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OPINION: RE: Playing Politics With Power Sector

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Adetayo Adegbemle

On the 28th June, 2020, a well respected journalist, Simon Kolawole, in his ThisDay Column “SIMONKOLAWOLELIVE!” wrote a piece titled “Playing Politics With Power Sector”, in which he expressed his opinion on the state of the Power Sector. You can read it here(https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2020/06/28/playing-politics-with-power-sector/)

In the Column, Simon Kolawole, while establishing the age long known excuses and shenanigans of the Power Sector, cunningly made attempts to defray the major and immediate challenges the sector faces.

In one of the opening paragraphs, Simon Kolawole laid this foundation, and I quote:

“But why are we still here? We can list a million reasons. When we were awarding contracts for the building of power plants in 2005, we did not think of how gas would get to them. We only remembered we needed to build gas pipelines after the turbines had arrived. Even when the turbines arrived, governors forced work to stop, arguing that the funding of power projects from the excess crude account was illegal. The multi-year tariff order (MYTO), designed to gradually phase out electricity subsidy and make the industry commercially viable, was not implemented for political reasons. The TCN does not have the capacity to “wheel” the power generated by GenCos. And so on.”

He further went on to question the motive behind the AdHoc Committee on Discos Ownership, formed by the National Economic Council(NEC), and headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir Elrufai (who was also the Head of BPE while Privatization of the Old NEPA structure was being implemented). The Committee, (whose terms of reference was to determine the Equity Stakes of the 3tiers of governments in Nigeria in the Electricity Distribution Companies,) in its report, had recommended that a forensic audit of the Discos should be carried out, and this was after establishing the simple fact that the 3 tiers of government have not been effectively represented in the Boards of Directors of all the Discos.

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Mr. Kolawole waved off this cogent reason, alluding the effort at Audit of the Discos Books. In his words: “But the undertone, as I understand it, is that the government wants to reverse the privatisation of DisCos or dilute the ownership and take control of the entities.”

This is not good enough, as it distracts from the noble intention to ensure transparency in the spending and governance structure of the Discos.

Again, readers should note that the call for the Audit of the Discos Books and Governance Structure is consistent with the Terms of Reference of the Adhoc Committee.

It would be interesting to know if Mr. Kolawole did submit a Memo containing these views when the Committee asked for a Public Submission in December 2019.

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Simon Kolawole’s columns have built an enviable reputation for dispassionate reviews of the nation’s politics and contemporary events. In this particular case, it is apparent that his analysis is spiced with pro….. propaganda. It is a no brainer to know whose drum beats Simon was playing to in his audacious write up on his knowledge of the sector. An investigative journalist like Simon Kolawole should have gone further to discover that it is the DisCos that consistently fail to pick up this load; that of the little they pick, they only make settlement for about 20 to 25 percent. How can the supplier of a commodity who never fails to make the supply be the bad guy while the seller who makes a return for just a quarter worth of the commodity delivered to them be the good guy? It is strange that Simon sees nothing wrong with Ikeja DisCo, for instance, entering into an agreement with a segment of its customers, at more than double the prevailing regulated tariff but views NERC’s tariff order as unacceptable.

To drive home his point of “pointing fingers” at the power generating companies as well, he further went ahead to ask why we did bother to sign PPAs(Power Purchase Agreements) with the Gencos in the first instance. In his words, “Why did we enter into PPAs with GenCos, some of which obligate us to pay millions of dollars monthly to one company, when we knew very well that the TCN did not, does not, and will not, have the capacity to take power from these companies in the life of the contracts? Even if we produce 100,000mw today, TCN can only take 4,000mw, otherwise their system will collapse and the entire country will be in darkness.”

Some history lessons on how the power sector works will be beneficial to the well-respected journalist especially on his call for a forensic and technical audit of the GenCos and TCN. The GenCos generate power after a day ahead declaration to the system operator, who communicates to them how much they can transmit subject to the nomination from the Discos (mind you, power is instantaneous- must be consumed or it is subject to demand). On the day of generation, the generated capacity passes through verifiable check meters measuring the exact megawatts, which is then measured again at the TCN busbar before transmission to the Discos. The invoicing process equally follows a more stringent process with the Discos, GenCos, NBET and TCN verifying before the abysmal remittance is made. Does Simon recall that the Discos lack of performance led the federal government to rescue the sector thrice now? In essence, the 1.8 trillion is payment for discos inability to meet their invoiced amount. Research shows the FGN is subsidizing the Discos by 75% monthly. What has Simon got to do with the fact of financial under-reporting by the DisCos as was discovered during the open-book exercise by NERC prior to TEM?
The writer should be informed that the DisCos utilise multiple payment platforms for energy consumed. This has resulted in the creation of multiple accounting streams for the different payment channels. This presents a loophole for unscrupulous operators to divert and hence under-report revenue inflows. Some of the identified revenue channels operated by most of the DisCos for energy payments are:
1) Analogue meter bill cash payments through the DisCo cash offices

2) Analogue meter bill cash payments through designated banks

3) Estimated bill cash payment through the Disco cash offices

4) Estimated bill cash payments through designated banks

5) On-line payments for all the categories listed above

6) Pre-payment meter token cash payments through the DisCo vending stations.

