By Josef Omorotionmwan
THE subject for today is Electricity. When it comes to considering whether this is a lesson in Physics or English Language, the latter will be easily preferred, given the fact that this writer has two left hands on issues of electricity.
Again, this perfectly situates the subject within the Nigerian context as Nigeria is perhaps the only place where people do not practise what they preach. This write-up is preceded by two testimonies that we may have shared elsewhere:
First testimony: We had lived in the New York and New Jersey areas of the United States of America, for close 10 years. The light did not blink any day. We took their “NEPA” for granted. Things remained that way until just before midnight on that fateful day in the terrible winter of 1977, when their “NEPA” broke down. It was a total eclipse, of the light. That was the collapse of everything – their lives, transportation system, industries, manufacturing, commerce and, indeed, everything. Darkness and blackness met confusion at the gate and there was cataclysm.
It all met their writer around the 65th floor of 810 Seventh Avenue, Mid-Town Manhattan, New York, where he was “pulling gburu”. All the workers in the Recording Company had closed and this Security Guard was alone in the entire place. That was the closest I have ever seen the Armageddon. I was scared stiff.
Gradually, life started returning to normal – first, skeletal emergency lights were restored to enable stranded trains and elevators return to base; then telephones and other communication system were gradually restored.
I survived for 72 hours on warm and cold beverages, packet soups and biscuits. All the same, it was a windfall. The Recording Company and my Security Company relied on me to take charge. My final reward was a mathematical function of (72 x 2 x $? per hour) + ($? Special compensation x 2)
From that time till date, the enquires are still going on. They should have known that this is a daily occurrence in Nigeria.
The second testimony was in Manchester, England. It was in the summer of 2012. We went to England for the Olympics games. It was time to send my material for this column. I got hold of a laptop and demanded to have a UPS in case they took the light. My host was surprised to hear me talking of light failure. He informed me that he had been in England for more than 30 years, during which period, the light had not blinked even once.
As he was just saying this, the light in his apartment went off. Incidentally, it was not a breakdown but his subscription on the pre-paid meter had run out. In his utter amazement, he quickly called the Electricity Company and they gave him some credit which could sustain him for a few hours before he could buy more credit.
We are certain that not many Nigerians have heard of terawatts. Please take note. One million watts make one megawatt; and one million megawatts make one terawatt.
Electricity is the soul of every nation. It is the very soul of every aspect of development. This is where our hearts bleed for the distribution chains of our electricity business. The distribution chain is at the recovering end of all blames for the electricity that we do not have along with the concomitant lack of development in our land. As it were, the distribution companies are asked to distribute what we don’t have.
The truth is that many aspects of life, Nigeria is at the subsistence level. In agriculture, health, education, and other aspects, we exist at the subsistence level; and more so, in electricity, our nation is yet at the fringe. As frightening as it sounds, we may never take off. Put differently, only the greatest miracle may take us near any level of industrialisation.
From the much we know, none of the industrialised nations arrived by paying lip service to the important issue of electricity. Realising the importance of electricity in the life of a nation, those counties caught the vision and followed it to a logical conclusion.
The best time to decide whether to climb or not is when you are yet on the ground, not after you have climbed half way. Since Nigeria has not yet started the search for electricity, it is not yet late to stay where we are – live with the generators; and those who cannot afford generators may as well return to the peaceful era of oil lamps, particularly now that kerosene has been promoted beyond their reach.
On assumption of office, the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, proudly announced that Nigeria has the potential to produce 12,000 Megawatts (MW) of electricity. A few days later, he almost reversed himself when he said that the maximum Nigeria has ever produced was 5,000MW. We hear that lately, this has dropped by close to 50 percent.
Here lies the headache that Nigeria has provided for her Electricity Distribution Chain – sharing less than 5,000MW to a population of 180 million people. By world industrialisation and development indices, what Nigeria has would be grossly inadequate for any of the 774 Local Government Areas in the country!
There is a yet-to-be-confirmed report currently making waves in the social media: China is today the world leader in electricity generation. She generates 5,682 Terawatts, which translates to 5,682,000,000MW. They say that during the period 1989-2016, China produced an average of 202,665.82 Gigawatts of electricity per hour. China is closely followed by USA, which generates 4,324,000,000MW. India, Japan and the UK generate 1,368,000,000MW, 995,000,000MW and 338,000,000MW respectively. Nigeria’s production hovers around 2,000 – 5,000MW. This is clearly a drop in the ocean.
Electricity the life wire and the single most important factor in a nation’s development. Yes, Nigeria may be struggling to be developed; but will she ever get there? When? How? Her prayer warriors will soon know that God, too, needs a breathing space!