Nigeria Matters

Problem Has Changed Name (PHCN)

“We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.” —-Isaiah 59:9-10.

The title of this piece is not original. I first heard it last year from the former Minister of Power and Steel, Mr. Liyel Imoke, who, now, is out there, on the South-South political battlefield, fighting to become the next Governor of Cross River State. I was at a forum where Imoke was outlining his ministry’s ‘great achievements’ in the power sector, and the minister was not too happy that public understanding had remained in very short supply despite the monumental efforts he and his team were deploying to give Nigerians uninterrupted power supply. He then told us that when the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) took on the new name of Power Holding Company Of Nigeria (PHCN), some very uncharitable people chose to refer to it as ‘Problem Has Changed Name (PHCN)’. How unfair!

Well, the bitter truth, which would be too hard to shy away from, is that NEPA has worked so hard to distinguish itself as one of the most excruciating problems of the Nigerian nation, which has even terribly worsened since it took on the new name of PHCN. It is, no doubt, a prominent evidence of the abysmal failure of the Obasanjo Administration. After nearly eight years of loud promises and dubious claims, I still cannot write this column without fueling my Chinese toy-generator, and there is no indication that any form of positive change would occur within the remaining few months this regime has to expire into its well-earned place in the rubbish heap of history. It is so sad.

The impression we had was that by December, the energy situation in Nigeria would start improving, as some of the new power plants this government claimed it was constructing would have been commissioned. But December and the New Year offered to Nigerians one of the worst nightmares in this nation’s history of woes. The country was not only plunged in greater, suffocating darkness, fuel was also non-existent in this oil-producing nation. And so, while government failed to provide electricity to the people, it also denied them the fuel to power their Chinese toys. What a tragedy!

While the Nigerian people groaned under this excruciating agony and torment, the president and his deputy were busy filling the newspapers with horrifying details of how Nigeria’s resources were mercilessly looted by those we have been most unfortunate to have as leaders. We heard of how billions of naira that could have been used to improve our lives were callously poured away in the pursuit puerile fancies and scandalous vanities. The painful conclusion Nigerians have been forced to make is that governance in Nigeria is all about looting and plundering of the nation’s resources to amassincredible wealth, build polluted dynasties and gratify wild fancies. Doomed is the nation whose kings are proud, flamboyant thieves and shameless profligates, and whose National Assembly exists only in name! Such a nation would never be able to stand on its feet, despite its limitless natural and human resources. Such a nation can only decay and die. Nigeria has decayed and died.

I usually do this column, editorials and several other works at home, with the aid of my faithful tokunbo computer. And because NEPA/PHCN has now become a mere occasional, brief power supplier, my writing is always moderated by the laborious, mournful humming of my little Chinese toy-generator, which stands watch at the balcony, spitting dark, poisonous fumes into Nigeria’s unfortunate environment. And because, I would not want to risk a re-enactment of the Ayinla family tragedy (I hope you have not forgotten the family in Ibadan that was wiped out by generator fumes they had inhaled?), I always ensure that I securely shut the door and the two windows that provide access to my balcony from the parlour. Indeed, despite the obvious danger it constitutes to health and sanity, I cannot do without this Chinese toy in the present circumstance, because as long as NEPA/PHCN’s reign of darkness persists, I must need it to power the tokunbo computer in my study in order to write this column. I am quite sure that even my lord, Mr. Justice ‘Hurricane’ Egbo-Egbo, would not issue an ex parte against me because of this!

Dear reader, eight whole years down the drain, and all we are inundated with daily are unintelligent lies by the government’s megaphones, whose determination to whitewash the very many glaring instances of this government’s failure has remained embarrassingly futile. Governance has completely ground to a halt, as every available energy is now deployed to ensure the ‘victory’ of the ‘right candidate’, who, obviously,won the heart of the king makers, bysimply promising to never ask any questions about the mind-blowing stories of mindless looting that have been thrown up in the course of the ongoingdirty fight in the Presidency. Thank God for the PTDF probe; we have now become too familiar with the skewed mindset of those that rule us.