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I will like to refer readers to an important piece of Data at this point. This is an historical Power Generation vs Power Uptake by the Discos since privatization in 2013. While available data showed that Average Generation Capability has increased from 4, 214MW in 2013 to 8, 145MW today, Average Power Uptake by the Discos has hovered between 3, 183MW in 2013 and 3, 987MW in 2020 (See attached).

Impartial and concerned observers would be apt to ask what exactly have the Discos been doing in the last 7years. We have not even asked why the Discos has consistently been paying less than 50% of the Invoice Values from the Gencos. If Mr. Kolawole bothered to ask for these data, it would have been made available to him. At NO POINT has the Gencos received full values for their Market Invoice. This has accounted for the sub-optimal growth, inefficient operation and the current dire situation of the GenCos, which has huge negative impact on the entire power sector.

Allow me to also point out that while the Gencos has consistently been incurring costs for Gas, and in the case of the Hydro Plants like Mainstream Energy Services Limited (Concessionaires of Kainji and Jebba Hydro Power Dams) who has been paying an annual Concession fees of $50m(rate was around N160/$ in 2013 when they took over, now it is N420/$), the Discos has no similar liability on their books. The Story of GencosGenCos like Mainstream will still need to be told. The writer may want to appreciate that, every available capacity, whether dispatched or not, cost a huge amount of money to be maintained by the GenCos. There are massive fixed charges incurred to keep unutilised units available.

Mr. Kolawole went ahead to state the PPA signed with Azura, but what he cleverly omitted is the fact that Azura has NEVER received full value for energy supplied to the Discos. But hey! This agenda must be set.

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It is also unfortunate that Mr. Kolawole would conclude that “From 2015 till date, we have paid about N255 billion to five GenCos under the PPAs for power not delivered — principally because TCN does not have the capacity to take it.” First, it would be interesting to know where Mr. Kolawole got this information from, and secondly, why he deliberately pitched the GencosGenCos and TCN together. I can allow our readers to make up their minds on this. It is a fact that GenCos, who are entitled to about 60% of invoiced energy bills, face the greatest risk in the electricity value chain with an outstanding unpaid invoice of over five hundred billion (N500bn) naira. If at all, they deserve pity rather than ridicule and unfounded allegations is not only unfair but misleading to the Nigerian populace.

“If we are sincere about addressing the power issue and stopping our treasury from continuing to service the pot bellies of the buccaneers, let us conduct a wholesale forensic and technical audit of the entire industry. We need to identify whatever is responsible for this shocking state of the sector, re-negotiate the suicidal deals we signed (the coronavirus pandemic will, hopefully, provide a force majeure), align the necessary elements, and take the critical steps to help Buhari’s renewed power initiative achieve the outlined goals and objectives. Renationalising the DisCos through the backdoor does not look like the magic formula to me. Let us not frog-jump from frying pan to fire.”

To be clear on this, I am not a lawyer, but my little understanding of declaring force majeure is in unforeseen circumstances. Are we now saying that almost 7years down the lane, the Discos are just discovering unforeseen circumstances? And how did Mr. Kolawole arrived at the “Renationalising the DisCos through the backdoor does not look like the magic formula to me” junction?

Yes, readers who are able to read between the line would agree that Mr. Kolawole clearly played his card too openly, and as one of the comments under the publication rightly said, “Mr. Simon, either does not understand, or as usual, would rather obfuscate, what ails Nigeria as is evident in the power sector, as well as other service sectors”. There are other similar comments to the publication.

To my chagrin, Mr. Kolawole ended the piece with these words: “I’d be honest and confess that I am enjoying stable power supply where I live. Our estate has an agreement with Ikeja Electric which is going very well despite a few hitches — caused mostly by you-know-who: the TCN. We are not under MYTO, so we pay double the regulated tariff, and we are guaranteed at least 20 hours of power supply daily”. The mere fact that Mr. Kolawole concede that the Power Purchase Agreement signed with Ikeja Electric is not under the MYTO should have told him that though the regulators might have turned a blind eyes to it, THIS IS ILLEGAL. But because he enjoys an average 20hours power supplies at the detriment of other, and because he could afford it, he could care less about others who might have not been fortunate enough to afford it. I also wonder how many Transformers Ikeja Electric had to install in the PPA zones to make this magic possible.

To be clear about the illegality of the Premium Power Agreement, which is not in the legal MYTO framework for Billing, I advise that Mr. Kolawole should go check out the daily power uptake of Ikeja Electric, and see IF it has increased, or simply if it is same power that should have been equitably distributed is just being redirected to the rich folks. These data from August 2019 is ready available from TCN and published weekly.

