoy a contested majority in the National Assembly, NASS where laws are made, have served in no small way to fuel the growing anger of members of communities particularly in the Niger Delta, South East and Middle Belt, who more than other ethnic nationalities, are expected to feel the oppressive impact of the National Water Resources Bill, 2020 if enacted. In the past weeks members of various socio cultural groups have been very vocal expressing their determination to resist the return of the Bill for debate in the House of Representatives.
The rancour that trailed the Water Resources Bill leading to its withdrawal, comes in the midst of the reality that not just ordinary citizens and politicians have spoken with increasing urgency about the widening cracks in the walls of the country which only last week celebrated its 60th anniversary having gained political freedom from its erstwhile colonial masters, the British. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in an address which was presented on his behalf by the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha at the Ecumenical Centre, Abuja, made very clear reference to, widening cracks in the walls of the country, that need to be mended ‘“Fortunately for us, our walls are not yet broken but there are obvious cracks that could lead to a break if not properly addressed.’’
The Vice President was roundly condemned by certain elements from the North, especially members of the Northern group, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF. However, it is pertinent to note that no government official of that status has made such allusions to cracks in the country in the 20 years since the country returned to civilian governance.
Despite this attack on the views of the Vice President and denial of the real deepening divisions in the country, the reality of division along ethnic lines is felt increasing in the country. Vocal Catholic Priest Mathew Hassan Kukah made reference to this in his presentation on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of independence last week. Kukah drew attention to the partisan selection of security chiefs in the country based on religion, region and ethnic affiliation by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The strident opposition to attempts to force a National Water Resources Bill on persons from ethnic nationalities, who even under colonial rule enjoyed ownership and riparian rights to water bodies that abut their communities should be sufficient caution to persons and interests, who push an ethnic domination agenda that has served to heat up the country. Nigeria is supposed to be a Federation of ethnic nationalities. The drive to impose a unitary system of government on diverse ethnic groups and favouritism to certain ethnic groups, should be halted. Communities are being cleansed clearly of their indigenous populations in parts of Kaduna and Plateau State. In the North East, hundreds of communities are deserted, with their populations gathered in miserable conditions in Internally displaced Persons, IDP camps.
It is clearly time for all concerned Nigerians to summon the courage to compel the government to return to the primary task of governance, which is deploy all resources to work for the welfare and safety of the ordinary Nigerian wherever he finds himself. The empty statements emphasising TOGETHERNESS in the President’s Independence Day speech offer no assurance to millions of Nigerians who feel threatened and for whom tomorrow may not come. The country must be saved the possibility of bloody break up and returned to the path of peace, plenty and safety now.