By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
The greatest problem of man is that man is the problem, Anonymous.
Aside from the time-honoured belief that the poverty (intellectual, economic, social, psychological and cultural) of any country is felt by the quality and quantity of its citizens, this piece primarily stemmed from a barrage of intra, inter, trans and cross-reactions that trailed my recently posted intervention entitled The Man Ortom; His Politics and Leadership Style.
Out of many, this piece will as a guide cite/highlight two.
While the first comment appears objective and emphasizes why followers should nimble in adopting, adapting and disseminating new discoveries and leadership efforts by some of their self-contained and quietly influential leaders like Dr Samuel Ortom, the Executive Governor of Benue State, the second for reasons that will be explained in subsequent paragraphs provided reasons to worry as it was not only stripped of process and outcome fairness but more than anything else qualifies as neither admirable nor glorious. It painfully amplifies the reality that as a people, we are yet to become acquainted with the fact that we face a choice about nation-building in a much larger context.
The first reads; I just read the incisive treatise you did on my governor, Dr Samuel Ortom. Thank you for your boldness in writing what you did. While many are lambasting and lampooning him for non-performance, you have taken a good look at the man and the good in him and have brought it out clearly for all doubting Thomases to see. I appreciate you. Keep doing what you are doing. Right thinking Nigerians are behind you.
The second said in part; Ortom hasn’t done much in the state – what policies has he put in place to alleviate the suffering of the common man? How has he harnessed the massive agricultural potentials of the state to ensure the state exports food abroad? What infrastructure has he put in place? Beyond propaganda, how has he secured the lives of his people?
Essentially, this second reaction did not come as a surprise. In fact, in my view, it is not Ortom but Nigeria-specific. There is nothing wrong, particularly when viewed peripherally, with demand for infrastructural provisions and the development of the state’s agricultural potentials. But, its context and assumptions, shows that there is something intrinsically out-of-order with the present reaction.
First, it paints a picture of a nation where the masses have been so economically and intellectually impoverished/disempowered by the deformed federal system to the extent that they now narrowly view leadership/governance as a mere ‘cement and concrete’ arrangement.
Again, it painfully speaks volumes as well as tells the story of a nation where the masses applaud and endorse ‘obsolete team management structure’ that cares less about rule of law, security of lives and property, discipline and economic planning but concentrates on the working assumption that doing is more important than thinking, execution more important than generating breakthrough ideas, and infrastructural provisions, more important than demand for true federalism and strong institutions. More often, the people applaud these choices of infrastructural provisions even when it is obvious that such infrastructures will be of no economic value/importance to the people.
While this piece sympathizes with the awkward position Nigerians are placed with this deformed mentality, it must, however, underline the fact that leadership, says Lee Kuen Yew, the pioneer Prime Minister, is more than just ability. It is a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character and ability that makes people willing to follow a leader and every nation needs people who are activists with good judgment and interpersonal skills to survive.
Likewise, the nation Nigeria needs confident and good-minded activists like Ortom to have a good nation. However, good the system of government or the constitution or system of government may be, bad leaders will bring harm to their people.
The likes of Ortom should be appreciated by Nigerians for acting as a check for other public officeholders. They should be commended for keeping vigilant adherence to the rule of law which strengthens our democracy and strengthens Nigeria by extension.
His advocacy prowess has ensured that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation.
Rule of law, as we know, makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed, and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents overreaching and checks the accretion of power. By the same token, whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable, it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.
Even on the global stage, the likes of Ortom are not only highly-priced but well appreciated and given pride of place.
Take, as an illustration, evidence abounds, for those that can find it that, the absence of an enlightened nation-building programme after World War 1, coupled with the absence of global leaders with a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character to speak the truth, led directly to the conditions that made Germany vulnerable to fascism and the rise of Adolf Hitler and made all of Europe vulnerable to his evil designs. By contrast, after World War II, there was an enlightened vision embodied in the Marshall Plan, the UN, NATO, and all of the other nation-building efforts that in turn led directly to the conditions that fostered prosperity. This is precisely the role Ortom plays in the present democratic experiment in Nigeria.
