Playwright and social critic, Prof Wole Soyinka, has faulted attempts by the Federal Government with the connivance of the National Assembly to return the National Water Resources Bill rejected by the public in 2018.
There were reports that that the House of Representatives on July 23, 2020, referred the National Water Resources Bill 2020 to a “committee of the whole,” for third reading and passage.
Soyinka, in a statement on Thursday titled, ‘MLK’s mighty stream of righteousness,’ kicked against the return of the bill and the killing of some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra by officials of the Department of State Services in Enugu on Sunday.
He said, “A roundly condemned project blasted out of sight by public outrage one or two years ago, is being exhumed and sneaked back into service by none other than a failed government, and with the consent of a body of people, supposedly elected to serve as custodians of the rights, freedoms and existential exigencies of millions. This bill – Bill on National Water resources 2020 – is designed to hand Aso Rock absolute control over the nation’s entire water resources, both over and underground.
“The basic facilitator of human existence, water – forget for now all about streams of righteousness! – is to become exclusive to one centralised authority. It will be doled out, allocated through power directives from a desensitised rockery that cannot even boast of the water divining wand of the prophet Moses. If the current presiding genius–and this applies equally to all his predecessors without exception – had a structured vision of Nigerian basic entitlements, Nigerians would by now, be able to boast the means of fulfilling even that minimalist item of COVID-19 protocols that call for washing one’s hands under running water! As for potable water, for drinking and cooking, let us not even begin to address such extra-terrestrial undertaking!
“What next for the exclusive list? The rains? I declare myself in full agreement with virtually every pronouncement of alarm, outrage, opprobrium and repudiation that has been heaped upon this bill and its parentage, both at its first outing and since this recent re-emergence. It is time to move beyond denunciations however and embark on practical responses for its formal deactivation and permanent internment. Let all retain in their minds that, from the same source that preached the “streams of righteousness” is encountered the promise of “no more floods, the fire next time.”
Dwelling on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement provoked by the racial killing of a black man by a United States cop and Martin Luther King’s speech to discard racism, the elder statesman noted that in the past few days he mulled over the watershed episode and was compelled to rephrase: Do Nigerian lives matter? Do farmers’ lives matter? Do IPOB lives matter? Do innocent lives matter? And most disturbingly: Do future lives matter?
He added, “One passage in Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” has leapt to the forefront as a warning that relates to that final interrogatory – do future lives matter ? And it does so in a most literal manner, one that MLK could never have envisioned! It persists in echoing through the mind, reinforced by the recent killings of innocent humanity – mostly youths — in Enugu, by state forces, under the pretext – shall we presume? – of preventing secessionist agitations?
The Nobel laureate further said the promulgators of the obscenity, high and low, should understand that the placid waters they think to control unjustly and grotesquely, would turn to be Martin Luther King’s “mighty stream of righteousness” that would overwhelm and sweep them off their complacent, and increasingly loathsome sectarian and conspiratorial heights.
He said, “One polluted stream of human existence compounds the next. A violation here joins forces with its tributary of resentment there yonder, all seemingly unconnected. Martin Luther King’s streams of righteousness turn into a mighty torrent of repulse that overwhelms the perpetrators but, alas, takes down much else as collateral, irreparable damage. That is the only cause for regret and – restraint. Hence our duty to position that anguished question frontally, and call the world to witness our open propagation of that challenge: Do future lives matter?
“Let Buhari and his myrmidons ponder that question in the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds. They should not bequeath to future generations the harvest of the grapes of wrath!”
We will reject illegally revived Water Bill –SMBLF
Besides Soyinka, groups including the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, rejected the water bill and advised communities to demand explanations from their representatives in the National Assembly.
It called on all the communities opposed to the bill which it said was meant to “grab land around waterways for cattle herders to use,” to organise community special sittings for their representatives to explain the meaning of the latest move and their roles in it.
A co-spokesman of the SMBLF, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “Freedom-loving Nigerians should be ready for protracted resistance to this move to grab land around waterways for Miyetti Allah by the executive arm of the government.”
On its part, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation said the bill would not only be rejected again but would also challenged for its legality.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga who spoke with one of correspondents, said that “It is a tinder box that must certainly explode if they choose to embark on such a precipitous peregrination”.
Prince Achi-Okpaga said, “There is no gain saying that the implication is as envisaged that the Federal Government will acquire the water ways from the people and keep the same at the disposal of unwelcome visitors or aliens; a clear, unfair and natural case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“When Nigerians fail to resist such ungodly act the next would be an Act to take our compounds from us so that we begin to operate in oblivion.”
National Water bill will set Nigeria on fire, Middle Belt warns NASS
Also the Middle Belt Forum warned the National Assembly against conniving with the Federal Government to return the bill, warning that if passed, it “would set Nigeria on fire”
National President of the Middle Belt Forum,Dr Bitrus Porgu, gave the warning while speaking to one of our correspondents in Jos on Thursday.
Porgu said that the reason which made Nigerians to reject the bill in the first place had not changed as it was “a ploy by the Muhammadu Buhari-led regime to confiscate the ancestral land of Nigerians through the backdoor and transfer their ownership to his Fulani kinsmen.”