When the legendary Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti did a song titled, “water, e no get enemy”, little would he imagine that water would ever become an enemy in Nigeria. But why would one of the most important free gifts of nature become an enemy? The reason is not farfetched. Nigeria has become a country where anything can happen by ‘miracle’, just as billions of naira can develop wings and disappear from public coffers, politicians have through their actions and inactions made water appear to be an enemy.
You may be thinking about the 2012 flood disaster and the predicted heavy rainfall of 2013, no, that’s a story for another day. Water has a major ‘enemy’ of students in Nigeria. Last week, the country was shocked with the news of the terror unleashed on the students of Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK) allegedly by armed soldiers. The unarmed students were reportedly carrying out a peaceful protest over the lingering poor water supply in their campus. The news was highly devastating. At first, I was in disbelief and waited for a possible rebuttal. Rather, the news report appeared on more news channels with gory details of the murder of four students with many others sustaining various degrees of injuries. As if that was not enough, National Mirror reported that nine students were killed in an auto crash involving a commercial bus they boarded to flee the school campus when they were being chased away from their places of abode by security operatives as directed by the university authority. So far, thirteen students were killed by water.
Yes, water refused to make itself available in the first place for the students to use. Then water also metamorphosed to bullets, wounded and killed some students and chased others to die in accident. The university administration can’t be blamed for this. After all, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Shamsudeen Amali, OFR in a press statement expressed “deep regrets” over the incident. “He further regrets that the protest on the federal highway against shortage of water supply in Keffi town embarked upon by few students staying off-campus was hijacked by some hoodlums. The incident is regrettable because the off-campus students rejected the water supplied to them by the university through water tankers, insisting on having pipe-borne water”. Doesn’t that statement give him a clean bill of health?
Would you blame the police? Why would you do that? They were probably ‘maintaining law and order’ before the ruthless soldiers arrived and some dead bodies were later identified. What about the soldiers? Their spokesman has already cleared the air, “”our soldiers were not involved in any shooting so we could not comment while live ammunitions were used to quell the riot. Who else would you blame, the governor? No, his excellency must have been ‘committed to providing regular water supply to the good people of Keffi and the entire Nasarawa State’. He has also taken further actions following the incident. According to his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Public Affairs, Sani Mairiga, “the State Governor, UmaruTanko Al-Makura, has approved the suspension of the General Manager (GM) of the State Water Board, Mallam Safiyanu Ibrahim, pending the conclusion of investigations.” You now see why no one but water is the enemy. Water is to blame!
It could be recalled that in April last year, students of the University of Ibadan also carried out protests over epileptic power and poor water supply. Some of the placards they displayed has this message, “we are tired of darkness, where is our right? University of Ibadan is the first but the worst and drought, no light, no water, no life, we are fed up”. I must state that Nigerian students are not irascible. As a former Student Union leader in the University of Ibadan, I know students don’t react until things get so bad. In a related development, students of the University of Abuja were reportedly flogged out of their hostels by soldiers on the invitation of the university authorities following their recent peaceful protest over non-accreditation of courses in the institution. The university security or the police is no longer powerful enough to manage civil unrest, to the imperial leaders and administrators, protests have become mutiny and soldiers are required to crush the heady students.
Following the developments of the recent past, some questions have been boggling my mind. Why would a university invite soldiers in a civil unrest? To the best of my knowledge, the approval of the commander-in-chief of the armed offices is required for soldiers to be deployed; did President Jonathan give such approval? If no, who deployed soldiers to UniAbuja and Keffi? What investigation did the Nigerian Army do before coming out to absolve its officers? Why is the presidency yet to give directive for the investigation of the ungodly act of government agents? Besides suspending the Water Corporation Director and promising to pay the bills of the injured, what other measures is the Nasarawa State government taking to identify the cause of the incidence and prevent future occurrence? Has any top government official visited the family of the innocent students whose lives and dreams have been cut short by government’s ineptitude and high handedness of security officials? What has Nigerian students in public schools done to deserve such inhuman treatment?
More so, it is very disappointing that water supply would be a serious problem in the only state led by the opposition Congress for Progressive Change. One would have expected the government of the state to prove that it is a better alternative to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I’m deeply concerned about the apparent display of insensitivity towards the killing of Nigerian students by the presidency. I’m not aware of any formal response from the presidency to the gruesome murder of more than thirty students in Mubi and the four University of Port Harcourt students in Aluu, not even during a presidential national broadcast that took place within a week of both incidents. So far, no word has come from the presidency in the recent case of NSUK students involving agents of the state – the police and the army. One expects the presidency to demonstrate that it values the lives of Nigerians, particularly the youth and not keep mum when incidents like this happen.
The bloods of the innocent students are crying for justice. A worse tragedy will be to allow the killers to go unpunished. I believe the state and federal government know what to do and they need to start doing it without further delay. Besides punishing the murderers, learning environments should be made conducive for all students in all campuses across the country. The blood of the Nasarawa Four and many others who have died in struggle must not be in vain. Let water become a friend again.
Tweet me at @donlaz4u
First published on my column on The Newsnest on March 4, 2013.