We are all bothered about the situation of the Power Sector, and continuous engagement of all the stakeholders is ongoing, but we should not protect our friends to the detriments of the nation.

Mr. Kolawole at no point mentioned the plights of Customers and the inability of the Discos to Meter customers, replace faulty Transformers, improve quality of service to customers, etc.

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The advent of Service Reflective will expose all these inadequacies, and it is my prayer that we would not have to continue this escapists arguments. And this is in no way advocating for reversal of the Power Sector, in fact, I have covered these issues and offer several recommendations in solving our Power Sector Challenges. You can read here(https://news.powerupng.com/editorials/editorial-reconsidering-our-approach-to-solving-nigerias-power-problems), it is still relevant.

God Bless Nigeria.

Adetayo Adegbemle is a public opinion commentator/analyst, researcher, and the convener of PowerUpNigeria, an Electric Power Consumer Right Advocacy Group, based in Lagos. (Twitter: @gbemle, @PowerUpNg)

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OPINION: The Darkness Called Nigeria

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By Suyi Ayodele

If you have not seen the one-minute-30 seconds video of Lagosians scrambling for rice at the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) facility, you must have read the news about the stampede that took place. Seven people died avoidably in that ugly incident foisted on us by bad leadership. I did not personally witness the Nigerian civil war. Archival family materials show that I was born the very day the General Yakubu Gowon government changed the police action against the Eastern Nigerian Government to a full-blown war. A child on his mother’s back does not have an idea of how long the journey is. So, I wouldn’t know if hunger killed people or not while the war lasted.

The only experience of the civil war I had was the influx of easterners to our community after the war. They came as farm hands, who were paid at the end of the year. We called them “onise odun” -yearly paid labourers. A room exists in my father’s house today that we refer to as “yara Ibo” (the room for the Ibo). However, I have read a number of books on the civil war. In all the literature that I have come across, one constant factor in the history of the war is the issue of hunger and starvation. Pictures abound showing Nigerians queuing up for food rations while the war lasted. The only message I get from all the write-ups and the pictures about the civil war is that it is only in the time of war that the government rations food to the citizens. Whatever is rationed out is just for sustenance purposes. Nigeria is not at war at the moment. But food is being rationed out to the people. What then is our problem?

The past weekend was an emotional one for me. Emotional from all angles. It has been a long time since I felt that way. From Friday, when I took the voyage of discovery, to Sunday when what I feared most for one of my big sisters happened, it has been from one mental torture to the other. I followed the media team of the Minister of Power, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, to Ihovbor, a suburb of Benin City. The minister was in the community to inspect the power-generating plant located in the agrarian community. The plant, known as the Ihovbor Power Plant or Benin Power Generating Company, is owned by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC). Commissioned in May, 2013, the plant is described as |”an open cycle gas turbine power plant built to accommodate future conversion to combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) configuration.” The description of the plant is that it is owned by the government; has four turbines and has the capacity to generate 500 megawatts of power for evacuation (transmission) to the National Grid for onward distribution through the DISCOs (Distribution Companies) to Nigerians. The plant, as attested by the minister, “is a brand new one.” But that is not the sordid story of the plant.

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Directly beside the NDPHC-owned plant is a private plant, owned by some individuals and consortiums. The neighbouring plan is described as “a natural gas-powered open cycle electricity generation plant, with a current operational capacity of 461 megawatts.” The Wikipedia entry on the plants says it is “an open-cycle gas fired power plant…. the finance required to build the plant was sourced from the private sector, rather than from the government. The private sector owners of the plant took the construction risk. The post-construction risk and the operational risks are also borne by the plant’s owners and their operations and maintenance contractors.” The private investors claimed to have invested US$900 million to build the plant. Nigerians would never know how much the State committed to building the NDPHC. That is who we are as a nation; a people!

The description of the private plant forced me to check out the owners of the company. After going through the list, the only thing that came to my brain is Tom Burgis’ 2016 book: “The Looting Machine – Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers, and the Systemic Theft of Africa’s Wealth.” The sub-topics of “Incubators of Poverty” (page 61-79), and “God Has Nothing to Do with It” (page 175-208), should be of interest to anyone interested in how we arrived at this level of decadence. Suffice to say here that the private plant runs on the facilities provided by the NDPHC, and makes all the money at the detriment of the owner. Why, and how? It is the only one given what is known in the power circle as Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The layman explanation of PPA is that whatever power the private plant generates, the government would pay irrespective of if the generated power is evacuated (transmitted) to the National Grid or not. In the agreement, the government is committed to paying the owners of the plant an average of $30 million (30 million US Dollars) every month. Now, how does this happen? This is where my sadness emanated.

