Nigeria: Any light at the end of the tunnel?

By Prince Charles Dickson

When question drop for mouth,

Question go start to run,

When answer drop for mouth,

Answer go run after am,

When answer jam question for road

Another thing go shele o, uh

Why you mash my leg for ground?

You no see my leg for road?

Question don drop for mouth,

Question don start to run,

Why you put your leg for road?

You no see say I dey come?

Answer don drop for mouth,

Answer don start to run,

— Fela Anikulapo Kuti in Question Jam Answer

The national grid collapsed, megawatts have dropped from X to Y, where the national grid dey sef, gas no dey, water too much, rainy season no good, dry season affect Z…no answers, no light at the end of the tunnel.

Nigerians applauded the fact that PHCN died but many a Nigerian now crave for its resurrection, as the new DISCOs at best have failed woefully in the electric dance.

We are still in the NNPC said “there is no gas, we have supplied, and they did not pay”, era. Despite the best of efforts, most Nigerians do not understand the whole privatisation, unbundling or fondling of power by those concerned.

Estimated bills, unavailable meters and tales by darkness.

We are an impatient nation, but is this electricity matter not one that should have been done and dusted? We still suffer high current; electric gadgets bear the brunt, no one is held liable, and then low current, you can barely see, so there is electricity but it cannot power a bulb.

Transmission company people are doing loads of hard work but truly it amounts to nothing when there are many questions and no answers. I agree that we are a difficult people. It is probably only in Nigeria that PHCN owes NNPC for fuel supplied, and NNPC has not paid for electricity supplied and state houses owe utility bills, while citizens that have not paid bills in years have power as long as there is power to spare.

I know it is the same nation that after the fatia, Lord’s Prayer and phrases like Allahmudillahi, and Hallelujah, one must have under the breath said “Up NEPA” or muttered, “Thank God there is light.”

I agree that it would be difficult because millions of consumers are accustomed to that particular house that signposts whether there is light or not, some of us even call home to ask if there is light, rather than ask if everyone is safe.

I do not need lecture us on, the benefits derivable to the Nigerian economy in the event we sort out our electricity palaver.

I must state solution does not lie in Chinese, World Bank loans or private partnership but upon a strong political will by both leadership and those governed.

It is an interesting masquerade. Recall a top aide, who blamed witches for power outages. Have we not since forgotten the minister who resigned and the controversies?

Is it not true the distribution companies simply bought PHCN properties for peanuts? Owners that have no expertise, distribution companies aptly called DISCOs that see the venture as new ‘oil wells’ and cannot dance and worthy disco.

Looking at the best effort of government or the DISCOs, I simply recall those days when we read, this novel by Adaora Ulasi, Many things we don’t understand. It is a book I read donkey years ago. What captivated me then, was not just in the story but that title.

It was PHCN, former NEPA, and onetime ECN, for those old enough to remember. Now distribution companies, the power sector and these Discos are just a repeat episode–things we never may understand.

Like why we can’t get 18hours electricity in a nation with so much resources both human and financial. Like how do we expect to get the desired megawatts with generating and transmission points that are run ala Lugard?

How do we get electricity when a third of consumers don’t pay bills, in fact stranger than fiction some state government houses owe several millions of naira in bills.

As a nation, as a people, both the led, leaders and those who are in the business of dealing with us–what are our values, what drives this nation and her people?

What is the Nigerian dream, as we gravitate towards the second leg of the Buhari administration there are complaints, grumbling, disaffection and conflicts?

To some it’s President Buhari, to others it’s the institutions, others blame the opposition, the opposition blames government. The people blame the leaders, the leaders blame leaders.

Are we not a betrayal republic, one of a people that has let itself and people down and then as usual lie to its people?

Let us share this fable as I conclude. A master was strolling through a field of wheat when a disciple came up to him and asked, “I can’t tell which is the true path. What’s the secret?”

“What does that ring on your right hand mean?” asked the master.

“My father gave it to me before dying.”

“Well, give it to me.”

The disciple obeyed, and the master tossed the ring into the middle of the field of wheat.

“Now what?” shouted the disciple.

“Now I have to stop doing everything I was doing to look for the ring! It’s important to me!”

The ring is the masquerade, it is important to us, but it can be thrown away, and indeed it has been discarded many times. We stop everything we are doing to look for it, but we don’t even know why, yet it is important…that we see light at the tunnel’s end.

Nigeria, Nigerians don’t understand many things, we are a repeat episode, yet we desperately desire change, and without seeing much of it we moved to the next level.

Finally, these three things: 1) Masquerades are often from the community, the same people you eat, play, work and discuss with. Yet, they hide their faces and scare you, poke fun at you, and chase you…

2) A repeat episode, many a time, you have watched it, you know what to expect, how it will end, what happened. Yet, you are still addicted to it, like the yearly masquerade you want to see it again, even when you are being fooled.

3) Many things we don’t understand–because we choose not to. Like the power masquerade, good governance masquerade, and corruption masquerade, ethnic card masquerade and more. Are we ready to shed the deceit, and get it right, will there be light at the end of the tunnel?Only time will tell.

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