Still on the controversial Waterways Bill

With a small number of Fulani ethnic irredentist who supported Buhari neither during his first three heroic failed attempts at the presidency nor during his 2015 pan-Nigeria mandate but today hold him hostage while their foot-soldiers wage war against Nigerians, Buhari has no enemies. And if a leader heralded to power with a pan-Nigerian mandate ended up as a Fulani president as against the greatest Nigerian president that ruled with justice and fairness as predicted by Maitama Sule, Buhari will go down in history as a leader who missed an historic opportunity because of his leadership style.

It is an open secret that Miyetti Allah, their foot soldiers and their patrons are behind our nation’s current nightmare. They did not even wait for Buhari’s inauguration before declaring war on Nigeria. They threatened to make the country ungovernable if anti-grazing laws were not abrogated in 21 states of the federation and they carried out their threat by owning up to killing 73 innocent Nigerians in Benue. The president’s tepid response in form of appeal to victims of mindless killings to be good hosts only emboldened the herdsmen killers to extend their killings to other parts of north central and north-western states of Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto. The president’s mainly northern controlled security apparatus at the beginning gave the impression those visiting violence on Nigerians were invincible.

Buhari’s loyal gatekeepers, Fulani enablers and sympathisers in government share the same mind-set with the rampaging herdsmen-foisting Fulani agenda including open grazing which they claim is part of Fulani culture, illegal occupation of federating states’ reserved forest and government funded RUGA settlement for Fulani from all over Africa.

But Buhari’s loyal gatekeepers are loyal only to the tendencies they hide under his government to serve. They share neither his pan-Nigerian vision nor his pains in government. The arduous task of nation-building is complicated by betrayal by his disgruntled Fulani compatriots. And while facing legitimacy crisis as Nigerians, safe neither in their homes nor in churches, blame him for their nightmare and openly accused of pursuing “Fulanisation and Islamisation” agenda by Nigeria’s elders statesmen and leaders of ethnic nationalities, his Fulani compatriots add nothing but agony to a president overwhelmed by third world post-colonial crisis of legitimacy, crisis of penetration and crisis of identification as sub-nationalities struggling for self-actualisation demand for dismemberment of the country.

Yet out of sheer perfidy, this most depressing period was the time his trusted gate keepers and enablers of herdsmen in his government chose to return to the National Assembly, a controversial water bill perceived by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum as a strategy “to grab land around waterways for cattle herders’ by clipping “the wings of state and local government authorities as well as individuals from making use of the water at their backyard without permit from Abuja”. But driven only by the pursuit of their selfish agenda, the president’s ‘loyal gate keepers’ could not be restrained from inflicting more pain on their caged president or assaulting the sensibilities of Nigerians by returning the Waterways Bill earlier rejected by Nigerians and the 7th and 8th National Assembly that threw it out in 2017 and in 2020 when it was represented by Abubakar Fulata as an Executive Bill.

This is the same bill dismissed by The Guardian editorial of August 16, 2020 as “The repugnant and detestable land-grabbing bill, which obviously is suspected to grant Fulani herdsmen and Miyetti Allah cattle breeders, unfettered access to land and water resources in Southern Nigeria, can only trigger national upheaval”. But beyond the editorial, this is a bill already declared unconstitutional by various judicial pronouncements.

The desperation of the sponsors of this Waterways Bill only reinforces the suspicion of sceptics about the usual treachery against our nation. Nigerians remember Babangida and his junta’s similar desperation back in 1993 when they on the eve of their departure from office, promulgated “Decree No. 52 of 1993 which vested the ownership, control and management of all lands within 100 metres limit of the 1967 shoreline of Nigeria and any other land reclaimed from any Lagoon, sea, ocean in the Federal Military Government of Nigeria”.

With the sharing of over 300 Osborne plots among his soldiers of fortune and their friends, it turned out, the obnoxious decree since struck down by the 2000 Justice Odunowo judgment “on grounds of inconsistency with the rights of the indigenous land owners in Lagos State” was designed to corner Lagos State’s priceless land along with other coastal states in Nigeria.

But then perfidy has been the major operating instrument of Buhari’s loyal gate keepers. In September 2020, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and Suleiman Hussein Adamu, his water resources counterpart, dismissed widely- held views that the National Water Bill would cede a vast swathe of land along river banks to herdsmen, and encourage the widely rejected Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) programme of government. But there is no perfect crime. Boss Mustapha, current Secretary to Government of the Federation joined the debate by declaring on Channels Television Morning Ride programme, that Lagos cannot lay claim to her waterways because the source of Ogun River is not in Lagos. The objective of those behind the bill cannot be any clearer.

The same perfidy was at play with the recruitment of Isa Pantami, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah (SCS) who once argued that “Jihad is an obligation for every single believer in Nigeria” from Islamic University of Madinnah in 2016 as the Director General/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to preside over the sensitive NIN project. The loyal gate keepers, recruiter of Pantami owe us no explanation as to why the main beneficiaries of the project are today terrorists whose attacks have become more coordinated with seamless ransom telephone haggling with victim’s relatives.

It was the same deceit that informed President Buhari’s first Minister of Defence, General Mansour Dan-Ali’s response to the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, ranked in 2015 by Global Terrorism Index as the fourth deadliest in the world. His unrestrained assault on our sensibilities was “If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with one another”.

Of course it was the same deceit, dishonesty and betrayal when the president’s ‘loyal gate keepers’ opposed the southern states’ demand for state and community policing while looking the other way when political sharia states set up 10,000 strong Sharia Hisbah police corps whose duties included arresting anyone sporting “indecent dress”, preventing “gender mix in commercial vehicles” or sealing-up hotels selling alcohol while bandits and killer herdsmen govern the ungoverned forests of the north.

The reintroduction of a controversial water bill amidst security challenges that have forced Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna to call for summary elimination of terrorists, Katsina’s Aminu Masari’s call on his people to arm themselves and Baba Ahmed of Northern Elders Forum’s(NEL ) to call for the president resignation because “We cannot continue to live and die under the dictates of killers, kidnappers, rapists and sundry criminal groups that have deprived us of our rights to live in peace and security” is a measure of how much sympathy Buhari’s loyal gate keepers have for their principal.

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