In the course of the tour of the NDPHC facilities, we discovered that of the four turbines the plant has, only one was working. Upon enquiry, it was gathered that the remaining three, though new and in good shape, are permanently shut down so that the privately-owned competition plant can run its own plant, generate power and get paid $30 million every month. The problem of the NDPHC does not stop there. According to information gleaned, even the only turbine that is not shut down is never allowed to run for 24 hours in a day. The source hinted that but for the visit of the minister that Friday, the entire NDPHC plant would have been shut down for the neighbour to thrive! So, for a plant that has the capacity of four turbines which could generate a cumulative 450 megawatts at 125 megawatts apiece, what you have operational in the plant is a turbine which generates just 100 megawatts.

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If combined, both the NDPHC plant and the private plant can give the National Grid over 900 megawatts. If you add the capacities of the other eight government-owned plants in Omotoso, Olorunsogo, Calabar; Geregu, Omoku, Gbaron; Sapele and Enugu together, Nigeria stands the chance of getting 4,700 megawatts of power! But that will never be. This is because we are in Nigeria and we are Nigerians. The case of the NDPHC plant and that of private plant is like a father who makes food provisions for his family but holds the hand of his own child so that the sons of strangers can eat to their fill. If the late Ekiti-centric traditional musician, Elemure Ogunyemi were to describe this scenario, he would simply say olule a lo a k’alejo – the owner of the house must leave for the guest to live in it! That is the typical monkey market.

It is true that no economy can develop without the intervention of the private sector. The government is right, in my own little knowledge of Economics to have invited the private sector to play in our power industry. But the question is: why pay $30 million dollars every month to a private company when the same government has a similar facility that is rendered impotent? Who are the promoters of the various IPPs that are holding the nation by the jugular? What is the wisdom in shutting down three brand new turbines just for another company to be able to operate? Again, if we may ask, why would any government build power generating plants and then license private sector players to build more when it has not expanded its transmission capacities? Who does that? Who are we as a people? The PPA with all other privately-owned plants, is that whatever those plants generate that cannot be transmitted would be paid for, yet, we have government-owned plants with the same or more capacities rendered dormant!

The Ihovbor Power Plant was commissioned in 2013. As the Minister, Adelabu, pointed out after inspecting the facilities, the plant is running at about “20 percent capacity utilisation and which is a gross lack of optimisation of our investment as a country. If we have put in so much into establishing these power plants, it should be able to give us the kind of power that we require.” The minister further lamented that the plants “are well maintained and the running hours of each of these, they are all below 30,000, which means that, effectively, they have not been run more than three years even though they have been installed almost eight or 10 years ago. They are as new as a brand new turbine but surprisingly, it is only one turbine that is operational today, generating about 100 megawatts of power as against the installed capacity of 500.” The plant was conceived by the “clueless” Peoples Democratic Party-led government, while the lethargic All Progressives Congress government sustains the strangulation of its operation through the unfavourable advantage given to its private sector-driven counterpart through the denial of PPA.

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I hate making conjectures. However, the only explanation one can easily give in this case is that there are locusts feeding fat on the pains of the people. This is what my people call apapin (kill and divide). Except for Sunday night when the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) ‘flashed’ light in my neighbourhood, I cannot recollect the last time we enjoyed electricity supply. And I guess, and rightly too, that the company decided to do so because the month is almost over for the distribution of bills and collection of money! Yet, less than 30 kilometers from my neighbourhood are two power plants with a cumulative 900 megawatts. Our case has become like those unfortunate people who live by the river banks but wash their faces with spittle! The rots in the power system cut across every other segment of the country. This is why it is possible for seven people to die while on the queue for rations of rice, and nobody is going to be made to answer for that.

That Comfort Funmilayo Adebanjo and six others died in their bid to get a ration of the 25kg rice is painful. Enough. The manner in which they died and the justification given by those who organised the distribution is even more annoying. If we should ask again, why must Nigerians be made to queue for rice or any other food item in the 21st century? Why is it difficult for this government to know that there is no shortage of foodstuffs in our markets? How long would it take those in authority to realise that what Nigerians are grappling with now are the costs of the food items? If you open up all the Customs warehouses in the country today, how many bags of rice would that give Nigerians? What about my folks in Odo Oro Ekiti or Aparaki in Ogun State and other remote towns and villages; where are the Customs offices located in those areas? If my cousins travel to Ado Ekiti, the nearest Customs office, how much will they pay to get to Ado Ekiti and back home? What guarantee do they have that the ration will get to them?

