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Saturday, March 22, 2014

THE VENT ISSUE I: ELECTRICITY

                            

  Ever since I was a little girl, every president's promise has been that electricity will be constant. Now, I’m an adult and that promise seems farfetched. They all sing, before the year 2000, before the year 2004, before the year 2010, 2012, 2014 and on it goes. The electricity issue just seems to deteriorate. Then they promised that the privatization of the Power sector would make electricity constant. If you ask me, they should have just left it as it was, it’s worse now. We go on for days without the electricity that a great inventor had been so gracious to invent.
  It’s saddening, that every kid born in Nigeria grows to learn the national anthem and dance of ‘UP NEPA!’ You hear them scream it with glee. When will it change? I tell you, not in a long while. 
                                                       
  I was in Lome, Togo for almost a year. I remember the day we arrived, early in the morning that January; we all ran to look for charging ports to plug our appliances into. You should have heard the cries of’ I got here first’. We went for registration and got back, there was still light. We slept and woke up, there was light. It went on for three days straight; we began to question ourselves if this was Africa. If Nigeria couldn’t have light, how could they? One month straight, that light never blinked. I heard rumours of we give them light, that’s topic for another day. I entered Ghana, it was the same. My first night in Ghana, it was announced that the lights would go off for a certain period. I was shocked, is this Africa? In my country, the light officials act like demi-gods, like you should be grateful to them for it. You should see Nigerian electricity officials, the way they carry themselves. People begging them, greasing their palms just to have the meagre light that is doled out.
                                               
In the end, they bring a heavy bill that makes you wonder if you run a factory, where power is consumed all day.
  As I got older, I began to realize the sad truth. The reasons why any grandeur thoughts of having constant electricity in Nigeria will not be possible for a long time.
·         One of the biggest and unannounced businesses in Nigeria is the GENERATOR business. I remember my Togolese friends laughing their hearts out when I asked if they use generators. Every single household in Nigeria, be it a shanty, a tiny apartment, a mansion plus all businesses have a generator or two. One in the office, another at home. The generators come in varying forms; the tiny ones called ‘I pass my neighbour’ that makes enough noise to raise the dead to the silent, Lister types that use diesel. Just sit down and calculate the population in the country, then you’ll see what I mean. Even students use generators.  Nigerians are so proud of it, that a man who uses the ‘I pass my neighbour type’ rejoices when he upgrades to a bigger one. It’s just sad. If you know the amount of generators that are imported into this country daily, you’d shudder. Every big business has one; all the factories have more than one.
                                   
You may wonder who the importers of these generators are, yes, your guess is as good as mine; ‘THEM’. They reap billions of naira from it. The Generators weren’t enough; they introduced the inverters and solar panels into the country. This is the big brother of the generator business. Only the big boys and girls, use those. Yes, all these are a thing of pride. Imagine if we had constant power supply, there’d be no need for the generators, inverters and so on. They’d lose billions of naira. So, they can never let us have constant electricity.
                                    
                                      
·           They say we are an oil producing country. One of the largest. OIL, that accursed black gold is another reason why we’d never see constant electricity in a hurry. The oil business is the biggest in the country. From it we get all forms of fuel, Petrol, diesel, kerosene etc. Have you ever wondered why even though we are an oil rich nation, we still pay almost a dollar per litre for petrol? It’s because they know we have no choice. If you get two hours of electricity in a day, you are blessed. Every single thing you do, from your house, cars, business and every appliance in them, even that generator of yours, you need to use fuel. At work, you make money and still spend more than half or more of your capital to power your business. God, help you if you are into production, maybe you are into textiles and the rest, and you need fuel. That’s why produced goods are expensive here. The Coke I tasted in Lome is different from what I drink here. It’s downright disgusting. 
                                       
        They want to break even in the biggest Black Country, every material they use has to be transported to the factories with fuel, the machines in the factories use fuel, moving the finished product down to the consumers need fuel too. Hence you have an expensive shit for a drink. It’s the same with every manufactured crap they make. Let’s not enter the tasteless frozen milk and water they produce as ice cream and yoghurt, which tastes better in other countries. Ok, I’m deviating.
                                      
The oil men make a buck load because thanks to the nonexistent power, we depend on them to progress in the modern world. Writing this needs electricity. Oh darn it; the idiots just lived up to their name.
Imagine if we had constant electricity and our president opens that his mouth to announce some fuel subsidy ish again, we’d just park our cars at home and take taxis because there’s light at our offices and in our homes. What more do we need. But you try to break even in business, and still spend money you don’t have on the costly shit they have refined in some other country for us. That’s the dumbest thing this country does; you have oil, you take it out, then give people with refineries operating with constant electricity to refine for you, then they sell your own thing back to you at a high price, which you now sell back to the people, that’s just crazy! And we say we are no more colonized. Reminds me of the whites taking our resources from our country, sending it to theirs where they refine it, then sell the shit back to us.

  These two factors and the people that run them are our biggest problem in achieving constant electricity in this country. I am sick and tired of it. Just pause for a minute and imagine a Nigeria with constant electricity; road accidents will reduce because there’s only so much your headlights can do. Our economy will boom, people will be more productive in every sphere, more SMEs will spring up and survive, investors will troop in, our bank balances will be happy and maybe some of these companies will stop serving sugar with coloured water as orange drink and pay attention to the quality of their products. The cost of living will go down. Robbery and other related acts will go down; imagine the police using torchlight in a dark neighbourhood trying to rescue you, are they witches? They have to see. We’d be able to stay out and walk the streets four a.m in the morning and not be scared. So many things that are wrong with this country will be better.
  Maybe our rulers have constant electricity in their houses, if not I don’t see the reason, they’d travel round the world and see the basic amenity called electricity and come back to their home country then relax in their houses with a generator or inverter. Maybe they don’t have neighbours with noisy generators living close to them. The neighbour in the next house, rented his house out and now, I have sleepless nights filled with the thunderous sound of a tenant’s generator, I have flung that generator into the Bar Beach a million times in my head but can I blame the generator owner?.
  Forget the anti gay rights law or whatever cock and bull law they draw up next, forget the constitution amendment crap that they’re wasting billions of naira on. We have more pressing issues in this country. I don’t care what they promise, just give us light.