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Oluwo and Sulu-Gambari scratching the nose with cobra head (2)

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Tunde Odesola
Oluwo and Sulu-Gambari scratching the nose with cobra head (2)
Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, September 8, 2023)
It’s evening yet on Creation Day in Odò ọbà, the Land of the prized Parrots, where the Lion complained about not having a crown to proclaim his kingship, and his creator gave him a golden mane. Later, he complained about his teeth and he got powerful jaws. He looked at his paws and bewailed, he got razors for claws. When he heard the clap of Thunder, he begged for dread in his voice. And he was gifted a roar.
Then he saw the Eagle soar in the sky and he pined, wishing to soar, too. Impatient, immature and foolish, the King climbed up to the mountain, ignoring his creator this time. A gust of wind hit his face, and he smiled: It’s so easy to fly, so gratifying to be king; ‘I’m the greatest!’. He leapt skyward, hoping to glide with the Eagle but he tumbled downwards and crash-landed in a field of marijuana.
Never mind my recourse to folklore, please. Remember, this is a journey into time, a journey that would fast-track the wheel of the past to roll alongside that of the present – like fastening the dreadlocks at the back of the head with the ones at the front – to make a mound upon which to gaze into the future and proffer solutions.
Indulge me to digress one bit. After watching the video of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, during his recent visit to Uganda, where he described President Yoweri Museveni as an African hero, I knew it was time to smash the gourd of gluttony in Ife against the calabash of religious intolerance in Ilorin and the pot of absurdity in Iwo.
Truly, after watching the Ooni’s Made-in-Uganda video, I felt sombre and sober. I felt the Yoruba Obaship institution has seen better days. I felt as if I was watching a continuation of the Idi Amin lickspittle days. I felt convinced that new-generation Yoruba traditional rulers would profit from continuous assessment and tutelage in ipebi, the Royal College, on how to be kingly.
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Ogunwusi was only 12 years old when Museveni snatched power in Uganda after more than 15 years of bloody struggle. So, it’s understandable if the Ooni fluffed his lines and mistook the 78-year-old president for a traditional ruler.
Can you listen to bootlicking verses and not flinch? I can’t. This is what His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, told Museveni, who ascended the throne 37 years ago, “Your excellency, today is one of the happiest days of my life. Today, I’m here to surrender myself, my service and also my selfless effort for us to continue to make history. You’re a great leader, a leader par excellence. We all know what you stand for.
“I strongly believe that you’re a reincarnated spirit; not about your age now but you have been fighting for the unity, stability of Republic of Uganda. You’re not driven by money, you’re not driven by wealth…I have been looking for leaders like you that wield that political power….Your Excellency, you’re an icon. Your role is not finished yet.
“Nothing will happen to you, you said it that you survived so many sickness. You’re not an ordinary human being. I’m a spiritual king. I see you very deeply. Do not worry, you’re doing God’s work. God is doing your work…This is now the time for us to draft your legacy very well, beyond East Africa, all the way to West Africa. You still have a long way to go.”
After so much peregrination, the Ooni finally dropped the anchor of his mercantile ship, pleading with Museveni to, “Give us good access to work with you. If l have good access and send any message, any errand for the sake of this Pan-African Movement, God will continue to be with you.”
There’s nothing wrong with royalty doing business. From time immemorial, palaces are reputed for warehousing choice goods from all walks of life. However, he who decides to dine with the devil should, advisedly, use a long spoon, he should not use the hand of the Yoruba race. The absence of Ugandan traditional rulers in the video drives home the point that the Ooni was on a self-serving trip to Uganda.
Back to the ruler with a basket of titles, His Imperial Majesty, Oba, Dr, Emir, and Emperor Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, Telu I, of the Molaasan royal family of Iwo.
In a video that went viral, Akanbi arrogantly banned Oro worshippers from practising their religion in Iwo, saying any worshipper seen with a sacrifice for Oro gods should be arrested and forced to eat it. He spoke in Yoruba, “No Oro must come out in Iwo, arrest him; it’s the king that says so! If you see anybody offering a sacrifice, tell him to eat it…arrest him, hold him and bundle such a worshipper to me!
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But retired Methodist Archbishop, Prince Ayo Ladigbolu, an octogenarian, advocates tolerance among various worshippers across the country. In a telephone interview with me, Baba Ladigbolu said, “Any form of (religious) intolerance is an inhuman attitude. You can’t force people to jettison what they have been practising before the arrival of Islam and Christianity. It’s ungodly because you have no respect for other people’s religion.
“You have the right to feel your religion is superior but superior to what? Their religion has been sustaining them, so let them be. It’s an act of ungodliness to do such in a country whose constitution provides for freedom of worship. That’s my position.”
A serving Archbishop of the Catholic Church, septuagenarian ’Leke Abegunrin, in an interview with me, also condemned religious intolerance. Commenting on the Ilorin religious crisis, the revered cleric said, “In my view, if truly we have a democratic government, justice should come into play. The media should blow this matter beyond the Ilorin locality. It should become a national matter, which may even attract international news. The state government should step into it immediately!
“It’s not right to stop people of other religions from practising their beliefs. It’s becoming common in Ilorin, that adherents of other religions are often intimidated. It was done not long ago to Christians. People should learn to be tolerant. I think lawyers of all religions should defend this and speak out loudly against injustice.
“Nigeria already has many problems, why add religious intolerance to it? While I appeal to the Government of Kwara State to be active in this matter and protect justice and peace, I equally appeal to the people of Kwara State to be law-abiding and allow peace to reign. There’s no state religion in Nigeria. Everyone is free to practise his or her beliefs peacefully. God bless Nigeria.”
But the Oluwo, who says he’s greater than all gods, ate his words after Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, sternly warned anyone who caused a religious crisis in Osun would face the music.
In a U-Turn, the Oluwo said he never said Oro worshippers shouldn’t practise their belief – making him the first lying oba I know.
Except for religious affinity, I see no basis for comparison between the Oluwo and the emir of Ilorin. Sulu-Gambari, a well-educated lawyer and retired judge, attended some of the best schools in England.
A request by PUNCH for Akanbi to disclose his educational qualifications was turned down, fuelling the suspicion that Oluwo doesn’t possess the degrees he claims.
Live and let live.
Concluded.