The NSC spokesman, Abdullahi Maiwada, while rationalising what caused the stampede in Lagos said the avoidable incident happened “because Nigerians, who came for the exercise, did not obey simple instructions for the distribution of the items.” He added that the stampede was not because NCS was not properly coordinated but the “attitude of Nigerians”. Really? Hear him again: “We started an orderly process, and people benefited from it until Nigerians decided not to be orderly and conform to simple instructions and directives. That is what led to what happened. The CGC was at that scene from the beginning to the end of that process. He pleaded with them to comply with the simple directive, and that we have more than enough to distribute. Some Nigerians decided to go on a round trip. At a point, we stopped collecting money and started distributing it for free. But Nigerians, in their manner, started round-tripping and this is what caused what happened.” Thomas Erikson, author of “Surrounded by Psychopaths”, has an idea of characters like Maiwada and the system he represents. Erikson says what Maiwada said is the way psychopaths behave. The author gives a list of items on the psychopathy checklist to include “lack of remorse or guilt; callousness and lack of empathy; pathological lying; shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness and irresponsibility” (page 23-24). I add no more! As a people, Nigerians deserve a good life. The present government should note that and go after that. Stephen Watt, a UK professor of Philosophy, in his introductory notes in: Plato Republic, says living a good life “consists in being a certain sort of person rather than merely doing certain sorts of actions: from an act-centred morality where the primary question is ‘what should I do’? to an agent-centred morality where the primary question is ‘what sort of person should I be?’ Then I ask, again: Who are we, really?

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OPINION: Time To Question Buhari

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By Lasisi Olagunju

Preparatory to his exit from power last year, President Muhammadu Buhari warned all of us to let him be after office: “Nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in any court; otherwise whoever it is, he will be in trouble because all important things are on record.” Buhari uttered those words in one of his very rare media interviews. That was in January 2023 – one year, one month ago. And truly, every horror so far traced to him as president has been deflected to some minion somewhere. Whatever was lost under his watch, whatever we seek after his exit, whatever we can’t find in the presidential drawer, we’ve carefully avoided going to the man we handsomely paid to look after them. The chief priest is never guilty of anything. There is always a scapegoat tethered in his honour. The orphaned animal carries the guilt.

Some of the key ‘secular’ supporters of the present president are my friends. I engaged one of them last week on the cost of living crisis ravaging the country. He told me what we’ve been reading on social media: Buhari is the culprit; he is the edá rat that peed into Nigeria’s soup pot. He left a badly managed country. My Èmilókàn friend blamed everything, including the worsening power supply situation, on the former president.

I reminded my friend that the past can’t be solely blamed for the rashes of today. Buhari didn’t float the naira and hack petrol subsidy at the same time. Today’s president did. We’ve run all our lives in this country blaming the next person. I keep reading strenuous efforts being made to do devolution of blames down to state governors. It is ridiculous. Were governors consulted before the naira was fed to the dogs of market forces? Leaders at the very top should accept the consequences of their actions. Buhari in power didn’t. He blamed his past throughout his eight years. His successor cannot be allowed to go that road. As America’s Harry Truman put it, “The president—whoever he is—has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.” My friend agreed but insisted that Buhari left a very badly managed Nigeria, then added: “But, you know, we can’t come out against him.” I smiled, nodded and reminded him of Buhari’s 2023 promise of trouble if anyone asked him “to come and give any evidence in court.” My friend laughed. We moved our talk to other matters.

But, that is not to say Buhari should not explain what he did to Nigeria. I hope he is following his probe by the Senate. Buhari in power boasted repeatedly of his ‘integrity.’ His people call him Maigaskiya (truth teller). But what kind of integrity disdains accountability, rendering accounts? There is a 2006 book, ‘Responsible Leadership’ edited by Nicolas Pless and Thomas Maak. A chapter in that book is useful here. The chapter, written by George G. Brenkert, is on ‘Integrity, Responsible leaders and Accountability’. Integrity and accountability share an inner connection. They are, in the words of Nigerian playwright, Zulu Sofola, “lightning and thunder inseparable.” George Brenkert maintains that a leader “who is not willing to be subject to conditions involving giving an account of his or her behaviour to others” cannot claim to have integrity. I agree with him. You mouth and wear ‘integrity’ everywhere and still threaten us with trouble if we dare question you.

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Former President Buhari did not tell us why he had to threaten his successors against potentially calling him to account. He also did not define or explain what he meant by ‘trouble’. But, you remember Shakespeare’s witches and their chant of ‘trouble’ in Macbeth: “Double, double toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and cauldron bubble” Steaming hot cauldron is elevated boiler. Whatever Buhari had covered up in his boiling kettle is coming out. His warning was a cauldron of guilt.

The Senate told us last week that a total of N30 trillion was printed by the government of Muhammadu Buhari and the money appears to have disappeared. I whispered “Goodbye, Giant of Africa” when I listened to the heart-rending deliberation of our Senate on that disaster. Ahmed Lawan, Buhari’s Senate president, interjected deliberations and said what Buhari printed was N23 trillion, not N30 trillion. Godswill Akpabio, Bola Tinubu’s Senate president (who was also Buhari’s minister), interjected the interjection. He said the extra N7 trillion was interest on the original sum.

We – you and I – are the ones paying principal and interest on Buhari’s misrule. Different strokes. In the United States, convicted former President Donald Trump pays for his bad acts. Reports say he owes an additional $87,502 in post-judgment interest every day until he pays the $354 million fine slammed on him two weeks ago by Judge Arthur Engoron in his civil fraud case. So, a court can convict a big man who had been president?

