The Chinese have a dilemma: three-quarters of the water is in the south, while three-quarters of the farming is in the north.
Yangtze River is in the south and must feed three quarters of its population in the south whereas Yellow River, Liao River, Hai River and Huai river are in the north and only one-quarter of their population needs it… Water p.268
It is always important to imagine a worst-case scenario in planning for the survival of a multitude, especially when it comes to the basic things of life which are taken for granted by leaders in Africa, especially Nigeria – the country with the highest number of Black/Brown people.
China is becoming, almost, a best practice template on how to combine human resources and other resources in seeking the prosperity of a nation. There are fault lines, no doubt, especially when human freedom to choose “to live or die” is based on how much human intends to relate with others in pursuit of pleasure and joy.
China’s elites are not sleeping for the interest of its over 1.4 billion people. It is also, eagerly, proposing for investment in the replenishing of the west and central Africa’s Lake Chad which Francophone speaking neighbours of Nigeria, far and near, are seeking for better-negotiating terms to allow to take off, as they often sit in Sudan for that. Don’t blame them if only you know what western Sudan means to the Arab and why France is to be appreciated for breaking the bond between the west and main Sudan. A Saudi prince once sponsored a study on how to tow the icebergs in Antarctica to Mecca as if Africa and South America, very close to Antarctica, are fools. Kaddafi built a tunnel or piping system, that was about squeezing the lives of African ground waters and aquifers (Lakes and groundwaters in Africa could have suffered it also) if not for the intervention of its neighbouring countries – especially Egypt, Chad and Algeria.
So, like the land use law that makes land in Nigeria to be invested in the State Governors who know best how to secure their people against encroachment by powerful people, so also the “intestines” of the land that contain ground waters, aquifers, lakes, etc must be allowed to be guarded by the State Governors, also, as the Federation is known as Nigeria falters.
If Nigeria’s leaders had been faithful to the constitution that insists on a federal structure like USA’s, no sensible federal lawmaker would have worried themselves with bills that call for water resource management in Nigeria instead of seeing how Nigeria could benefit more in the use of waterways, Lake Chad Basin and better dredging of the Rivers Niger and Benue that link Nigeria with other countries.
In effect, it is expected that good governance in Nigeria starts with evaluating State Governors who are able to make potable water available to their populace as water remains abundant in Nigeria. Just like a Water expert, Marq de Villiers, states that Nigeria has lots of water and more than half the population (and I say ¾) goes without safe drinking water. It is the same as Africa sub-Sahara, as a whole, where Nigeria rules from the “immediate south of the Sahel” with great lakes like Lake Chad, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa, completely left unharnessed and uncared for as the majority of Africans live without potable water.
It is worth stating that the Arab region, that is the Maghreb, has almost 100 per cent of its population enjoying potable water. And they faithfully rely on the wise saying that: No man must abuse a well (groundwater and rivers), if the immediate owner has a surplus, he must provide it to strangers and their cattle, but he has no obligation to provide it for irrigating crops (Note: No obligation).
This is where they contend with Israel and even Egypt which is ¾ deserts. And both somehow lean to waterways, rivers and groundwater use as seen by the Western world that says: “use it or lose it”, that is, if you are the owner of the water and you fail to put it to constructive use, you lose it. Egypt has applied it to oppress weak African countries and Israel uses it to oppress in all corners, even remotely Africa.
In effect, Nigerian lawmakers whether National or Sub-National should start questioning the executive arms of their respective jurisdictions on why water, so much so abundant in Nigeria is not properly put to constructive use as the majority of Nigerians suffer from water-borne diseases.
Like land-use law that has been able to allow Governors to curtail the wrong use of land resource in the states, there should also be a vigilant and constructive use of water as profiled in each state’s aquifer, lake, groundwater, spring, and waterways for the prosperity of such state and its people.
Today, China imports water, and even clean air, which is all derivable from land that produces water. It is also a derivative of land use law which no Federal law should pry its nose on. I had once wondered how Eko Atlantic in Lagos came to be and I discovered great shareholding interests that spread almost all the world – East and West divide of the world and, indeed, it calls for applause for whoever initiated it as it created a source of wealth that could be enjoyed for long by the government of Lagos State, though not necessarily the original coast inhabitants.
That is also a twin coverage law of land and waterways. No one insinuates the Atlantic Ocean here even when it is encroached on. That is how it happens also in the USA where federal structure permits a state like California or Washington to infringe on waterways or rivers that do not originate from the two states but must have great Governors who could negotiate for what they term constructive use of water, and even pay for it or cause the principle of “use it or lose it” to apply (see California oppressing Navada and Arizona).
One expects Nigerian lawmakers to think very well and forget dabbling into water issues that could create more disharmonies in Nigeria like oil is already creating. Water is life and it must not be made a law instrument that could tear Nigerians apart as it does surreptitiously in the Middle East.
• Victor C. Ariole is a Professor of French and Francophone Studies University of Lagos.