Opinion

“New” national anthem is national self-debasement – Farooq Kperogi

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Farooq Kperogi

“New” national anthem is national self-debasement – Farooq Kperogi

Nothing in my adult life has made me more ashamed to be a Nigerian and more inclined to completely divest my emotions from Nigeria than the readoption of “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” a colonially created national anthem whose first stanza drips wet with the spit of racist condescension, gender exclusion, and stodgy, ungainly archaisms.

First, it’s inexcusable national self-humiliation to discard a home-made national anthem, irrespective of its defects, for one that was made by an imperialist whose influence we’re supposed to be independent of. That instantiates a phenomenon that social anthropologists call cultural cringe.

First propounded by an Australian scholar by the name of Arthur Phillips in the 1950s to describe Australia’s complicated cultural relations with Britain and the US, cultural cringe is the deep-rooted inferiority complex that causes psychologically damaged, formerly colonized people to inferiorize and disdain their own country and its culture and to uncritically valorize cultures and countries that their low self-esteem persuades them to believe is superior to theirs.

In previous columns, I have called this Nigeria’s national xenophilia, which I have defined as our predilection for irrational, unjustified, inferiority-driven veneration of the foreign and the corresponding sense of low national self-worth that this veneration activates.

A country whose symbolic song of independence is inspired, written, and composed by the appendicular remnants of imperialist oppressors of whom the country has supposedly been independent for more than six decades isn’t worthy of its independence. Such a country has lost the moral and philosophical argument for independence and against recolonization.

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That is why, as I’ve argued in the past, our leaders are routinely infantilized by the West. As a people and a culture, we have internalized a mentality of low self-worth and an unwarranted veneration of the foreign, especially if the “foreign” also happens to be white. Nothing has demonstrated this more than the readoption of a national anthem that was written and composed by colonial British women.

But my worry transcends this. I am mortified that the very first stanza of our national anthem derogates our humanity. I have written multiple articles on what I have called the vocabularies of racial differentiation and exclusion in which I have repeatedly pointed out that “tribe” and “native” are racist words that white people reserve only for people they consider inferior, and that their appearance in Nigeria’s first national anthem was one of the reasons for the anthem’s rejection in 1978.

I’ll repeat some of the things I’ve written over the last few years on this issue and hope that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu sees reason to rescind the readoption of this denigrating British anthem written for Nigeria.

Shorn of all pretenses, “tribe” basically means backward, primitive nonwhite people. Let no one deceive you that the word means anything other than that in the English language. Even the Oxford Dictionary of English recognizes this fact. Its usage note on “tribe” reads:

“In historical contexts the word tribe is broadly accepted (the area was inhabited by Slavic tribes), but in contemporary contexts it is problematic when used to refer to a community living within a traditional society. It is strongly associated with past attitudes of white colonialists towards so-called primitive or uncivilized peoples living in remote underdeveloped places. For this reason it is generally preferable to use alternative terms such as community or people” (p. 1897).

I personally prefer “ethnic group” as an alternative to “tribe.” But I am aware that “tribe” has been congealed in our lexical repertory and can even be said to have been resemanticized by Africans, that is, given a meaning that is different from its original one.

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For most English-speaking Africans, “tribe” is simply the English lexical equivalent of the words in their languages that they deploy to denote peoplehood. That may be so, but I come to language from a communication standpoint. To effectively communicate, you have to speak the same codes and share the same meanings.

Native English speakers would never call themselves “tribes” and understand the word to mean a group of primitive, nonwhite people who are still stuck at the lower end of the civilizational hierarchy.

You may understand the word differently, but if you tell a native speaker you belong to a tribe, you are inadvertently authorizing your inferiorization. That’s why when anybody asks me, “What is your tribe?” I always say, “You mean my ethnic group? I don’t belong to a tribe.” That was, by the way, Chinua Achebe’s attitude, too. He hated the word “tribe.”

That was also why when former US President Bill Clinton visited Nigeria and other African countries in 1998, experts told him to steer clear of the word “tribe” and its inflections such as “tribal,” “tribalism,” “tribalistic,” etc.

An influential American newspaper called Politico contrasted Clinton’s studied avoidance of the word “tribe” and Obama’s liberal use of it. “Keep in mind that the word ‘tribal conflict’ is extremely insulting to Africans,” the paper quoted a scholar by the name of Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to have told American reporters who would cover the presidential visit. “Don’t write about ‘century-old tribal conflicts in African countries’… Yet, when Obama uttered the phrase ‘tribal conflicts’ at a press conference Friday as he discussed his planned trip to Africa, it went virtually unremarked upon. So too did several references he made in his Ghana speech to battles among ‘tribes.’” “Another president,” the paper concluded, “might have been accused of racism…”

Well, I criticized Obama for this in a Jul 18, 2009, column titled, “The Anti-African Racist Insults Obama Got Away with in Ghana,” which attracted the attention of the White House at the time.

A column I wrote earlier on February 27, 2009, titled “What’s my tribe? None” got the attention of CNN International’s copy desk. After a back and forth with its Chief Copy editor, the organization banned the use of the word “tribe” from its style guide. It came from their admission that no white ethnic group would ever be called a “tribe.”

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In my September 30, 2018, column titled, “‘Tribe’ and ‘Detribalized’ are Derogatory Words,” I wrote: “Sadly, in 2018, our elites not only still call us ‘tribes’; they defend doing so. Lillian Jean Williams, the British colonial who wrote the anthem, would be proud.” I had no inkling that Tinubu would take this embarrassing sociolinguistic suicide to the next level.

“Native” is another linguistic marker of racial inferiorization that has no business being on Nigeria’s national anthem. The word was originally used by white colonialists and later by Western anthropologists to refer specifically to nonwhite people. The New Oxford American Dictionary (3rd edition) captures this subtlety well. One of the definitions of “native,” which the dictionary says is “dated, often offensive,” is “one of the original inhabitants of a country, especially a nonwhite as regarded by European colonists or travelers.”