It happened also in South Africa. Not here. Where I come from, a man is never allowed to be bigger than the village. A community that cowers before a bully is a town of kids. And Nigeria should not forever be J. M. Barrie’s (1911) Neverland, a land of eternal childhood, island of people who refuse to grow up. Or the puer, Carl Jung’s archetypal error-man, who is forever afraid of challenges; who is forever waiting for ‘divine intervention’ to solve all his problems. We cannot be weaned of the disease of bad leadership until the leader knows that his feet will be held to the fires of justice after his reign. Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, while stating the position of the law on equality before the law, says: “to every subject in this land no matter how powerful, I would use Thomas Fuller’s words over 300 years ago; “be you never so high, the law is above you.”

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We’ve seen in the US judgement that President Trump is not bigger than his country. That is in the United States. Here, trouble awaits anyone who may want to query Buhari on why he wrecked our economy, printed N23 trillion plus N7 trillion interest, and what he used the printed money for. Or that he took a $3.4 billion loan without a trace of how the money was spent and on what. The former president said the consequence of asking him to account is trouble. That is the stuff master-wrestlers are made of. We call them àgbà ìjàkadì in Yoruba. They always tell their victims that they would be victims unless they know their level.

An elected president threatening trouble if asked to render an account is a guilty mind. We should, at this moment, outgrow our fear of strongmen and serve them queries. Can we be man enough for once and square up to Buhari, the heavyweight? The man’s successors in jittery whispers blame their troubles on him. They say his government wreaked today’s woes. They should ask him to come and account for his deeds – good and bad. And the masquerade should be man (or spirit) enough to step out of his guttural grove. He owes everyone who suffers hunger today an explanation that he is not the cause. His successors say he is.

The Buhari government printed money which disappeared as they came out of the mint. That is what our Senate says it is probing without mentioning the name that professed the heist. They will pan the camera away from the one who should be in the dock. There are other issues. Early this month, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked Tinubu to probe the whereabouts of the $3.4bn loan obtained in 2020 by Buhari from the International Monetary Fund. Buhari took that loan to fight COVID. But SERAP is asking Tinubu to promptly probe the allegations that the IMF loan is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.” It hinted that the 2020 annual audited report recently published by the Auditor-General of the Federation “documents damning revelations, including that there was ‘no information or document to justify the movement and spending of the fund’”. There may be many more of such disappearances.

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If I were Buhari, I would not wait for the Senate to call me before storming the chambers with details of the N30 trillion and other scandalous matters. I would come out and show the nation where the money is. But Buhari won’t. He is above the law and bigger than Nigeria, a serially abused country.

Is it not futile for leaders to insist they can’t be questioned? Idi Amin of Uganda recklessly printed money like Buhari and ruined his country. No one could caution or question Idi Amin, who boasted repeatedly that he was the conqueror of everybody, including the British Empire. Then he fell and maggots crept out to feast on his bloated belly. Films, books, fiction and non-fiction, have not stopped asking Idi Amin questions even after his death. Wole Soyinka’s A Play of Giants is one; Francis Imbuga’s Man of Kafira is another. Idi Amin is Boss in Imbuga’s play. He flaunts integrity and transparency. Just like today’s Nigeria in which hunger is the most uttered word north and south, Drunk and Sober, two characters in Man of Kafira, wallow in hunger while corrupt Boss lives in transparent ostentation. The two poor characters speak their frustration about a society that provides “three square meals for the transparent man and not a single trianglar one for us.”

We wait to see how the Senate handles the N30 trillion naira scandal and others. We also wait to see how Bola Tinubu will smell after his own tenure and if he will be willing to be questioned. Ultimately, leaders personally answer for their deeds and misdeeds. No fly follows the corpse of leaders into the grave. Not followers, not associates, not their dogs.

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I saw senators struggling to disown Buhari last week. Even dogs that fawned over him and graciously ate his phlegm are barking at him now. That is life. No one admits to using a missing knife to peel their yam. If I were the man of today, I would go watch or read ‘Everyman’, a 15th-century play of man appearing before God naked and all alone. Power and Strength abandon him; Beauty and Knowledge leave too. All he is left with are his Good Deeds. There are modern adaptations of that play. In Dutch, it is Elckerlijc; in Latin, it is Homulus. Duro Ladipo’s Eda is the Yoruba version.

Some governors recently warned that we were on the road to Venezuela. I have written twice on that country; the first was when Buhari’s plantain was decaying and we were told it was ripening. And we were asked to see it so, and we agreed. Venezuela is a burst country where local traders set the price of anything in US dollars and sell everything in US dollars. No one takes the country’s currency, the bolivar, seriously; it is worth less than the wrapper on sweets. But, Venezuela’s head did not go bad overnight. The destruction was gradual, step by step, leader by leader. Long before the bubble burst for that country, Venezuelan playwright and theatre director, José Ignacio Cabrujas, was asked to speak on the curse that rules his country. He said “the state is a magnanimous sorcerer”; it creates illusions and fantasies. He described the reign of one president as “the debut of the myth of progress” and the next as the myth’s “hallucinatory… flamboyant revival.” Powerful imagery that describes our case. I think of the mythical strides of yesterday and the mist in today’s promises.