Very germane, raising the issue about infrastructural development of the state and questions as to how has Ortom harnessed the massive agricultural potentials of the state to ensure the state exports food abroad and secured the lives of his people, in a country where the state Governor, as the chief security of the state, has no control over security apparatus in the state, portrays a lack of understanding about the nexus between development and security.
For a better understanding of this present argument, let’s listen to Stewart, a development expert as he argues that the development-security nexus has become central to the development and peace-building enterprises. He considers three types of connections between security and development, both nationally and globally: (a) security as an objective, (b) security as an instrument and (c) development as an instrument. Given these connections, he argued that security policies may become part of development policy because in so far as they enhance security, they will contribute to development. Conversely, development policies may become part of security policy because enhanced development increases security. Stewart finds that ‘societal progress requires reduced insecurity’ and that more inclusive and egalitarian development is likely to enhance security, he concluded.
From this spiralling awareness, flows issues that come in double folds; one, it is evident that Governor Ortom is development hungry and that informs his persistent calls on government at the centre/relevant agencies to provide adequate security in his state.
Secondly, Nigerians must recognize that infrastructure is important, but we must learn to ask for the development of strong institutions and uphold the rule of law. When strong institutions are in place and rule of law is adhered to by our public office holders, every other thing including but not limited to; namely, infrastructures, equity, justice, peace, human rights and economic development shall be added to it.
The choice is ours.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374
Still on Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Similar to history, which according to historians, is an unending dialogue between the present and the past through a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts to assist the anxious enquirer improving the present and future based on a clearer understanding of the mistakes and achievements of the past, the conversion on electricity power supply challenge in the country has like history, become neither unending nor abating.
Essentially, the first half of this recurring circle was captured recently in my piece titled FG’s Assurance on Generation of 25,000MW Electricity, as it explains why Nigerians are no longer comfortable with assurances from the federal government, the present piece which qualifies as the beginning of something new was elicited as a response to a declaration by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesperson.
Shehu, who spoke in an interview on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, among other things stated; that President Muhammadu Buhari has greatly improved electricity generation in the country, he concluded.
Let’s face the fact; he spoke convincingly with actual authority that flows from the position that he occupies. However, the only difference here is that, unlike history, his run on fact, particularly his fervent belief that the outlook of the nation’s electricity remains good, in the face of the current epileptic power supply and unjustifiable high tariff regime in the country, has not in any way advanced our conversation on or assisted the nation’s quest to find a quick solution to its electricity/energy crisis.
Let’s face the fact; it is true that the 2005 Power Reform Act (EPSR, ACT of 2005), which provided for the privatization of the power sector did not go far before President Olusegun Obasanjo administration left office in 2007. Yes, it is also true in parts that the present frustration in the sector was further fed by the reality that the current federal government as noted by Garba Shehu during the interview, inherited reckless privatization of the power sector done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration (the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010), Despite the validity of these claims, yet, Shehu’s analytics for reasons did not go without opposition.
First, enough evidence supports the fact that no administration in the country, not even the present Muhammadu Buhari led federal government can boast of clean hands when it comes to Nigeria’s electricity crisis.
Without going into analysis to establish how culpable each of these administrations appears in this case, one point, in my view, that mustn’t be overlooked when discussing the power/electricity crisis in Nigeria is that the challenge has nothing to do with privatization. It is neither fuelled by the desire to fashion an authentic roadmap for restoring the health and vitality of the sector nor is it the function of the current effort to bring about a new tariff regime.
Rather, it’s simply and squarely a conceptual problem of what successive federal government has been doing which has never been in the best interest of the people, the nation and the sector.
Very fundamental of the challenge is the operation of the obsolete grid system, an arrangement where the power generated in the country is pooled/assembled or channelled to a control/switch centre before it is finally distributed to consumers across the nation.
Aside from qualifying as a clumsy arrangement and operated in an environment laced with outmoded transmission lines and facilities that cannot hold supplies over time, the practice itself, going by what industry watchers are saying, is not only out-fashioned, old-schooled but visibly runs contrary to the global vision/model which presently favours decentralization of energy generation and distribution.
In my view, energy/power centralization has never assisted the socio-economic development of any nation desirous of making headway industrially.