Lillian Jean Williams was a British colonialist who thought herself superior to the “natives” and reflected that in the first stanza of the anthem she composed for us.

Notice, though, that in American (and Canadian) English “native” is used widely in a non-racially discriminatory way. When people call a city their hometown they often say they’re natives of the city, as in “I am an Atlanta native.” I am not sure how widespread this usage of “native” is in British English, but it appears only 148 times in the British National Corpus.

The New Oxford American Dictionary’s usage advice on “native” is instructive. It says, “In contexts such as native of Boston or New York in the summer was too hot even for the natives, the noun native is quite acceptable. But when it is used to mean ‘a nonwhite original inhabitant of a country,’ as in this dance is a favorite with the natives, it is more problematic. This meaning has an old-fashioned feel and, because of its association with a colonial European outlook, it may cause offense.”

There is exactly zero reason to revert to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee.” Its readoption symbolizes the starkest evidence of national defeat, national self-humiliation, and national inferiority complex that I have ever seen. If Tinubu doesn’t reverse himself on readopting this national disgrace, the next government should. This is simply unbearably embarrassing!

“New” national anthem is national self-debasement – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned Nigerian newspaper columnist and United States-based Professor of journalism. 

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Sanusi Lamido and Kano’s royal ding-dong – Farooq Kperogi

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Sanusi Lamido and Kano’s royal ding-dong – Farooq Kperogi

Kano’s Muhammad Sanusi II has been rethroned the exact way he was initially enthroned and dethroned: in the melting pot of the politics of vengeance and recrimination.

And he just might be dethroned yet again by this, or another subsequent partisan government, given Sanusi’s infamous incapacity to rein in his tongue and to understand the wisdom in restraint and tact, which his position requires of him—and, of course, the juddering, hypocritical contradictions between what he says and what he does.

Recall that when he worked at the UBA, Sanusi had derided then Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as a scorn-worthy “rural aristocrat” who “surrounds himself with provincials and places key posts in the hands of rural elite.” He characterized the Kwankwaso administration as “the classic comedy of the Village Headmaster in a village council.”

Kwankwaso was so incensed by Sanusi’s boorishness and Kano urban condescension that he threatened to pull out the Kano State Government’s money in UBA if Sanusi wasn’t fired from his job. Yet it was the same Kwankwaso who, for partisan, anti-Goodluck Jonathan political considerations, enthroned Sanusi as the emir of Kano even when he wasn’t the choice of the kingmakers.

And let’s not forget that Sanusi is a vicious, unashamed enemy of common people. His entire economic philosophy revolves around sheepishly advancing the annihilating policies of the IMF/World Bank, such as removal of every kind of subsidy for the poor while leaving intact the subsidies that sustain the sybaritic extravagance of indolent but overprotected elites like him.

Well, after destroying properties worth billions of naira and restoring Sanusi as emir all in the bid to get even with Ganduje, I hope the government will now get down to actually governing and improving the lives of the people who elected it.

The sense I get from people in Kano (many of whom are supporters of the government) is that governance has been on hold in Kano in the last one year in the service of retaliation.

There is also no doubt that Sanusi’s unrelenting public censures of the rotten, if time-honored, cultural quiddities of the Muslim North discomfited many people who are invested in the status quo, and this became one of the convenient bases for his ouster.

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But Sanusi isn’t nearly the victim he has been cracked up to be by his admirers and defenders. First, he rode to the Kano emirship in 2014 on the crest of a wave of emotions stirred by partisan politics and came down from it the same way.

Even though he wasn’t initially on the shortlist of Kano’s kingmakers, APC’s Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso (who is now in PDP) made Sanusi emir in 2014 to spite PDP’s President Goodluck Jonathan and shield Sanusi from the consequences of his [false] unmasking of multi-billion-dollar corruption at the NNPC. Apart from his unceremonious removal as CBN governor for his [false] whistle blowing, he was going to face other untoward retributions from the Jonathan administration, but his appointment as emir put paid to it.

Now, Sanusi lost his emirship to the same partisan politics that got it for him in the first place. In an ironic twist, he was made emir by an APC government for making privileged [if false] revelations that disadvantaged a PDP government and was removed as an emir by an APC government for his overt and covert acts that could have benefited the PDP in 2019.

