Friday Sermon: Groping in the Dark

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By Babatunde Jose

The blind and the seeing are not alike; 

Nor are the depths of Darkness and the Light;

Nor are the (chilly) shade and the (genial) heat of the sun;

Nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead.

Allah can make any that He wills to hear; but thou canst not make those to hear who are (buried) in graves. Quran 35: 19-22

All great societies, empires and nations achieved greatness as a result of visionary leadership: The Mongol Empire is associated with the leadership of Genghis Khan; there would have been no Christianity as we know it today, but for Roman Emperor Constantine and his adoption of the nascent faith as the state religion of Rome and the Council of Nicea; equally too, the religion of Islam would have remained a local Arab affair, but for the visionary leadership of its Prophet Mohammed; America would not be the greatest country in the world but, for the visionary leadership of its founding fathers; and we can go on and on. No matter the amount of resources a nation is endowed with, the visionary leadership makes the difference.

Nigeria faces a very bleak future going by the failure of leadership. If by any act of omission or commission, we fail to find a lasting solution to our leadership issues, even if all the monies in the IMF and World Bank are channeled into our economy, this nation will eventually collapse: Armageddon!

Despite our abundant God-Given resources, which could have been more than adequate to solve our power problems, we are still groping in the dark: With trillions of Naira sunk into power generation, Nigerians still await uninterrupted power supply as only 4,600mw of the 6,600 generated is distributed to 180million citizens. Less than 50 per cent of Nigerians have access to grid supply of electricity.” One consequence of this is that various industries and other consumers have installed generators whose total capacity is estimated to be at least 50% of installed capacity of the national grid. It is tragic to note that out of installed capacity of 25,255.2MW only 4978MW is utilized.  American Journal of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 2016, Vol. 4, No. 1. 

The current energy situation is unsustainable for the following reasons: First, dependence on fossil fuels, cannot keep pace with the level of economic development and competitive global climate. Secondly, the global share of fossil fuels for energy production will significantly decrease as world demand for energy increase by the years 2030, particularly in China and India.  Third, Nigeria does not export any value added products and the economy simply relies on raw crude oil and natural gas. These natural resources are simply being dug out of the ground and exported raw, without any value being added. Finally, industrial and economic development will be forever crawling without reliable energy. 

Nigeria’s electricity sector is relatively too small for its size. Two countries with similar population sizes, i.e. Brazil and Pakistan, generate 24 times and 5 times more power than Nigeria, respectively. Bangladesh, a country slightly smaller in population and with a smaller GDP than Nigeria, produces nearly twice as much electricity as Nigeria.

In addition to oil, Nigeria has an estimated 180 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven natural gas reserves, thus making Nigeria the 9th largest natural gas reserve holder in the world, which is by far the largest in Africa. Professor Adeola Adenikinju of the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, in an inaugural lecture delivered in April 2017, noted that: the oil equivalent of our gas reserve is 1032 billion barrels of oil. The 187 TcF is sufficient to power 60,000 MW power plants continuously for 100 years, 40,000MW plants for 150 years and 20,000MW for 301 years. Hence, the gas resource endowments of this country, if properly utilized for electricity supply, have the potential to turn Nigeria into a country with uninterrupted electricity supply which can meet the needs of several generations of Nigerians.” Add to this the great potentials of solar energy and you get a very rosy picture. But all these potentials are not being realized.

The question therefore arise; why are we not getting things right? Why are we suffering in the midst of adequate provisions?  Listen to the Vice President, speaking recently at the Financial Times Forum in London: He said, “Strong visionary leadership committed to good governance has proved to be critical where our economies have recorded successes. . . . . . . . . . . Good governance and prudent management of resources means that you can do more with less.” The emphasis is on strong, visionary leadership: Period.

Speaking on the matter, an electrical engineer, Mr Alphonsus Ebule, said, “One of the major factors responsible for the seeming slowness in getting as much improvement in electricity generation as we would have wanted is the old practice of building large centralized plants designed to transmit electricity. Nobody does that anymore. That has been the practice in the country since the 1960s; unfortunately that is what still obtains largely till date; (because of visionless leadership). In other climes, they have moved beyond that. What they deploy now is distributive generation. Power is generated in small units when and where it is needed. There is a serious problem in transmitting power over a long distance. The world has moved away from that but that is what we still use. Can’t our people see this? “We do not need a national grid; what we need are small plants meant to serve specified areas. With that it would be much easier to manage power generation and transmission.” Another case for devolution, Abi!

He observed that it is awkward that electricity generated from any part of the country would first have to be fed into the national grid before being distributed in the area. “There is no way some of the generated power would not be lost in the process. The best thing is to find a way by which generated power could be used directly by the areas that generated it without routing it through the national grid.” This in short means that there is need for devolution in the power transmission sector. Let each state, region or cluster generate and distribute. This is also the case for state police and community policing. Sometimes, those who clamor for devolution, restructuring and what have you are making sense. Hmmm! The bottom-line is that where there is no vision, there is no mission and where there is no mission, there can be no progress. We sure have a long way to go. Meanwhile, we continue to grope in the dark. But we continue to hope and have faith in Allah, that one day we will get the right leaders that will lead us to the Promised Land:

Allah is the Protector of those who have faith. From the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the Evil Ones: From light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be Companions of the Fire, to dwell therein (forever). (Quran2:257)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.

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