Nigeria has path-dependently or even habitually allowed bad leaders and kakistocrats to enter positions of power and govern it either by means of coup d’etas or fraudulent ballots with relative ease and the resultant dissatisfaction is left to be managed by even worse leaders. The cycle of bad leader to bad leader to worse leader has thus become a solidly stable equilibrium in the nation, escaping it seems unlikely. Most Nigerians wonder endlessly how this habit can be broken or bad elections ended in order for good leaders to come into power and foster best governance possible in the society. All by itself this is a very mistaken expectation.
Thursday, two weeks ago I had just come out of hospital after a two-week stay there. As a resident of a Bermondsey, my brother wheeled me to the shops. As we got to the former Santander Bank premises on Southwark Park Road, then turned into the headquarters of the Simon Hughes Liberal Democrats Return campaign, we bumped into the man. Simon Hughes was all alone carrying a large cardboard box out of the headquarters and headed for a yellow-painted black cab which he was known to drive. My brother and I greeted Hughes, but he barely responded, he looked unhappy. Hughes is usually a cheerful and accessible person. The June 8 elections had just ended, and the former MP had lost. It was a very personal irony for me, a very difficult one. I did not want Simon Hughes to come back as my MP.
When sociologist Donald T Campbell came up with his eponymous Law, one wonders if he expected it to be of theoretical or practical use. Campbell’s Law states that “the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” Originally intended to measure crime rates and other social phenomena, it has been in also in use in corruption studies. Tony Blair, as Prime Minister of Great Britain, is exemplary as a textbook case of Campbell’s Law.
There has been too much optimism invested in what is widely touted in Nigeria as the ‘dividends of democracy’ i.e. the benign and enabling outcomes of democracy. After 18 years of a return to democracy in Nigeria, the dividends of democracy on offer has only meant the military is no longer in government. The dividends have neither been delivered in the form of better leadership nor better governance. Unsurprisingly, the crisis of leadership in Nigeria cannot be solved by democracy as a system all by itself. Democracy can fail societies terribly. Continue reading
Never underestimate the wisdom of the old saying, “what Britain needs is another good war”. Peace, jobs, wages, NHS are boring and appear to be responsible for the national malaise in British politics. Or are they? The May 5th local elections are over, and the June 8th general election is on its way.
Any political party promising to sell rice at 2014 prices might sweep President Buhari’s administration out government resoundingly. Never underestimate the hunger chasing millions of Nigerians like an avenging angel.
When the government introduces good ideas in Nigeria, they come as brazen wayward prostitutes never as enduring industrious spouses. The stuff of quick fixes never endures. The latest new concept necessitating the governments interest in Nigeria is rice. A few years back, rice became the rage because of the focus then was on “[political] ricism” – the use of rice [and other items] by politicians to induce voters to make on the spot decisions to vote for them. Now the rage is “rice self-sufficiency” – restrict rice importation (by imposing 60% duties) and improve the local rice industry’s production capacity. Consequently, rice is much less affordable in Nigeria today than hitherto, and citizens are feeling the sharp pinch. Before anyone qualifies the policy of rice self-sufficiency, we need to ask if it is another serial prostitute in the hands of the government or not.
When last week Grand Minister, Babs Fashola (SAN), claimed his now-famous incapacity to revamp the Nigerian electric power sector was partly due to the inadequacies of Nigeria’s population census agency, he knew he was lying. Another grand act of blamocracy engendered by the Buhari administration. Nigeria’s electric power problems are primarily that of money (investment) and transparency (incorruptibility); it has nothing whatsoever to do with population census. Fashola did not even have to lie about Nigeria’s electricity development backwardness even though he lied about giving Nigerians an ‘electricity miracle’ in just 18 months if President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 general elections. Any fiens?
In 2000, Nigeria’s electric power sector had an underinvestment backlog bill of a minimum of $5 billion, $10 billion was more like it. That bill accrued during the period, 1984 to 1999, tacitly under the leadership of Generals Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalami according to the United States Trade and Development Agency. Olusegun Obasanjo squandered the best opportunity Nigeria had to invest in the electric power sector (2000-2007). Goodluck Jonathan also squandered a fair chance and blackouts were interestingly put up for privatisation. Now in 2017, the bill stands at about $20 billion minimum. The reality of electric power development is straightforward – if you do not have several billions of dollars to invest transparently and diligently, forget about it altogether. Nigerians should bravely accept they will not get constant electricity (24hrs all-year) for many years to come.
