Elumelu's 'Suicide Mission' and the Generator Generation

by SOC Okenwa

In this interesting intellectual platform I had, on more than one occasion in the recent past, argued and held that power and its politics of generation and distribution in Nigeria remained one of the plagues afflicting our dear motherland. Darkness prevails even today in the lives of fellow Nigerians especially those in the hinterlands. The prevalent darkness in our national space has given a sharp rise in the percentage of the generator generation, a generation condemned by leadership mediocrity and the Nigerian factor to living dangerously.

To be sure, electricity, its production and distribution remains one of the encumbrances withholding Nigeria from achieving her full potentials as the giant of Africa. The giant has been emaciated for decades cowardly failing to recover from the shock of debilitating blows in the scrotum by those who have presided over her affairs since independence in 1960.

In General Ibrahim Babangida’s years as a ‘martial president’ one of the greatest scandals happened to be the “Gloria Okon” high-profile international cocaine smuggling exposé (which relatively led to journalist Dele Giwa’s death — or so the grapevine had it). And in the Locust years late General Sani Abacha was alleged to have ‘killed’ his ‘son’ Ibrahim in an air crash because of lingering doubts over his paternity. And besides the brutal dictator was himself eliminated after eating a poisoned apple generously offered him by an imported foreign prostitute! One wonders why the large army of marabouts living in Aso Rock then did not predict or forewarn the goggled one of the dangers ahead!

Enter Olusegun Obasanjo. After eight eventful years of presidential rigmarole what we had were scandals galore: Andy Uba and the presidential plane dollar smuggling scam, sex, corruption, incest, national assets dispossession schemes and what have you. But the greatest scandal trailing that notorious administration remains thus far the billions of dollars frivolously invested in the energy sector. Let us leave NNPC and the petroleum ministry ‘Baba’ oversaw for seven years for another day; a can of worms may be opened someday.

The House of Representatives are currently probing how more than 16 billion dollars were wasted in the so-called NIPP: National Integrated Power Projects. The Chairman, House Committee on Power and Steel, Mr Ndudi Elumelu and his colleagues are up against a cabal whose camp has been thrown into unsettling season, season of uncertainties!

Notoriously impervious to propriety the Obasanjo family is passing through the crucible as it were. From Gbenga, his son, who accused him of sleeping with his wife while filing for divorce to Iyabo who is wearing the crown of queen of scandals the Obasanjo clan is dancing naked in the market square! And that is a welcome development!

According to reports power-related contracts, during the Obasanjo recent democratic dispensation, worth billions of dollars were awarded to cronies and some fictitious companies which the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja did not register thus illegal fraudulent corporate entities. That is what the Elumelu committee is out to investigate and what they have found out so far does not give any cause for cheers.

As the power sector remains perpetually prostrate, the generating plant market continues to boom. Sometimes one tends to believe that there exists a national Mafia network always out to frustrate any positive move against the power paralysis. And elements in the system ever ready to strategically sabotage serious redemptive efforts of government to break the dark horizon over our space.

A good friend of mine based in South Africa went home last December for the Xmas feast. He had to buy and transport home a quality power generating machine because according to him PHCN expressed its professionalism only in generating darkness with its staff engaged in unwholesome deals, lucrative business of selling through the black market the electrical appliances meant to supply power to the ‘powerless’.

Besides he had told me in confidence on telephone after visiting my mother in the village that his relative based in Lagos imported generators but instead of selling the generating sets to buyers as he got them from suppliers overseas he took them first to his warehouse where the good original components were removed and replaced with fake ones! He now sold the quality parts to the buyers who had the misfortune of experiencing engine knocks.

Apart from importing sub-standard petroleum products (including killer kerosene that had killed people in their homes) the petroleum products importers enjoy doing just that in a nation that is rich in crude oil and exports same! What an irony!! Many cars and industrial and corporate concerns have had to face the consequencies of fake fuel, fake gas, fake diesel and fake aviation fuel! What a country!

A high-ranking police officer was reportedly murdered in his home in Lagos recently when his generator abruptly went off in the middle of the night. An attempt to know downstairs what went wrong led to his death! Hired killers hiding near-by (who must have deliberately put off the light to trick him out) accosted him and pulled the trigger. The alarm raised by his family yielded no dividend, the man gave up the ghost!

Elumelu has said that he keeps receiving death threats, that is not unexpected. People like Nuhu Ribadu (EFCC) and Mrs Dora Akinyuli (NAFDAC) know what it takes to move against a rotten system. An inquiry from them on how they were able to whether the storm and survive same may help Elumelu. Yet Elumelu’s character and resolution to do a thorough job including inviting OBJ, Atiku and other big men to testify before the committee is encouraging.

Receiving in his office in Asaba the Elumelu Committee members in a country-wide fact-finding tour who paid him a courtesy call having visited white elephant projects and empty lands and sites in Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan sounded a remarkable note of caution to the committee members likening their efforts to a “suicide mission” in which powerful toes would be stepped on. Governor Uduaghan was right in many ways but he inadvertently sew more fear in the minds of Elumelu and co.

Without any shred of doubt the Elumelu committee is indeed on a suicide mission and powerful toes had already been stepped on! Ndudi Elumelu himself has sounded alarm bells on few occasions after receiving many death threats; of course his life particularly is in serious jeopardy. At a point the flabbergasted lawmaker had this to say: “we have been very sad with what we saw. Everywhere we went, it is the same problem of non-execution of contracts for which huge sum of money have been collected. We will ensure that the contracts are executed or re-awarded”.

Lawmaker Elumelu appears, despite the odds, to be going about his enormously challenging task with some patriotic zeal and firm commitment. His committee have a choice of becoming heroes in the end or end up like many before them — compromised on the alter of corruption and chicken-heartedness. Hard luck to them!

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