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Nigeria: Water Has Enemies – OpEd

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Many years ago, late Nigerian and  world renowned Afro beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo, sang ” water no get enemy” which he rendered both in his native Yoruba language and Nigeria’s brand of corrupt English, the pidgin. In Fela’s view, water has no enemy because no man or woman can avoid water. If you are not drinking it, you are bathing with it. If you are not bathing with it, you are doing your cooking with it. And if you are not cooking with it, you are bathing your baby especially,  in poor Nigeria, where when your baby develops malaria the symptom of which is temperature rise detected by the ‘hand thermometer’ of the mother as she feels the baby’s fore head for heat with her hand, it is water that she turns to to dab the baby’s body. Hospitals are not in her imagination because she does not have the money to access the hospitals. Her leaders have cheated her, they have led her to the sharp bend of the forest and have abandoned her there,  they have given her many promises but they have left her to the mercy of water and local herbs.

But now, water appears to be gathering many enemies in Nigeria. In the recent weeks and possibly it will continue for some months to come, water will be  enemy of Nigerians killing them, destroying their crops and rendering them homeless. Again their leaders are betraying them leaving them to the torment of water. Water came in high volumes  more than they can hope to drink, bath with, cook with, bath their babies with and is now  unwanted neighbor. In Lokoja, where Yaya Bello, is governor, water is ravaging the people and no help is in sight. Yaya Bello finds it convenient to fight business mongul, Aliko Dangote over ownership of Obajana Cement which Dangote bought in 1977 but which Yaya Bello and his legislature said was not properly sold. Interested observers say the underlying reason is the inability of the private company to grease the palms of Yaya Bello. They say there ought to be some kobo skimmed off every bag of cement produced which by the Nigeria unwritten sleaze system should be going to the private pocket of Yaya Bello but which is not going there.

Therefore Yaya Bello concentrated on that urgent battle first because what concerns Ceaser shall first be served, the issue of water which is ravaging the people can wait a little. A few thousands killed can only mean a good reduction in population which of course has been surging out of control for some time; the surging of water is therefore good and cost effective measure to curtail the surging population. Prayer answered. While water that started from a dam called Daglo in Cameron that was released in that country so that the surging current will not damage it, released a high volume of water which turned enemy of Nigerians. It bothered president Mohammadu Buhari less that the people of Kogi state which is just about one and a half hours drive away from the cosy office of Buhari called Aso Rock. Buhari is safely ensconced inside a rocky fortress and the immediate man on ground in Kogi state, the governor of the state, Yaya Bello was too busy looking for money to bother about some helpless people that water is fighting. Buhari will not addrees the nation and Bello will not give up his percuniary war with Aliko Dangote, the cement mongul. 

In the midst of the battle between Yaya Bello and Dangote, the house of assembly, which had made a report declaring Dangote and Obajana Cement wrong, empower it’s closure by force which was carried out by thugs called vigilantes, got razed by fire. It was Dangote that came to rescue of Kogi by producing a fire fighting vehicle to put out the fire because Kogi has not a single fire fighting vehicle. In the midst of that battle, billionaire Dangote extended his ‘long leg’; we call influence peddling in Nigeria by that appellation because if you have money in Nigeria, your leg will be very long even if you are not tall. Dangote’s visit and his ‘long leg’ woke up the residents of Aso Rock and consequently the National Economic Council ordered that Yaya Bello and Dangote should iron out their differences in the court. But that is what Yaya Bello should have done. Why didn’t he do it? but prefer to match to the biggest factory in the world located in his state, the biggest private employer of labour in the state, the biggest contributor to taxes in the state and in Nigeria and put it under lock and key. Dangote may contribute humongous taxes to the state but the contribution to the governor’s private pocket is more important and that can not be ironed out in the court. 

It will be interesting to see how the courts will handle the case. I can almost hear some judges josttling to hear the matter since Dangote will be going with a deep pocket. Before the elections tribunals will be sitting at the end of the February elections next year, the Dangote/ Kogi tango will be a good source of private revenue for the judge or judges comparable only to elections tribunals. We will wait hoping that a settlement our of court will be announced. Dangote may prefer to do one or two things for Yaya Bello in the spirit of conflict resolution in Nigeria’s perculiar way. Yaya Bello’s tenure is ending in May and whatever is obtained from that negotiation may be a good take home pay. Meanwhile conducive business environment would have suffered a stroke and water now the enemy of the people of Kogi would have killed more.

Meanwhile, water has also become the enemy of the peoples of Bayelsa who have been cut off from the rest of the country, the peoples of Anambra state who now need canoe to move around. Anambra people inspite of the war declared on them by water have some  joy: the sit at home foisted on them by the notorious IPOB secessionist agitators will stop for some time. Why IPOB has guns, they do not have canoes and Anambra will rest while the lawyers of Nnamdi Kanu, the head of Biafra agitators are piling political pressure to put on Mohammadu Buhari to relaease him after the government of Buhari through his Attorney General, Shehu Malami has refused to obey the Court Appeal who discharged Nnamdi Kanu. Nigerians are learning English, they have opportunity to learn the difference between discharge and acquit. The attorney general said discharge does not mean aquit. I think the lawyers and the judges have to acknowledge that blood is thicker than water and that a president especially if he comes in the guise of Mohammadu Buhari can not be controlled by any court. To hell with the doctine of separation of power or the rule of law. Buhari is an ex general  and he rules. Water is fighting furiously in Adamawa too where a dam, Dasin Hausa that ought to have been built to stop the menace of water from Cameron was allegedly not built. If Buahri would not talk to Nigerians, after all it is not more that 600 persons that have died, a figure which is not enough to catch the attention of a busy president who had to fly to Korea to attend to an unknown business, his Minister for Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu has spoken denying that there was ever an agreement between Cameroon and Nigeria to make Nigeria responsible to it’s people by building the Dansin Hausa dam which will curtail the water surge to Nigeria anytime the Cameroon dam is released. This minister reportedly blamed God for the water problem. It was water given to Nigeria as a blessing that became a curse. But he didn’t say that somebody slept on duty.

Water is also in parts of Lagos for another reason. Another dam in nearby Oyan, Oshun state has been released and water is fighting in Lagos, becoming enemy of people who had been friendly with it. Lagos government is asking everybody to evacuate their houses in some marked areas. We don’t know where those people will evacuate to in a state where it costs almost a million to rent a room apartment with private toilet and bathroom. Where water is not fighting, oil is the enemy. Oil is the main stay of Nigeria economy. It determines everything. It is the wealth that is stolen in Nigeria. It is the reason Nigeria though it calls herself a federation state is effectively a unitary state. It is the reason Nigeria will not decentralize so each unit can be effectively managed. It is the reason for concentration of power in the center government. It is the source of the huge power of Buhari, the reason for complacency in the country. It is the reason for a threatening civil war. The last civil war of 1967- 1970 was partly fought because of this oil. It is the reason every major ethnicity want to have a grip on the center government. It is the reason the president is the minister of petroleum resources.

Now thieves who as suspected are members of either the corporation managing the oil or some ranking politicians embeded at the seat of power in Abuja have been stealing the oil. They stole all of it that the government is not able to meet it’s quota of supply and therefore unable to fund it’s budget. A private security firm headed by a local in the oil producing area, Government Ekpemupolo, the former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, has detected many siphoning points that have been mind burgling. Nigeria has had to borrow so much from China that China got tired of it. Buhari again has not addressed the nation. And people are saying he has not addressed the nation and may not because some of those who stole that oil may be his friends or his Fulani tribe which he has been protecting since he got to power. 

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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