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Buhari’s Waterways Bill and other distractions


President Muhammadu Buhari, because of his sense of self-righteousness is an easy prey for political schemers. Although he loves Nigeria to a fault, he is easily distracted by those he regards as his ‘loyal gate-keepers’ who do not often share his pan-Nigerian vision.  Egged on by fifth columnists who had their own agenda, he embarked on unnecessary wars against the press and critics during his first coming. He refused to listen to the voice of reason spearheaded by the likes of Wole Soyinka until he was removed in a palace coup by the same characters that had lionized him. Their justification: he “was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance; efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigeria required recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perception only served to aggravate those attitudes”.


But for his love of the country, Buhari has no business struggling to return to power after serving as a minister, governor and head of state and a prisoner for three and half years for staying on the side of the people.


Unfortunately, President Buhari who still does not appreciate that his critics are those who share his passion and want him to succeed has learnt very little from his first coming as a military leader. He has in the last five years treated critics who reminded him of his campaign promise on restructuring as mere distraction. Egged on by fifth columnists and those he described as his ‘loyal gate keepers’ who many believed hijacked his government without necessarily sharing his pan-Nigeria vision, he ignored the report of the committee set up by his party to address our crisis of nation building.


Then herdsmen, said to be non-Nigerians, laid a siege on the Middle Belt region of Nigeria killing farmers and confiscating farmland of their displaced victims. As against appeal by concerned Nigerians for a decisive action against the invaders, the president trusted the thesis of his then minister of defence that the killing was a necessary reaction to the blocking of colonial  grazing routes created after amalgamation of 1914 and long before Nigeria graduated from a federation of three regions, four regions and todays 36 states and 774 LGAs. Miyyeti Allah and their sponsors while playing the victims insisted open-grazing is part of their culture and that grazing anywhere in Nigeria is their right under Nigerian constitution.

In the wake of kidnapping and other criminal activities by those alleged to be herdsmen and their local collaborators, some state governments demanded for community policing. While the federal government was dragging its feet, Amotekun security outfit was established by governors of southwest. The president’s media adviser, Garba Shehu has continued to insist that ‘Amotekun or whatever name it is called must come   under the control of the IG”.


The latest unnecessary distraction is the bill, entitled “National Water Resources Bill 2020,” thrown out by the 8th Senate following widespread objection by the public. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, Dr. Musa Ibrahim says the National Water Bill was aimed at “centralising water administration under the Ministry of Water Resources”. The bill was believed to have been arbitrarily reintroduced in the Green chamber, in breach of its rules, legislative convention and provisions of the 1999 constitution.


The latest move has been widely criticized.  The Nigerian Labour Congress says the National Assembly leadership is working surreptitiously with vested interests outside the assembly anxious to pass the bill without due legislative process”.

Soyinka on his path has warned that “passing a roundly condemned project, blasted out of sight by public outrage one or two years ago,  exhumed and sneaked back into service by none other than a failed government, into law would hand the president “absolute control over the nation’s entire water resources, both over and underground”.


Leaders of ethnic nationalities, chiefs Edwin Clark of PANDEF, Ayo Adebanjo of Afenifere, John Nwodo of Ohaneze and Pogu Bitrus of Middle Belt, who in their separate reactions described the bill as “destabilising, obnoxious, draconian and anti-people”, stated  that the bill was anti-federalism and negated the right of Nigerians to their God-given resources”.

Civil society groups believe the ‘bill will deny Nigerians the right to water’ while leading Nigerian newspapers welcomed it with powerful editorials with the Vanguard warning: ‘It will be a recipe for disaster. The conflicts and bloodshed that this provocative law will trigger will be endless’ adding ‘The purveyors of these predatory laws are enemies of our national stability and must be stopped’.


As for the source of this executive bill, described by some ‘as the repugnant and detestable land-grabbing Bill, in favour of Fulani herdsmen and Miyetti Allah cattle breeders, it is a matter of ‘the witch crying last night and the baby dying this morning’.

Boss Mustapha whose legal interest is said to include privatization commercialization and liberalization of public companies/corporate and government parastatals with a passion for how waterways assets are managed is today Secretary to the Government of the Federation. He was on Channels television before the controversial bill was thrown out in 2018 by the 8th Senate saying something to the effect that Lagos and Ogun cannot lay claim to their waterways because Ogun River took its source from Osun State.


Unfortunately, it is the nation that pays for these distractions. During Buhari’s first coming in 1984, the nation earned foreign exchange from sale of refined oil. Five years into Buhari’s second coming, none of our four refineries is working at optimum. Modular refinery, we were told, takes less than a year to put in place. We have no evidence any has come on stream in five years of this administration. The country, a net exporter of crude oil continues to be at the mercy of fuel importers.


Under Buhari in 1984, Nigerians rode cars assembled in Lagos and Kaduna with batteries, windshield, brake pads and seats and tyres locally produced in Ibadan and Lagos. Today, President Buhari’s ministers, vice chancellors of universities, comptrollers-general of Customs, Immigration and security service chiefs cruise in imported latest SUVs costing millions of naira.


Back then under Buhari, our clothes came from the UNTL, Aswani and Chellarams textiles mills in Lagos and Kaduna, our shoes from Bata and Lennards in Lagos. Our bread from our own wheat. Today, Buhari’s Nigeria has become the world biggest importer of used second hand clothes and shoes. Our TV sets were assembled by Adebowale Electricals in Lagos and Sanyo in Ibadan, our refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners were manufactured by Thermocool in Lagos, our WC and tiles from Kano and Abeokuta. Today, Buhari’s Nigeria has become a dumping ground for electronics from all parts of the world.


And with the death of WTO and ascendancy of protectionism arising from trade rivalry between Trump’s USA and China, the Buhari we all knew back in 1984 would have insisted that government officials ride Innoson Nigerian cars, that we all go naked or walk bare-footed until we are able to return to the pre-Babangida era when my total estacode during a three week holiday trip to London in September 1983 was N500.

Today, the exchange rate in Buhari’s Nigeria is N500 to $1.

But for his distractions and misguided wars, Buhari would have whipped us out of our indiscipline without forgetting to force those who mortgage the future of our children, sharing our national patrimony after selling to themselves Nigeria total investment of about $100b for a paltry $1b pay for their sins against the nation.

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