There exist yet another frustration, this time around fuelled by painful consciousness that instead of acting as energy sector regulator, successive administrations’ for yet to be identified reasons choose to function in the nation’s power sector as both ‘ captain and coach’,- owning shares in Gencos, Discos and TCN.
This state of affairs occurred in spite of part breaking studies that suggest that the private sector is likely to better understand the location and nature of market failures/bottlenecks/barriers that inhabit the energy sector.
It was also argued elsewhere that the government capacity to design and execute an appropriate resolution of identified market failure/bottlenecks is the sector is often always laced with controversy.
From this ‘unrelenting’ failures/failings on the part of policymakers to define the business of power generation and distribution in the country and lack of clear strategy for penetrating it profitably, or allow conventional market forces to determine electricity tariff regimes in ways that will lead to the realization of economic rights of the investors while expanding fundamental freedoms and choices of the individual consumers; and with government, unwillingness to follow swiftly, the ‘changing needs of time’, which of course are the sufficient ingredients of foresighted decision making and condition that every leader desirous of success must constantly fulfil, it obvious that the nation’s handlers have finally left the survival of the sector to chance.
As we know, anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance
Again, it is weak regulations and untidy oversight such as these, that largely promotes a situation where according to a commentator, an electricity consumer buys pole, cables, meter and contributes money to buy or replace the community transformer; and, as soon as that is done, they automatically become the Disco property and the electricity distribution companies will, without taking the meter reading, send outrageous estimated bills he/she never consumed.
That is not the only apprehension. There exists also some unforgivable abuse of trust within the sector.
The first that comes to mind is the recent report that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has begun the investigation of N14.7 billion proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).
The committee is acting on an audit query in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December 2019.’
Before the dust raised by the above worrying/worrisome development could settle, another was up. This time around has to do with a new awareness of how TCN, DISCO’s Inefficiencies Caused Electricity Generating Companies to about N120.25 billion to stranded power which averaged 2,448.50 megawatts every month in 2021.
According to industry data cited by Business Standards, an average of N13 billion was lost every month by generating companies. This is the total monetary value of the volume of electricity generated by generating companies but which unfortunately could not get to consumers either due to infrastructural problems or because they were rejected by distribution companies for fear of not being able to recover the money from consumers.
What the above development tells us is that it is a difficult venture to implement meaningful changes when institutions are the cause of the problems in the first place.
It also suggests that engineering prosperity without confronting the root cause of the problem and the politics that keeps them in place is unlikely to bear fruit as the institutional structure that creates market failure will also prevent the implementation of interventions.
To catalyse the process of serving the sector, we must recognize that what we need today, perhaps, is not a new theory, concept or framework, but people who can think strategically with a balanced perspective.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.
Advancement, Money, Transcendence and Vanity
By Nneka Okumazie
The progress that a country makes does not depend on what some individuals can afford. That an individual can have something or afford it does not mean that the happiness the individual now has would become useful to development.
There are countries in the world with people whose priority is to be able to afford high-end things. The acceptance of their society is about that – not about making it, or how it was made, or how to make extraordinary things that people would want, in future.
Money is the global standard of success, but the availability of money is not the eradication of problems. Most developing countries in the world with complex problems have internal and external revenues, with people of means, but low to zero probability of solving their own problems.
Money is its own pet, necessary for continuous tend. Those who have it live for it and are its subject, those who don’t, want and serve for it. There is normalcy to continue to make money, but many people, decades and decades ago, who did, and lived for it, rarely transcended its shackles.
They are gone. Their time and pleasures are gone. What it was to be what they were is forgotten. Their conflicts, bias, strife and competition are all past. Many left without leaving lessons. There is no difference between some of those who had now forgotten, and others who didn’t, also forgotten.
In a world where sudden death is possible, money should not be this important. Knowing that void can become of anyone should make the total war for advantage to money or resources less important. Time passage also, is a lesson, as some fade off, after being in the centre stage for years.
Money should have been a tool mostly adapted to progress, not as the meaning of life. The loss that the place of money is, to life, is unquantifiable. There are people who have things and that is all for them. Pride, arrogance, discrimination and irritation are tosses of money.
