PENULTIMATE Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a veiled thumbs-down on his immediate past Minister of Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola; it was on the occasion of the visit of the Edo monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Ewuare II, leading a delegation to the Presidential Villa to protest the epileptic power supply in his domain. The president was quoted as admitting that, whereas his government was doing its best to ensure constant power supply, its efforts were “not good enough yet.”
That cannot but pass as a subtle “end-of-term” report on Fashola. As the Lagos State governor that was widely believed to have given a good account of himself while in the saddle, many had expected that Fashola would shine like a million stars in the firmament in his new job at Abuja. That, also, must have been the expectations of his employers who saddled him with the triple-barrel portfolios of power, works and housing. Billions of dollars have been spent – remember Obasanjo spent about US$6 billion; yet, no light. Jonathan spent his own billions, no dice. Buhari has added his own billions of dollars in expenditure; yet the verdict from the horse’s mouth is as appalling as what we got from the previous administrations. I hope one Ndudi Elumelu, who was in the thick of bribery scandal arising from this same power scam probe, is not the one they said was recently appointed PDP Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. Have you forgotten? Nigerians must qualify as the easiest people to slap and get away with in the whole wide world!
Power supply, mercifully, has improved in my Pen Cinema, Agege area of Lagos in the last couple of weeks. I pity Fashola! He must have worked himself natty on this power problem – not to talk of the unending saga of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Fashola has no single black strand of hair on his head any more. He looks haggard and worn-out. He must have really worked hard – but what has he got to show for it? And if he cannot get a “thank you” from a man he worked so hard for but a public rebuke, what should he expect from the public?
It was the same unhappy ending for Uncle Bola Ige who, actually, boasted he would fix the power problem in six months. He did not! Grapevine sources said he was sabotaged right from inside. There are powerful people eating from the darkness that NEPA or PHCN spins. They are within and without the system. Bola Ige was moved from the Power Ministry after these combinations of forces had thoroughly messed him up; not long after, he met his untimely death in the hands of assassins yet to be unravelled. It is like the Boko Haram insurgency or militancy problem of the Niger Delta before it: How can those smiling to the bank as a result want an end to it – what with the billions they rake in through ransom payments, government pay-offs and foreign “aids”? Those in charge of the budget for the fighting and not the canon-fodders will also want no end to the flow of the largesse. How can generator merchants and those creaming off the budget on power want the country to have stable power supply?
It all boils down to leadership problems: The lethargy and wastefulness of the past combined with the lack of seriousness and the kid gloves with which a gargantuan problem is being tackled at the moment. Witness how they sold NEPA to themselves – I mean the big cats! Yet, they don’t have the resources needed to bring about the much-needed turn-around! They then began to mop up funds from local banks, causing the collapse and or distress of such banks, compelling the apex bank to wade in again, as in times past, with public funds that, eventually, will be written off as bad debt as had been done again and again in the past. We are too wasteful here! Corruption rules the waves from top to bottom. Small countries like Rwanda and Ghana have taken giant steps towards solving their power problem. Those who say size is the issue should ask China how it has done it. A Yoruba adage says “iwon eku ni iwon ite e;” meaning that the size of the rat necessarily determines the size of its nest.
We wait to see the next Minister of Power! If the thinking in government and the orientation in leadership circles remain the same, nothing will change, especially now that debt servicing is crippling the Federal Government. Because what ought to have been done incrementally over the years were left undone; trees had fallen on trees, as it were. This is one area where no magic wand can be waved to evaporate all the problems at once. And because priorities are not being rightly set at the moment, the attention that the power sector demands – and deserves – will most likely be hijacked by, say, RUGA! That is how flimsy we are as a people. And that is how selfish and sectarian interests override national interests! God, the Creator of heaven and earth, wasn’t foolish when He gave priority attention to the creation of light.
Tell Dayo Adeyeye to watch it!
Talking of the devil, which in this case is the National Assembly, it lived up to its billing last week. The furore over the House of Representatives’ speaker’s meddling in the election of PDP’s minority leaders apart, the entire NASS was in the eye of the storm when the Shiite Muslims stormed the complex, forcing the Honourables to close shop and flee. Again, I congratulate my brother, Dayo Adeyeye, for getting to the Senate and for his appointment as spokesperson for the Red chamber.
Going by his pedigree, he richly deserves it. He has been quick, visible, and his usually combative self doing the job – but he should watch it lest he finds himself standing in front of a moving train or swimming against the tide. His argument that the NASS members are not remunerated enough is jejune and dead on arrival. It will not fly. ‘Brought in dead’ is the medical term for it because ‘the jury is in already’ on the matter. If everyone pegs their salaries, earnings, emoluments, etc against the US dollar and the US package structure just like Adeyeye tried to do for himself and his ilk, sophistically and clever-by-half, we shall see the senator’s logic fall flat on its face. Pay the senators in dollars the equivalent of what their counterparts in the US earn in dollars; pay also every other sector of the Nigerian society the equivalent of what their US counterparts earn in dollars, okay? After all, what is sauce for the goose should also be sauce for the gander!
Now you see the fraud in the NASS effort to defend the indefensible or even ask for more, like Oliver Twist, without even asking whether they are equal to their US counterparts in integrity, productivity, and defence of democracy. Adeyeye’s pre-occupation with security for the ‘untouchable’ law makers when the Shiite Muslims came calling furiously, like biblical Jehu, earlier in the week, not only speaks about the insensitivity of our leaders, it also exposes their leaving the substance and chasing shadows.
The ‘koko of the matter,’ as they say, is what the Shiites are protesting, which is the continued illegal detention of their leader despite numerous court orders admitting him to bail while his trial continues. It is this spurning of court orders that does not sit well with most Nigerians. The choosing and picking of which court orders to obey and which to spurn; this obvious but vicious trampling of the Judiciary is the crux of the matter and it is also what many Nigerians would like to see the NASS address, not their self-serving security concerns. Citizens throng even the White House in the US, if Adeyeye may care to know; since the US is now their favourite reference point. How the ninth NASS compels or convinces the Muhammadu Buhari administration to respect court orders and allow for the hallowed principles of separation of powers to thrive, in the overall interest of our renascent democracy, is the issue at stake.
LAST WORD: I never knew Senator Elisha Abbo is the same man we called Ishiaku until I saw a very clear photograph of his in the newspapers. The way his trending video was spoken of, I declined to watch it. I couldn’t, and still haven’t been able to bring myself up to watch such man’s inhumanity to man. I knew him so well; friendly but demonstrated the streak of volatility all the same. I am happy for his success at the polls having failed in the past. Sad, therefore, that he should start his sojourn in the Senate this way. Some start well and end badly; but let Ishiaku’s case be the reverse. Having started badly; let him bend over backward to end on a glorious note. May the good Lord help him! And may he receive the forgiveness and another chance he requires to make good!