By Bashir Adefaka
Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, the Chairman, National Conference Energy Committee and a former Governor of Oyo State, walked tall as hundreds of APC, PDP members in Ido Local Government Area of the state embraced the party that he leads.
In an interview with Sunday Vanguard at his Bodija GRA, Ibadan home later, he spoke on the energy situation in Nigeria vis-à-vis what his committee at the confab has done and expressed optimism that his party, Accord, now stands the chance to win Oyo State come 2015.
Accord Party made a surprise outing as it went to election under three months of its formation in the state winning seven of the 16 state legislative seats; four of six House of Representatives seats and slugged it out with the now Governor Abiola Ajimobi on a 275,000 to 340,000 votes basis. Excerpts:
You have always been concerned about the energy situation in Nigeria. Would you say that your being the Chairman of the National Conference Committee on Energy has provided you the opportunity to get over your worry?
Being in the confab energy committee, I believe, has just confirmed my professional concern about the energy situation in Nigeria particularly the power sector.
But whether my being there will solve the problems is another thing because the conference can make recommendations but the decision still remains with the government. What I discovered is that the recommendations have always been there. They were not non-existent. The roadmap is there. So, recommendations are not the problems but the implementation of those things.
There has been stagnation since 1986. The government has not added any generating plants since that time. We need production to grow everyday. Of course there are some plants that were added by Shell, Agip. We still talk about 4,000 megawatts whereas we should be talking about 45,000 megawatts or more. And the major problem, from what the policy is today, is that Nigeria has not yet accepted that power is a strategic issue. We still look at it in terms of naira and kobo. Whereas developed countries look at power from the angle of being strategic.
In Germany, they have about 200,000 megawatts and their need is just about 25,000 megawatts. So, they have more than two times of their need. That is why it is possible for them, in one day, to say, ‘close down all the nuclear ones’ which gave them about 15,000 megawatts.
So, from that angle, we can say that we are still far from understanding the world politics because power is part of the world politics. South Africa is a population of about a third of Nigeria’s population. They have 45,000 megawatts and Nigeria has 4,000 megawatts. So, you can understand that we are very far from getting there.
What have you really discovered?
We have discovered that if we have to leave power in the hands of the private sector for them to grow it, we will not come out of the woods in the next 20 years. And from what I saw, out Vision 20:2020 may just be a spent bill and I think they have just dabbled into areas that are not really the problems.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in his last days, established the NIPP, National Integrated Power Project, which he said would add 4,000 megawatts to the national grid but its implementations, even since Obasanjo left office, many of them are yet to come on stream. Either the sites chosen were not feasible or there is no gas.
I just assume that there is more to the situation with the NNPC than what we can see. Because, if you look at it, those turbines were not normally meant to be kept in the shelves, they are not supposed to be kept in the store for eight years before they start working.
When you finished in Belgium and became a chemical engineer, you worked with Total and rose through the cadres to become the operations manager. Meaning that you are abreast of the situation in the energy sector and the conference energy committee that you are heading now is seen as an opportunity for you to translate your many ideas into quality recommendations to guide government. Since insufficient gas supply has been blamed for the bulk of our power generation inadequacies, why must Nigeria stick to gas to generate power?
It should not be, but we have concentrated on gas whereas there is abundance of coal. Our recommendation is that they should put power plants where they have the raw materials (means of generation).
It is not necessary for us to pipe gas to Sokoto and Kano when there is coal in those places. There is also coal in Bauchi and there is coal virtually everywhere except the South-west. Where they have cola they should put power plants there and also where there is gas they should put power plants there. They should not unnecessarily pipe gas so that vandalism can reduce.
Also where they have hydro they should put power plants there. Like Katsina, we discovered that the state can get between 2,000 and 6,000 megawatts. Yet they have not developed it. So, you can just ask yourself whether successive governments understand power as strategic because they do not behave to seem so.
What is the way out?
We are saying government should continue to develop the facilities because they will need at least five million dollars every year if we are going to be anywhere in year 2020.
It is not only generation that we have problem with, we also have problem with transmission which is inadequate for the requirements of today. The people that got it, they now discovered that what they were told was different from what they saw in term of losses and so they are still talking. You have coal, you have hydro, you have gas and so, diversification is highly required.
Politics at home in Oyo: you appear to be very well on ground. What went wrong that Senator Rashidi Ladoja did not win the 2015 governorship election?
Nothing went wrong. We were not destined to win and we did not win.
At that time, most politicians did not believe we stood any chance. So, most politicians did not join us because they looked at us as jokers, saying, “Two months to election, you say you are forming a new party?”
To that extent, they did not join us and it was the people, the voters, the ordinary people who had faith in us that stood with us. Now that politicians have started seeing that this is where the people will vote, many of them are joining us and so we stand a very good chance of winning the elections come 2015.
We were not destined to win the last election because, if you look at it, we won conveniently and convincingly in Ibadan but, outside Ibadan, and you know that development radiates from the centre to those areas, people were not convinced that we could make any headway. That is why it happened that way. Not that anything went wrong. We just did not win.
The coming of Senator Lanlehin into the Accord, what value is he adding to the party?
Everybody adds value to the party. When you are contesting, everybody counts. Senator Lanlehin is coming with a lot of goodwill and also a lot of members; people who believe in him.
So, people have begun to believe in Accord. It is a grassroots party. It is a party that believes in the need of our people and believes in the ability of our people to rule themselves. That is why they say our party is together because all decisions continue to be taken at the constituency level.
As at today, we feel comfortable that we are going to win the coming election in every local government. If you are aggrieved in the PDP, you come to Accord. If you are dissatisfied with APC, you come to Accord. So, they have always been coming to Accord and they have not been disappointed.