54 years of independence, with all our enormous wealth from oil and we cannot boast of steady electricity; while the story is different here, in even Kenya.
I know why I chose the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya for my Master of Arts in International Studies. I have to start this way as a lot of people have been asking me why I made this decision to come to Kenya for my Masters. And while I was coming here, knowing that Africa still has a long way to go regarding development, I came here prepared.
I came with my 2 rechargeable lights and when I moved into my room here, I bought a lot of candles to prepare for electricity failure. I even had to buy a replacement for my battery from HP office in Abuja before coming. Because my laptop was converted to a desktop after the battery died because of repeated charging of my phone’s battery with it. So I did not want electricity failure to prevent me from working with my laptop at very crucial moments and for my laptop to go off whenever they take light immediately.
I did these things because in Nigeria electricity is an issue. I lived at Efab Estate, Abuja and knew how terrible electricity was. On Saturdays, you come home, no light; you come home in the night, no light; in the morning, you would be messed up because there is no light to iron your clothes. Your phone is always down, and your laptop is always off. Or sometimes, NEPA would bring half current and you cannot do a thing with it.
So I came prepared here, thinking the situation would be the same as this is still Africa. But I was so wrong, as since I moved into my room here in Nairobi, Parklands, for almost a month now, I have not seen electricity go off. The electricity has been full. So I wake up in the morning; do my clothes, and boil my water. I do not have to iron a lot of clothes whenever I see electricity because there will not be electricity the next morning. My laptop’s battery is always charged. My phone’s battery is always charged. And I do not have to be charging my phone’s battery with my laptop like I do in Nigeria. And you would be surprised that at the end of this month, my electricity bill would be Ksh 300 (#580).
Heat is killing a lot of people in Nigeria. I grew up in Nigeria shouting: “The have brought light!,” whenever they bring electricity. And it is still the same today. Here I have not heard a generator noise or seen a generator. But in Nigeria, there is no family that does not have a generator. Some nights, you cannot sleep: generator noises everywhere when there is no light in your neighborhood. Some families have up to 3 generators in case one fails. There are some neighborhoods in Nigeria where tenants living in a building name their generators by putting tags on them, because there are so many generators at the backyard to the extent that you cannot recognize yours if you do not name it properly. I do not want to go into substandard generators that they all have in Nigeria. I have a friend that has bought 3 generators within 6 months because of substandard generators. This is for another day.
So in Nigeria, we have accepted the very fact that we can never have a steady electricity. The elite proud themselves of having more than 3 big generators and buying drums of gas every month. Nigeria imports generators more than any other country in the world.
Nigeria’s GDP is heading to $500 billion and Kenya’s GDP is $38 billion. So many other African countries with fewer resources are developing and having these things that we lack in developing countries like electricity. 54 years of independence with all our enormous wealth from oil and we cannot boast of steady electricity. Nigeria’s electricity is this terrible because of big people that make money through importation and wholesaling of generators. And I lived in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria’s biggest cities, with this terrible light situation so it is not like I lived in villages in Nigeria and might not know that the electricity issue is different in the big cities. No.
I used to go at the Senate wing of National Assembly Complex when I was working on a 1000 paged book about Nigeria at 100, “The Metamorphoses of Nigeria (1914 – 2014)” with 3 colleagues, and have seen electricity go off about four times and they have to make use of generators. There is this place called UTC, at Area 10 in Abuja where there are so many businesses that are into printing services, you cannot go there and be normal again for a while. The generator noises there and fumes, would make you go mad. I used to feel very bad for people working there; I would never be able to imagine how they cope. There is no business in Nigeria that does not have a generator. None! You cannot function without one. Not possible. Every business in Nigeria has a monthly budget for gas or fuel. And rely only on generators. This has multiplied the prices of different products and services. And ridiculously, when the NEPA people bring electricity bill on a monthly basis, you would be wondering if they brought enough electricity that month to have the audacity to bill you an exorbitant amount.
I am looking for who to give back my candles and rechargeable lights. There is internet here too.
Steady electricity is a past tense here. But in Nigeria, politicians still use electricity as a bait during campaigns. Promises they never get fulfilled. And Nigeria has all it takes to have constant electricity ranging from enormous wealth, rivers/seas, enough sunlight and wind.
Why can’t Nigeria end this story of unsteady power supply? And with the way this thing is going with no clear intentions of having this situation changed, my kids might shout: “They have brought light,” jumping up, whenever they bring light.”
Independence Day, most Nigerians do not even have electricity to listen to whatever the President said.