January 29, 2017

Wanted: Sanity in the power sector

Wanted: Sanity in the power sector

Fashola and Buhari

By Dele Sobowale
“Ability can be assessed fairly accurately… Character is not so easily measured….it is more important, though more difficult, to assess a person’s character…I decided to have one psychologist and one psychiatrist test our candidates [for important offices].”—Lee Kuan Yew, in FROM THIRD WORLD TO FIRST, p 667.

Let me confess once again that I am now going through this book which many of our leading social commentators have alluded to but which very few have actually read from page to page. I just finished it for the simple reason that it has been difficult to understand how a tiny nation of only three million people could achieve what the GIANT of Africa had failed to do.

While Yew’s Singapore continues to move in tandem with the first world, Nigeria keeps sliding inexorably into the Stone Age. Of all the measures taken by the leader of Singapore, admittedly a dictator, from 1965 to 2000, none strikes me as being more important for our needs at this time than his institutionalisation of psychiatric tests for candidates for vital official positions. He made sure, or at least tried, that those appointed to the most important positions in the nation are people who were mentally well-adjusted.

The Nigerian President who should have borrowed several leaves from Yew was Olusegun Obasanjo who had grown up very close to Nigeria’s first Psychiatric Hospital, at Aro – just outside Abeokuta. But, like most sensible ideas, the two-time Head of State missed the opportunity; instead, he appointed so many people who should have been inmates at Aro.  Several of our institutions can benefit themselves and Nigeria by adopting Yew’s methods of screening candidates for employment.

Only God knows how many innocent lives we have lost on account of lunatic police officers shooting fellow citizens for refusing to offer bribes as low as fifty naira. Less frequently are the incidents involving other members of our armed forces taking laws into their own hands and wasting human lives. Senior officers sat in their official cars while junior staff assaulted women on account of a traffic dispute; some have drafted their subordinates to intervene in civil matters.

But, right now, the most pervasive of all the injustices and atrocities Nigerians, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, face, are those associated with the Nigerian Power Sector. Forgive the tough language; but if a totally deranged person were to be asked to design a system and foist it on a society which is meant to make their lives totally miserable, it would be difficult to imagine one worse than the Nigerian Power Sector. From the Ministry down to the fellows carrying ladders around, mainly to disconnect the lines of people who enjoyed no power supply but are forced to pay, it is really impossible to believe that those responsible for these atrocities don’t deserve the Yew treatment.

Fashola and Buhari

Permit me a slight diversion – but, it is necessary to drive home the point that the Power Sector had gone out of whack.

In the 1960s to early 1970s, when studying in American universities, it was common for the graduating class, at least undergraduates, to elect among themselves the Student Most Likely To Succeed. It was even done in some High Schools. Based on comparative performance with his peers, somebody always emerges. If that idea had been adopted in Nigeria when Buhari announced his list of Ministers, it is almost certain that Babatunde Fashola would have been voted the Minister Most Likely to Succeed. But, here we are, fifteen months after they were given portfolios and the Ministry that is making our lives most miserable is the Ministry of Power. And, it is not only doing it 24/7, it is impoverishing us as well. Meanwhile, what we have been getting are the same excuses and promises of “policies put in place to make the situation better”.   In short, the same stuff we heard from late Chief Bola Ige, Lyel Imoke, Professors Bart Nnaji and Nebo. They can’t even think of a new excuse to offer anymore. In Yew’s Singapore, Ministers offer excuses only once and then provide solutions or get kicked out.

Clearly, it seems fair to ask those in charge that if they cannot provide power they should not drive us crazy as well because what we now have is a situation which can only be described as bedlam. Let me provide what is now becoming an increasing occurrence. Then, you can judge if people in full control of their senses would be doing those things to the people they are actually paid to serve.

January 20, 2017 was a Friday. It was also the day President Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America. That date will remain indelible in my memory, not because of Trump, but because of what the operators of the Nigerian Power Sector did to me and millions of Nigerians. There was no power supply for more than ten days and we had been watching Trumps inauguration programme using expensive petrol costing N3000 per day. Suddenly, the power change-over alarm went off indicating that DISCO power had been restored to the neighbourhood. Predictably, the kids in unison shouted UP NEPA!!! We switched immediately from generator to DISCO line. In less than one minute we were back in total darkness. That bit of nonsense had occurred more than ten times in this new year alone.

