Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adventures In Nigeria

Adventures In Nigeria

PHCN = Power Holding Company Of Nigeria, God Is Watching You!

I reside in Long Island which is a part of New York that is almost synonymous with huge trees, huge houses, water and  quiet.  I’ve often said that if undesirable elements decided to stay out of certain corners of Long Island, it will be a major go to area of  New York.  I left New York for Nigeria, right after Sandy and the snow storm,  which knocked down trees, destroyed homes and left a lot of Long Islanders destitute.  I was very thankful that I do not live that close to the waters or I would have been destitute as well.  All, I could complain about was the trees that came down and the lack of electricity which meant that I had to use candle light to get myself ready for the visit back home.  Despite, all the confusion taking place, they were already working very hard (24 hours) to ensure that we had our lights back before I left the country.  Now, that’s service. For those few that have a generator, that was the time that we heard the noisy hum of sounds that we hardly ever hear.

I’m human and when this occurred, I was looking for an opportunity to get out of New York to a calm place where I can get my Zen back.  I was excited to go back to Nigeria during all that confusion because I figured that it might be slightly better but was I in for an angry surprise.

When I left Nigeria, many years ago, constant electricity was an issue.  In my home, we had a good generator which worked but I hated it because of its noise.  When there was no petrol for the generators then we used the lantern. Because of my hatred of darkness, the lack of electricity, the lantern ensured that I was always on top of my work.  But, that was many years ago. I expected that certain things would have changed but in the case of PHCN, it actually got worse.

I returned home to no light and the jarring sounds of  generators disturbing the night air.  That was my welcome to Nigeria surprise after the bumpy ride on the bad roads leading to my  home.  Now, I am not saying that other African countries have it better since I’ve heard that many actually have it worse but my frustration with Lagos, in particular, was that many have accepted this substandard behavior as normal.

How can one explain that an oil producing nation like Nigeria which is ranked at the top ten of exporters of oil cannot boast of giving its indigenes constant or at least semi constant light? We talk in the billions but yet, the effect cannot be seen in the lives of the average Nigerian. Through out my stay in Lagos state, we had 30 minutes of light which was divided into 15 minutes breaks. The first 15 minutes was in the morning hours when no one was supposed to be home and the remaining 15 minutes was later on in the evening as we stepped in.  Like seriously?

Now, I understand that there seems to be a form of silent agreement between PHCN, generator manufacturers (yes, we have our own brand called my generator pass my neighbor's own), generator sellers, candle sellers, kerosine and lantern sellers but where does this leave the average Nigerian who needs electricity to run their business, who takes courses online,  who needs to come home to a cool house with cold water, who has taught himself to only buy items for the day because the refrigerator does not work or has been damaged by the pit patter games of PHCN?  By the way, unlike   the United States, where you can get a refund on items destroyed because of the lack of electricity, that does not exist in Nigeria.

It becomes more ludicrous when you visit a PHCN office to pay a bill and you see that their electricity is generated via a generator.  Ironic!!!!  For, those like myself, who detest noise with a passion, you can’t decide to have an inverter in a place like Lagos because the electricity needed to get it ready is almost never there.

Now, people have said that electricity distribution is a class issue.  They say that those who live in areas like Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island where the upper echelon of society reside do not go through issues like those who live in the mainland.  Unfortunately, that’s not really true.  They go through the same thing but not as bad as the mainlanders.  But, I will have to ask why should electricity distribution be a class issue in a state as wealthy as Lagos state?

One of the statements that I found myself repeating as I saw a lot of things that could give an average diasporan gray hair was that we are the creators of our own hell.  We are the ones who have taught ourselves to accept substandard behavior and services as normal.  We have learnt the we go manage technique.  No, there are things that are manageable and there are things that are completely unacceptable.   For those whose inner person fights back at the nonsense that we are being fed, they have learnt to silence that voice with the throbbing sounds of religion which teaches acceptance because there is a better place later.  Oh NO!

The other day, I was listening to a radio broadcast on a Nigerian radio station which caters to the diasporan Nigerian community in which they were basically inviting investors to see Nigeria as a viable market to go and invest.  I agree,we have what is needed to get investors interested but I wonder will they show the investors the real Lagos and Nigeria where the average Nigerian lives.  Maybe the investors will stay in posh places, and their drivers will only take them through areas in which the average Nigerian does not reside or pass by.

Who knows?

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