Imoke's Devastating Bomb

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

A couple of weeks ago, the Minister of Power and Steel, Mr. Liyel Imoke, decided it was time to release to Nigerians the devastating news he had all this while kept from them, namely, that the outgoing regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo never had any intention of giving Nigerians uninterrupted power supply. Mr. Imoke had declared to a stunned nation that those yearning for reliable power supply in Nigeria (something already being taken for granted in virtually all the very small and leanly endowed countries near us here) can only hope to have that in 2056. That was the fatal truth Imoke inflicted on the nation, matter-of-factedly, recently, and caused a pervading gloom, hopelessness and despair to take over the Nigerian landscape.

What Imoke is saying is simple: majority of Nigerians who have already attained the age of fifty today, or forty and even thirty (you know the life expectancy here!), should simply give up any hope of ever experiencing in their lifetime what it means to have an uninterrupted power supply in their country. How cruel and heartless can a government be! Come on, Mr. Imoke, now that you have decided to tell us the truth (no mean feat, I must admit, since truth is such a very scarce commodity in the regime you serve in), why not go the whole hog, and give us all of it? Is it true then that the great promises and grandiose claims the Abuja regime had been making about its “achievements” in the power sector are all heaps and heaps of unimaginative lies? So, practically nothing was being done after all? And for a whole seven years? Leaving the sector to rot and decay unchecked?

I am told that Imoke has denied the statement. They always do. The reports, we were told, did not state it the way he put it, eventhough those who interviewed him still havehim on tape. But there is not much difference, any way, between what was credited to him, and what he is now claiming he actually said. But even if Imoke did not makethe offensive statement, the truth still remains that we do not need his statementto know that the situation may even be worse than implied in the declaration. We all have eyes, and we daily see what is on ground.We feel the pain they circulate daily.

When I began to raise the alarm that Nigeria, especially in the hands of the present regime in Abuja, has simply become a decaying, rickety, old truck, abandoned by the roadside, and resented by even the fellow that claims to be its driver, some people thought I was over-blowing the situation. I wrote a number of essays in this column with these captions: “A Nation Not Governed,” “Nigeria: The High Cost Of Neglect,” “Still An Abandoned Project“, and some others, saying just the same thing. I insisted in those essays, that very soon, Nigerians would begin to face the grim reality of the cruel neglect to which their country has been subjected by rulers who are not sincere enough to tell Nigerians that, actually, they neither mean well for anybody nor have any clear idea about how Nigeria could be steered out of the woods. Before now, governments, at least, tried to under-perform and under-achieve; but the present one came in, and simply decided that the best way to rule Nigeria is just to sit by and watch it decay. Well, Imoke has brought us face-to-face with just one evidence of that disastrous decision. And now that we have seen the devastating report card of our Minister of Power and Steel, can the Ministers of Education and Health also step forward to proclaim their own ugly news? Yes, we are ready to hear it all, no matter how bad and traumatizing they are. Let the Works and Housing ministers also be getting ready. It is better to know the exact situation on ground than to continue to wallow in the vaporous bliss that ignorance guarantees. Moreover, many of us have already developed effective shock-absorbers, because whatever they are going to say are the things we already know. We only need them to quit their loud denials and flowery proclamations, and confirm the stark truth that stares us all in the face. In fact, it is time to face the grim reality of this government’s seven years of boundless waste of abundant resources to supervise seven years of great deterioration, which they had all tried to unceasingly but unsuccessfully decorate with poorly woven claims of “great”, but unverifiable, “achievements”. For seven excruciating years now, Nigerians have most painfully continued to pay the high cost of abysmal neglect. It seems the Abuja regime is running out of lies.

A couple of years ago, there were reports that this government had sunk some 2.5 billion dollars in the energy sector. Where is the impact of such a huge investment? If we are now to wait till 2056 to have stable power in our homes and offices, we should at least be able to see the little this regime has recorded in the power sector these seven years. That is a reasonable expectation, isn’t it? When this regime came in and assessed the situation in the power sector, it declared, perhaps, based on what it met on ground, that within just a few months, energy problem will be over in Nigeria. The declaration made joy to spring up in many hearts. But, today, those hearts that rejoiced at that time are full of sorrows. Everybody can see it clearly that the power sector has degenerated beyond our wildest imaginations these past seven years. It does seem that after making those tantalizing proclamations, the regime and its horde of garrulous “experts” simply went to sleep on “soft beds”, procured with the nation’s 2.5 billion dollars, supposedly “invested” in the power sector.

