JONATHAN AND POWER SECTOR: REAL OR SHAKARA?
Did you hear, as I heard, that President Goodluck Jonathan has assumed the portfolio of the Ministry of Power to be sure that this much needed life in the sector gets first class treatment? I also heard that the new Mr. President did it to assure donor nations, institutions and agencies that whatever they contribute would be managed at the highest level and with unheard of transparency. Hm, in Nigeria !
It is also being bandied that Jonathan strongly believes in his ability to turn around that ugly sector of our economy that he has puffed out his chest twice while discussing with officials of government, boasting that the next few months would be revolutionary in the sector.
Ha! I hope so. It is so good that this high-wire interest is shown in the sector now that Nigeria is on its knees. Remember, in the last days of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria had amassed and distributed over 11, 000 megawatts of electricity daily.
The regime of Abdulsalami Abubakar did not achieve much in that regard but was reported to have maintained a good level of electricity. The avalanche broke in the regime Obasanjo when we had plummeted from 11, 000 megawatts in 1999 to a mere 3, 000 megawatts in 2007. We had descended further downwards to some 2, 900 megawatts when the Yar'Adua regime woke up to the reality of Nigerian cities and villages were being shunted back to the dark ages. It was then that the beleaguered regime began to post such intimidating figures as 6, 000 megawatts aimed at for last December.
Now, with four months gone into the New Year, though with Yar'Adua virtually out of the way, the promised 6, 000 megawatts had remained a dream. Just recently, PHCN came up with the statement that the 6, 000 megawatts would be realized in April. But we are in April and nothing appears to be happening. In fact, the cities and villages are getting darker by the months.
Also, at the last count, over 9,000 industries and businesses employing hundreds of millions of Nigerians have folded up; some relocating to other parts of West African sub region, while some just fizzled out. Even today, most service organizations, which rely on public energy, have folded up. Yet, the most disturbing is the number of artisans who use electricity but who have had to pack up and turn to okada (motor cycle) business to fend for their families. Some have also, turned into armed robbers and other miscreants.
The picture is quite ugly. Does Jonathan realize this? He had better do! It is that grievous, and he must not miss the point that Nigerians are stranded or trapped.
In a way, it can be considered that Mr. President understands that the portfolio he has decided to hold is a mouthful and such that will determine whether he will go down well in history or not.