The Oasis Reporters
November 28, 2018
A walk round neighbourhoods in Benin City comes with deafening noise and smoky atmosphere owing to the ubiquitous noise of polluting private generators churning out exhaust fumes into the air. Ask the residents about electric power supply in the South south state, they’d say the Benin Electricity Distribution Corporation has not supplied any for three weeks, thereby plunging the state into darkness.
Some would point at the transformers or other faults in the electricity value chain, but nobody really knows.
It was therefore a case of mild drama when the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, angrily walked the Managing Director of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), Mrs. Funke Osibodu, out of his office for failing to meet obligations to electricity consumers in the state.
This happened when the governor received members of the House of Representatives Committee on Power led by Hon. Daniel Asuquo, who were in Government House on a courtesy visit.
The governor, according to a Thisday report, “was surprised to see the BEDC boss, whose name was not on the list of expected guests to the Government House, who embedded herself among the National Assembly delegation to gain access to the governor, who has been in darkness with millions of residents for weeks.
Speaking with the delegation after Osibodu had left the gathering, the governor said BEDC has continued to fail in collaborating with the state government to provide stable electricity in the state, instead the company has posed as an obstacle to meeting the goal.
According to Obaseki, “BEDC has been an obstacle all the way. They would not provide electricity and also not allow you to get alternative sources of power. The state will not allow it.
“As governor of the state, we have lost confidence in BEDC. We don’t want them here. We are in darkness. Let us remain in darkness until we find people who are capable of delivering electricity. This is our position.”
Obaseki said despite the fact that the state generates about 600 to 700 megawatts of electricity, the people are still in darkness, wondering how he is expected to explain the irony to the people, who are well aware that they produce a substantial amount of electricity in the country.
He noted that BEDC has failed to recognise that they have to be patriotic and responsible to the state and the country, instead, they have been noncommittal about the issue of power distribution”.
Emotionalism seems to have played a greater role in the action of the governor, and how can that solve the problem of electricity challenges in Edo state?
If Obaseki had wanted to act the part of an action governor, he failed woefully for he may have earned some popularity in walking Osibodu out of government house, beyond that, there would still be no improvement to the challenge with that irascible action.
While growing up, Obaseki must have known Brig. Gen. Ogbemudia, a foremost governor in the state whose legendary script on problem solving is there for him to study and perform.
Ogbemudia knew so much about interpersonal relationships to make things run smoothly. The then Midwest state under him equally had electricity challenges. So he set up the State Rural Electricity Board, REB as an intervention organ, without walking anybody out in a much larger state, combining the present Edo and Delta States.
Today, “the BEDC supplies electric power to Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states, with only nine percent allocation that the BEDC gets from the national grid.
Then Edo State alone takes above 40 percent, while the other three states share the balance. We intend to continue to work towards ensuring that various bottlenecks across the power value chain are eliminated to the benefit of our customers in all our franchise states”, according to they electricity corporation.
So what is Obaseki’s beef beyond seeking for cheap popularity and exhibiting inordinate greed? Out of the four states, who deserves less electricity?
Gen Ogbemudia knew how to negotiate better deals. If Obaseki cannot find Ogbemudia’s script to copy, he is hereby referred to the script of Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in Kano, who as governor in 1999 faced a much worse electricity challenge in the largest northern Nigerian city state.
In the face of industries closing down in Sharada, Challawa, Bompai etc industrial estates, with many relocating over electricity challenges, he summoned the Kano General Manager of the National Electricity Power Authority, NEPA, one Mr Adebayo, asking to know why Kano was in perennial darkness. He found out that the transformers were all overloaded and so many equipments had broken down. He asked for costing, got it and provided everything, on which his name was emblazoned on all the purchased transformers.
Unfortunately, he lost his reelection bid before he could install the transformers in 2003. His successor, Ibrahim Shekarau saw them and ordered for their donation to NEPA and immediate installation, such that in a neighborhood like the Federal Housing Estate (Shagari Quarters) of over 25 streets with adjoining neighborhoods and only 3 transformers, every four streets then started sharing one transformer each, and suddenly, electric power improved in quality and quantity all over Kano. Industries churned back to life and the state government collected taxes to enrich itself.
Obaseki lost a human relations opportunity to interact with the BEDC chief, understand the issues, and reach common grounds instead of shouting and crying by Ikpoba river with Edo people still in darkness.
Meanwhile, Businesses remain dormant in Benin, but Obaseki remains resolute that they must remain like that until a helper comes to give them power.
Ogbemudia had only school certificate when he joined the army and became a world class governor, diffusing students demonstrations, forging unity and building infrastructure.
Today we have Harvard trained governors whose thinking and actions demonstrate monumental lack of distinction.