by Dolapo Aina
People’s homes are following in the footsteps of corporate firms and government parastatals that have 2-3 generating sets. So much so that even NEPA offices now use generators for their daily operations.
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014. Time:5.40pm.
This writer could have titled this piece Happy New Year devoid of power/electricity, but it wouldn’t have sounded Nigerian enough! Majority of Nigerians speak Nigerian English when indoors and most times, they don’t say power or do you have electricity or power at home. In fact, we would rather say “do you have NEPA or Light” or “NEPA has brought the light”, once light is restored. NEPA, is an acronym for National Electric Power Authority, this parastatal was re-christened PHCN-Power Holding Company of Nigeria. And believe you me, they really “held” on to “power in their heyday when they held sway.” So much so that, there wasn’t any difference from what was obtainable in the 70s, 80s and 90s, when light was restored; and homes and streets would echo “UP NEPA!” One wonders if this is prevalent in some parts of Nigeria stills.
Like most people who wanted to relax, this writer was at home during the Yuletide holidays and met light at home. The light was steady on Wednesday, the 25th of December, 2013. On Boxing Day, there was no light. This became the norm till 31st of December, 2013. Back from cross-over New Year church service, light hadn’t been restored. Let’s put this into proper perspective. Lets retrace this writer’s movements prior New Year’s day.s
Returning from church service at about 6.50am on the 1st of January 2014, I tried to listen to radio stations but concluded that I couldn’t and didn’t want to want to listen to people’s New Year political frustrations. But apparently, the discussion was about President Jonathan’s New Year speech, circulated to all media houses by his Senior Special Media Adviser (Dr Reuben Abati-whose name when mentioned in social and intellectual circles brings about disapproving nod of heads and irritation). I listened for some minutes and lost interest in the content of the speech (same old, same old).
This writer arrived home and didn’t meet light-Nigerian English. But wait, 1st of January, no light? This is what Nigeria has become. I retraced my every move on the 31st of December 2013, and realised that all the places I visited were running on alternative power supply, better known as generators. Even churches didn’t even bother to rely on NEPA because as is said in Pidgin English, they would fall your hand– loosely meaning disappoint you. Pastors and clerics knew that the biblical “let there be light and there was light” story wasn’t and isn’t applicable and won’t work because the NEPA boys were not smiling and still aren’t in some areas. And they weren’t even on strike (the few times they have announced to go on strike have been greeted with disbelief and comments like-what difference would the strike make since we don’t have 12hours power supply?)
Lagosians have been used to having light on some specific days like the 1st of January, but it would appear that the new operators of commercial power (NEPA/PHCN) decided to leave us in the dark, both literarily and in reality. Amazing how government officials throw about impressive figures and statistics, but all you have to do is to kindly come out during the wee hours of the night (2, 3 and 4am) to see how “improved and NEPA lit-up” your area is.
Presently, most homes are beginning to see “reason” as to the necessity of having a second generator. People’s homes are following in the footsteps of corporate firms and government parastatals that have 2-3 generating sets. So much so that even NEPA offices now use generators for their daily operations. In 2008 or 2009, a childhood friend by the name Adedayo Fatuga said “something is fundamentally wrong when the economy of a nation is running on alternative power supply”. Take a roll call, the national telephone operator (NITEL) was sold; but unlike Lazarus, it never came back to life and alive! So also, Nigeria Airways. Can we forget Ajaokuta Steel Complex, which is a perpetual money guzzler? Now, NEPA has been sold to private firms and we can see the desired result (actually, my brethren, my brother and my sister; how can you see anything in the dark, except there is light?)
So, this writer was flabberwhelmed and overgasted (excuse the juxtaposition) and thought it as a misplacement of priority when I heard about the New Year speech by the President, which contained promises like a reduction in the amount of allocated funds for food at the presidential villa. And not forgetting the proverbial fight against corruption. Alas! It was reported that another Presidential airplane had been earmarked to be purchased at about 1.3Billion Naira. Mind you Nigeria has the third largest fleet of Presidential Airplanes. Countries we owe don’t have as many Presidential planes as we have. Plane every year! I ask just one question; was the last Presidential Plane bought, a “Tokunbo plane/second-hand plane”?
The proverbial clarion call to fight corruption is now like a broken LP record being played by a Deejay who hasn’t realised that his collections are outdated. To be candid, did the murky cases of 2013, show any sign bordering on stamping out corruption?
If I were to meet the President, I would tell him that he should promise and fulfil amongst his responsibilities these 2 responsibilities to Nigerians. Firstly, he should fix the power outage in the land because without this, the impressive economic growth figures being trumpeted about would be nothing but more than worthless. The ready-made excuses for the inability to solve the no-light situation are becoming a boring story-story recital that kindergarten pupils would find hard to believe.
Secondly, I would appeal to him, that he shouldn’t keep on allowing his speechwriters embarrass him and his office with insensitive, grandiloquent prolixies, laced with a recurring and steady overdose of official and unofficial approved phantasmagoria.
As I conclude this article (at 6.44pm) with my Nokia torchlight phone; the generator is about to be switched on; for the third time on the 1st of January 2014. While in the background, are the signature tune of BBC Focus on Africa on Short Wave Radio (where an analyst posited that Presidents Jonathan and Mugabe shouldn’t embarrass themselves in 2014) and the silent humming of a generator in the next building.
How ironic that while people were waiting to scream “Up NEPA”, they listened to snippets of the President’s speech without light. Meanwhile, the President promised light during a New Year church service in Abuja. How I wish Christiane Amanpour were in Nigeria to interview Mr President on the power situation, like she did via video-conference call during the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland in 2013.
While the President must have greeted Nigerians, by saying “Fellow Nigerians, Happy New Year”, a lot of Nigerians; placing their hands on their heads must have ferociously screamed, “O TI O! HAPPY NEW YEAR KE? WITHOUT NEPA! YE PA! (Loosely meaning incredulous astonishment).
N.B: Unbelievable but true, light was restored on the 2nd of January 2014. There is hope; we can at least hope. And President Mugabe collapsed on the 5th of January 2014.