DESPITE the seeming patriotic fervor that propelled Mrs Kemi Adeosun, Finance Minister, to tell the world that Western countries are blocking the nation’s plan to improve power supply through a resort to coal-fire energy, the statement is a huge disservice to the nation. The minister, who was speaking last Wednesday during a panel discussion on infrastructure in Africa at the ongoing World Bank/IMF annual meeting in Washington, had said in spite of the West using coal-fired energy to build its industrial base, it is constituting a bulwark to the nation’s effort of using its abundant coal supply for bridging its energy need gap.
I find it difficult to believe that the Minister did say that for a number of reasons. The first is that the statement is typically African. It is characteristic of us Africans to blame others for our misfortunes. An African never falls, somebody must push him. An African never fails; somebody else must have instigated it. Part of the curse of the continent is that its people always look for a fall guy for their misdeeds. We are never tired of coming up with who to blame for our misdemeanors. But for as long as we find it convenient to blame others for our woes, we will never be fired up to do what is required to get our problem solved. The issue of clean energy did not arise until about two decades ago. What stopped Nigeria from deploy its abundant coal to build her own industrial base before that time? I am positive that the West did not do anything to stop us; we stopped ourselves. So, what is the fault of the West in our failure to act at the right time? I am sure that listening to the Minister, the Westerners would have laughed us to scorn. They would have snickered, saying to one another, “These blacks aren’t going to change ever.”
The second reason is that I am surprised that the Minister is not cognizant of the flatness of the world. The world has become so globalised that whatever happens in any part of the world affects other parts. So, the global community cannot watch while a country threatens the ozone layer, pollutes the air and subjects the people to life-threatening diseases in the name of trying to get energy. The fact is that the world has moved beyond coal and others like it into clean energy and we just must move with the rest of the world. It will do us no good to keep romanticizing the past.
Perhaps it will be apt to point out that the Stone Age did not end due to shortage of stone; it ended because the world moved beyond stone. The Stone Age era ended because the world discovered better and easier way of fashioning out implements. Though stone remains in abundance, the world no longer uses it for what it was used for. The same goes for coal. The world has moved beyond using coal and other dirty energy sources to generate power because there are better alternatives that do not leave a dent in the ecosystem or diseases in the people.
I am particularly bothered that this statement came from a minister. A minister is a member of the highest decision-making body in the land, the Federal Executive Council. If our ministers have preference for what worked in the past and still dwell so much on it even in the face of obvious fact that this is no longer realistic, there is no way our country will record the progress that all Nigerians are yearning for. Our country will find it herculean to keep pace with development in other parts of the world.
The minister needs to know that leadership or governance cannot be a ballroom dance; it can’t be a step forward and two backwards. It is only when governance is consistently progressive that it can be of immense benefit to the people. Making it a habit to moan the loss or the mistakes of the past will make progress difficult. So, the minister and others who share her thinking about using coal for generating power in the 21st century should perish the thought and embrace cleaner ways of generating energy.
A driver makes progress by looking consistently through the windshield and at the rearview mirror occasionally for guidance. If a driver solely concentrates on the rearview mirror, one of two things will happen; he will either end up in a ditch or in the middle of nowhere. Neither is appealing and that definitely is not the change we want.