Shading the truth and exaggerating optimism led us to this day of pies in the sky. Our dog is back to the same behaviour that denied it dinner yesterday. It looks like a foundational curse.

Bola Tinubu cannot renew any hope without showing us how (and why) previous hopes expired. Throughout Buhari’s eight years, the former president feasted on designer shoes and wrapped himself in expensive gowns. He ate big and belched loudly. He tooth-picked his time away while the plane drifted. We demanded to know where the pilot was, we were abused. We asked why he was imperiling a country of 200 million people, we were asked to shut up. Today, some of those who insulted us are in the cockpit; they are whispering alarms at the perilous state of the flight. ‘Where and how is the pilot?’ is the question distraught passengers would ask in life-threatening turbulence. We asked yesterday, we are asking now. All who ask the question today genuinely seek an answer. They ask it just as troubled trees of the forest whine and crackle in terrible storms.

With Buhari, there was no leadership. “In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still,” Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States, uttered that statement long ago and he had reasons to say so. So that today does not end up as yesterday did, we should keep asking questions, even if they are rhetorical. We can make them
epiplectic, forked questions of outrage and rebuke. Whatever flavour we choose, what is important is that we do not stop querying power and demanding answers. Buhari was absent, or pretended to be so. His reign ruined Nigeria; he should be made to account for his deeds.

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OPINION: Should Elected Nigerian Leaders Undergo Psychiatric Tests?

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Tunde Odesola

Guitar Boy, Sir Victor Uwaifo, is dead. But the ‘Mami Water’, which he saw at the Bar Beach and sang about in 1966 when he was just 25 years old, lives on. Today, the ‘Mami Water’ swam all the way up from the deep and boomed through a giant loudspeaker at the Ojota motorpark in Lagos, singing: “Guitar Boy/Guitar Boy/If you see mami Water o/If you see mami water o/Never, never you run away/Eh, eh/Never run away, Victor Uwaifo…” Even angels in heaven can’t resist dancing to the electrifying guitarwork of the song. 🎶Pin-pin/🎶dun-dun/🎶pin-pin/🎶dun-dun/🎶pin-pin/ 🎶dun-dun…Guitar Boy!…If you see mami water o…🎶.

A garage thug, Kilimanjaro, sings along with Uwaifo in a gruffy voice, cigarette smoke billowing down his nostrils like a fumes-belching locomotive driven by a grumpy engineman.

“That time wey Mami Water dey tell Victor Uwaifo make e no run, Nigeria never turn into jungle. Now, na Mami Water herself don dey run from Nigerians. If Mami Water and Papi Water show for Naija now, Nigerians go chop dem with dem bones and fins,” Kilimanjoro bellows, coughing big phlegm up his throat, “twah!” he spits it out. “E no go better for my enemies!”

Lepa Shandy, a busybody hawker in the park, moves from one vehicle to the other, selling a jambalaya of medicines. “If you no get wife, girlfriend or olosho, no buy dis medicine o. Make you no go tamper your landlord wife or daughter if you no wan live under bridge,” Lepa Shandy announces.

She brings out another medicine in a colourful pack. “Dis one name na Caterpillar! Make una lift una joyful faces up and behold this one-cure medicine, epa gbogbo ise. Na New Delhi in New York City dem make am. E dey cure hepatitis, glaucoma, leprosy, COVID and AIDS. Dis medicine no dey cure HIV o. Me, I go tell you di truth. Just drink am with rainwater or well water. Das all.”

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“Ehs! Ehs! Wos! Wobi!,” Kilimanjaro calls out to Lepa Shandy, “Shey you still get ‘Total Restoration’?”

“Ha, e don finish, people don rush am but I go get am next tomorrow. Na dollar cause di go-slow. How many packs you want?” “I want half dozen.” “OK, I go bring am next tomorrow.”

Lepa Shandy: “Shey, una dey see so, na my medicine those wey sabi dey ask for so o. ‘Total Restoration’ dey cure all types of worms, obesity, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, bone marrow, diarrhoea, diabetes, too much sweating, poor hearing, weak vision and fear.”

Kilimanjaro: Shey you hear say lion kill person for Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife?

Lepa Shandy: I hear di news o. Man and animal just dey vex for Nigeria. Suffering too much. No difference dey between the Ife lion and Nigerian leaders. Both no get mercy. Both wicked well well.

Kilimanjaro: Di lion for go Az-o-Roc, after e visit Az-o-Roc, make e enter legislature, judiciary and the ministries one by one. After Abuja, make e come dey enter states one by one?

Kilamanjaro: Ha! Dem go kill am!

Lepa Shandy: Kill wetin!? Na Layon I dey talk about o, no bi lion o. Layon na combination of lion and ‘anjonu’ spirit. Even bomb no fit kill Layon. You no sabi say black power dey?

