NOBODY will bear you a grudge if you do not know Nuhu Somo Wya. He is the Minister of State for Power (electricity). Last Thursday, Wya, an architect, reminded Nigerians that they needed to be grateful to this administration for making electricity supply better in the last one year than an entire generation of Nigerian leaders did.
He was emphatic that improved electricity has made “real and rapid difference to the lives of millions of Nigerians.” If you thought the minister was misquoted, he said enough at his press briefing to make his point that electricity was no longer the problem.
“We have said that we will not make promises. But rather, we will be judged by what we deliver; and we have delivered,” he insisted. “Nigerians are today receiving more reliable power than they have had in the past years. We have generated record amounts of power and delivered it to the people. Polls tell us that 90 per cent of the people, who have seen a change in their power supply have seen a positive change.
“We have consolidated the reform programme in the power. We are rapidly moving towards winding down Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, within the next six to eight months, and we are moving towards more private sector participation in our current generation, transmission and distribution companies.”
You may be reading this material with electricity that you are generating. It is possible that in your office and at home, electricity has not been supplied for days, maybe months. How does it make you feel, knowing that the government has done everything that it planned to improve electricity? The way Wya spoke, if electricity has not improved in your neighbourhood, you are either not Nigerian or you are among those who are too dazzled by government’s performance but fail to admit it.
Alternatively, you must be opposed to the administration, see nothing good in what government does. Otherwise what explanation could there be for your refusal to acknowledge that this administration has tackled the country’s electricity problems in under a year?
The polls say power supply has improved. The minister echoes it and Nigerians are still complaining? What type of people are these?
Nigerians are the problem. It is nothing new. Ten years ago, Olusegun Obasanjo celebrated the end of power failures in Nigeria , when he turned what was meant to be a sober occasion into a party. A technical committee to address power failures submitted its report on the challenges of the project. Obasanjo said the occasion marked the end of issues with electricity supply.
In April 2007, less than two months to his departure from office, Obasanjo discovered that: “One of the things that has caused Nigerians some concern in recent times is the phenomenon of low supply of electricity, and I thought that the measures we have taken in recent times would have put things right.”
Obasanjo made his remarks at a rally of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abuja, where as always, he was the one who spoke, not Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was the PDP presidential candidate , and was present at the event. “I think there is sabotage. I am not saying I am sure. I will set up a team to investigate and the result would be made public. Whoever is involved would not be spared.”
Nobody took Obasanjo serious. It was not expected that he would do anything after he failed to improve electricity supply in eight years. With hindsight, the party where he clinked glasses in 2000 and awarded us darkness, was lost on Nigerians, who forgot that the President of Nigeria does not suffer blackouts. He does not know what a blackout is. He does not know how it affects Nigerians.
Unknown to most compatriots, the President does not depend on official power supply for the needs of the vast presidential complex. A dedicated independent power plant sees to the needs of the President.
Obasanjo never blamed himself. He waited almost to the end of his eight years to start building new power plants and the existing ones were not properly maintained.
It may be years after Wya that we would be told that something could have gone wrong with electricity supply, right under Wya’s watch.
Power supply is central to the modern economy and civilised living. It was therefore a stunted economic decision to do everything, including repaying billions of dollars as foreign debt without fixing the energy sector, which in turn would have kept the economy running at full steam instead of merely revving.
The challenges ahead are intimidating, but they have to be tackled. Nigeria has struggled for years to attain 6,000 megawatts of electricity. The Vision 2020 document states that Nigeria requires 60,000 megawatts of electricity to be among the world’s 20 top nations. It has less than 10 years to hit the target!
With the likes of Wya in charge, it is obvious that we have to start thanking him for darkness and forget any vision. How far can one see in darkness?