Anytime I read the creation story in the bible where the first thing God says is “let there be light”, my soul sheds a tear for my country Nigeria. Heck if we were to go by the amount of power blackouts people experience in Nigeria, you would think that perhaps the “let there be light” proclamation did not apply to my dear country. We must be the reason why Africa is called the Dark Continent. Perhaps electricity was not created for our country. Maybe in the same way the drapes should match the carpet, our “light” situation should match the complexion of our skins. I call dibs on the light skinned igbo, Fulani, yellow ijebu lady, she will have much electricity. We might need to have a national bleaching day to ensure that the gods of electricity look favorably upon us. Now that I have utterly offended some and put a smile on the face of some self-deprecating yet patriotic mind out there who like me loves to hate and hates to love Nigeria, I shall continue with my train of thought. Better buy a ticket and hop on, destination: unknown. Perhaps if it is an electric train we will encounter power outage somewhere between Onitsha and Kano and all the passengers will sweat to death or perhaps suffocate if we are lucky because the engineer designed the train for just air-conditioning, no windows!
I think fondly or not so fondly to the time when I was serving my fatherland. Indeed that year I had quite a mixed bag of experiences. Did I ever tell you of the time I spent 2 months without electricity? I kid you not. I was housesitting, think babysitting but for people with houses they don’t really use who were so kind to give this lowly corper a place to rest his head. I am a grateful young man, can’t be uttering nonsensities about my patrons. My point is, I received a monthly electricity bill for 90 thousand naira. Chineke me o! I had my hand on my head, I went to the NEPA/PHCN office and stated my case, begged, pleaded, argued, shouted, beat my chest, heck even did my sexy face and winked but alas they were steadfast in their resolve to deny me of electricity. What is that you say? I should have ignored the power authorities and ran a generator? You must be kidding, I did not make enough to engage in that bout of madness. The house did have a generator, it was like an old soldier trying to engage in coitus without the help of Viagra. It was malfunctioning. I first attempted to put my engineering degree to good use by googling possible ways to fix it and I tried, changed the spark plugs even. Serviced it. Even called mechanics who fixed it and it would work for a few days and go down again. Much like the old soldier, I blew hot and cold but it would not get up.
Of course the epic battle with the generator was after I paid a NEPA/PHCN worker to come and hook me up illegally. This lasted a week and I came back from work and found it disconnected. I suspect the same worker came back and disconnected it and wanted me to come back and bribe him again. Ya ci kaniyansa (hausa insult). Long story short, I spent two months with an epileptic generator, visiting aunts on weekends or travelling home, exploring the nightlife of mainland lagos and did I mention my hookah/shisha which became my night time buddy. After work and dinner, if I felt like just chilling at home I would light up my shisha, finish one or two charcoals and drift blissfully into sleep. All this in a bid to avoid the stubborn mosquitoes of the city of lagos and the buckets of sweat that accompanied sleeping in a room where the windows almost never faced the direction the wind was blowing. O well it was quite the experience. If I ever get a biography of me made, it will go in there. This will be after I single handedly bring light to Nigeria. I am kidding, or am I?
I am not old enough to claim I know of a time when there were no power outages in Nigeria. Perhaps that was in a time dinosaurs roamed the forests of Sokoto (see what I did there). I am however old enough to claim that there was a time it was less frequent than it currently is but so can anyone who has lived for about a decade or more. I remember as a kid that our family did not own a generator. My father in his almost always proper ways did not like the noise they made, they were an unnecessary expense and we always lived in multi storeyed buildings. I watched so much TV and movies growing up without the help of a generator that I feel sad for the kids of today. They are growing up in a world filled with the noise of generators and fumes. A world where a 10 year old knows by looking at a house what the KVa of the generator that could power it would be, a world of tone deaf children with everyone shouting, “Eh?! Papa Iyabo. What did you say?!”
It’s a shame that constant electricity is a luxury that surprisingly even the relatively wealthy are not immune to. They shell out ridiculous amounts of money to buy diesel to fuel their generators. Anything you buy in our country has a power outage markup that is either implicitly or explicitly applied. I recently read our Power minister talking about increasing the power generated by 4,000MW in 8 years. They have turned us into a country of electrical engineers, everyone is an expert in Megawatts. All this in a country that needs about 50,000MW to light up every corner of the nation and truly develop its industrial potential not to talk of attracting foreign investment. His assertion had me in tears, I was laughing so hard at our power minister and his mediocre target that I started shedding tears. I guess my village can forget about ever getting electricity. That’s a topic for another day. Anytime I hear a government official speak about improving the power situation in my dear country, I automatically switch off. We have heard millions of promises over the years and stories of companies signing contracts to do one thing or the other and alas we are yet to see any significant dividend.
What should be done? A thorough treatise on the solution to Nigeria’s power woes might be my next pet project. I think a lot of the solutions lie in policy, legislation, anti-corruption and engineering maintenance. The technology to solve Nigeria’s power problems exists and has existed for decades. My layman or not so layman opinion is that allowing states to produce their own electricity and reap the benefits of the electricity they produced is a step in the right direction. Incorporating oil companies into the fray and involving them in projects to supply natural gas for gas fired power plants is another good move. Passing legislation to privatize the power sector and let private companies produce and make money off generating, transmitting or distributing electricity would be another ace move. However, The recent increase in electricity tariffs without accompanying improvements in service delivery is a no-no. It would also be key to diversify the power generating sources and employ some hybrid power plants that make use of both fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. Revamp of existing power plants to maximize power output and efficiency would provide a shorter term solution and yield quick dividends. Some of these steps are already underway or so it seems if I am to believe what I read in the news and the pronouncements of our government officials.
O Nigeria, when shall we see a renaissance to pull us out of these dark ages we are in. Not that I don’t think dark is beautiful but I would definitely like to see what is in front of my face. Jesus said let us be the light of the world, How can we be the light if we stuck in darkness. How can we hear the word when it is drowned out by the voice of Chinese generators speaking in devilish language. Let us do ourselves a favor, lets us bind and cast the spirit of generators. Hearken to the lone voice crying out in the wilderness, “Let there be light”. For how can we create a better tomorrow for Nigeria without light? How can Nigeria be the giant of Africa that is poised to lead if Nigeria is blind?
What are your experiences with power outage in Nigeria? What solutions do you see to the problem?