This is a personal experience. I am not sure if you are facing the same situation in your neighbourhood. But you can prove me wrong at the end of this piece.
My generator has gone silent.
The grating and the jarring hypertension-inducing noise ceased about two months ago. I do not know how it happened. It was not something I had paid attention to. But I only just realised that recently. It all started when I noticed that my frequent dash to the generator house, every time the electricity company seizes power, had minimised. Then, I realised that I had stopped to carry rubber cans inside the boot of my car to find fuel wherever I went in Lagos. Then, I soon discovered that the frequent calls I often made to Idongesit, my generator mechanic, whose number I had saved in my phone as “Generator Guy” had reduced.
Gradually, I had also realised that my neigbhours, whose generators used to explode in sporadic noise whenever the Eko Electricity Distribution Company takes electricity, have also gone quiet. The neighbourhood is now peaceful. Then, one day, my neighbour, who had also noticed the new development called my attention to it. We both inspected our generators. They had become dusty and are still dusty. The cans of petrol remained where they were. They had also gathered dust.
Is this a new dawn? For the past two months in my part of town in Lagos, electricity has improved tremendously. For several days in the month of July, we experienced uninterrupted 24 hours of power supply in the Ajah-Lekki area of Lagos. In fact, at time, I had thought something had gone wrong with the EKDEC, one of the successor companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria. It was strange to have uninterrupted power supply for weeks on end.
Then, my excitement soon turned to apprehension. Is this for real? In the time past, when there was a sudden boost in power supply, it served as a hint that then PHCN was up to some sinister motives. But this time round, the supply never blinked. Even the bills appear to have reduced drastically. What has changed so remarkably between the twilight of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan up till the time President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in and now? What magic had transformed the PHCN? Is this not the same company that the former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, told Nigerians had been jinxed by “witches and wizards?”
Anyone in the country in the dying days of the Jonathan administration will remember how the nation was thrown into darkness. In Lagos, it was a throw back into the Stone Age. To make matters worse, there was fuel shortage. At the time, it was a case of “double wahala for dead body” as the Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, had sung. There was no electricity. Petrol was scarce. Even when you had alternative power source, you had no petrol to power it. It is still a miracle how Nigerians survived the months of April and May which will go down as the worst months of 2015.
But why the sudden change? What has transformed the electricity company from giving darkness to lighting up the whole of the country in just a few weeks of change of government? Are there new people in charge now? Or is it because there is a new government in place?
I wanted answers.
So, I put up a post on my Facebook wall to ask from friends and Nigerians why my generator had gone silent. I had put up the post on August 3. That was after about a month of uninterrupted power supply. The post read, “Dear friends, I don’t know about you but electricity has been regular these days. My generator has gone silent. I no longer complain of generator noise from my neighbours. Life is just so good. But wait o! Who and what are responsible for this sudden change? Some have called it the Buhari effect. How true?”
I had wanted information about who and what were responsible for the regular power supply at least in my part of Nigeria. Then, the reactions began to come in. The responses I got were interesting and provided what Nigerians had proffered as the reason for the improved supply we are now witnessing in the country today. The responses I got fell into three categories.
The first respondents had claimed that the electricity has become regular because it is the rainy season. They argued that Nigeria’s major source of power, Kainji Dam is over flowing which now gives it enough water to power light to Nigerians. The second response I got was from the die-hard loyalists of the last regime. They had argued that the electricity we are enjoying today is made possible by the Jonathan administration.
They had posited that Jonathan had invested heavily in power through his power sector reform which was one of the transformation agenda of his government. They believed his investment had started to bear dividends. But the argument did not end there. Those who opposed this line of thought had accused the supporters of the last government of insincerity.
They argued that if the power sector reform had worked as being claimed, why was the power situation that bad under Jonathan? The last respondent to my post had reasoned that power had improved because there was a signal that Buhari brooked no nonsense which had prompted the various levels of the electricity power chain to sit up. They said there is a new way of thinking that it will not be business as usual.
They argued that essentially, there was nothing wrong with power generation and distribution except for the attitude of those saddled with the task of providing the critical infrastructure to Nigerians. The Buharists further boasted that the improvement Nigerians were witnessing in power would rub off on other sectors.
I found all the positions interesting. But I was sceptical to accept those lines of argument especially since they are not coming from experts in the power industry. Then I read somewhere that our power generation capacity had peaked to new levels since the coming of the new administration. Is the new development in line with those who had reasoned that Kainji Dam is over-flowing with water? Will the electricity company cease to give us electricity as soon as the water level drops to new low during dry season? I hope this does not happen. For years, Nigerians had been sold this crude argument about Kainji Dam and how our lives must depend on the levels of its waters. That is why I also find the argument about how the last administration had invested in power but did not live to see it bear fruit in its lifetime as ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that the Jonathan administration invested billions of funds in its power sector reform and yet and there was no power throughout his six years in government.
We were sold the same ridiculous tale under Obasanjo. I do not know what magic has transformed the PHCN. Let’s just hope the honeymoon lasts. But not so for Idongesit, my generator mechanic, I ran into him the other day and he looked unhappy. He said the steady power supply is bad for business.