These days, I’ve been receiving videos of Nigerians beating up power distribution officials but before this, a story.
A few years back, several of us with our kids went to visit a mutual friend who came for holidays with his family from abroad.
Our host’s then 6-year-old daughter experienced power outage for the first time. As soon as there was a power cut, the poor kid was confused. She shrieked, ‘Who put off the light?
Put it right back on!’
She was afraid of the dark obviously, but I sensed she thought someone had mischievously put off the light. Apparently, she didn’t know our ‘NEPA’
While her parents scuttled around to put on the generator and calm her by advising she stay put until light comes back, this poor kid kept shrieking, “I want the light back on!’
The rest of our home-grown kids she had been playing with, had simply settled in and could be heard in the dark cursing out ‘NEPA’ as they waited for the light from the gen to kick in.
We, the adults too, all cursed ‘NEPA’, we made a few lamentations about their ineptitude, cited how to date, at that time, Ghana had celebrated more than 10 years of stable power, wondered aloud when we would get there, cursed some more…until the gen kicked in and we resumed normal conversations.
I recall the same silent frustrations after fuel subsidy was partially removed by the current administration during its first term, when some drivers would battle petrol attendants for cheating them.
It was painful enough that we had to pay extra for the fuel we were buying, expend half of this in the mad traffic that beleaguered the metropolis then use up the remaining to fuel our generators because we never had power supply…to then have someone cheat you out on the fuel you were paying so much for, was often a big slap that drove many drivers to engage in fisticuffs with petrol attendants manning the pumps.
The rest of us who couldn’t fight simply cursed the attendants, the government, the road transporters, markets…because you see, everything is related.
We still curse ‘NEPA’ every day.
Every time power goes off; when it returns, it’s either a cheerful ‘up NEPA’ or we curse them some more for giving light we know they would soon take anyway.
Our curses, our anger may be misdirected, perhaps we should be cursing the powers making stable power supply an impossible task.
Perhaps, we shouldn’t even be cursing anyone at all, seeing as it is, our curses haven’t amounted to much.
Maybe we ought to, at this time, be finding alternatives to noisy generators, solar panels that don’t last, inverters that cannot power home appliances: solutions that will give us better alternatives to the national grid and if we can’t, maybe we should be blessing our power distribution companies, just like when a child sneezes and we say ‘bless you’…when power goes out, we say ‘bless you IKEDC or BEDC or whatever.”
I know I have a personal grudge against the power distribution company in my estate.
After paying for prepaid metre for over six months and with it still not installed, I get bills as high as N26,000 even when more than half the time, there was no power supply and I was out of town for about three weeks when the crazy bill was slipped under my door.
Isn’t this annoying? If I had been given my prepaid metre, I would never have racked up to that amount, even if I was home all through the month.
It is the same is for several Nigerians who after being made to pay outrageous bills, get home from work and their cables have been removed from the electricity poles outside.
Then they have to go back and forth to the power distribution offices to reconnect and generally get frustrated in the process.
So, when I began to get WhatsApp videos of angry Nigerians engaging power distribution officials in fisticuffs, I had no empathy for the officials.
I guffawed at officials who had fierce dogs set against them. I laughed at officials who were slammed in the dirt by angry consumers.
I didn’t share because, at the back of my mind, I knew I should sympathize with the officials who were simply doing their jobs but it gave me some satisfaction that even as ‘messengers of the devil’, they also have a hard time doing what they do.
Unfortunately, this’ joyful’ mindset is shared by many consumers like myself.
We see the fighters fighting for all of us; they are in some ways, echoing our frustrations, our helplessness, our anger at a system that rips and tears what we are struggling to keep together.
If you’ve ever been to climes where power supply is stable, you see a less angry people, a less frustrated people, a people more sympathetic, I think, people who don’t have to factor many things into their everyday routine that does not involve stable power.
I do not have the capacity to go into the economics involved in the benefits of living in an environment where power is stable.
I am no expert here but basic knowledge tells me that stable power supply is very crucial to boosting our economy.
It tells me we are a people, who’ve seen so much hardship and can turn our poverty index status to prosperity mode, if we start by getting our power supply stable.
This is a sweeping statement, I agree, it doesn’t even delve into specifics but if you’ve lived long enough in this country, if you grew up here, work here, do business here, looked for or looking for a job here, you won’t need the specifics.
You are the specific, you know your own story and you know that one of the best things that can happen for you and perhaps the only thing any government can do for everyday Nigerians is find a lasting solution to the problem of power supply.
The manufacturing lines will be back, investors will flood in again, businesses will save money.
Nigerians are industrious people; from the woman grinding pepper, to that tailor who’s always lying about getting your clothes ready on time; to the budding entrepreneur who spends half of his earnings buying petrol to fuel his generator at the office to the industrialist, who has had to shut down plants because cost of production, buying diesel et al are killing his business.
Our power supply has been epileptic for decades.
It has turned from being a joke to a source of constant anger.
There are many other things that frustrate and anger Nigerians but before we begin to sponsor fights against power officials, can we tell the president or whoever becomes the new Power minister to fix power?