Obviously, the Nigerian Presidency is scared of any form popular resistance that would ultimately culminate in the abortion of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that has been profiting a few, and tilted towards the continued dominance of the Fulani ethnic nationality. In spite of this widely perceived flaw of the administration, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, does not appear to be helping matters at the moment. It seems, he is unwittingly stocking the fire in a dangerously polarized country with his desperate bid to re-introduce a controversial bill, which was rejected by the 8th Senate.
The rattled Buhari administration is busy sermonizing to the impoverished, hungry, and unemployed citizenry that the ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and Nigeria’s President, claiming that the days of coups and revolutions are over.
President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated this in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, while reacting to calls for ‘’revolution’’ March this Monday.
Contrary to Shehu’s claim, revolutionary ferments are all over the world. Even in the US, there on ongoing revolutionary pressure for equal medicare. The Nigerian people through their uprising, want the Buhari administration to explained to them why the welfare system is not working. Why is the Buhari regime allowing certain groups since 2015, to be segregated into programmes that are vulnerable?
In other climes, the welfare model for the Fulani herdsmen for instance, is being abandoned and replaced with universal systems. They have recognized that programmes for the poor are indeed, poor programmes. Instead of welfare, they are adopting universal programmes for education, health care and pensions, not seeking to grab lands and inland waters like in Nigeria for the well being of cattle.
It seems, the Buhari administration is yet to come to terms with the fact that when EVERY Nigerian is in, and uses the same system, the country becomes a stronger system. Arguably, publicly-financed systems tend to spend less per capita than the country does and do have better outcomes. Nigeria under Buhari’s watch must not proceed any further down the path that allows some lives to be valued less than others based on ethnic group. President Buhari needs to make a transparently practical commitment now: Every Nigerian in, No Nigerian out.
Shehu had however, noted that the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria plans a ‘’revolution’’ march on August 5, with the aim of bringing ‘’regime change’’ in Nigeria without recourse to a nationwide vote. ‘’The President of Nigeria and his administration respect and uphold the right of every Nigerian to peaceful protest and civil campaign– whether to raise awareness on issues, and even oppose the government. It is the inalienable right of all citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to do so. There is, however, a difference between peaceful call to protest and incitement for a revolution’’, he said.
According to him, the organisation championing this planned action is not fronted by any serious public faces, adding, ‘’we call on the sponsors and organisers to have the decency to come forward and make their identity known – out of respect to all Nigerians – so that Nigerians can be fully aware in whose name this revolution is being proposed and who the beneficiaries may be. Less than six months ago, Nigeria held simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections. Both contests were won resoundingly by President Buhari and his All-Progressives Congress party.
‘’The campaign was observed, and results were confirmed by international election monitoring groups and observers. The result was even contested by the losing presidential candidate and his party in Court. The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria. The days of coups and revolutions are over. Those making the revolution’ call hide behind the veil of social media modernity. But without revealing the identity of their sponsors this shadowy campaign is no better, and no more democratic, than the days of old.’’
He quoted President Buhari as calling on those behind the so-called revolution March to come out and be identified: ‘’The President calls on all those who seek to use and hide behind everyday citizens to attain power through undemocratic and violent means, which has been alluded, to come out clearly and be identified. They should lead their march in person. Only then will they begin to have the right to call themselves leaders before the people of Nigeria.’’
While the call for a revolution is scaring Aso Rock, the anti-Ruga coalition-Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum, and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF)-has risen in stout opposition to the plan to revisit the Water Resources Bill by the Senate. The coalition is describing the plan as ‘’internal colonialism and another Rural Grazing Area in disguise.’’
The undisguised pro-Fulani administration appears to be hell-bent on re-introducing the controversial bill, which was rejected by the 8th Senate. Senate President Lawan, had last Monday hinted that the National Assembly will work out an arrangement to re-introduce the bill, which seeks to concentrate the control of water resources around Rivers Niger and Benue which cut across 19 states, in the hands of the Federal Government.
But sources say some senators in the 9th National Assembly are divided over the plot to reintroduce the bill, which apart from making Abuja to be in control of water resources, will also make lands around the water resources to be taken over by the central government. The affected states are Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Plateau and Kebbi.
Lawan specifically called on the Executive arm of government to re-present the bill to the National Assembly for instant legislative approval.
PANDEF National Secretary, Dr Alfred Mulade, who said the water bill will divide and further jeopardise the nation, emphasizing that it portended grave danger for the Niger Delta region and the southern part of the country, alleging, ‘’the proposed bill will further encroach on the land and other timeless heritage of the Niger Delta people. It is a strategy for dispossession.’’
President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare, was quoted by The Punch as also opposing the reintroduction of the bill, saying it is against the spirit of federalism. He said, ‘’the proposed bill is anti-federalism and it is also against the corporate existence of peace and security in this country. As a people and as an organisation, we are vehemently opposed to the reintroduction of that bill for whatever hidden agenda. We warn against its being passed into law.’’
Spokesperson for the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, alleged that the planned re-introduction of the bill was part of the agenda of a section of the country to dominate the rest. ‘’The Senate is working to discredit itself as a rubber-stamp assembly and going overboard about the execution of the domination agenda. They should be very careful.
‘’The bill in the 8th assembly was shut down, but now they have a rubber-stamp assembly in place. It is RUGA in disguise; the other day, the Senate President was calling for the amendment to the Land Use Act; it is part of their internal colonialism agenda. They (FG) have not initiated one thing that could unite Nigerians’’, he said.
The Middle Belt Forum President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, warned against the re-introduction of the bill, stating that it was dropped by the 8th National Assembly because it saw the inherent dangers in the bill if passed into law, stating that the bill, just like the RUGA initiative, was meant to hand over the waterways and surrounding lands to Fulani herdsmen, thereby dispossessing communities of their ancestral lands.
Pogu said, ‘’we condemn it in totality. The 8th Senate saw the dangers and refused to pass the bill. The bill if passed into law would not only take the waterways, but also the lands around the waterways and rivers. Already, there are so many communities that were created deliberately around the rivers and waterways and many of the inhabitants are not Nigerians. It is just like the RUGA programme. It is meant to take over lands and deprive communities of their ancestral lands and the Federal Government, as in the case of RUGA, would give these to Fulani herdsmen and therefore compound our (security) crisis.’’
While he admonished lawmakers from the Middle Belt region and other parts of the country to shoot down the bill whenever it was revisited in the National Assembly, some senators who spoke with one of our correspondents on and off the record on the issue expressed divergent views on Lawan’s proposal.
The PDP senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Mathew Urhoghide, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, said he had received text messages from his constituents who expressed concerns over the proposed bill, pointing out, ‘’we cannot make input into a pronouncement as a legislator. The Senate President said the bill was misconstrued when it was brought to the 8th Senate. It was not passed because of that. It was an executive bill not a private member bill.
‘’The rejection of that bill was across the states. The Benue legislators led by Barnabas Gemade stood against it seriously. Everybody is now circumspect about the issue of giving land to the Fulani herdsmen. The Senate President did not go into the details that day so that he would not raise emotions. It is when the bill comes back that we will treat it on its merit. We should not look as if the bill is a southern issue. People in the North who also have suspicion that the bill is a plot to take over their land for grazing are equally against it.’’
While former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, said the planned introduction of the bill was in order, ‘’there is no point throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There are some aspects of the bill that would be in the interest of the nation. Those provisions that are against the national interest should be reviewed but I think the bill should be reconsidered’’, the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the bill will be attended to and subjected to scrutiny whenever it comes.