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The State Of Nigeria’s PHCN: Once Again Baba Laments

NOTE: First published in 2007 during the reign of Olusegun Obasanjo as president of Nigeria (1999 to 2007)

Greetings!

Once Again Baba Laments!!! President Olusegun Obasanjo has done it again! He has suddenly realized, once again, that something is wrong in his administration. He has just realized that there is sabotage somewhere in the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), and he is looking for the perpetrators. His recent pronouncement was warranted by his poor rating of the performance of PHCN. This clearly reminds me of a very similar situation a few years back. He woke up one morning with a sudden realization that the 300 billion naira that he had doled out for Nigerian roads had disappeared, and there was no single road to show for it. Baba was visibly fuming with anger when he lamented the state of our roads. He was spitting fire and brimstone, all of which suggested to me that he truly had not been aware of the misappropriation of the funds. He promised Nigerians that he was going to find out where all that money went.

Today, several years later, we still have neither the money, nor the roads. What is more, the person, or persons who diverted the funds are still walking our streets, or should I say, still jetting around in our airspace? Our roads are too bad for them to travel, you know! Apparently, baba is still busy searching for them, or is he? Some Nigerians find it so amazing that baba can always find anybody and anything that he wants to find in Nigeria, but so conveniently has problems finding the things and the people that he does not really want to find. Many believe that they know exactly where baba should have searched if he really wanted to find our 300 billion naira.

Meanwhile, after eight whole years of virtual national darkness, our president is just realizing that PHCN is virtually dead. He is just realizing that the massive debilitating corruption in his government did infest PHCN, too. However, he chooses to define the corruption in PHCN as sabotage. Well, whether he calls it sabotage, corruption, or by any other name, it is good to know that Mr. President has finally realized that it actually exists in PHCN. He has finally learned what every Nigerian has known for so many years.

I only wish that his awakening to the reality came early enough to save all the small businesses that PHCN has destroyed. Mr. President should have noticed earlier that PHCN has rendered tens of millions of Nigerians jobless and hungry. He should have noticed earlier that the big companies that possess the financial capacity to survive the killer-problem, have no choice but to pass the costs to consumers. Mr. President should have noticed earlier that this, to a large extent, has been responsible for the exorbitant costs of Nigerian commodities and services. For instance, if Mr. President had paid any attention to his people’s lamentation about high telephone tariffs, he would have realized earlier that the most powerful defense argument of the telecommunication operators against high tariffs is that they do have to spend a lot of funds on private power generation. I can go on, and on, and on, all day long, about the various ways that PHCN has destroyed the economy of Nigeria. I can go on forever, talking about the fact that this government ignored the very first sector that it should have paid maximum attention to, and put right within its first year.

I can go on forever talking about it all, but I won’t. Rather, I will pose a billion dollar question. Now that Mr. President has finally realized that PHCN is dead due to what he calls act of sabotage; what is he going to do about it? Baba did not sound like he recognized the fact that he only had a few weeks in office when he promised to seek out the perpetrators of his PHCN sabotage. I mean, the man had a few years to deal with the road sabotage without success. Now he tells us that he will deal with the electricity problem in a few weeks. But, guess what? He actually could, if he really wants to. But he’s got to try, try and try, try and tryyyyy, maybe he’d succeed at last!!!

Then he’d succeed at last. To aid our president to perform this feat, I would like to offer two simple suggestions. One is on how not to confront the sabotage, and the other is on how to confront it effectively. Starting with how not to go about it, I suggest that baba drops whatever strategy he applied a couple of years back, when he searched for the 300 billion naira that he released for roads. It was clearly a dead-end strategy. Nigerians are still waiting for results, apparently in vain. Many have long given up hope; having concluded that it was intentionally designed to yield no fruit. Speculators have had quite a field day with theories about what really happened to the money. Some believe that it was actually used for political settlement, whatever that is. Now, let’s talk about how to effectively apprehend the saboteurs.

I strongly suggest that we simply pretend that they are all named Atiku Abubakar. There seems to be something about Atiku Abubakar that inflames baba’s zeal to fight corruption. If baba should believe that he is after Atiku Abubakar, then I can actually bet my balls that he will bring the saboteurs to book very soon.

Indeed, baba should pretend that the saboteurs are a billion Atikus. After all, their heinous act of sabotaging PHCN has got to be worth at least a billion times whatever Atiku had done to baba, I say. Baba needs to show us that he holds the interest of this nation above his own personal interest. So, he should expend a billion times more effort in tracking down the saboteurs of our national economy, than he has done with one Atiku who only bruised his individual ego.

In any case, I have sampled the opinions of Nigerians on this matter, and the general perception is that we do not really need to expend much effort to find the so-called saboteurs in our midst. It seems to me that even a child in the street knows them, because they do not bother to conceal their ill-gotten wealth. They openly flaunt the fact that they are untouchable.

I can affirm unequivocally that Nuhu Ribadu is a great crime fighter. And I can bet my balls that his EFCC already does have all the facts about those people. In other words, baba does not have to look far to find his saboteurs. All that he does need to find now is the political will to bring them to book. This is my reason when I say that baba could perform the feat in the short time that he has in office.
 It is so hard to accept that Mr. President is truly unaware of where all our diverted funds end up. But if we must accept that, then we are faced with yet another issue that is equally embarrassing. It is perhaps even more embarrassing that our president is quick to admit that he consistently dishes out huge sums of our money for projects without putting any system in place for accountability. Considering his self-acclaimed success in fighting corruption, it would be embarrassing if he has really ruled this country so blindly for eight whole years…really!!!

Harry Agina writes from the USA

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