In other words, Sanusi’s emirship was molded in the crucible of partisan politics and was dissolved in it.

Nonetheless, Sanusi, given his intellectual sophistication and pretenses to being an advocate of egalitarianism, had no business being an emir. Monarchy is way past its sell-by date not just in Nigeria but everywhere. It’s an anachronistic, vestigial remnant of a primitive past that invests authority on people by mere accident of heredity. Any authority that is inherited and not earned, in my opinion, is beneath contempt.

Emirship isn’t only a primeval anomaly in a modern world, it is, in fact, un-Islamic. In Islam, leadership is derived from knowledge and the consensus of consultative assemblies of communities called the Shura, not from heredity.

Monarchies in the Muslim North, which have constituted themselves into parasitic, decadent drains on society, but which pretend to be Islamic, are grotesque perversions of the religion they purport to represent. Anyone, not least one who makes pious noises about equality, that is denied the unfair privileges of monarchy is no victim.

Most importantly, though, Sanusi embodies a jarring disconnect between high-minded ideals and lived reality. He rails against child marriage in public but married a teenager upon becoming an emir. When the late Pius Adesanmi called him out, he told him to “grow a brain.” He suddenly became the patron saint of conservative Muslim cultural values.

He expended considerable intellectual energies critiquing polygamy among poor Muslim men, but he is married to four wives. His defense, of course, would be that he can afford it, and poor Muslim men can’t. Fair enough. But transaction-oriented reformists lead by example.

Fidel Castro, for example, stopped smoking when he campaigned against it. It would be nice to say to poor, polygamous Muslim men, “Why are you, a poor man, married to four wives when Sanusi, a wealthy man and an emir, is married to just one wife?”

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That would have had a much higher impact than his preachments. In spite of their moral failings, Buhari, Abba Kyari, and Mamman Daura would be much more effective campaigners against disabling polygamy by poor Muslim men than Sanusi can ever be because they are monogamists even when they can afford to marry four wives.

This is a legitimate critique since Sanusi has a choice to not call out poor Muslim men who marry more wives than they can afford since polygamy is animated by libidinal greed, which is insensitive to financial means.

Sanusi habitually fulminates against the enormous and inexorably escalating poverty in the north, but even though he is an immensely affluent person, he has not instituted any systematic mechanism to tackle the scourge of poverty in the region in his own little way.

Instead, he spends hundreds of billions of naira to decorate the emir’s palace, buy exotic horses, and luxuriate in opulent sartorial regality.

And, although, he exposed [what he thought was] humongous corruption during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and dollar racketeering during Buhari’s regime, he is himself an indefensibly corrupt and profligate person. In two well-researched investigative pieces in 2017, Daily Nigeria’s Jaafar Jaafar chronicled Sanusi’s mind-boggling corruption as emir of Kano, which apparently didn’t abate until he was dethroned.

Sanusi was ostensibly a Marxist when he studied economics at ABU, which explains why he exhibits flashes of radicalism in his public oratory, but he is, in reality, an out-of-touch, unfeeling, feudal, neoliberal elitist who is contemptuous, and insensitive to the suffering, of poor people.

He supported Jonathan’s petrol price hike in 2012 and even wondered why poor people were protesting since they had no cars, and generators, according to him, were powered by diesel, not petrol!

When his attention was brought to the fact that only “subsidized” and privileged “big men” like him use diesel-powered generators, he backed down and apologized. But I found it remarkably telling that until 2012 Sanusi had no clue that the majority of Nigerians used petrol-powered generators to get electricity.

In a September 1, 2012, column titled, “Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s Unwanted 5000 Naira Notes,” I noted that Sanusi was “one of the most insensitive, out-of-touch bureaucrats to ever walk Nigeria’s corridors of power.”

