By Donu Kogbra
LAST week, I dedicated a large chunk of this column to telling Vanguard readers that my generator and the PHCN transformer on my street in Abuja had collapsed simultaneously, that my household had been TOTALLY deprived of electricity for several days and that I had temporarily taken refuge in a hotel…
… a) because I felt so physically and psychologically stressed by the constant heat, heavy sweating and lack of light at night,
b) because my electricity-driven water pump had also packed up and
c) because I was tired of not being able to use my computer or work or charge my phone or flush my toilet or bathe with ease or read books or watch TV or keep food in the fridge or enjoy cool drinks.
Much to my surprise, quite a few readers contacted me to express hostility. One guy accused me of being â€œfakeâ€ for daring to take the view that an electricity-free existence is difficult to tolerate.
Another guy bitterly complained about the fact that I had â€œregaled your audience with irrelevant stories about the minor personal problems of an elite individual like yourself, instead of focussing on the endless sufferings of the ordinary majorityâ€.
I think that these detractors are being extremely unfair because I DID make it clear that Iâ€™m aware that Iâ€™m luckier than most Nigerians and that Iâ€™m grateful to God for allowing me the rare privileges of being able to own a generator and being able to escape from chronic discomfort when it decides to break down.
Sure, it is immensely irritating to listen to someone whose headaches are small moaning and groaning about predicaments that arenâ€™t life-threatening and donâ€™t sound very serious to people who have much bigger headaches to contend with.
And, yes, I am more fortunate than most of my compatriots; but I am not rich by a long shot. I am not good at making big bucks because I am an undynamic and unambitious artistic intellectual at heart.
I frequently worry about cashflow issues; and when I hear some of my wealthy and pampered relatives, friends and political/business contacts whining about stuff likeÂ their â€œstruggleâ€ to find skilled local mechanics to service their state-of-the-art cars, I feel like strangling them! And I sometimes feel obliged to remind them that just one of the many flashy vehicles they own costs more than my average annual income!
Some folks are more affluent than I am. Iâ€™m more affluent than some folks; and we can all be forgiven for resenting folks who are more affluent than we are…or for simply disapproving of privileged folks who loudly bellyache when they encounter very occasional inconveniences, instead of maintaining stoical silences.
But I think itâ€™s important to differentiate between pretensious billionaires who carry on as if they will die if they canâ€™t find N75,000-per-bottle Cristal champagne to quaff and regular professionals like me who crave normal facilities
This is the 2lst century and Nigeria is not some piffling little impoverished nation in the middle of nowhere. We are supposed to be the Giant Of Africa and are awash with oil cash. And I donâ€™t see why I should be blamed for doggedly insisting that a basic modern amenity like electricity is an absolute necessity.
If someone tells me that I can never buy another dress or pair of earrings for the next 20 years, I will feel regretful but shrug philosophically. If someone tells me that I wonâ€™t have round-the-clock electricity for the next 24 hours, I will sink into deep depression and buy my way out of the situation if I can.
As far as I am concerned, people who regard electricity as a luxury should quit targetting me for rejecting backwardness and accept part of the responsibility for the nightmare that we have endured for too long.
The pitifully low expectations of citizens who think that one should not make a fuss about electricity outages encourage our leaders to be complacent. If everyone felt as outraged as I do, rioters would have made trouble for Government every time there was a power cut and civil rights lawyers would have sued PHCN and this festering sore would have been healed eons ago.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has recently informed us that he is so profoundly and genuinely concerned about this matter that he is going to undertake the burden of becoming the substantive Minister of Power.
I donâ€™t know how Jonathan intends to proceed, but he cannot handle this portfolio effectively without considerable assistance. And, given that many highly qualified Nigerians have spectacularly failed to solve this problem – it strikes me that Jonathan will be well-advised (if he wants to go down in history as a significant achiever) to outsource EVERY SINGLE aspect of this complex challengeÂ to foreigners who have proven track records.
I am completely unapologetic for being so â€œcolonialâ€. All I want is results and feel that Iâ€™m more likely to get the results I want if Jonathan ignores local â€œgurusâ€ and hires outsiders who have delivered excellent results elsewhere.