"ÔÇŽwe 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.


For a long time now, the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), which now calls itself Nigeria Power Holding (read Hoarding) Company (NPHC), the duly licensed and fully empowered Agent Of Darkness in Nigeria, cruelly unleashed on this hapless nation by a very callous leadership, and managed by a bunch of incurable sadists, has descended on us here with all the fury and malevolence of its total and blinding darkness. It is most pathetic watching Nigerians cruelly enveloped in NEPA/PHC's very thick and suffocating darkness, and groping like very helpless people trapped in a murky, danger-infested night.

There used to be an MTN television advert where a young man asks a girl to step out on her balcony to behold the beauty and delight of a bright, golden sunlit day. Throughout the time it ran on our various TV channels, it was made to look utterly ridiculous and outlandish in our environment due to the thick darkness that has engulfed us as a nation, ably, generously and faithfully supply by NEPA/PHC. Now, like that girl in the advert, you can step out into nearby Niger, Benin, Ghana, Togo, and several very leanly endowed nations in Africa and look back at our hapless big-for-nothing Nigeria standing tall and proud like one huge mound of darkness in the midst of little balls of light, with its hapless citizens groping, choking and wasting in the very womb of an impenetrable and asphyxiating darkness. 

Oh ye Nigerians, you must learn to be appreciative because, it cost your wonder-working government in Abuja a whole seven noisy years of loud promises, invaluable efforts, sacrificial work, sleepless nights, and, of course, the whopping sum of nearly three billion dollars ($3billion) to bring you this amount of blinding darkness. An unprecedented feat, you must admit! So, you must all rise up now, and file behind Gov. Gbenga Daniel and his brothers in the Southwest to board the Self-Succession Boat (SSB), to earnestly urge Baba Africa to go for another term and rule for life so he can continue with the "good work he is doing," especially in the power sector! (Don't laugh, it's serious).

 And as you grope in this intimidating darkness, ensure you don't suddenly forget your manners and begin to complain. After all you can readily find alternatives to public power supply. Indeed, there is equally the need to financially empower Nigerian importers of solely-made-for-Nigeria toy-generators, fast burning candles, stabilizers and rechargeable lanterns from China -- that country of criminal prosperity. It is only fair that local manufacturers of hurricane lanterns be encouraged too.  Don't you remember what happened in Ijebu Ode or is it Abeokuta, when Segun Osoba became Governor of Ogun State and announced his plans to solve the perennial water problems in the area, how water merchants whose rusting tanks and rickety trucks had before then serviced the water needs of the people had taken to the streets to protest the ÔÇświcked' attempt by the Governor to put them out of business? And you will recall that this incident took place right in  President Obasanjo's backyard, so it would be most unfair to expect him to solve the power crises in Nigeria and risk another violent protest from those that make millions from the supply of alternatives? Good; except that he is most reluctant to let Nigerians equally shop for an alternative to his government whose own all-round record  makes the woeful failure NEPA/PHC look like an amazing success.

I usually do this column, editorials and several other works at home, with the aid of my faithful tokunbo computer. And because NEPA/PHC has now become a standby 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 landscape. 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, I cannot do without this Chinese toy in the present circumstance, because as long as NEPA/PHC's paralyzing reign of darkness persists, I must need it to power the tokunbo computer in my study in order to write this piece. I am quite sure that even my lord, Mr. Justice Wilson "Hurricane" Egbo-Egbo, would not issue an ex parte against me because of this!

I should think I have myself to blame for this. I don't know how it happened, but I have suddenly discovered that I am gradually finding it difficult to produce even short texts of about three or four paragraphs today unless I go to the computer. So, it is entirely my fault, because, even my wife who took a degree in Computer Science at UNN many years ago and whose office is clustered with different sizes of computers still produces most of the drafts of her work in long hands before going to the Computer. So, I think NEPA/PHC has a point. They want to help me return to the basics, to learn again to write my pieces in long hands, so that, each time they strike with blinding darkness, all I would need to resume my work would just be either a rechargeable lantern, some sticks of candles, or worse, a hurricane lantern. Thank you, NEPA!