Again, in my December 10, 2016, article titled, “Dangerous Fine Print in Emir Sanusi’s Prescription for Buhari,” I wrote: “If you are a poor or economically insecure middle-class person who is writhing in pain amid this economic downturn, don’t be deceived into thinking that Emir Sanusi is on your side. He is not. His disagreements with Buhari have nothing to do with you or your plight. If he has his way, you would be dead by now because the IMF/World Bank neoliberal theology he evangelizes has no care for poor, vulnerable people.”

Sanusi Lamido and Kano’s royal ding-dong – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned Nigerian newspaper columnist and United States-based Professor of Journalism.

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Nigeria’s economic apartheid in electricity consumption – Farooq Kperogi

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Farooq Kperogi

Nigeria’s economic apartheid in electricity consumption – Farooq Kperogi

I am writing this week’s column from Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where I have come to deliver a talk on media theory. But this column isn’t about the talk or about South Africa. It’s about the enduring problems of electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria, which I have brooded over for quite some time.

It’s ironic that I am writing about Nigeria’s new economic apartheid in electricity consumption from the previous land of apartheid where electricity is a human right, where even the poorest of the poor “have a public law right to receive electricity” even before the abolishment of apartheid, according to F. Dube and C.G. Moyo in their 2022 article titled “The Right to Electricity in South Africa.”

I’m not sure there’s any modern country on earth where electricity is as precarious, as insufficient, as unreliable, and as socially stratified as it is in Nigeria. The hierarchization of electricity distribution into “bands” in which people classified as “band A” (read: the wealthy) get the most electricity and people classified as “Band E” (read: the most economically disinherited) get the least electricity is the most starkly state-sanctioned economic discrimination I have ever seen anywhere in the world. President Bola Tinubu should order that the bands be disbanded forthwith. This is embarrassing official idiocy.

The point isn’t even that so-called Band A electricity consumers don’t actually get the amount of electricity that their socio-economic status should guarantee them, according to the new state-sponsored economic apartheid that imposes discrimination on electricity consumers. The outrage is that the government would conceive of a program where a resource as indispensable to modern life as electricity is rationed on the basis of economic status.

Electricity is the cornerstone of development. It isn’t a privilege. It should be a human right. It should be accessible to everyone. It’s the driver of economic development, is indispensable to healthcare, is the backbone of education, supports modern agricultural practices, is fundamental to technological progress, powers social development, and enhances quality of life.

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The government’s goal should be to generate and distribute “Band A” electricity for all consumers in Nigeria—like is done in other countries, including countries much less endowed than Nigeria.

As I pointed out in a previous column, the depth of Nigeria’s electricity problems didn’t become magnified in my consciousness until July 2009 when I visited my mother’s maternal relatives in the city of Parakou, the capital of Borgou State (or, as states are called there, “Department”) in Benin Republic. Throughout the one week I stayed in Parakou, Benin Republic’s third largest city with a little over a quarter of a million people, electricity didn’t blink for even a split second.

Except for the distinctive sights, sounds, and smells of the city, it felt like I was still in the United States.

To be sure that the impressively continuous electricity we enjoyed wasn’t a fluke, I asked my mother’s first cousin (that would be my “first cousin once removed” in Standard English and my “uncle” in Nigerian English) in whose house we stayed to tell me the last time they lost power in the city or in the neighborhood.

He started to jog his memory and even enlisted the help of his wife because he thought I needed to know the exact day for record purposes. I told him not to bother, but I later learned from him that although power outages occur, often for maintenance, they are infrequent, relatively brief, and often announced ahead of time in the broadcast media.

This is particularly interesting because Benin Republic buys most of its electricity from Nigeria, although my cousin said that wasn’t true of Parakou. Most importantly, though, there was no invidious social differentiation of electricity consumers into “bands.” If there was, my relative in Parakou would be in “Band E” because he retired from the Beninese civil service on a modest rank.

Almost every Nigerian I know who has traveled outside Nigeria shares the same experience as mine. A former colleague of mine at the Presidential Villa in Abuja who traveled to Iran for weeks returned and told us he didn’t witness power outage for even a fraction of a second throughout his stay in the country, which caused him to insist that if Iran was a “Third World” country, Nigeria must be a “10th World” country.

