Did You Know Darkness is More Expensive Than Light in Nigeria?

The challenges of Nigeria have become so enormous that we will need to vote for a magician in the year 2019 to fix this country over the night. As a journalist, I have come to realize that every player at different sectors of the economy in Nigeria is gnashing his teeth coupled with some sort of moaning and groaning at the corner of his bed due to some unfavourable conditions of trade by the government or other agencies he relies on for essential services.

My focus in this piece is on power supply in Nigeria. Since 1999, Nigerian leaders have used the power sector to enrich themselves. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo's power project was almost a darkness project. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan thought it was child's play. He bragged about fixing the problem of power supply in fours after investing over N500 billion only for him to end up asking for more time.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, brace up for the endless battle with power and watch your cost of production skyrocket to your loss. With the menace of the protracted fuel scarcity in Nigeria currently, one could safely say the Federal Government in the voice of the Edo state Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole has told us ''to go and die''

One wonders why alcohol sells this much in Nigeria despite the poverty rate which affects about 110 million Nigerians. Some Nigerians may not be financially buoyant to adequately feed but saving some funds for beer and liquor is inevitable. This may not be far from the high level of frustration we suffer from the selfishness our leaders. If the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki could allegedly use the cover of Boko Haram insurgency as viable excuse to siphon a whooping sum of $2.1 billion to pursue his own interests and watch the reputable Nigerian soldiers highly-rated in the past when it comes to land operations to battle Boko Haram with virtually their bare hands, then anything is possible.

On a Saturday, I got tired of the boredom at home as there was no light, so I went to a nearby bar in FESTAC town, Lagos to watch an Arsenal Football club match against Sunderland FC of the English Premier League. I ordered for a bottle of soft drink as I don't like alcohol. The usual logic of a broke man is to sip the drink slowly till it lasts all through the match so that I will not be sacked from my table for buying nothing. Two male adults were sitting opposite me on a different table. They had a couple of beer before them and with their accent; it was obvious they were Igbos.

Their conversation drew my attention unconsciously. One of them said:

''FESTAC is the only place where power distribution company workers go on weekends fully and close the offices to resume on Monday in the process of which they switch off power?"

The other man replied: ''My brother, you nor lie at all, FESTAC has even become a training ground for students doing their Industrial Attachment programmes, they actually use the power switch to train the young lads on how to switch off and switch on power in any locality''

At this point, I adjusted my seat as the revelations were stunning to me.

His friend replied him: ''My guy, I can see you are getting drunk, how did you know this?

Look at you''
, He continued. ''Haven't you realized that the power supply hardly lasts for at least 5 to 10 minutes nowadays? I got this rare information from a reliable source''

His friend gulped his drink and responded in shock: ''Chineeeeeeke! I thought as much. I can count the number of days I have slept with electricity in the last two months. They are fond of bringing the light when we are asleep and taking it before we wake up''

In summary, the discussion went further; they shifted it to the issue of the hyper-inflated November power bills. The month of November wasn't a good time for residents of FESTAC town as I heard; some people almost forget a power company is existing. The stretches of black-out made many feel darkness was the new form of light in Nigeria. The issue of fuel scarcity which has become traditional in an oil producing state called Nigeria makes life unbearable for business owners who are severely cheated by greedy black market operators that fix 'special prices' for petroleum products. It’s expected when leaders fail in their positions; their followers will be forced to share power and authority with them indiscriminately.

All we hear is the usual paper talk of Nigeria almost reaching 5,000 Megawatts in the supply of electricity which a layman can't connect to when he pays his bills and what he gets is darkness.

The who discussants on the inflated power bills said something that broke my heart and it goes thus: "I thought pre-paid meters were supposed to be supplied free, some PHCN staff have been demanding for money to supply the pre-paid meters without any provisions for the meters after payments''

His partner not feeling surprised said ''That's no news, you will not believe a 76 year old woman who lives almost alone and doesn't use any appliances aside a few light pulps was given a bill of N18,000 last month despite the lengthy black-out. The poor woman has nobody to cry to. They have threatened to disconnect her light and go away with power cables''

At this point, I was overwhelmed with anger concerning the repressive government in Nigeria which doesn't favour the poor. Several houses in FESTAC have successfully assumed the roles of 'Local Governments'; they provide power for themselves through the aid of a stand-by generator with fuel from the black market no matter the cost. They don't even depend on the government for water anymore as they have wells with pumping machines and boreholes. Several other common services have been privately provided by families leaving public office holders with the sole responsibility of stealing and mismanaging government funds.

A couple of learned people have written letters to the power distribution companies only to have some letters served back to them as Suya wrappers after sometime at the barbecue joints. I have read about the incessant protests by the Ikeja residents over the same issue of inflated electricity bills. The protests have featured old and tired legs marching to the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, IKEDC office, chanting protest songs like soldiers and carrying placards but the end result is always futile.

This prompts me to ask if our leaders are really representing our interests at the central which is the goal of governance. They see our plight but they can't feel our pains due to the armour of wealth they wear with distractions of how to massively loot from the commonwealth. The truth of the matter is that even the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola can't do without using a generating set in his house not to talk of the masses. What an irony! With the introduction of new tariffs being announced, power supply may end up being a luxury just like happiness in Nigeria.

After long days at work, we all retire to the darkness of our homes except if you have fuel to burn which makes relaxation expensive in a way.  Before the advent of harmattan a month ago, people slept at the veranda of their houses for fresh air. Those were moments of celebrations for mosquitoes that had enough blood to suck and store against the days of scarcity. The resultant effects of that action were high patronage at the pharmacy and hospitals for the treatment of Malaria.

Imagine Nigerians without religion, depression, violence or massive crimes would have been the order of the day. Religion is what gives us the strength to carry on as we all gather hopes by faith concerning a better tomorrow.

Does this confirm the saying of the great philosopher and political thinker, Karl Max that religion is the opium of the masses?

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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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