Dear Mr. Imoke, I suppose that you have a very efficient, giant, noiseless generator in your house? I am sure you also have another one in your office at the so-called Ministry of Power. So, how do you feel, as Minister in-charge of Power in Nigeria, that even at your home and office, the impact of your ministry cannot be felt? What kind of mind are you carrying, that you are able to head a Ministry known only for the great darkness it generates? Has the Steel aspect of your office merely succeeded in steeling your heart, so much so, that it has lost every capacity to feel? How do you feel each time you have had occasion to remind yourself that you are the one heading the ministry that has caused Nigerians untold sorrow and trauma? Are you aware of the growing belief in the country that your ministry is merely fulfilling its own part of the bargain with wealthy, influential generator merchants by ensuring that the nation is perpetually plunged in darkness, so that the toy generators the Chinese are helping them to flood the country with can enjoy bumper sales? Are you aware of the consequences of the proliferation of generators in the country? I am sure they must have told you that Nigeria alone is responsible for 70 per cent of gas flaring in the world? Are you not bothered that with all these deadly fumes oozing out from countless generators and saturating the atmosphere, this country has already become a gas chamber, and that if nothing is done urgently, a destructive epidemic might break out in this nation as a result of the continued abundant inhalation of these fumes by hapless Nigerians? Everyday, Nigerians wake up and curse NEPA/PHCN for unceasingly plunging them in blinding, suffocating darkness, do you think those curses, delivered from anguished souls, won’t eventually work? How did you feel when you heard of the tragic end of the Ayinla family in Ibadan and the several other families that have also been cruelly murdered by the generator fumes they had to inhale because you engulfed them in pitch darkness? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself from whose hands their red innocent blood drips continually? Indeed, Mr. Minister, how would you want to be remembered? As Minister of Sorrow and Pain? Or as what?

Mr. Minister, you have just announ

ced that a rickety, decaying, under-maintained and under-functioning transmission line that carries electricity from Alaoji through Aba and Onitsha has finally collapsed, further worsening the already very bad and horrible energy situation in states like Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River. Are you really surprised that it happened? Tell us the truth, Minister, have you not been expecting it? Well, congrats, for the promptness with which you conjured a very brilliant reason for the collapse, almost immediately it happened. That was vintage Nigerian minister of this era. You wasted no time in blaming it on heat emanating from fire on vandalised pipelines. Very smart, Minister! I have also heard that because of the upsurge in pipeline vandalisations in the recent past, your gas supply lines have been disrupted, and that is why we are experiencing uninterrupted blackout in the country!

That was a good one, Mr. Minister. Except that my people also have a saying that the dog’s nose was already cold long before the harmattan arrived. Before pipeline vandalisations became the nation’s nightmare due to the deepening anger in the land occasioned by unspeakable hardship unleashed in the country as a result leadership failure and boundless corruption, did we fare any better in power supply? Okay, only last Sunday, as I dropped off a friend, after Sunday service, he told me that for more than two month now, they have not had any light in their area. Also, when later I called my colleague, Dan Amor, to find out how long you have encumbered the ground as Power and Steel Minister, he informed me that for more than two years now, a community called Egan, near Igando, after Iba Estate in Lagos, has not had any form of power supply. In fact, residents of the place were compelled by NEPA/PHCN officials to pay the sum of five thousand naira (N5,000) per building for power to be restored in the area, but as I write now, they are still choking under the suffocating, blinding grip of Imoke’s darkness. I suppose that too was caused by vandalized pipelines, Mr. Minister? I think the EFCC should also show some interest in that rip-off in Egan. Everywhere it is the same story. Since you don’t appear to have a clear idea about what to do to even record some marginal difference in the power sector, why don’t you just quit?

This makes one wonder what really informs the decision of President Olusegun Obasanjo each time he is appointing ministers. When Prof Fabian Osuji fell as Education Minister following a bribe scandal, you, Mr. Minister, were asked, in addition to the Ministry of Power where you are quite aware you have failed woefully, to also oversee the Education Ministry. No wonder there is decay everywhere. No wonder you had the heart to throw this kind of bomb at this time. Well, at least, you told the truth.

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