Mr. President, It’s Too Dark Here!

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


“…we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.” —-Isaiah 59:9-10.


Dear, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. I know that as a human being, you have a heart capable of being touched by a people’s unbearable, indescribable torments. May I inform you, therefore, (since you appear to be unaware) that despite your repeated promises and policy statements, threats to declare a State of Emergency in the Power Sector, and the several committees you have set up on the country’s power situation since you came into office, Nigeria’s dully authorized and unrepentant Agent Of Darkness known as National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), which now prefers to be called Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN — Problem Has Changed Name), has for a long time now descended on us here with all the  fury and malevolence of its total and blinding darkness. I do not know whether you ever attempt to find out how it is with us down here from the comfort of your exquisite castle where limitless  luxury, soothing serenity and ease abound, but I think it would help if I inform you that one of the most heart-rending sights in the world today is the very gloomy picture of sad, pained and traumatized Nigerians cruelly enveloped in NEPA/PHCN’s very thick and suffocating darkness, groping like people trapped in a murky, danger-infested night, and savagely attacked by the deafening noise and fatal fumes of countless generators.


Do you, Mr. President, remember that MTN television advert that used to feature a handsome young man asking a beautiful young girl to step out on her balcony to behold the beauty and delight of golden and brilliant sunshine? Oh, you will agree with me that such an advert, if it was still being aired here, would have looked utterly ridiculous and outlandish in our present circumstance; because, to talk of brightness and the beauty of it in this nation would not only amount to debasing such glowing terms, but would constitute unqualified provocation to the hapless masses of Nigeria trapped in manmade, avoidable darkness. But, Mr. President, like that girl in the advert eventually did, you can today step out of   dark Nigeria into the brilliant ambience of Ghana, Niger, Togo, South Africa, Swaziland, and several tiny countries in Africa where uninterrupted power supply has for countless years now been taken for granted. And then from there, you can look back at the big-for-nothing country you purport to be governing and see the amount of darkness that has engulfed it, and how hapless Nigerians are choking and wasting in the womb of impenetrable and asphyxiating darkness.   Needless to say that when put together, the resources of these countries may eventually not add up to what Nigeria earns from oil exports alone.   So how were they able to succeed with ease, where you have failed woefully? How do you feel when in the midst of other African leaders, and they mock you by referring to you as the leader of the African Giant? When they talk about how their citizens enjoy uninterrupted power supply, does it embarrass you at all? Or have you lost every capacity to be so affected?

Maybe, we are even very ungrateful. We have been very unappreciative of the long nights you are alleged to have been staying awake on our behalf thinking and planning on how to usher us into a blissful paradise! Pardon us, please, Mr. President. It is just that the increasing decay and dilapidation we see everywhere in our nation daily are just not what anyone expects long hours and nights of planning and strategizing to produce. That’s just the point, Mr. President. Well, we still have something to be grateful to you for. We at least have you to thank for helping us realize that in this nation, Government has become totally irrelevant in our lives; a needless burden too heavy to bear; in fact, it might as well be scraped since all it does each day is to remind us of its parasitic nature, and how better we would even fare if it were not there to perennially rob us. 

As I stand on my balcony each evening, gazing into the atmosphere, and trying to make some meaning out of the very chaotic and dysfunctional city in which I live, all I am greeted with are the sanity-threatening din and clatter of several power generating sets locked in a clearly mad competition to out-roar each other.  Every house contributes generously to this bedlam. Eardrums come under serious threat. Hypertensive cases become more complicated, drawing their victims closer to their graves. Sanity struggles to take leave of several people, as the combined effect of the roaring noise from every house tear into what should have been a quiet evening, with violent rage, piercing fierceness and tormenting loudness. Very lethal, thick, black fumes also ooze into the atmosphere, targeting the hearts and lungs of men, successfully turning the area into one huge fatally saturated gas chamber. But why does everyone decide to set the angry machines roaring every evening, when people require calmness to give their bodies refreshing sleep after a day of hard work to make a living in an impossible country like ours? Why? Because, Government has idled itself into irrelevance. Prof Chinua Achebe’s words are true: “This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house has fallen.”


Dangerous Begging By Imo Pupils

Last week, I was in Imo State, and was confronted by a very strange phenomenon.  I was visiting a woman, a relative of mine, who had a young, very handsome son who should either be twenty or nineteen. Shortly before I arrived, two female pupils from a near-by secondary school had sauntered into her compound and demanded to see the woman’s son. They wanted him to do ‘Sign-Sign’ for them. Disgusted by the whole thing, the woman sent them away. Now, as it was explained to me by both the woman and a teacher, a particular amount has been set as target for every secondary school pupil in Imo State, to be realized within a specified time.  I understand that a student that fails to meet this target would be in serious soup. They were equally assigned cards where each donor would sign after making his or her donation. So during school hours virtually everyday now, the teachers unleash these hapless teens into the towns and villages to go and do “Sign-Sign”. One teacher said the money was for a “book lunch” by the State Education Ministry. It was also suggested the money was being raised to execute some government projects.  Teachers and headmasters too are under pressure to ensure their pupils raise this money. I am only bothered about the dangers the pupils, especially, the girls are being exposed to by this totally bankrupt policy. Somebody in Owerri should, please, order the pupils back to the classroom, before the inevitable results of the “Sign-Sign” nonsense begin to show through several protruding tummies, STDs and cases of missing of pupils in a couple of months from now.


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