The preeminence of capitalism paved way for intense use of technology, contributing in part to unprecedented loneliness, dissatisfaction and gross sadness. Money is the centre of most technology contents, to make or to show, drawing those trying to make or looking to show.
When it was said that all is vanity, there is a point where the money for the sake of it, is included. Progress, real useful advancement carries more meaning than money for things, status or class.
Lack of money is what can make people brand others danger or stranger. The thing about network or connection is not about integrity or purpose, but mostly about who has money or who is close to it.
There are lots of talks about the end of the world, but the world has long driven over the cliff with money as the one true throne everyone bows before. Those who should have understood more about the risks of money supremacy are blinded by it. Those who understand nothing about its emptiness are controlled by it. The position of money in the world is greater than all people, nation, government, work, school, knowledge, all. Money may be the main, unbreakable hex.
[Psalm 144:4, Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.]
Germ Traps in the Kitchen
From fridges to coffee makers, these are 5 germ traps in your kitchen.
We all want our homes to feel sparkly clean, but there are some areas that may not be making it onto your household chores list.
Aisha Pandor, whose on-demand home services company SweepSouth helps people to keep their homes spotless, lists the places we often forget to clean.
In a study by global health organisation NSF International looking at where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, three of the top five germ hot spots were in the kitchen – which leads to the first area that needs a good clean.
The back of your fridge
Topping the list of places in the home that rarely gets cleaned is the back of the fridge – that’s the exterior back, not inside! The coils located there work to cool the air down, but they can’t do so efficiently if they’re coated with grime. To reach the coils, Aisha advises you to unplug your fridge, pull it away from the wall and gently brush off any dirt and dust on the coils.
Do this annually and it will help you save on power costs. A fridge is one of the top energy-using appliances in the home, and simply cleaning its exterior coils can reduce the amount of energy it uses by up to 30%. Remember to leave space between your fridge and the wall once you’ve pushed it back into position, to allow air to freely circulate.
Tiled backsplashes are often overlooked during cleaning, but they’re notorious for attracting grease and grime. That grease acts as a magnet for dust and dirt, says Aisha — not exactly the type of environment where you want to be preparing food.
To clean backsplashes using natural products, mix two cups of distilled white vinegar with a cup of water and 15 drops of eucalyptus oil. Dab a cloth into the mixture and rub over the tiles to clean. You can use this cleaning mixture on any shiny non-porous surface, like sinks, too.
Ovens and hobs
At the very heart of the kitchen’s food preparation, ovens are prime real estate for germs. Clean the interior regularly, and line the bottom with foil to catch any drips and spills. When the foil becomes grimy, simply peel off and throw it away.
It’s not just the inside that needs cleaning, though — stove knobs are in the top 10 for common places where germs hide. To clean, remove the knobs and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well, allow to dry, and reinstall. On a gas hob, dismantle the gas rings and clean separately in hot soapy water.
Chances are that you seldom take a close look at your can opener, yet it’s surprising how grimy this kitchen aid can become. Can openers can harbour bacteria like salmonella and e.Coli, and should be washed after every use to clean the gears and cutting wheel.
Dry thoroughly to prevent rust. If there’s a build-up of dirty residue in your can opener’s wheel, Aisha has a nifty trick to clean it: simply clamp the wheels onto a piece of dry paper towel and turn the handle to get rid of any gunk.
Coffee maker cleanse
Coffee machines’ water tanks or reservoirs usually have lids to stop dust, dirt and insects from getting in. However, a study by a health organisation, NSF International, of where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, showed that coffee machine water tanks are the fifth most germ-ridden place in the house.
A tank’s moist, dark, location is a prime place for germs and bacteria to grow. In fact, the study discovered that 50% of households had yeast and mould in their coffee maker water tanks, and one in 10 had traces of coliform, a bacteria found in animal and human faeces that can cause gastrointestinal upset and flu-like symptoms. If you regularly make coffee, Aisha advises that you rinse the water reservoir regularly — if not daily, at least every week.
While experts do say we need some exposure to germs to help build strong immune systems, we need to limit being around germs that cause serious illnesses, says Aisha. By cleaning the above areas regularly, you’ll help keep your kitchen more hygienic and safer.
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