By Rotimi Fasan
IT was too obvious to be overlooked, but I first noticed the relative improvement in power supply right from the weekend Muhammadu Buhari assumed office as president. I made alternative power supply plans to watch the live streaming of the president’s inauguration even though I ended up seeing just the tail end of it.
But that was because I was busy at some work. Otherwise, there was constant and steady supply of power all through the transmission of the inauguration ceremonies and thereafter. I thought like others around me that ‘NEPA’ (would Nigerians ever accept that NEPA has since been dead?) was in a celebratory mood and would soon live off the euphoria of welcoming a new government into office.
We expected things to change and ‘ NEPA’ to go back to its old ways in a matter of days. But rather than the situation changing from bad to worse, it has since remained the same more or less. Of course, there have been power cuts. But not in the manner we had come to know it. Nigerians may not know for how long this honeymoon-like experience would last (and they would rather want things to get better going by the general consensus of opinion in the media and among ordinary people), but they are sure of something if not of anything else: they have more access to steady and vastly improved power supply since the end of May 2015 than at any time, perhaps, in the previous six years of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The imported technocrats who all but destroyed our economy in the name of serving Jonathan were experts at bombarding us with statistics that meant nothing other than their takes on the versions of ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ they had cooked up to befuddle everyone but themselves.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was particularly adept at this- reeling out series of statistics of hundreds of thousands of phantom employments and projections for the future that had no bearing of any kind to improvements in the material condition of the lives of Nigerians. What Nigerians wanted was life in abundance, measured in terms of decent housing, employment, health cover, improved funding of education and food supply etc. But what she gave were statistics that appealed to nobody but her likes in and out of government.
Now, Buhari has not provided statistics. He does not even have ministers (which is not to say that he can do it all alone) to say nothing of parading World Bank certified experts. Yet electricity has been steady relatively. Apologists of the expired PDP administration have been quick to tell Nigerians that they should be grateful to Jonathan for whatever improvement there is now in power supply. And they might well be right given the huge amount of funds that have been expended on the dark hole that is the power sector under the Jonathan administration, without noticeable improvement in either generation, supply or distribution of power.
Which leaves us no option but to ask the obvious question: how come that the one who spent all the money had nothing to show for it but darkness and the other who took the saddle has provided light without apparently lifting a finger? What happened?
The difference is both one of personality and perception. Nigerians, especially those destroying this country, know Buhari and Jonathan are two different personalities. More importantly, they view these two personalities differently. The one they know would, in a manner of speaking, take no nonsense; the other didn’t mind being trampled on and taken for a ride. Those, including officials of the power holding company and other players in the power sector, who saw to it that Nigerians lived in perpetual darkness in spite of the tens of billions of dollars expended on providing electricity- those scoundrels who deserve to spend the rest of their miserable lives in jail knew Jonathan would do nothing even if he had all the evidence needed to move against them.
They knew he was too unsure of himself to rein in the excesses of the destroyers by whom he was surrounded. This was practical evidence of what people meant when they spoke of the man’s weakness, his inability to take charge of the presidential stage that was rightfully his but on which his subordinates and other godfathers and ethnic lords had successfully reduced him to a mere stage hand. Jonathan’s inability or failure to act in situations like these provides both practical and palpable measure of his weakness.
It is part of this difference in the perception of both Buhari and Jonathan and their likely reaction to cases of corruption and/or economic sabotage that those who actively laboured to destroy the power sector and ensured that Nigerians remained in darkness, during the Jonathan administration, immediately sat up and retraced their steps once they got wind of the entry of Buhari, a supposedly ‘brain dead’ Baba-go-slow who Patience Jonathan once said should be ashamed of ‘dragging’ position with a Jonathan that was the same age as his child.
Losers in the unfolding game of improved power supply are by no means limited to those who actively sought to destroy the Nigerian economy. There are ordinary Nigerians, artisans and self employed technicians, who earn their living repairing generators.
These are struggling Nigerians who have come to depend on making their own way through finding success in the failure of the power sector. These Nigerians for no fault of theirs have survived on our collectively failure, providing services that our comatose power sector made inevitable. It won’t be easy but they must now find other means of survival. One such person, a young man just raising a family, called me a couple of weeks ago to lament the sudden change in situation. But what he complained about is what is bringing smiles to the faces of millions of other Nigerians.
The truth is that whatever short term benefits were accruable to relatively small sections of Nigerians from the rot in the power sector are far outweighed by the long term benefits that would in the next few years come to all if power supply continues to improve. Industries would function optimally and cut down on providing alternative sources of power for their operations. The benefits of this would percolate down the society. More hands would be hired even as prices of goods and services go down. Nigerians would have less to expend on treating respiratory diseases that are fallout from air pollution caused by generator fumes.