Kilimanjaro: Look, me I believe in action. Make we all comot for street, block everywhere, no work, make everywhere standstill. Na di only language wey our leaders dey hear bi dat.

Lepa Shandy: You don forget wetin happen for Lekki Tollgate?

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Kilimanjaro: Dem stop Lekki riot because na only Lekki di riot take place. If to say other states of the federation join, government for negotiate nah. Government dey tighten poor masses belt, dem dey loose dem own belt. All dia pikin don turn billionaire finish. Poor man no fit chop one meal a day again. Wo, me I wan listen to the great national debate for radio, biko!

Lepa Shandy: Na wah o.

Kilimanjaro: After Buhari ride Nigerian donkey to coma, e kari half-dead donkey give im paddy, Tinubu, wey no fit complain publicly because dem bi Taiwo and Kehinde, different sides of di same coin.

Kilimanjaro: (Tuning the stereo in the road transport union office) When dem go begin di debate sef?

The secretary of the park, Acapela, tells Kilimanjaro to tune the stereo to Radio Enlightenment and Freedom 700.07 FM.

Kilimanjaro: Ha! Dem just dey start di debate. Rich man pikin school versus poor man pikin school. E go loud!

Debate Moderator: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the Great Debate! We have two schools slugging it out today. They’re Overlords Private College, Ikoyi, and Bondage Public School, Ajegunle. The topic of today’s debate is, ‘Should elected Nigerian leaders undergo psychiatric tests?’ Overlords Private College are saying NO to the topic while Bondage Public School are saying YES. The lead speaker of each school has five minutes to speak while the supporting speakers have three minutes each. I hereby welcome the lead speaker of Bondage Public School to the podium.

Bondage Lead Speaker: My name is Idris Ayomeye. I’m from Bondage Public School. I greet the distinguished chairman of this august occasion, the incorruptible panel of judges, the accurate timekeeper, my co-debaters and the esteemed audience.

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(The audience roars into applause)

Bondage Lead Speaker: I’m here to support the motion that Nigerian leaders should and must be subjected to psychiatric tests. Permit me, Mr Chairman, sir, to open my speech with these two Bible quotes: Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”; and Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin and expect grace to abound?” These Bible quotations sum up the story of Nigeria, a country, where wickedness and injustice rule. It’s a country where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission prosecutes and secures the conviction of a Nollywood actor, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, for ‘spraying’ the naira while the same EFCC looks the other way when Fuji musician, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, and one undignifying monarch, the Olu of Owode, Oba Kolawole Sowemimo, engaged in criminal abuse of the naira. I must commend the Egba Traditional Council for suspending Sowemimo over his disgraceful act. He should be sent back to ipebi for proper tutoring. I don’t know how some characters become obas in Yoruba land.

(Deafening applause. Kilimanjaro, Acapela and many people listening to the debate in the garage jump up in jubilation)

Bondage Lead Speaker: Mr Chairman, sir, Nigeria is a country of promise-and-fail leaders. President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Oputa panel to try the wrongs of the past, but General Badamosi Babangida, who was accused of many wrongdoings blatantly refused to show up, and nothing happened. Babangida never appeared in court despite incriminating allegations over the death of Dele Giwa. Those who killed MKO Abiola and his wife, Kudirat Abiola, are walking freely today. One of them, a Major, is even pontificating all over the country.

(Kilimanjaro grabs a chair, puts it on his head and dances, shouting, “More! More! More!)

Bondage Lead Speaker: The Presidency, police, ICPC, rights activists, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, etc see how people abuse the naira daily, yet they look away. Nigeria looks away as public hospitals have turned into morgues, public schools have become havens for hoodlums, roads have turned into deathtraps, electricity supply has turned to darkness supply! If a country can so brazenly exhibit injustice and brutality, tell me why its elected leaders shouldn’t undergo psychiatric tests. Please, tell me why.

(Shouts of ‘Tell them!’ ‘Tell them!’ Tell them! from the audience fill the hall)

Mr Chairman: (Hits his gavel on the table) Order! Order! Order! (The hall becomes less rambunctious)

Bondage Lead Speaker: (Wipes his face with a handkerchief and sips some water) General Muhammadu Buhari promised to jail the looters in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Who did he jail? Were we all not in this country when Patience Jonathan sought a plea bargain? Were we not all in this country when Buhari and his cabal brought in a fake airline as a national carrier, spending millions of dollars on the fake airline? Can someone tell me why our leaders shouldn’t be subjected to psychiatric evaluation? President Tinubu has been in the saddle for almost a year, chasing shadows, haunting the worst Central Bank Governor in the history of the country, Godwin Emefiele, but conspicuously leaving out Buhari, whose bidding Emefiele did. Can someone tell me why our…

Kilimanjaro: Ha!!! NEPA!!! Dem don cut light for studio o! Dem don become uncomfortable o. Haa! Naija and government magic…

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @Tunde Odesola

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