When Babatunde Fashola stole a look into his wife’s holy Bible, he didn’t go beyond the first page and Genesis 1: 2 -3 read, “And… darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light”.
Fashola was astonished. Just like that? He asked himself. He read further: 1:4 “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness”.
The Ekiti born former governor of Lagos State had had enough Bible reading. After all he wasn’t even a Christian but his wife Abimbola is.
As Fashola pondered over the simplicity of having light in the face of his sweating children, he announced pompously, “Any government that cannot provide light in six months has no business being in government. It should resign,” he screamed.
Someone said he had seen the power of God and told General Muhammadu Buhari who smiled.
In Fashola, he had seen a fashionable man who would put the ousted People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to shame. This was a magical worker who would help him fight the corruption war in the power ministry, then he put him there to work and provide electricity to Nigerians who should have no problem believing in him for ‘Change’.
Indeed, Fashola is a builder. With his laptop alone, he can spend 78 million naira building a website, an amount that can provide low cost housing for 78 mid sized households in the Niger Delta using locally sourced materials.
He also sunk a borehole with an amount large enough to provide potable water for 40 villages in Ekiti, but was to cheekily tell the Senate that he doesn’t sign cheques. After all he’s only a mere lawyer in Lagos , a city where lawyers are sleek and smart. They never go wrong.
Having been in the power saddle for over six months, Fashola now knows that “God said” and it happened is different from a minister mimicked and it came to be.
The reality came too quickly when he realized that out of the 26 power plants the country has, 23 are powered by gas, and the gas can only be sourced from a neglected region whose lands and waters are treated with contempt and it’s people constantly branded as criminals and policed by naval gunboats, military task forces and other appurtenances of war .
Fashola suddenly looked forlorn and helpless as he declared the truths about power and why his ministry must cover the country with infinite darkness, while electricity tariff keeps climbing through the roof and Nigerians must pay heavy prices for remaining in the dark.
Nigeria produces less than 4000mw for 180 million people. South Africa in contrast generates 50,000MW for its 45 million population, without having gas fields within their borders.
Niger Deltans own their indigenous lands, but it’s oil blocks are always allocated to people who live over a thousand kms away, because of an obnoxious decree signed by General Olusegun Obasanjo as military head of state .
The people live in shanties without basic necessities that city dwellers take for granted. Nobody ever trusts them with power because they are considered “5% minorities”.
Therefore when agitations arise, the people become indifferent and aloof. It hurts them and hurts the nation.
The way forward is to dialogue and partner with the people of the region. Intimidating them won’t produce the results that the nation needs.
Babatunde Fashola, Nigeria’s works, housing, and power minister was talking about diversifying the sources of power generation a few weeks back.
He has found the scapegoats he would pin his lackluster performance in the ministry on.
It’s always the usual fall guys, the Niger Delta militants. He won’t talk about the weak distribution infrastructure or the fact that political expediency and selfishness of past leaders necessitated the siting of power plants in places without gas production.
Neither would he be forthright enough to tell Nigerians in the dark, that power generation from solar panels or windmills are getting cheaper by the day, while nuclear energy is getting more expensive, for such could lead citizens getting ideas that would finally free them to rest the electric supply and generation companies for good, GSM companies did to NITEL, if the government fails to put its house in order. It won’t be in his interest anyway, for it is only through the bureaucratic establishment that gives officials the billions that fund their opulent lifestyles.
Same reason gasoline prices world wide would drop by 24.18 %, yet in Nigeria that flares gas freely, petrol pump price climbed from 97.5 naira per litre to 145 naira. No protests could be sustained.
Yet, 80% of electric generating sets are silent and Nigerians grope in the dark but still pay extortionist electric bills and the economy continues to flounder with industries shutting down over power shortages.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.