By Jaye Gaskia
At the inception of the fourth Republic, one key area prioritized by the then victorious ruling party, the PDP, and its newly inaugurated presidency was power. In 1999, when the current civilian democratic dispensation came into being, the ruling PDP made fan fare of its intention to turn power generation, distribution and transmission around as a way of ensuring that there was enough electricity to power our triumphal march into the league of newly industrializing economies.
15 years down the line, what is the scorecard? Power generation as at 1999 had plummeted to just about 2,000 MWs of available generated power, while the capacity of the National Grid stood at barely 4,000 MWs.
A decade and a half down the line, and with close to $50bn of public investment poured into the sector, we are back to where we started from, with available power generation for distribution once again hovering around the 2,000 MWs line.
In between 1999 and 2014, we have ‘managed’ to increase [what a fallacy?] power generation to around 6,000 MWs, but with the proviso that the actual amount available for distribution and transmission has never surpassed 4,500 MWs. In addition to this, the capacity of the National Grid, through which available power is transmitted, has remained stuck at just over 4,000 MWs, with the consequence that every time available power generation for transmission exceeds 4,000 MWs, the entire power infrastructure witnesses either significant partial system failures or system collapses. It is on record that the last upgrade to the power transmission infrastructure occurred more than three decades ago under the military dictatorship of IBB!
So after decades of lip service, and with tens of billions of dollars poured down the drain; after the most intense pillaging of the treasury in our recent history, we have been unable to meet the targets for power generation and transmission set by successive regimes.
Now if this situation is a direct reflection of the profligacy, treasury looting propensity, and degree of light fingeredness of the faction of the thieving ruling class organized in the PDP; then the complete absence of a sense of recognition of the urgency of overcoming the challenge of power for the Nigerian economy by the equally clueless opposition APC, underlines our argument that this failure is a collective failure of the ruling class regardless of the party they are organized in.
This situation is worsened by the fact that neither the main opposition party, nor any of the other mushroom parties of the ruling class have formulated or presented any clear cut plan for tackling the energy question; yet the overcoming of the energy challenge is so central to growing an inclusive economy in a sustainable manner.
And now the paradox: Our shameless thieving ruling class celebrates and flaunts the fact that after the re-basing of the economy, the size of our GDP is now $510bn and that it is now the largest economy in Africa, and the 26th largest in the world, beating South Africa to the second position in Africa with a GDP size of $370bn.
Yet the South African economy with a size of $370bn still boasts the largest market capitalization on the continent, with a market capitalization nearly doubles that of Nigeria; and generates and transmits more than 41,000 MWs of electricity. DRC, a country ravaged and impoverished by conflicts over control of its vast mineral resources also plans to generate 40,000 MWs from a single power generation project.
With one of the highest gini-coefficients in the world, one of the widest gap between poor and rich worldwide, it is perhaps not a coincidence that Africa’s richest man is a Nigerian, who is also the world’s 25th richest person, at the same time that his country’s GDP is also the 26th largest in the world.
It is certainly not a coincidence that Africa’s largest economy is also home to Africa’s largest concentration of poor citizens, and is one of the poorest countries in the world on account of citizen welfare.
What we are witnessing is the unraveling of the edifice of self aggrandizement erected by the ruling class to accommodate their greed. What is happening is the manifestation of the historical failure of this congenitally corrupt and inherently incompetent ruling class.
The lesson we must draw from this is that the labour and sweat of our hard working but impoverished people generate enough wealth to go around and meet every citizens’ basic needs, but that the greed of our ruling class prevents this from happening.
The task that emerges from this lesson is that we must Take Back our country from the death grip of this ruinous and gluttonous ruling class.
Our destiny is indeed in our own hands.
(Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & [DPSR]protesttopower; Interact with me on FaceBook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria)