The story is longer than that and it must be told for emphasis. After serial government panels, a circus show at the House of Representatives followed by unprecedented numbing scandals, we suddenly realised that our state of darkness is caused by the crisis in the Niger-Delta. That the attacks on the gas pipelines are making it difficult for gas to be supplied to the various LNG points and so we could not generate even 1,000 megawatts. From then, we jumped to another theory – government is generating 4,000 megawatts but the problem is with PHCN’s facilities which are so chronically archaic and in need of repair, it could not transmit. And so, all the electricity we could generate are returned to…okay, wherever they usually go, from our homes, offices and factories where they are needed to power life.
Many who are old enough know that one thing that NEPA or PHCN has in abundance are tricky excuses. In the past, we’ve been thrown into darkness because one large python coiled itself round a transformer and got electrocuted. It took them almost a month to find and dislodge it and return us, to the status quo of epileptic power supply. After that, power outage was caused by excessive rain inundating the power grid. Then, just as we were grappling with that the rains stopped and NEPA again told us that our national darkness was as a result of the low water level making the hydro turbines unable to turn.
Since the time of Shehu Shagari, we have not enjoyed electricity in the way and manner we could. We still do not have an idea how much we actually wasted, under Mr. Obasanjo on the search for stable power except for the trial of the infamous six. But the fear is that when the adjournments in the courts are over, and Elumelu and others on his gravy train have served their terms and returned home, Nigerians may still continue to grapple with darkness. And perhaps, maybe perhaps, Mr. President’s English and legal teachers would find a proper translatable for the phrase – state of emergency.
A few months ago, Goodluck Jonathan, the man who occupies the nominal vice-presidency of this country went to far-away Switzerland and announced that Nigeria would set up an anti-kidnapping squad. It so happened that having lost interest in armed robbery; criminal elements in Nigeria with access to arms and knowledge of the movement of cash have turned into kidnapping as a their new-found love. They pick school children as they are dropped off by their parents or drivers; pick housewives as they shop in high-brow boutiques; pick up geriatric parents from the relative comfort of serene villages and of course, kidnap bosses and their mistresses from posh restaurants.
The phenomenon is alarming. Nobody with over N10,000 in their accounts is safe. Insiders in the security forces say that sometimes some of the young men and women employed by banks and oppressed by them hack into the banks’ databanks and leak out secrets of customers to those who can use the information – for a fee of course. At other times, it is just because the rich or their underpaid maids cannot keep their mouths shut. And so, very often when the phone rings and the kidnappers are making their demands, they are doing so on the basis of information about the net worth of the relative of the captured. And so, trying to haggle with them is usually not the best way out. If you pay less, they waste the life of their victims and at least in one or two cases, even if you pay all you are asked, they still kill them anyway. So, head or tail, you don’t really win.
No-one is safe and no area is a no-go area. The other day, residents of Abuja-Suleja Road watched in utter helplessness as a Honda Accord car was charred with its two front occupants. Little did the onlookers know that a third person is in the boot of the car and that that third person had just been snatched by kidnappers, tied and dropped in the boot of his car. They were heading towards an unknown destination when the tragedy occurred. In the face of this insecurity, don’t ask when the squad that is supposed to protect the innocent will come on board. It, like the state of emergency on darkness, is blowing in the wind.