Fasola: Power Pass Power

In August 2000, former US President Bill Clinton visited Nigeria as incumbent. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was his host then as Nigeria’s leader. “Why is it that your country is still in darkness despite the huge funds that has gone that way?” Clinton asked his guest during a dinner. Trust OBJ, he was more than irked.  Sometime later, Baba reciprocated Clinton’s visit. Curiously, he noticed that there was a particular building that was in darkness, while chatting in a balcony with his guest. He chuckled. It’s payback time.  “My friend,” he said, pointing at the dark spot in the city, “how come there’s no electricity in that place, despite your huge spending on power?” Clinton called one of aides to inquire. Then, suddenly, he bursts into laughter. But what’s funny? Baba was baffled. “That’s the embassy of Nigeria over there,” Clinton explained. I have heard several jokes that illustrate the hopelessness of our power sector. But none has moved me as the above. The tale shows more than hopelessness. The climax isn’t really plausible. But it illustrates how endemic the situation is.  When Bola Ige, a progressive in every sense of the word, couldn’t fix power, then I knew that the power against power in Nigeria is terrestrial. The man had promised that he would ensure there was power 24/7. He handed down a deadline of 6 months. Was he insincere? He didn’t have to. He wasn’t making an electioneering pledge. He wasn’t then a political applicant. He gave the pledge as soon as he was handed the job as Minister of Power and Mines. He was giving himself and his ministry a deadline. But was he naïve. Honestly, I can’t say. Was he over ambitious? Maybe. Was he sabotaged? That was expected. But did he expect it? Not as much.   The problem with Nigeria is that its leaders don’t speak to facts. They rely on speculation and emotions. They speak, then think. They act, then plan.  Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola does not rank among slow people. He proved that when he was governor of Lagos State, especially during his first term. At a point, he became the reference point for good governance. Little wonder President Muhammadu Buhari made him the ‘Prime Minister’. The almighty power sector is now under his watch. But is he watching well? Maybe he’s gazing at the problem in the sector. Like previous ministers. It is especially saddening that Fashola had bragged that he could provide uninterrupted power supply to Lagosians, his subjects at the time. He said he could do so within six months. That was in March last year. He said, “Let the EKO DISCOs sign a contract with me, giving part of their concessioning to the state government. In about six to eight months, there will be power in all homes in Lagos State.” If he had stopped there, I would have pardoned him. I would have said Lagos state is not the same as Nigeria. But hear him, “So, let no one say that he has no money to deliver power for the entire country. This is the limit to which the law allows us to do, but we have done this to make a statement that power can be generated. So, when they come with lies that power is impossible, you can tell them that we have power here; we make it possible.” So what is happening now Uncle Fasola? It’s six months already. And power has plummeted like never before. And amidst this you sanctioned a hike in tariff?  Is Fasola overwhelmed? Can he still deliver? I think so. But first thing first. He must hold the GENSCOs and DISCOs to fulfil the terms in their contract. If they promised to produce consumers with metres, so must they. So long as they are allowed to charge estimated bills, they won’t be bothered that power is dropping. It won’t be so if all consumers are metered. They will know their costumers cant be billed for what they did not consume. That will force them to provide power to those who need electricity, when they need it. They won’t be able to generate revenue if they don’t generate power. This is commonsensical. Abi? Except, as usual, power don pass power.