Does Fashola’s ministry have even just $5 billion to invest, a quarter of the minimum sum required to revamp the sector?
One of the big lies trumpeted of the electric power sector in Nigeria is the spectacle of “installed capacity”. For over 40 years Nigeria has been struggling hopelessly with 6000 MW installed capacity. Installed capacity is the generation capacity of the sector. Capacity is only a potential and does not automatically translate in electricity delivered to end-users. Despite Nigeria’s installed capacity Prof J B Akarakiri published a paper in 1999 in Energy titled ‘Private Electric Power Generation as an Alternative in Nigeria’. The paper was just three pages, but its implications were visionary and devastating; Nigeria should forget about the centralised electric power National Grid for its constant and sustainable electricity supplies; people should opt to their own generators if they wanted stable or on-demand supplies of electricity. Less than a year after the publication, Nigeria witnessed it’s first “zero installed capacity moment”, total national blackout.
Fashola has had a few “zero installed capacity moments” of his own since he became the Grand Minister.
Going back in time, in 2000 the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) had on its books 1.6 electricity customers with 51% residing Lagos State even though, Nigeria had a 150 million population and Lagos State had 11 million. These figures indicated that just over 1% of Nigerians were electricity customers and Lagos State only 7% of the national population. It is evidence of gross nonfeasance and inefficiency by NEPA and the government. Research by the author carried out in 2002 demonstrated that in Lagos State, electricity customers were about 400% greater than what NEPA had recorded. Electricity meters for customers were scarce and expensive, power theft was rife, illegal (mostly unsafe) connections (to whole communities) rampant. Furthermore, tenement buildings (face me, I face you) that litter Lagos had ten to twenty families as tenants. Many tenants used microwaves, TVs, VCD recorders, boiling rings, electric irons in them using one meter and registered as “one customer”. How can peak demand and average daily demand for electricity supplied be appropriately calculated with such grossly underestimated customer data?
How many electricity customers does Fashola say the regulators claim they had on their books in 2017? Ask him.
In a properly run society, every regulator like energy corporations conducts its own customer-based census. It is called market research. Guinness Nigeria plc knows how many customers it has and uses it to determine growth areas, supply chain approaches, marketing strategies and more. It even uses such information to determine how many people are not drinking Guinness stout because they drink Star, Gulder, Trophy or other beers. If Guinness data management cannot be handled by itself, it would outsource the job to a reputable market research firm like RMS.
Fashola’s advisers should tell him the difference between per capita and per customer in market/sector analysis or planning.
What is the solution to the problem of electricity in Nigeria, many would ask? $20 billion and meticulously transparent oversight; any other technical explanations will have to start from here on. Where will Fashola find the money and are there enough honest personnel to get the job done? Environmental campaigner, Nnimmo Bassey, has persistently highlighted in the media how Nigeria loses over $1 billion annually in uncollected gas flaring penalties from oil production companies operating in Nigeria and also over $5 billion annually in tax fraud from oil services companies. That amounts to over $6 billion annually lost to the Nigerian purse; legitimate and deserved money. This money if honestly collected and invested, can clean up the Niger Delta and completely revamp the electric power sector in just five years. It is not Fashola’s problem but his boss, Buhari, is Minister of Petroleum. For all his anticorruption messianics, he has done nothing about this particular fraud and inertia.
Fashola does not have to be dishonest about the deplorable state of electric power in Nigeria. He unwitting inherited a disaster. And he can keep his blamocratic excuses for election time. Nigerians should know the realities of their electric power sector even though it is not pretty and “change” is faraway.
Southern Kaduna Massacres are the stuff Nigeria is made of. Before anyone dismisses such a claim, we have to examine the pervasive ‘value of life’ in Nigeria to both ordinary citizens and the government as well as the cost of ‘taking life’ in Nigeria; ‘life’ here mainly refers to that of the ‘underdog’ [the weaker Nigerian by dichotomy]. Religion and oil politics have led to the biggest massacres in Nigeria’s history, including the Civil War, but life is taken daily with sudden and unexpected spontaneity everywhere in the country for innumerable reasons, some totally inane. Tragically, unless the United Nations, Amnesty International or some heavyweight foreign NGO takes interest in the matter, Nigeria’s leaders, politicians and intellectuals simply ignore the problem. The White Man’s Burden all over again, in another dimension?