Here in Nigeria, people seem to accept the unacceptable revelations of how politicians share millions of Naira belonging to the nation. The newspapers report them and the television speaks about them, but people just laugh; they laugh because they have been shocked to the state of unshockability. The truth that all this brings home so sadly is that Nigerians, in the main regard themselves as passing sojourners on the geographical amalgam called Nigeria. ~Dele Giwa
Last week, in a fit of righteous indignation Sam Amadi made startling revelations about how former President Jonathan and his co-travellers scammed Nigerians in the guise of power sector privatisation by selling the DISCOs to ‘straw men’. In a series of tweets to counter the allegations of complicity in our current predicament, the former NERC boss exhumed the massive corruption and gross incompetence in the sector which he explicitly said was designed to fail. Hear him:
“The power sector was designed to fail. We failed to corporatise and commercialise before privatising; we privatise senselessly without paying attention to context and corporate governance and regulatory regime; we sold to investors who lacked capacity,”
To put it in another perspective and perhaps even more bluntly, we have just been told to get ready for more years of darkness! Yet this story did not trend, at least not like it should considering the enormity of the details divulged and the gravity of its consequences. Rather government officials, media houses, content creators and our so-called ‘social media influencers’ have dwelt on the facile change of title by Aisha Buhari and other trifles.
Of course, Jonathan is not the only beneficiary of that dubious exercise, members of the ruling elite including some influential figures in the ruling party benefited from the filthy lucre. We know them. If you don’t, then I suggest you peruse the ownership nomenclature of the DISCOs at the Corporate Affairs Commission to know that the apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree. These folks who have filched our collective patrimony for ages probably gathered in a hotel room somewhere and appropriated the power sector and this is why they are livid with Buhari who has refused to toe the same line.
They are the same group that Iyabo Obasanjo referred to in her coruscating letter of 2013 where she not only accused her father of having an egoistic craving for power to live as the king among men of low esteem and intellect but also described Nigeria as a country so pauperised by the ruling class that smart, capable people prostrate before simpletons for patronage.
Unfortunately, just like every other nation, the masses will always bear the brunt of such depravity by her leaders. The only distinction with the Nigerian situation is the seeming willingness to carry on as if it is a norm.
Why we are so docile? Why do we revel in frivolities? Why are we not infuriated by the abysmal performance of those we put in charge of our affairs? I have often pondered these questions and each time I struggle to avoid a conclusion similar to what a friend echoed two days ago as we argued about the NASS leadership elections. Just like the late Dele Giwa’s sentiments quoted above, my friend opined that a majority of Nigerians do not know what good governance means. In his words “we are largely a bunch of economic hustlers not yet ready for nation building”. Well as true as that may sound depending on one’s perception there is no doubt that most Nigerians want a stable power supply. I mean, who loves darkness except for that horned creature cast into the abyss since the beginning of time?
Just last night another friend who was visiting Lusaka called to narrate how he was blown away by the infrastructure in Zambia especially the constant electricity. Are we not meant to be doing better than Zambia? Are we not exporting power to Niger, the Republic of Benin and Togo? We sell gas to the West African region for goodness sake. So why can’t we indulge ourselves?
Frankly, the power dilemma troubles me a lot. In fact, I am yet to meet anyone I know that it bothers more. I believe the reason a large number of our youths waste productive man-hours in bars and hotels is largely due to the epileptic power supply.
I clearly recollect when Obasanjo was elected the president in 1999 as our fourth republic commenced with enthusiastic optimism. In his usual bravado, he proclaimed ‘blackouts a thing of the past’. Buoyed by this promise I had advised my unscrupulous generator repairer to seek an alternative vocation. I will never forget the way he laughed so hard with his feet raised to the sky as he rhetorical asked me “in this Nigeria?”. Indeed that uneducated artisan turned out to be Nostradamus. He certainly had a better understanding of our country than I did back then. And as Obasanjo’s eight-year tenure ended, the power situation appeared to have gotten worse.
Not long after him, Jonathan came with hope. We were promised a fresh breath once again. It did look good at the start and by 2012 despite being a Jonathan critic I publicly declared that I will support his re-election if the kind of stable electricity supply I witnessed in Enugu then was sustained. But somehow after the sack of Barth Nnaji, it was back to square one.
In 2017, I spent Easter in Amawbia, much of Awka South LGA was in darkness for two months. It required a threat to picket EEDC by Awka youths before the damaged equipment was replaced. I visited Nigeria about four times last year and it was pretty much the same each time. In February of that year, I didn’t see a flicker for about two weeks before I left. Again I was in Nigeria for six weeks recently, I did not have power for up to seventy-two hours in aggregate. That is roughly a thousand hours without electricity and I’m not kidding.
Twenty long years after Obasanjo’s statement, we are still groping in the dark and filling up generators tanks every morning. Yet Fashola would have us believe that Nigerians now spend less on diesel because the power situation is better than it was yesterday even as LUTH which is located in his constituency is still in darkness as I write. We are constantly regaled with statements on how power generation has increased from 3000MW to 8000MW and other technical jargon. All mumbo jumbo that further exasperates the common man on the streets.
The truth is that we are still gazillion miles away from a stable power supply, and depending on your location, the situation may have improved or worsened but nationwide there has been no significant difference.
So for how much longer will we continue in darkness? With an estimated population of 200 million and a median age of 18 years, the unemployment problem is like a cluster bomb that has already exploded in Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Kaduna and even the president’s home state of Katsina.
Nigerians are not greedy and we don’t demand too much from our government because we are like my friend said ‘economic hustlers’. I believe that twelve hours of constant daily supply will do for now. Let us have the improved power supply promised during the campaigns, we can get to stability later.
And really this can be achieved with the right mix of policies backed by concrete action. Take for instance the solar-powered MTN Lumos which I’ve been using for close to two years. It is not exactly cheap at N4,300 monthly but it works. There are thousands of private businesses capable of providing alternative/renewable energy for our teeming populace if encouraged by the government. One would expect that the various agencies and parastatals charged with developing the energy sector will be suffocating with activities but the next event on the website of the energy commission of Nigeria is in November 2019!
Buhari obviously inherited a mess but that’s an old story now. Having struggled for the last four years, Nigerian demonstrated great trust in him by giving him a fresh mandate. With a NASS leadership handpicked by his party, there should be no excuses going forward. It was the 18th-century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said that “what life half gives to a man, posterity gives entirely”.
President Buhari owes nobody but Nigerians a duty if he wants to be given his due by posterity. We cannot afford to grope in the dark any longer. It is time to put the next level in the ‘spot-light’.