No, doubt, there are failures you cannot possibly explain away. There is no way you can justify or explain away the fact that the energy situation in the country has far exceeded the worst anyone could have imagined after eight years of’good governance’ and myriad of ‘reforms’. The cost of doing business in Nigeria, due to intractable energy crises, has forced several industries to close shop here and relocate to well-managed climes like Ghana. Somebody who just returned from Liberia, a country that just emerged from war, told me that in the areas where power supply has been restored in the country, people enjoy it more than Nigerians can ever hope to under a regime like the present one.

Daily, Nigerians battle with heat and discomfort all night, and report to work the next day totally exhausted and drained of strength, and probably nursing a headache. No doubt, this would adversely affect their output, but who in government cares? Also, due to the proliferation of all sorts of generators, which emit very poisonous fumes into the atmosphere, Nigeria is fast becoming a dangerous gas chamber, and under the threat of an epidemic. It is most demoralizing watching hapless, pathetic Nigerians cruelly enveloped in NEPA/PHCN’s very thick and suffocating darkness, groping like very helpless people trapped in a murky, danger-infested night.

Why is the Obasanjo Administration appearing so intimidated, overwhelmed andhelpless before this very embarrassing issue of power failure, something that has beenadequately tackled by even our less-endowed neighbours? So are we saying that NEPA/PHCN is suffering from an incurable ailment, and that it is completely beyond this government to give Nigerians light? Or that there is a deliberate policy to keep the nation in perpetual darkness so that greedy generator merchants (who may be party chieftains and cronies of those in government) may remain in business as has been alleged several times over by a cross-section of Nigerians?

It is probably too late in the day to expect anything new and cheering from Obasanjo’s out-going regime. Obviously, it has since given up on the power sector. It has simply run out of ideas, assuming it had any before now, and chosen the counter-productive shortcut of renaming NEPA, with the hope that a new name would make the problem to go away. But as has become evident, the government has only succeeded in giving a new name to an old, ever-worsening problem. Any hope for any kind of reprieve should focus on post-May 29, hoping the next government would not turn out to be a replica of this outgoing one.

 

Prof Iwu’s Burdens And Disabilities

What a disastrous coincidence that the very period the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Maurice Iwu, had chosen to examine the credentials of aspirants to various elective offices in the coun

try was also the time his own academic qualifications came under intense media scrutiny. The biographical note on Prof Iwu on the INEC website (inecnigeria.org) carefully avoided any reference to hisUndergraduate studies, and so, Mr. Omoyele Sowore’s internet media outfit, saharareporters.com, sent enquiries to the University of Bradford, Bradford, UK, where Iwu had his Postgraduate Studies, to unravel the reason behind that ‘omission’. While an INEC spokesperson had told saharareporters.com that Iwu had obtained both his Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees at the University of Bradford, the University declared that Iwu was never an Undergraduate at Bradford, and that he had presented a first degree certificate from a ‘University in Cameroon’ to gain admission into its Graduate School. Obviously, Bradford had done no certificate verification during the time the eminent Professor of Pharmacy was admitted into its Postgraduate School, but its reluctance to now name the particular University their former student claimed he had attended in the Cameroons has been most baffling.

If Bradford is stingy with facts about Iwu’s Undergraduate credentials, the INEC Chairman should be seen to be too eager to kill the damaging speculations about his academic history by publishing without delay the full details of his credentials. He may be too busy with the national assignment on his hands now, but this is one extra mile he cannot afford to wish away. So far, Iwu had had to contend with a lot of doubts hovering over his head like a malevolent smoke. His colleagues in the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have had to raise questions about the genuineness of his commitment to ‘the struggle’, and several Nigerians have equally wondered whether he is indeed one with them in their deep yearning for credible elections this April. Indeed, the widespread belief is that the sole drummer giving out the sometimes weird tunes Iwu eagerly dances to resides in Aso Rock and the PDP. The current controversy over his credentials can only deepen the doubts about his personal and professional integrity. And so, he needs to immediately clear the lingering doubts before they assume lives of their own. Certainly, he needs to convince Nigerians that they have not entrusted an all-important election in the hands of a suspected certificate forger, because, as anyone can easily conclude, a certificate forger would have no qualms cooking up election results. Over to you, Prof.

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