And that leads me to the question: why has it been impossible to power Nigeria? Why does every other country on earth seem to be doing better than Nigeria in electricity generation and distribution? I think it’s because we have never had anyone with a clue to manage Nigeria’s power sector. Let’s look at some of the ministers of power we’ve had since 1999.

In 1999, the late Chief Bola Ige, who became the minister of power, promised to “turn stone to bread.” He was deploying a biblical metaphor to imply that he would make the seemingly impossible possible. Well, he didn’t have a stone to start with, so there was no bread. His legacy was darkness.

On November 28, 2012, the then Minister of State for Power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi, told South African investors that “evil spirits” were to blame for Nigeria’s interminable electricity troubles. “We must resolve to jointly exorcise the evil spirit behind this darkness and allow this nation take its pride of peace [sic] in the comity of nations [sic],” she said.

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About two months later, her metaphysical explanation for Nigeria’s electricity difficulties got a professorial endorsement when, on January 23, 2013, Chinedu Nebo, a professor of engineering and former university vice chancellor, told the Nigerian senate that power outages were caused by “witches and demons” and that “If the President deploys me in the power sector, I believe that given my performance at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I drove out the witches and demons, God will also give me the power to drive out the demons in the power sector.”

He got the job. But neither he nor Kuchi were able to exorcise the “evil spirits,” “demons,” and “witches” that they believed sucked the megawatts out of Nigeria’s power plants. Their legacy was more darkness.

Then on July 11, 2014, Babatunde Fashola said Nigeria’s electricity problems were political, even electoral. “The only way you and I will have electricity in this country,” he said, “is to vote out the PDP.”

Again, at the 7th Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium on March 25, 2015, Fashola blamed “amateurs” for Nigeria’s power generation problems. He infamously said, “Power generation is not rocket science; it is just a generator. So just remember and imagine that your ‘I-better-pass-my-neighbour’ in one million times—its capacity but in one place. So, if you can make that size of one kilowatt, you can make a power turbine of one thousand megawatts…

“So, with all the billions of dollars that have been spent, the story is that we still live in darkness. Our government lies about it, but it is not because power is impossible. But to tell you very confidently that we do not have power because power is difficult to generate; we have darkness because we have incompetent people managing our economy. As one of my friends fondly calls them, our economy is being managed by amateurs.”

He was appointed the minister in charge of power a few months after this overconfident political diagnosis of Nigeria’s unending electricity woes. Within a few months of being in power, disappointed Nigerians nicknamed him the “minister of darkness,” and Buhari didn’t reappoint him to the ministry for a second term.

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He was replaced by a man who didn’t know what his job was supposed to entail, who didn’t know he was the minister of power, who was so colorless and so uninspiring that no one knew him when he held sway, much less remember him after his tenure expired.

So, from 1999, we went from treating our electricity problem as one that could be resolved through Ige’s poetic and theological flourishes to thinking that Nebo’s and Kuchi’s metaphysical delusions provided the keys to unlocking it, to imagining that Fashola’s two-bit, evidence-free, exaggeratedly partisan outbursts were any good, to the unpretentious shallowness of Fashola’s successor.

Now we have an Adebayo Adelabu, a completely clueless, unfeeling buffoon who is clearly out of his depth, as the minister of power. Here is a minister of power who is so hopelessly ignorant about power that he thought keeping freezers connected to electricity continuously was a waste of power that was peculiar to Nigeria and has championed the idiotic social stratification of electricity consumers.

Now he says if Nigerians are not prepared to pay an arm and a leg for electricity, they should come to terms with perpetual darkness. What kind of responsible government official says that?

This is especially tragic because everyone knows that electricity is the driving force of technology and innovation, not to mention basic creative comforts. Any country that can’t fix its electricity can’t participate in the increasingly digital economy of the 21st century and will be stuck in permanent developmental infancy.

Yet, in spite of the drag that poor electricity exerts on creativity and innovation, Nigeria’s youth have been some of the world’s most high-flying digital creators and drivers. Imagine what Nigeria would be if it had a leadership that cared and knew how to fix its electricity crisis.

Nigeria’s economic apartheid in electricity consumption – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned Nigerian newspaper columnist and United States-based Professor of Journalism.

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