Under normal circumstances we do not always have electricity in my area of Ibadan. Whenever we have it, the current is usually so low that it does not always carry our air conditioners. Even at that I sometimes hear people in my house asking for how long we are going to have power; the question always suggests that power will go off in a rather negative expectation of inefficiency and inadequacy.
In a situation like this, my generator, like those of many Nigerians, is the regular power supply while the public power supply is the stand by. This is however not sustainable. The cost of diesel is now so high that very few people can afford to run their generators for more than a few hours in the night.
People in my area reached a gentleman’s agreement that all generators must be switched off by ten at night .The people in my area are much civilised. They don’t want to keep those who do not have generators awake at night by the noise coming out of their generators. The other more compelling reason is that thieves and robbers usually target houses which have generators. I used to think light keeps away intruders. Apparently this is not the case in Nigeria!
Recently my generator broke down irretrievably and it was hell for me. It has been unusually hot in Ibadan in recent times. I also have writing and reading schedules to meet which cannot be done in the dark. In my desperation I got in touch with friends about how they were coping.
Somebody told me what another friend, a widow, did when she could not cope. She called her children to file immigrant status for her in the U.S. Luckily this was before Trump took over the White House by storm. She sold all her stuff including the house she and her husband laboured to build and to which she was sentimentally attached. This must have been traumatic. The lady however said she has had it with constant struggle just to live. She wanted to spend what was left of her life in some comfort and certainty of services needed to keep her sanity.
When I was told about this solution, I said I won’t go that route. Unlike when I was young, I can no longer bear the cold of the winter weather. I was given another option of installing solar panels on my roof. The cost which I was told was the cheapest I can get was one million six hundred thousand Naira. I asked what I would get for investing this huge amount. I was told I will connect my fridge to this solar power and will have lights in my bed room and the sitting room while alternately switching lights on and off as I move around the house. I was also told that I would have to switch off the fridge at bed time to preserve the power stored during the sunny day. Air conditioning, even in my bed room, would be out of it.
I discussed my predicament with friends who advised me against the solar power option because I was told it will all end in frustration after committing so much funds to the solar project. Now what should I do? Whenever there is no light I dress at home like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, meaning going around in my birthday suit. Luckily, I do not get too many visitors coming to my house unannounced. . Luckily, I have a jalabiat which I can quickly throw on my naked body if someone was visiting without long notice..
This is the plight which the sale of NEPA to friends of the previous regime has inflicted on me and on many Nigerians. So what do I do? I suppose I can continue to pray. But I have an advice for those who should generate, transmit and distribute power.
Before the centralisation of power generation and distribution in Nigeria there were independent power generating power plants in each city. Certainly, there was an independent power station in Jos that originally serviced the tin and columbite mines on the plateau as well as supplying power to Jos and neighbouring villages. I saw this with my own eyes in the 1960s. If I am correct, cities like Kaduna, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano Enugu and Ibadan had independent power stations.
I do not remember Ibadan being in this kind of darkness in my youth. Of course, we did not have air conditioning then and the numbers of homes with power were not as many as they are today. But this is not an argument against decentralisation. This is what is done in more advanced countries where when there is a breakdown of power supply in one area, power can be sourced and transferred to areas that temporarily lacked power. What I am suggesting is building of more generating power stations independent of one another and directly supplying their consumers in areas in their immediate neighbourhoods.
I will suggest a visit by those in charge of electricity supply in Nigeria to the RCCG city near Lagos that has its own turbine fired by compressed natural gas and supplies power 24/7 to people living in the city. I am sure there are some other private settlements like this in Nigeria. Imagine if every major city in Nigeria did this instead of the pollution-causing individual diesel generators bringing not only pollution but respiratory diseases to adults and children alike. We have tried every measure to solve this power problem without success. Shouldn’t we try something different to show we are not collectively suffering from insanity? Because when one does the same thing and gets the same results without changing, it is a sign of lunacy.
This is what has been happening in all areas of Nigeria’s life since the intervention of the military in Nigeria’s politics in 1966 when they brought their commandist structure and world view into our national life. This has destroyed the basis of our competitive and cooperative federalism. We can see the dead weight of this tendency on our education, sports, and infrastructure and, particularly, finance where so much money goes to the center where it is routinely stolen.
While on the issue of electricity we must as a matter of urgency have a mix of fuel and sources of power including hydro power, coal, gas, and possibly nuclear. The latter may sound a bit academic because of our unseriousness as a people. The fact is that our children in diaspora including mine have the experience and competence to do this if attracted back home.
People like me have been complaining about our electricity inadequacy; our children inherited our grumbling. I pray we hand this country to our grandchildren better than the way we found it.
Source: The Nation