The obvious questions everybody, the Minister included, involved in power supply should answer is: if they were not ready to restore power supply, why tease the people? Do they realize the emotional trauma they inflict on people who had been financially burdened and who thought relief had been offered to them?

Unfortunately, the matter did not end there. Power was restored about forty-five minutes after the first one. Once again, those with generators turned them off. Power failure occurred ten minutes after. From ten o’clock on the evening of January 20, 2017 until six o’clock in the early morning of January 21, 2017, the same pattern was repeated seven times. The next morning, there was only one question on the lips of everybody: are these people insane? Suddenly Nigerians have stopped questioning the sincerity and honesty of their leaders; they now worry more about their sanity!!

Just in case you think that these are members of the political opposition, let me assure you that these were individuals who voted overwhelmingly for Fashola in his two elections and have always been proud of his achievements. They also voted almost totally for the All Progressives Congress, APC in 2015. They are the ones questioning the sanity of those in charge of the Power Sector. For most of us, the matter is simple. If you have no power to supply – for whatever reason – don’t continue to dribble us with one minute power supplies. We wonder about the sort of individuals occupying the top positions in the power generating, transmission and distribution stations. We ask: what sort of individual, presumably in his right senses, will authorize power supply for one minute to a community which had been deprived for weeks or months? Do they derive joy from the psychological stress they cause people by teasing them with one minute power supply?

Let me close with a true story. A fellow in his mid-70s living in his own house had for safety reasons placed the generator far from the main building in a shed about fifty metres away. One stormy day, while operating his gen-set, the warning signal came – “NEPA” power was available. To save funds, he went to the backyard to turn off the gen-set. He had barely entered the main building when power failure occurred. He went back to turn on the gen-set; walked a few steps and NEPA was on again. He turned back; turned off the gen-set; took a few steps and black out again. All these occurred in drenching rain. What do you call people who do that sort of thing to their fellow citizens? Do they enjoy it?

Fashola has choices to make. He can either turn the situation around very quickly; or find his well-earned reputation go down on account of failure; or…..

Can he not offer the suggestion to Buhari to employ shrinks for those working in the Power Sector? One minute power supply is absolutely abnormal; let’s face it.

Akoba adaba Olorun maje kari….


An empire founded by war has to maintain itself by war

Charles Montesquieu, 1689-1755.—(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 47.

America was founded on war and it has been fighting wars, major and minor, ever since – until the last few years. The Obama years have seen the gradual winding down of American war-mongering. And Americans don’t like that. The American military-industrial complex is declining and they don’t want that. For the arms suppliers nothing is more profitable than a government which orders those expensive war-toys; sends them out to be destroyed; and comes back for more. Obama was not that sort of President and Clinton was cut out of the same piece of cloth as the immediate past president of America. Now, they have a gun-slinger in Trump. Predictably, he had taken t a page out of the play-book of another eager warrior, Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945.

Before becoming Chancellor, Hitler had written a book, in which he promised, if elected, to repudiate virtually all agreements signed by Germany with other nations because, he, Hitler, regarded them as unfair to Germany. There would be no negotiations to consider alterations. Hitler was going to tear them up. Trump also promised to tear up agreements he regards as unfair to America and among his first executive orders was to start tearing up those he unilaterally disapproves of.

Many of our readers would recollect his promise to build a wall between Mexico and America and make the Mexicans pay for it. Hitler also invaded Poland, destroyed the poor and weaker country and made the Poles pay for his losses during the invasion.

Each time a former power is in decline, a leader emerges promising to “make the country great again”. It invariably means declaring war, at first verbal but later military, on those perceived to be standing in the way of that ambition. Yet, all empires must fall like Assyria, Sparta, Greece, Rome and Great Britain. One million Trumps cannot create an eternal global power irrespective of what they do.

However, Trump has done the world, and Nigeria, a favour. He had ordered a reduction in foreign aid to other countries. I honestly hope that Nigerian leaders will be courageous enough to henceforth reject any assistance from the USA as some countries are already planning to do. We should throw away the begging bowl we now place in front of America and with pride chart our own course – however difficult the road to self-reliance might be. Given Trump’s known character, he can only be a patron – “commonly a wretch who supports with insolence…” (Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, VBQ, p 183). The man will expect us to lick his behind in exchange. Who needs that?