And as if to further emphasize this point, NEPA recently delivered a well-aimed  deadly blow on my beloved tokunbo computer, heartlessly ruined a very vital part in it, and the system went blank and became still. In fact, I had to part with a large chunk of my salary to get it working again, because, I wouldn't want to default in submitting an editorial or this column. I could have paid more if the engineer that fixed it was not a very close friend whose excellent services I got free of charge. 

Also, NEPA irremediably damaged my TV set. The technician tried his best on it and gave up. Unwilling to waste more money attempting to wake up the dead, I had to go for a new one, which I paid for by instalments. After this, the next victim was the  fridge. NEPA simply ignored the ÔÇśoriginal' stabilizer put there to protect it, and damaged the fridge with the devastating effect of its power fluctuations. For several weeks, the technician battled  to make it work again. The more parts he removed and replaced, the more stubborn and remote the ailment remains. As I was contemplating to start saving money for a new one, a miracle happened and my good old fridge came back to life again, after eating deep into my pocket. Tell me why I should pray for this regime that has cruelly punished me like this?  

I have once said it that I would be so ashamed to introduce myself as the ruler of this nation in any gathering of civilized beings. This is a nation trapped in destructive, prehistoric darkness, where it has become clear that the only things that work are those thing that do not require any form of effort from those in authority to function. Indeed, it is becoming clear that the first qualification for public office in Nigeria is shamelessness. Pray, how can a man find the courage and ÔÇśbold face' to come out in the open, wearing abysmal failure as a large flowing robe? Somebody is presently encumbering the ground as Minister of Power and Steel, and another fellow calls himself the Managing Director of NEPA. If these fellows have lost the capacity for shame, what about their families? How do you feel as the wife or son or daughter of the fellow  whose only contribution to his fatherland  is generous supply darkness and more darkness? Everyday, Nigerians make it a habit of pouring undeniably potent curses on all those shrouding them with thick darkness. Why is the Obasanjo Administration so helpless before this very embarrassing issue of power failure, something that has been  adequately tackled by our even less-endowed neighbours?

So are we saying that NEPA is suffering from an incurable ailment, and that it is completely beyond this government to give Nigerians light?  Why don't this government just solve the light problem and register it as its sole achievement in  seven years of ostentatious waste and insufferable profligacy? Indeed, if Nigeria begins today to have uninterrupted power supply, this  government will earn ceaseless praises from several commentators including this one.  Indeed, adequate power supply will abolish over-dependence on fuel. The barbing saloon man or the woman who grinds pepper in the market may not even bother to know the price of fuel., if their houses are within walking distances to their business places. Toothpaste produced in Accra would no longer be cheaper than the one produced in Nigeria because, the cost of production here will drop significantly. Companies will expand and employ more people. The private sector which this government claims it wants to empower will then be truly empowered and become active players  in the economy. 

But it is becoming clear that the Obasanjo Government has given up hope of  giving Nigerians uninterrupted power supply. What are they even telling the so-called foreign investors they claim to be wooing. Ghana is announcing to the world that for several years now, its citizens have enjoyed uninterrupted power supply; what is Nigeria's selling point? I am sure that assuming power failure was not such a  palpable phenomenon you can't explain it away by claiming imaginary successes in that sub-sector, this government's spin doctors would have been making wild claims and reeling out statistics to show how Mr. President has "performed creditably well in the power sector. But unfortunately, power failure is like pregnancy, you cannot deny it for long! What makes this so painful is that in some very poor countries in Africa today, uninterrupted power supply is already being taken for granted. 

Nigeria has therefore become a dumping ground for all manner of generators. These are filling the atmosphere with large doses of dangerous fumes. Nigeria is gradually becoming a fatal gas chamber, and many of those whose ungodly interests are being serviced by the continued crises in the energy sector may not escape if the epidemic being predicted by foresighted people eventually breaks out? How can I support a government that puts me through this kind of harrowing stress on a daily basis?  Is this blinding darkness not a clear case of deliberate provocation? The mere fact that this government boldly lies about its failures clearly vindicates the growing belief that it never had any intention or plans of doing anything right.   Now, if you ask me, the darkness of NEPA is reflection of the state of mind of the Obasanjo government and its officials. No wonder there is so much confusion and visionlessness.


Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye writes a column on the backpage of Independent Newspaper (www.independentng.com), Lagos,  every Wednesday.

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